Foodie nirvana. A lively music and arts scene. And outdoor pursuits by the dozen within easy reach of town centres. That’s the Cowichan region in Vancouver Island’s southeastern front pocket. Sheltered by mountain ranges and blessed with Canada’s longest growing season, this green and fertile valley is named after a Coast Salish First Nation word meaning “the land warmed by the sun.” Summers are surprisingly hot by moderate West Coast standards. And when there’s a nip in the air, every fashionista with an eye for comfort and style knows that it’s Cowichan sweater weather.
Culinary tourism has been on the upswing here for years, and foodies the world over have the region on their radars now that Italy’s Cittaslow International has formally recognized the village of Cowichan Bay for its rich, sustainable farm and culinary scenes.
Dine in cafés and bistros serving local food from land and sea along with locally roasted coffee and blended teas. Step into tasting rooms to sample cider, spirits and award-winning wine. Satisfy gourmet longings at food and wine festivals, among them the week-long Savour Cowichan Festival in September. Or team up with the culinary masters to forage for wild foods – mushrooms especially – before learning how to use what you find in preparing scrumptious meals.
Share breakfast in a rural B&B with its friendly owners, then head out on day trips that will make the taste buds sing. The pleasures range from artfully prepared, locally sourced bistro meals to the most satisfying of sweet treats: baked goods, fudge and doorstop-sized cinnamon buns. Enjoy artisanal pizza from a wood- fired oven while sitting in a farmer’s field overlooking Bird’s Eye Cove near Genoa Bay. Take home hand-crafted preserves, pasta, cured meats, vinegars and even salt from the seawater off Cherry Point.
All this delicious indulgence might turn one sluggish if there weren’t so many satisfying ways to work it off. Play golf on a half-dozen smartly groomed courses year-round. Cycle along the Cowichan Valley Trail and over the historic Kinsol Trestle, one of the highest wooden trestles in the world. Tackle the challenging mountain biking routes on Mount Tzouhalem and Maple Mountain. Hike to your heart’s content in parks and along wilderness trails. And dance long into the night at music festivals.
On the aquatic front, try diving, snorkeling, tubing and pleasure boating. Saltwater kayaking launch spots are easy to find from Mill Bay to Ladysmith, and numerous kayak tour and rental companies serve visitors. Test your stand-up paddling skills by renting a SUP board. Canoe on Shawnigan and Cowichan lakes or challenge the whitewater along the Chemainus and Cowichan rivers. The latter is one of the most consistent fishing rivers on the Island; a fishing/hiking path stretches 31km along the riverbank. Expect to reel in brown, rainbow and steelhead trout, or to hook your quota of chinook and coho salmon as they return via Cowichan Bay.
The region’s unofficial capital is Duncan, home to a splendid array of restaurants and clothing, giftware and art retailers in the smartly revitalized downtown core. View more than three dozen totem poles (the world’s largest urban collection) on city streets. Enjoy a steam train ride at the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre, right next-door to which is the Cowichan Region Visitor Centre. This fun interpretive centre features unique, interactive exhibits of the region’s attractions and activities, plus all the information you need to make the most of your stay in Cowichan.
History buffs are well served in Chemainus, globally renowned as “mural town” thanks to its more than 40 wall-sized tableaux (a mix of historic scenes including reproductions of paintings by iconic BC artist Emily Carr). Walking along Ladysmith’s heritage main street is like stepping back a century into the Edwardian era.
Major roads and highways provide quick connections throughout the region, but why not explore the immersive pleasures of the scenic backroads? Along the meandering way, drop (along with your designated driver or on a tour) into some 20 vineyard, orchard and distillery tasting rooms. Numerous farms and six weekly farm markets allow one to shop for local produce direct from the source. Best advice to all visitors – pack an appetite.
Every Cowichan community has a vibrant arts scene in a region that boasts nearly two dozen arts groups and a number of internationally renowned artists. Take in musical and theatre performances. And drop into home artist studios and galleries to check out the work of local sculptors, woodworkers, potters, painters and glass blowers.
The Trans Canada Highway leads directly to the Cowichan. Or get here via two beautiful alternate ferry routes: the Mill Bay/Brentwood Bay run from the Saanich Peninsula or the short trip from Salt Spring Island to Crofton. A third regional ferry travels from Chemainus to idyllic Thetis Island, a favourite destination for cyclists who can now refresh themselves at the island’s winery.
Things to See & Do
- Ride the steam train at the BC Forest Discovery Centre before visiting its museum and plotting your next move at the on-site Cowichan Valley Visitor Centre.
- Sip fine cold-climate varietals at numerous wineries in a region that also includes a cidery, distilleries and craft breweries.
- The Kinsol Trestle, one of the world’s highest wooden trestle railway bridges, is the jewel of the Cowichan Valley Trail near Shawnigan Lake.
- Tour downtown Duncan’s remarkable collection of 38 totem poles (one of them the world’s widest) with a group or along a self-guided walking route.
- Watch in awe as birds of prey work with their handlers at The Raptor Centre.
- Hike alongside, kayak or go tubing down the Cowichan River.
- Enjoy the wall-size murals adorning buildings throughout Chemainus, then catch a performance at the Chemainus Theatre Festival.
- Visit Teafarm, Canada’s only tea plantation, to sample and purchase over 100 blends of organic loose leaf teas served in delightful cups and teapots created by the resident ceramic artist.
- Laze on the grass, swim in the warmest waters north of San Francisco, catch a concert or launch a kayak at Ladysmith’s Transfer Beach Park.
- Walk the docks and piers, embark on a whale-watching tour, dine in casual style and shop for arts and crafts in Cowichan Bay.
- Explore the back roads en route to Maple Bay, where options include bistro dining, wildlife expeditions and fishing excursions.
Taste what Cowichan is all about! Our 17 wineries, most of which are within 30 minutes of each other, produce classic reds, whites and sparkling wines. Cowichan’s climate and setting provide one of the best locales for growing Pinot grapes, and the resulting wines are gaining great respect on the world stage. Fruit wines, blackberry port-style wines, ciders, vodkas and brandies round out the list of delectable libations unique to the Cowichan Region.
Cowichan’s pretty towns offer an eclectic mix of art galleries, boutique shops, piers, marinas and markets. More than 40 murals and 30 totem poles grace the streets of Chemainus and Duncan, making them two of the world’s largest outdoor art galleries, and a slow, relaxed lifestyle is evident in the rural countryside and seaside villages.
Fast becoming one of the top culinary destinations in Canada, Cowichan is home to organic farms, artisan food-producers and fisheries. Pick up any ‘foodie’ magazine these days and it usually has an article on chefs, culinary celebrities, authors and food enthusiasts who have chosen to live and work in the Cowichan region. The delicious results of their labors show they follow the mantra of fresh, local, seasonal and sustainable in all they create. Each community presents a host of distinctive dining experiences.
Some of the best mountain biking on the Island, golfing at six courses, world class river and lake fishing, kayaking, exceptional bird watching and whale watching make the Cowichan region a favourite with outdoor enthusiasts. At 614 ft long and 145 feet above the Koksilah River, the Kinsol Trestle must be experienced to be believed. It is one of the largest wooden trestles in the world and connects hundreds of kilometres of superb hiking and cycling trails.
The calm, protected waters of the east coast are a world-wide destination for sail and power boaters and Cowichan has more than a dozen marinas, plus small boat harbours and government docks. For those that want to enjoy the marine setting from land, many marinas feature waterside restaurants or pubs. For the more adventurous several dive sites, including a sunken Boeing 737, offer some of the best cold water diving in the world.
Shops and galleries featuring locally made clothing, jewellery, art, books and antiques dot the main urban centres. In Duncan you’ll find the authentic, internationally renowned Cowichan sweaters. Venture into the countryside for farmgate stands and artisan studios. Six outdoor farmers’ markets attract vendors of fresh produce, hand-made artisanal foods, and innumerable arts and crafts.
Cowichan is also a festival destination, showcasing hundreds of artists, live music and professional theatre virtually every day of the year.
Accommodation options range from well-appointed hotels & motels, hundreds of delightful B&B’s, RV Parks and camping to yurts, houseboats and floathomes. There is something for everyone and every budget.
Stretching from coast to coast, the Cowichan region lies between Victoria and Nanaimo. The Trans Canada Hwy connects the two, but a myriad of gorgeous country side roads get you where you’re going in a tranquil and scenic fashion. Stunning water, forest and country views are around every corner. Another option is the Pacific Marine Circle Route which allows motorists to explore wine country, unspoiled back country, the wild west coast, First Nations history, a range of villages, towns and cities as well as numerous fabulous parks all in one fantastic road trip!
Discover why one day in Cowichan just isn’t enough. Plan to stay and give yourself time to enjoy this amazingly varied region.
Join us in our quaint seaside village. Come early, bring some friends and check out the vibrant murals and sculptures that perfectly visualize the local history and culture of this historic town. Take a stroll through town and visit the unique and eclectic shops, restaurants, and galleries.
Complete your theatre experience with a delightful meal in the Playbill Dining Room. Live music creates the perfect setting as you indulge in the impressive show-themed buffet. The Gallery Gift Shop features BC artisans, and is a wonderful place for art-lovers and shoppers to browse and take home a memorable piece of the west coast.
Turn your visit into a great escape! Book show tickets, lunch or dinner in the Playbill Dining Room and accommodations at the local hotel or at one of the charming bed and breakfasts.
Golf Vancouver Island
GOLF VANCOUVER ISLAND IS A CENTRAL RESERVATIONS SERVICE FOR GOLF PACKAGES, VACATIONS AND TEE TIMES on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail.
Golf Vancouver Island is your “one-stop shop” for Island Golf Getaways and Vacations. From airfares and ferry reservations to tee times, accommodations and even après golf activities, they take care of it all!
Owned and operated by the golf courses on Vancouver Island, consumers save time and money, while choosing from 10 golf courses and 5 accommodation options on the internationally renowned Vancouver Island Golf Trail. Golf Vancouver Island provides complimentary information, vacation planning assistance and reservations for Vancouver Island golf vacations.
The Vancouver Island Golf Trail, a 250 kilometre golf trail of Pacific paradise from Victoria to Campbell River, awaits golfers on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, including designs by renowned architects Jack and Steve Nicklaus, Les Furber, Graham Cooke and Bill Robinson – making for “plenty of gold medal worthy golf” according to GOLF Magazine. There are 10 destination golf courses on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail, and from South to North include…Olympic View, Highland Pacific, Bear Mountain Resort Mountain and Valley Courses, Arbutus Ridge, Cowichan, Fairwinds, Pheasant Glen, Crown Isle and Storey Creek.
Please visit www.GolfVancouverIsland.ca for further information on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail courses, packages, instant quotes, transportation, golf tips, photo galleries, and much more! Ask for the EXCLUSIVE Tourism Vancouver Island referral offer to save $50 pp!
BC Ferries Vacations
BC Ferries Vacations™ connects you with Vancouver Island’s world-class destinations and provides unique vacation experiences to the avid traveller. Offering several packages for one and two-nights or longer, BC Ferries Vacations™ travel experts have hand-picked the best accommodations and activities and packaged them with the ferry travel to bring you all-in-one convenience, quality and value. The best way to experience the wonders of Vancouver Island is with one of BC Ferries Vacations’™ unique and unforgettable vacation packages.
If you’re seeking an urban getaway with renowned dining and shopping experiences, be sure to take some time to explore Victoria, the capital of B.C. and the largest city on Vancouver Island. Located on the charming harbour front, downtown Victoria boasts the second most restaurants per capita of any other city in North America, BC’s historic Parliament Buildings and the largest Chinatown in Canada. When planning your next visit, be sure to ask about our great offers at the Inn at Laurel Point – located minutes away from the Inner Harbour and downtown – memorable experiences are waiting around every corner in Victoria BC.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the west coast surf or just watch it crash onto the rocky shoreline from the comfort of your room, the coastal towns of Tofino and Ucluelet can’t be beat. During storm watching season, swells that travel across the Pacific and pound the shores of Tofino and Ucluelet reach up to 6 metres in height and an average of 10 – 15 storms hit per month. Located in the Pacific Rim National Park on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino and Ucluelet are world-renowned by surfers, nature-lovers and storm watchers alike. If you are looking for great place to watch the wild west coast weather unfold, book a BC Ferries Vacations™ at the Cox Bay Beach Resort in Tofino or the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort in Ucluelet.
Family friendly activities abound in the seaside town of Parksville, centrally located on the East Coast of Vancouver Island. A beachcomber’s paradise, the sandy shore stretches as far as the eye can see and visitors can spend hours exploring Rathtrevor Beach. From Parksville’s annual sandcastle building competition to the Treasure Island themed 36-hole mini-golf course, there’s always something to keep kids (and parents) of all ages entertained. For the best family-friendly offer, ask about our packages at the Beach Club Resort, Parksville.
Vancouver Island is home to several award winning spas and boasts numerous spa getaways for those looking for a luxurious and relaxing weekend away. From the trendy, harbour city of Victoria to the relaxing island style of the Gulf Islands, a spa vacation with your friends couldn’t be easier to find. If you are looking to recharge with a laid back beach getaway, ask about our packages in Courtenay at the luxurious Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa.
To stay up to date with BC Ferries news, promotions, contests and great deals, sign up for the BC Ferries OnBoard Newsletter or join us on Twitter to receive up to the minute notices on specials, deals and services.
To see what diverse and exciting packages BC Ferries Vacations™ has to offer across Vancouver Island, be sure to contact us and request a vacation package quote or a customized itinerary for the vacation of your choice.
Experience Vancouver Island from a new point of view with a breathtaking seaplane adventure. Enjoy a 20 minute Victoria panorama flight featuring unique views of the city & the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Day trip to the world-renowned Butchart Gardens or downtown Vancouver. A variety of exciting tours await. Discover British Columbia’s spectacular coastlines with Harbour Air Seaplanes. Harbour Air Seaplanes also offers frequent and convenient scheduled flights connecting downtown Victoria, downtown Vancouver, Richmond (YVR Aiport), Comox, Nanaimo, Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands and Whistler (seasonally). Travel like a local and experience a true West Coast tradition. We are proud to be North America’s first carbon neutral airline.
Located off a picturesque country road winding through working farms and rolling hills, Unsworth Vineyards & Restaurant is whimsically nestled in the heart of Cowichan Valley’s wine country. Dedicated to crafting wines of distinction that reflect the exceptional soil and growing conditions of the region, Unsworth’s award-winning, family-owned and operated winery is complemented by their own restaurant – a restored early 1900s farmhouse serving natural local foods. A delicious wine and culinary destination, and a spectacular setting for intimate dining – warm and welcoming with plenty of charm and heritage.
Chemainus is one of the most beloved places by visitors to Vancouver Island. An Arts & Cultural Destination that is famous for its well over 40 murals painted on the towns various walls. Golf, diving, shopping and exploring our natural surroundings in this seaside village.
National Car & Truck Rental
- Discounts on Golf, Mount Washington Winter Lift Tickets and Summer Scenic Chairlift Ride & Butchart Gardens
- Low daily, weekly & monthly rates
- Special weekend packages
- Entertainment & AAA rates
- One way drop off on Vancouver Island & Vancouver
- Cars, mini-vans & 4×4’s
- Free local pickup & drop off
Welcome to Enrico Winery, home to award winning wines and friendly people! Our mission is to please you with our quality wines!
Hours of Operation: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily
Rocky Creek Winery
Great wines. Great people. Great experiences. “WOW” factor + chocolate! Enjoy striking gardens at Cowichan’s most awarded winery. Pure island grapes!
Best Western Chemainus Inn
A top choice among Vancouver Island hotels, the BEST WESTERN PLUS Chemainus Inn is a hotel with suite-style rooms, and both 4 Green Key and CAA/AAA 3-Diamond ratings. Discover why our large suites and great amenities place us a level above other Vancouver Island accommodations. We offer a complimentary hot buffet breakfast, high-speed internet, indoor pool, hot tub, exercise centre.
Averill Creek Vineyard
At Averill Creek we are passionate about creating premium quality estate wines from our 30 acre Cowichan Valley vineyard. Set on the south slope of Mt. Prevost, our modern tasting room & garden patio offer spectacular ocean and valley views. Drop in for wine tastings or bring along a picnic lunch to enjoy outdoors with your favourite Averill Creek wine. We offer a daily selection of wines by the glass and our complete wine portfolio by the bottle.
Silverside Farm & Winery
At Silverside Farm & Winery, we produced award winning table and "port style" dessert wines. If you haven't tried our unique berry wines before, we invite you to come discover the brilliant vibrant colours, bold aromas, and rich berry flavours that will pair exquisitely with your favourite dish! You will also find a variety of delicious homemade jams, jellies, and syrups as weil as interesting art created by talented local artists. Come visit us soon and savour our berry flavours!
Duncan Business Improvement Area Society
Shopping in Downtown Duncan is fresh, fun and fabulous! Our jem of a town boasts hundreds of remarkable shops and services. The quality and diversity of what we have to offer surprises and delights visitors from near and far. Just one hour from Nanaimo or Victoria on Vancouver Island, with plenty of free 3-hour parking spots or parking for $1-2 dollars for extended visits.
Ladysmith on the 49th
Awaken your sense of adventure with our marine playground for paddlers, boaters, and sand-castle builders! Our historic downtown offers unique shopping, heritage buildings, and award-winning cinnamon buns. You’ll find unparalleled small town charm in Ladysmith on the 49th Parallel.
Merridale is a delicious destination in the Cowichan Valley---an apple orchard, craft cider house and distillery, and wedding and event venue. Join us for a cider or spirits tasting; enjoy locally-sourced food in our bistro; learn about cider and spirits through a tour; stroll the orchard while the kids search for faeries living amongst our apple trees; shop for our varied products and local artisan items in our farmhouse store; stay in our yurts; savour fresh baked goods from our wood-fired brick oven; book your event or wedding at our beautiful venue. Hours vary throughout the apple season
Blue Grouse Estate Winery
Come now and enjoy Blue Grouse’s classic wines, overlooking one of the Island’s oldest vineyards. And visit us again when our brand new tasting room opens in Spring of 2015.
Once the preferred habitat of Blue Grouse, the 45 acres of Blue Grouse Estate are tucked away on a sunny slope of Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley, which is believed to take its name from a First Nation's word meaning "the warm land". A fitting name, as the valley enjoys Canada’s warmest mean temperature. The terroir encompasses wind protection by evergreen trees, an all-Southern exposure, a combination of clay and gravelly soil, and the nurturing of pure air and spring water.
Cowichan Bed & Breakfasts
Cowichan Bed & Breakfasts and Guest Houses
Your guide to the finest BnB's between Victoria and Nanaimo -- A Better Way to Stay!
Come experience our hospitality - rooms and suites for all tastes, styles, prices and locations.
As hosts we are your guides to the Cowichan region's sites, activities, artisans and wineries and those in the surrounding cities, communities and activities all within a short drive of the Cowichan.
Kiwi Cove Lodge
Peaceful getaway accommodations with a difference. We grow Kiwi fruit! There are 12 varied guest rooms including pet friendly, wheelchair accessible, and 2 bedroom units. Overlook the kiwi vineyard from your private deck. Explore the 10 acre waterfront property and enjoy the view of Ladysmith Harbour. Whole Lodge bookings are welcome for your retreat, reunion, or wedding. In addition to Lodge accommodations there is Kiwi Cottage which is fully equipped for long stays.
Kiwi Cove Lodge is easy to find and only 20 minutes south of Nanaimo with ferries and airport nearby.
Coastal Bliss Adventures Ltd.
Imagine the tranquility of paddling through the Gulf Islands, or of exploring the islands and inlets of the West Coast. Allow yourself to be immersed in Vancouver Island’s stunning nature, rich culture and intriguing history. Enjoy home grown and locally sourced gourmet meals when you join Coastal Bliss Adventures on a hiking or paddling adventure. Develop skills and confidence by taking an instructional program, in your journey to design your own adventures. Our guides and instructors are certified, professional and passionate about sharing the magic of Vancouver Island with you. Start your adventure today by contacting Coastal Bliss Adventures.