Nanaimo Bar Trail: Searching for Nanaimo Bars on Vancouver Island

The first and only time I went searching for Nanaimo Bars in Nanaimo, BC was in 2007 while visiting Vancouver Island. For those of you who don't know what a Nanaimo Bar is, the origins are somewhat of a mystery. But legend traces its roots to Nanaimo's coal mining days, when miners carried the sweet treats in their lunch pails. Another version is that Dutch settlers brought the rich bar to Nanaimo in the early 1900's. And then there's the story about the Nanaimo homemaker who won a recipe contest in a national magazine for her chocolate-custard-graham-wafer squares. Whatever the explanation, it's so popular that the city has a recipe for the legendary Nanaimo Bars on its website.

Nanaimo Bars weren't all that plentiful four years ago. I finally found them at Port Place Shopping Centre, lying in state in a glass case, and only 99 cents each. Well, the city has since sweetened the pot, and now you can find Nanaimo Bars everywhere. They're even part of a self-guided tour called the Nanaimo Bar Trail. It's a downloadable map you can print out and take with you on your sweet quest for more than two dozen versions -- ranging from the traditional bars to cocktails and spa services. 

Photos in Nanaimo, BC by Sue Frause

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