Category   Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, BC
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Cowichan Valley

Totem Poles in Duncan BC, the City of Totems
The Cowichan Valley ranges north across the Malahat Ridge from Victoria through the Cowichan and Chemainus Valleys to Nanaimo, including a cross-island trip to Carmanah-Walbran Provincial Park.

This slice of southern Vancouver Island covers the country between Port Renfrew and near Bamfield on the west coast, and Malahat and Nanaimo on the east side of Vancouver Island.

Most of the population lives along the east coast, where farming in the lush, rolling Cowichan and Chemainus Valleys has gone hand in hand with logging since Vancouver Island was an independent Crown colony. The heart of agriculture lies south of Nanaimo, the Hub City, and this pastoral atmosphere persists as you make you way north towards Parksville. However, it's hard to ignore the slopes of the Vancouver Island Mountains that begin to nudge travellers closer to the coastline for wont of wide valley bottoms. Most roads west peter out quickly in the face of this granitic tour de force. The exception is the cross-island melange of paved highway and gravel logging roads that link the sheltered Cowichan Valley with the storm-battered community of Bamfield on the west coast.

View of the Cowichan Valley from Mt. Prevost in Duncan, with Saltspring Island in the distance.
A greater contrast is hard to find, which is what makes exploring this region so fascinating. There's plenty of easygoing adventuring to be found by sticking to the main routes, although everyone should treat themselves to a backroad or two where the valleys meet the Strait of Georgia.

There are beaches here the likes of which are found nowhere else on the coast, with views that engender intimacy with the landscape, yet emphasize its isolation.

Whether it's adrenaline or unwinding you crave, you'll find it here. Enjoy world-class kayaking, the best flyfishing anywhere, hiking through ancient rainforests, championship year-round golf or cruising our spectacular coastline. Follow all of that with a gourmet meal at the vineyard, a stroll through seaside shops, an evening of live theatre and you'll start to see the world differently.

The Pacific Marine Circle Tour is an excellent way to explore the historic West Coast of Vancouver Island. The wilderness route traces the coastline from Victoria through Sooke and Port Renfrew, continuing onto the Cowichan Valley and looping back down the Trans-Canada Highway via Duncan to Victoria.

Population: 79,000

Location: The most westerly section of the 4,850-mile (7809-km) Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) runs north-south through southern Vancouver Island between Victoria and Nanaimo, a distance of 70 miles (113 km). Highway 14 runs 22 miles (35 km) north of Nanaimo to Parksville, and beyond to the northern end of Vancouver Island. Highway 4 links Parksville with Port Alberni, Ucluelet, and Tofino on the west side of Vancouver Island. Highway 18 is an 18-mile (29-km) stretch of blacktop that runs east-west from Highway 1 through the Cowichan Valley between Duncan and Youbou. From Youbou a series of logging roads leads 67 miles (108 km) west to Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

A ferry service from Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula to Mill Bay at the north end of Malahat Drive also connects with Highway 1. BC Ferries connects the Lower Mainland with Nanaimo's Departure Bay from the Horseshoe Bay terminal in West Vancouver, and Duke Point from the Tsawwassen terminal in Delta. BC Ferries also connects with southern Vancouver Island at Crofton from Vesuvius Bay on Salt Spring Island, and with Chemainus from Thetis and Kuper Islands.

View maps of the area:
Map of the Wineries of the Cowichan Valley
Map of South Vancouver Island

The following towns are located in the Cowichan Valley:

  • Chemainus
    The former coastal mill town of Chemainus transformed itself into the world's largest outdoor art gallery, capturing and expressing its history, its people and its future on huge heritage murals painted on the sides of buildings, attracting visitors from around the world.
  • Cobble Hill
    Surrounded by a picturesque landscape, the tiny farming village of Cobble Hill is a creative community boasting galleries run by local artists, including painters, sculptors, potters and totem pole carvers.
  • Cowichan Bay
    The village of Cowichan Bay and the surrounding area is home to a host of artists, craftspeople, and cottage industries - including some fine local wineries.
  • Cowichan Station
    Cowichan Station is a small community located west of the Island Highway, near Whippletree Junction, established in 1885 as a stop-off for the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway. Cowichan Station was built to service settlers living in the area, as well as the logging and copper mine operations located on Mount Sicker and Mount Prevost.
  • Crofton
    Cradled by verdant hillsides and surrounding mountains, the active community of Crofton is situated on the calm waters of Osborne Bay, with great views of Saltspring Island a short ferry ride across the channel.
  • Duncan
    Duncan is the civic centre of the Cowichan Valley and the traditional home of the Coast Salish First nation. Known as the City of Totems, Duncan boasts over 41 distinctive hand-carved cedar poles on public display in parks and downtown streets.
  • Genoa Bay
    Genoa Bay is a quiet and picturesque bay on the north side of Cowichan Bay, at the south end of Sansum Narrows. The Genoa Bay Marina is a rustic hideaway full of old wooden sailboats - an interesting place to visit and relax.
  • Glenora
    The small farming community of Glenora is nestled in the Cowichan Valley, near Duncan. About two-thirds of Glenora is devoted to vineyards and farming, while the remainder supports rural and residential lifestyles. There are approximately 250 homes and businesses in Glenora.
  • Honeymoon Bay
    Honeymoon Bay is a quaint little town on the southeastern shore of Cowichan Lake. The town offers beautiful views of Bald Mountain, RV campsites, and the popular Gordon Bay Provincial Park.
  • Ladysmith
    Ladysmith is a spirited and picturesque community with many of its original heritage buildings recently restored. Visitors travelling the Island Highway can stop at Ladysmith and take a stroll along First Avenue for a look at the turn-of-the century buildings.
  • Lake Cowichan
    Cowichan Lake is one of the largest bodies of freshwater on Vancouver Island, at over 30km long. The town of Lake Cowichan is the gateway to some of the most spectacular camping and hiking available on the island. The south arm of the lake is a heat trap, boasting the highest average summer maximum temperatures in Canada - over 24 degrees Celsius!
  • Malahat
    Travelling north from Victoria, Malahat Drive climbs through imposing mature forests and over rugged mountainside before dropping down into the Cowichan Valley. The Malahat is of great ceremonial significance to the Malahat First Nation, whose ancestors used the caves for spiritual enchancement. The mountain is one of the most sacred sites on southern Vancouver Island.
  • Maple Bay
    Maple Bay is a pretty seaside community that bustles with marine activity all year round. Located in a narrow inlet and surrounded by smooth, pebbled beaches, Maple Bay offers one of the finest natural harbours on the West Coast.
  • Mesachie Lake
    The small community of Mesachie Lake is located on the south shore of Cowichan Lake. Mesachie Lake was a mill town from 1942 to 1968, and has since been transformed into a tranquil country lifestyle community, surrounded by mountains, waterways, and rural woodlands.
  • Mill Bay
    Located at the south end of the Cowichan Valley, travellers on the Island Highway can stop in at Mill Bay and enjoy the village's quiet waterfront streets and wonderful Gulf Island views.
  • Shawnigan Lake
    Shawnigan Lake is a fashionable summer recreation and cottage area, and a favourite weekend getaway spot. The Village is a well-known venue for arts and craft shows, and hosts a small but excellent museum.
  • Westholme
    The small community of Westholme is located alongside the Island Highway, between Chemainus and Duncan, offering beautiful farmlands and mountain landscapes.
  • Youbou
    The beautiful little community of Youbou is located on the north shore of Cowichan Lake, west of Duncan and a 25-minute drive west of the community of Lake Cowichan. The former mill town provides a good public beach and extensive recreational opportunities, including fishing, boating and hiking.

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  Chemainus Garden Holiday Resort, Chemainus Listing Details 
Chemainus Garden Holiday Resort is an RV Resort with Park Model Homes set amidst Vancouver Island's natural beauty in Chemainus, offering the special experience of an unspoiled British Columbia paradise and a world-class recreational resort. The 34-acre RV resort is nestled among large fir and cedar trees, enhanced by ponds and manicured gardens. Wander through winding trials, woodland and wildlife habitat. Stay for one night, a week, a month, or as you desire for your vacation lifestyle.
  Cobble House Bed & Breakfast, Cobble Hill Listing Details 
Cobble House Bed & Breakfast is located in Vancouver Island's Wine Country, the Cowichan Valley, just 45 minutes north of Victoria and 60 minutes south of Nanaimo. Centrally located for exploring southern Vancouver Island in different directions, Cobble House B&B is nestled in a 40-acre private natural forest, with Shawnigan Creek flowing by along one side. Our three guest rooms are spacious, comfortable, smoke free and well equipped, all with private bathroom and comfortable sitting areas. Start your day right with a delicious full breakfast in our lovely dining room. If you want to unwind with a relaxing Vancouver Island getaway, we offer that peace and tranquility and relaxed atmosphere. Wir sprechen Deutsch. Wij spreken Nederlands.
  Deb Wilson RI (BC) - Sutton West Coast Realty, Duncan Listing Details 
Looking for an island home in the southern Gulf Islands or mid Vancouver Island? As an RI professional member with a strong background in real estate appraisal, development and construction, combined with local resident knowledge, my goal is to provide you with comprehensive real estate solutions combined with service that is performance based. Now is a good time to be purchasing, with lots of the waterfront island homes on the market.
  EMR Vacation Rentals, Vancouver Listing Details 
EMR is a fully licensed Travel Agency offering fully furnished vacation homes, condos, suites, and estates in Victoria, Vancouver, Tofino, Whistler, the Okanagan, and on Vancouver Island. We have a large inventory of unique properties to select from. This includes properties that feature oceanfront, beach front, breathtaking views, private hot tubs, luxurious settings and more. Toll Free: 0-800-520-0932 UK.
  Genoa Bay Café, Duncan Listing Details 
The Genoa Bay Cafe offers a fine selection of Pacific Rim cuisines, featuring fresh seafood from local waters, meats, produce and poultry from the farms of the Cowichan Valley, and the relaxed ambience of a waterfront setting at the Genoa Bay Marina. The Genoa Bay Cafe guarantees a unique and memorable experience. Open 7 days a week.
  Genoa Bay Marina, Duncan Listing Details 
Genoa Bay Marina offers lush tree-lined shores, towering vistas, and sheltered moorage. Our prices are affordable, and our services include Transient and Permanent Moorage, a General and Marine Store, Car and Video/DVD rental, Laundry, Showers and Washrooms, Fax service, Postal services, Internet and email access, and the Genoa Bay Cafe. Shipwright and Mechanical services are also available.
  Honeymoon Bay Lodge and Retreat, Honeymoon Bay Listing Details 
Honeymoon Bay Lodge and Retreat in beautiful Cowichan Valley offers 17 beautifully appointed guest suites, full dining experience, health and wellness facilities, saltwater hot tub and infra-red sauna, and versatile meeting spaces. All in a spectacular West Coast setting, 90 minutes from Victoria or Nanaimo. Ideal for artistic and musical events, workshops, group retreats and intimate weddings.
  Malahat Mountain Meadows RV Park, Malahat Listing Details 
Malahat Mountain Meadows RV Park and Campground is located 26 kms north of Victoria near the summit of the Malahat Drive. Our quiet and natural resort offers 63 spacious, fully-serviced RV sites nestled amongst giant cedars and seasonal creeks, private and scenic campsites, heated pool, clean washrooms with hot showers, and much much more.
  Prancing Horse Retreat B&B, Malahat Listing Details 
Prancing Horse Retreat Bed & Breakfast offers a natural paradise setting with breathtaking scenery and the very finest premium lodging accommodation Vancouver Island has to offer. Located 20 minutes north of Victoria, you'll marvel at the red-roofed Victorian Villa, as you gaze from one of our luxurious suites at the exquisite snow-capped Olympic peaks off in the distance.
  Arbutus Ridge Golf Club, Cobble Hill Listing Details 
Arbutus Ridge Golf Club is located in the seaside community of Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island, a scenic 40-minute drive from Victoria and Nanaimo and just 10 minutes away from the cultural city of Duncan. Arbutus Ridge is rated the #1 Destination Golf Course in British Columbia and the legendary 17th hole is ranked One of the Top 18 Golf Holes on Vancouver Island.
  BC Golf Vacations, Victoria Listing Details 
Luxury and budget golfing packages to all the top golf regions in British Columbia and Alberta, including Victoria, Whistler, Vancouver, Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon, the Okanagan, Shuswap, BC Rockies, and Banff and Jasper in Alberta. No matter what your taste or budget, we have the right accommodation and golf vacation for you. This summer don't just go golfing, go on a BC Golf Vacation!
  BC Oceanfront: Ed Handja & Shelley McKay, Campbell River Listing Details 
Live, Work & Play Coastal Style
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  Best Western PLUS Chemainus Inn, Chemainus Listing Details 
The Best Western PLUS Chemainus Inn is a top choice hotel amongst Vancouver Island accommodations. Large, well-appointed suite-style hotel rooms offer premium comfort to suit all your needs during your holiday or corporate stay. Discover our tranquil seaside village with its historic murals, dedicated arts community, arts festivals, and the famous Chemainus Theatre, or enjoy secluded beaches, great golfing, hiking, kayaking, and scuba diving.
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