Explore the Cowichan Valley
Wineries, First Nations, Fly Fishing
The drive from Victoria into the Cowichan is a descent from the forests and mountains of the Malahat into rolling farmland. The Cowichan Valley, which gets its name from a First Nations word that roughly means “warm land,” is one of the Island’s premier agricultural areas with more than 17,000 hectares of rich farmland.
The Cowichan River flows 47 kilometres from Cowichan Lake to Cowichan Bay. It’s a designated B.C. heritage river and a Canadian heritage river, which means it has been recognized for its outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational value. The river’s most famous activity is fly fishing, a sport that has been luring people with their waders and fly rods for well over a century. If you want to catch your own steelhead, salmon, or trout, tours and gear are available. And whether you fish or not, the pathways along the river are perfect for pleasant afternoon strolls.
Everything grows here. Fields of vegetables, berries, herbs, and flowers, orchards of fruit trees, bountiful vineyards, and pastures that support everything from chickens and cows to emus, alpacas, and water buffalo — it all flourishes. With all this homegrown goodness, the farm markets are wonderful and the restaurants have a decidedly local bias.
For foodies, the Cowichan Valley is a destination. For golfers, this means great dining options before and after a game.
Cowichan Bay Village
The village is a fascinating blend of sail and fishing boats, piers, wharves and floating homes, constantly active and full of independent, creative characters living and working on the water. Up the hill are some of the nicest vineyards to be found. The area, once primarily devoted to farming, has found new life producing some of the best wines around. Cowichan Bay is the ideal base for visitors interested in boating, kayaking, diving, and the experience of a genuine working marine community. Cowichan Bay is a waterfront village, so you can sail all day on a twin masted ship, race across the waves in a Zodiac to go whale watching, rent a boat and take a picnic to a deserted beach, dive deep to see the creatures of the sea or go kayaking as the sun sets, On land you can play tennis on the 2nd oldest active lawn tennis court in the world next to Wimbledon, ride a horse, hike a trail or go for a bike ride. Cowichan Bay has always been known as the place to dine in the Cowichan Valley with great restaurants looking out over the water. We suggest taking a stroll into the village and visiting True Grain Bread, Hilary’s Artisan Cheeses as well as The Udder Guy’s Ice Cream Parlour.
Known as The City of Totems, Duncan is the largest community in the Cowichan Valley. This bustling town has a Native Heritage Centre and over 100 totem poles along it’s streets. The shops here carry the art of several native artists so it is a good place to shop for authentic Cowichan native sweaters, baskets, books, masks, and jewelry.
Chemainus is one of the oldest European settlements on Vancouver Island and has existed mainly around the logging industry. After logging operations decreased and the highway bypassed the town, local resident, Karl Schultz began a project to revitalize the economy.
By creating a city of murals, Chemainus became The Little Town that Could. Local artists have painted 35 murals on the buildings, depicting the areas history, and the town is considered a permanent outdoor art gallery. This is a very interesting town as well as a busy tourist attraction.
Chemainus has developed a sizable artist’s community. It is now well known for its potters, painters, glass workers and first nations artists. Chemanius also has some wonderful gift shops, galleries and restaurants.
According to the summer 2000 issue of Harrowsmith Country Life magazine, Ladysmith is one of Canada’s 10 prettiest towns. Ladysmith has a slight resemblance to early San Francisco with it’s old houses built on steep slopes above the deep water harbour. It sits right on the 49th parallel which marks the Canada/USA border across North America until it reaches Vancouver Island.