Information courtesy of Tourism Cowichan
While most of Cowichan’s towns and villages are connected by main highways, why not really enjoy the drive and take pastoral, scenic country roads where you’ll discover our parks, rivers, beaches, marinas and quaint hamlets.
Long known as a destination for cottagers and family getaways, Shawnigan Lake’s beaches and parks surround a delightful village filled with quaint café’s, shops, an artisan glassblowing studio and quintessential country stores. Just a 10 minute drive away is the world famous Kinsol Trestle.
The panoramic views of the Strait of Georgia & Mt Baker from the marina restaurant in this coastal South Cowichan village rival anything on Vancouver Island. This cozy waterfront community is the first stop north of Victoria, over the 25-km portion of the Island Highway known as “The Malahat.’’
It’s also the site of the ferry to Brentwood Bay (home to world famous Butchart Gardens), offering drivers and cyclists from the Saanich Peninsula and Victoria a quick and scenic way to access Cowichan’s attractions, without having to drive The Malahat route. Bamberton Provincial Park offers excellent saltwater fishing and a long sandy beach ideal for families and beachcombers. Mill Bay Nature Park is a great place for birdwatching and exploring intertidal life along the shore and the architecturally stunning Brentwood College School is host to an annual International Rowing Regatta.
The slow pace and old-fashioned country life in this tiny agricultural village has attracted an influx of skilled winemakers, chefs, organic farmers, and artists and artisans. Many of the region’s wineries are located around Cobble Hill, making for great days of touring and discovering hidden gems including lavender farms and fresh farmgate produce and flower stands.
Or play a round or two at a championship golf course designed to take in spectacular views of Mount Baker. Hiking and mountain biking and horseback riding on a network of trails criss-crossing Cobble Hill Mountain offer lofty views at the top across the Cowichan Valley to the Gulf Islands. The Cobble Hill Fall Fair and many other events throughout the year are a showcase for the artisanal crafts, culture and heritage of the region throughout the year.
Foodies flock to Cowichan Bay for artisanal cheese, ice cream, hand crafted breads.
Cowichan Bay is a hub of boutique cheese, seafood and ice cream shops, bakeries and artists’ showrooms. Dine with a view of the fish boats, floating homes and buildings on stilts, or wander on the historic pier. Ocean kayaking, whale-watching and harbour tours are part of the exciting activities in the Bay.
Local maritime history is celebrated at Cowichan Bay Martime Centre where wooden boat and model tall ships are on display. Cowichan Bay became internationally famous in 2009 when it was designated as North America’s first Cittaslow town – no fast food or box stores here but you can take a ‘foodie walk’! Tennis enthusiasts will enjoy the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club, built in 1887, and said to be the oldest grass courts outside of Wimbledon. Hiking, mountain biking and nature trails include Hecate Park and Mount Tzouhalem . Watch an estimated 220 species of migrant shorebirds and waterfowl at the Cowichan Bay Estuary, and check out tidal flora and fauna in the touch tanks of the Cowichan Estuary Centre.
Discover one of a kind shops, galleries and restaurants in Downtown Duncan.
Trendy boutiques, art and antique galleries, fashionable restaurants and local brew pub are in historic downtown Duncan, known as the City of Totems. Take a free guided totem tour to learn the legends and stories associated with these amazing works of art. At the BC Forest Discovery Centre you can take a step back in time and ride an authentic steam train.
The Somenos Marsh Bird Sanctuary, and birds of prey flying demonstrations at The Raptors offer the opportunity to connect with local wildife. The world’s largest hockey stick and puck adorn the recreation multiplex which houses the Cowichan Aquatic Centre. Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre, on the heritage Cowichan River, invites visitors to experience local aboriginal culture, crafts, ceremonies and cuisine firsthand, and the gallery showcases Coast Salish artists.
Lake Cowichan Area
Cowichan Lake or “Kaatza’’ (the Big Lake) is the second largest lake on Vancouver Island and a major recreational area in the Cowichan region, making it an ideal summer family vacation destination. Located where the lake meets the Cowichan River, the town of Lake Cowichan is the gateway to some of the best hiking, camping and fishing, swimming and boating on the Island.
Here you’ll find the western terminus for the Trans Canada Trail, which follows the Cowichan River into Duncan and south to Shawnigan Lake. En route, hikers cross the restored 66-Mile and Holt Creek train trestles. Visitors can rent everything here from kayaks, jet skis, tubes and wakeboards to houseboats in Lake Cowichan. The floating boardwalk leads from the campsite to the Cowichan Lake Education Centre, an outdoor learning and vacation centre in a 42-acre forest of Douglas fir. The local Kaatza Station Museum’s permanent pioneer displays include a store, post office, mine shaft and 1925 schoolhouse. One of many Cowichan communities on the Pacific Marine Circle Route, Lake Cowichan is the gateway to the scenic 50 km stretch connecting with Port Renfrew.
Honeymoon Bay and Youbou
Honeymoon Bay is a quaint little town situated on the south arm of Cowichan Lake in an area that boasts the highest average summer maximum temperature in Canada. From Honeymoon Bay you can enjoy the Sutton Creek Wild Flower Reserve and March Meadows Golf Course or journey on secondary roads to the old-growth forest of Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.
Youbou is the second largest community on Cowichan Lake. A former mill town, this pretty village on the lake’s north shore – about 25 minutes west the Town of Lake Cowichan – charms visitors with its natural beauty and historic buildings. The local church and community hall were both built in 1937. Boat launches and camping facilities can be found at Pine Point and Maple Grove recreation sites.
Murals are just one of the many attractions in Chemainus
This enchanting seaside community ranks as a world-class arts attraction. Over forty murals and a dozen sculptures adorn the walls, parks and businesses, a living testimony to the history and spirit of the people of this town. An eclectic collection of eateries and pubs, plus an array of gift shops and galleries featuring local artists and craftspeople welcome visitors.
The Chemainus Theatre is renowned for producing exceptional dramas, musicals and comedies, and the dining experience in the delightful ambiance of the Playbill Dining room is unsurpassed. Kayakers, boaters & beachcombers will revel in the beaches and blue waters of Stuart Channel. Scuba divers from around the world are exploring the world’s only Boeing 737 artificial reef.
Palm trees on Vancouver Island? You bet, and Saltair boasts more than any other community in Cowichan! Find one of Cowichan’s many ‘hidden gems’ – a heritage building turned upscale café serving local cuisine and wines – on the scenic Chemainus Road in Sunny Saltair.
Two marinas, a winery and incredible ocean views. As if this isn’t enough incentive to visit this tiny island, a scenic 25 minute ferry ride from Chemainus, how about spending a few days at one of the most spectacular resorts in the region?
Take a walking tour of Ladysmith’s maritime artifacts and heritage buildings.
Historic Ladysmith has won a lot of beauty contests over the years, including the national ‘Communities in Bloom’ and it was named one of the 10 prettiest towns in Canada by Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine. The vibrant local arts scene provides many entertaining and enlightening events throughout the year.
The town’s turn-of-the-century Edwardian architecture, as well as shipping, mining and logging artifacts, can be toured by picking up a heritage walking route map. The Christmas light-up ceremony and parade kicks off the annual Festival of Lights, a spectacular 250,000-light display that attracts an estimated 20,000 spectators. Transfer Beach is a popular swimming area and a launch point for Gulf Island kayakers. Local marinas offer boat tours and exceptional waterfront dining.
Cedar – Yellowpoint
Just 5 minutes up the highway from Ladysmith is the coastal hamlet of Yellow Point. Rural attractions include Hazelwood Herb Farm, McNab’s Corn Maze, Yellow Point Cranberries, the Cedar Farmers’ Market at the Crow & Gate Pub, and the Cedar Yellow Point Artisans’ annual self-guided tours. Unique to the area is Roberts Memorial Part, with its sculpted sandstone rock outcroppings characteristic of Salish Sea coastlines.