Vancouver Island University 411: The best cheap lunch and more

An insider's perspective on life at VIU

Vancouver Island University student

Unofficial school motto:

‘Land of bunnies and stairs’

Best place for a nap:

Under a tree in the upper quad surrounded by bunnies

Vancouver Island University student Natalie Gates.

Best cheap lunch:

A fat slice of Mambo’s pizza downtown

Best hangover breakfast:

French toast from 2 Chef’s Affair

Favourite watering hole:

The two-level Old City Station Pub

Perks of living in this town:

Ocean air, no big-city traffic, huge variety of ethnic restaurants, loads of bunnies and deer

Best place to study:

Third floor of the library at a table overlooking the ocean

Weirdest tradition:

‘Storm the Stairs,’ a relay race where participants start at the bottom of campus and run up VIU’s 409 steps

Best campus event:

World VIU Days

Best giveaway:

Free coffee and hot chocolate in the quad or in front of the students’ union building nearly every week

Best live music venue:

The Vault Café

University Insider: Natalie Gates, 21, Political Studies and Journalism

When I tell people from the mainland that I go to school on Vancouver Island they often say, “Oh, UVic?”

Though Vancouver Island University (VIU) is a lesser-known school to many, its impact and opportunities for each student are top-notch, and there are undeniable advantages of smaller class sizes and profs that really know you. Sometimes referred to as the “land of bunnies and stairs,” VIU packs a unique charm.

PROFILE: Vancouver Island University | Nanaimo, B.C. | Founded 1969

Koi ponds, an adjacent forest, a Museum of Natural History, rabbits galore, regular deer sightings outside your classroom window, and a stellar ocean view from the higher levels of campus make for a peaceful atmosphere—even when you find yourself sprinting up the seemingly omnipresent stairs in a mad dash to class.

VIU is home to remarkable cultural diversity that gives rise to a wonderful array of events. There’s a meditation and prayer room at the Health and Wellness Centre, an Aboriginal gathering place complete with beautiful new totem poles, the annual World VIU Days where international students showcase their cultures through food, clothing, music and more, and a local World University Service of Canada club which sponsors refugee students from all over the world.


In addition to the usual intramural sports and fitness classes, the VIU Campus Rec program offers an amazing selection of adventures. Kayaking, caving, stand-up paddle boarding, and yoga are just some of the available options.

VIU’s vast selection of clubs offers amazing opportunities to ramp up your resumé, save the planet, help people in need, or just have a good time.

There are political and activist clubs, a queer-straight alliance, a Model United Nations club, as well as groups focusing on Spanish, beekeeping, creative writing, and sustainable agriculture.

In other words: there’s bound to be a place for you to fit in.

Local Vibe

Nestled in a city with a small-town charm, VIU is a short commute from hiking, surfing, beachcombing, skiing, and more—not to mention its colourful music, culinary and art scene in the quaint downtown core.

While Nanaimo doesn’t have the bustling streets packed with high-end businesses or the glamourous city skyline of Vancouver, you will find cheaper rent, more sun, and much less traffic.

Use your time away from studying to stroll along the seawall and grab some gelato, pick through the eclectic shops downtown, hike Mount Benson, hit Koncept or Level 2 for some dancing, crawl through the city’s pubs, or pick a region of the world and enjoy some food at one of the city’s many restaurants.

The Skinny

For more information on things to do in Nanaimo visit Visit for information on all the shows at the local theatre.