Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier and Harbourside Playdock

One part of making Nanaimo feel like home is finding new things to do with Little Man on the island.  We had our old haunts back in Iowa, many of which he still asks for like the Pella Library and the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines.  There is no zoo on Vancouver Island, or at least I have not been able to find one, and while there is a library here the children’s section is rather sad.  Like everything else after a move we need to recreate special places to go.  For Little Man, one of these new places is the Harbourside Playdock and the area leading up to it.

 We first stumbled on the Harbourfront Walkway (or sea wall as we called it) just after we discovered that our bank cards were frozen for the 4th of July holiday in the States (see Two Independence Days post).  It was a gorgeous day and the wind from the ocean was whipping at Little Man’s curls with reckless abandon.  He tipped his face to the sky, chucked Pooh Bear over his shoulder and took off giggling down the quay.  We caught Pooh and then jogged along behind, smiling for what felt like the first time in days.  That is when we saw them.  Our mouths dropped open and our hearts sank.  Ice cream cones.  People walking with ice cream dripping down their chins.  People sitting on benches devouring what looked like the best ice cream in the world, and we had no money or hope of getting any until the holiday was over.  We briefly considered seeing if they would give us ice cream in exchange for Little Man washing dishes.  Oh bother!

 We walked along, plotting how we could get enough money to buy a couple of cones and debating if it really was a bad idea to spend the only $6.00 Canadian that we had.  Then we turned a corner on the walk way and found ourselves staring at the Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier.  The pier is a thin finger of a walkway jutting out into the Swy-A-Lana Harbour (yes, extra vowels in Canadian spelling), and walking on it makes you feel like you are suspended in the middle of the bay.  There are water planes and small inter-island ferries toodling about, and sometimes dragon boats as well.  For a moment, at least, the walking pier took our minds off of our ice cream dilemma.

The Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier

The Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier

 Dave kept a firm grip on Pooh Bear and I strapped Little Man back into his jogging stroller before entering the pier for fear that one or both would go for an impromptu swim.  This was NOT an unjustified precaution.  Just before we moved from Pella we had been walking with Little Man and his teddy Whisper the Fox in the central square of town.  At one side there is a large circular fountain surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence to keep people from splashing in its depths.  We got too close.  With an impressive arced shot Little Man lobbed Whisper up and over the fence and into the water that can only be described as quaintly foul.  It was not a nice athletic leap, but I quickly followed the fox over the fence and scooped her up from the slime.  Later after some serious spa time at home (aka washing machine) Whisper was declared safe for toddler loving again, and we learned to practice better vigilance with teddies and toys close to bodies of water (even as small as a glass of water or bowl of cereal… seriously).  We were determined that there would be no Pooh swimming or fishing from the Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier on that day.

Walking out onto the pier while keeping a death-grip on Pooh Bear

Walking out onto the pier while keeping a death-grip on Pooh Bear

 Walking out onto the pier we thought we saw people fishing in the harbour, but as we got closer it became evident that they had “fishing” line, but no poles.  Then we saw the small black cages attached to the line.  Apparently you do not fish from the pier, you catch crabs (is there a very form of crabbing?).  The bait of choice is chicken breast, and each cage/trap has a large, raw chicken breast attached to its side.  I just missed the Immigrant Welcome Center’s trip out to the pier where they explained the process of getting a crabbing license.  I’m tempted to look into this more, but I don’t think that myself or Little Man have the patience for it.  Maybe in a couple of years.  Can I bribe anyone to come visit for a freshly caught crab dinner?

Fresh crabs from the harbour, but they were too small and were tossed back by the 6 year old fisher/craber-man.

Fresh crabs from the harbour, but they were too small and were tossed back by the 6 year old fisher/craber-man.

 For Little Man the crabs are interesting, but he was most impressed when we visited the pier with his favorite Canadian Auntie.  While we were at the far end of the pier, a harbour seal came to visit.  She (the seal, not Erin) winked and flirted with us all as we took pictures like mad, but when the seal discovered that we did not have any fish she gave us up for a bad job.  Little Man still looks for her (since we all know there is only one seal in the ocean) each time we go out there.

Auntie Erin as seal paparazzi

Auntie Erin as seal paparazzi

“Seal” just before she realized we had no snacks

While the Swy-A-Lana Walking pier is great, it is relatively short lived.  As we retraced our steps off of the pier, Little Man let out a squeal of pure delight as he spotted a P-A-R-K.

Harbourside Playdock park in Nanaimo

Harbourside Playdock park in Nanaimo

The Harbourside Playdock is located just off of the pier, by the swimming lagoon.  The play area is designed like a series of “docks” leading to some of the main islands surrounding us, all within relatively short ferry rides.  Departure Bay, Gabriola Island, and Protection Island are just a few of the “docks” to play on.  Little Man loves the wavy docks leading between the play areas most, but the Protection Island and Gabriola Island slides are close seconds, as well as the swings.

Little Man taking off in the direction of "Gabriola Island"

Little Man taking off in the direction of “Gabriola Island”

The Galiano Island play dock

 

While the Harbourside Playdock park is fun, it is not as popular with the locals so is not the best option if you are a new “immigrant” and want to make friends.  Most of the people there seem to be tourists, all with cameras firmly in grasp (like myself).  To get to the parks where the locals go (and hopefully friends will be made), you need to go elsewhere.  That’s for a later post.

 For now, whenever we visit the Harbourside Playdock park (and that is relatively often since it is close to a great Lebanese restaurant for a takeout picnic) we often start or end our visit with a walk along the Swy-A-Lana Walking Pier.  And I always keep a good grip on Pooh or Whisper.  That water looks cold…

Little Man thinking pirate thoughts...

Little Man thinking pirate thoughts…

 P.S.  Even though we have walked along the sea wall (aka Harbourfront Walkway) numerous times, we still have not gotten our Ice cream fix.  The timing just has not worked out.  Either we are there too early for ice cream, or too late and the toddler-needing-a-nap meltdown has begun.  But we will get that ice cream… and soon…

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