Cowichan - Duncan, Chemainus, Ladysmith, Vancouver Island
The spectacular Malahat Drive is the section of Highway 1 between Goldstream Provincial Park and the Cowichan Region and offers breathtaking views of Finlayson Arm, the Saanich Peninsula and the Gulf Islands. Continue North to Mill Bay, a pleasant waterside community with a full-service marina. Located here is the turnoff for Shawnigan Lake, a cozy lakeside community popular for watersports, and pretty Cobble Hill, with interesting shops and picturesque farms. This scenic area is also famous for its vineyards that produce some of the finest wines and ciders on Vancouver Island. Many of the wineries and a cidery offer sampling, tours, picnic areas, and wine shops. Agriculture attracts many to the Cowichan Region where farm markets are common from spring through fall. A bit farther North and off the highway, Cowichan Bay is perched over a natural deep-sea harbour. Many of the buildings in this charming village extend over the water and are supported by pilings. Along the waterfront, you’ll find a variety of galleries, gift shops and restaurants.
Duncan is the commercial centre of the Cowichan Region and a hub of First Nations art and culture. “The City of Totems”, Duncan boasts some 80 totem poles, including 40 in the downtown area. Pick up a totem tour map at the Visitor Centre or enjoy a free guided tour in the summer. The Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre is among the region’s most impressive attractions and offers insight into the culture of the area’s First Nations. The B.C. Forest Discovery Centre is another highlight offering a 40-hectare park with hiking trails, forestry displays and a steam train. The Pacific Northwest Raptors Educational Centre is dedicated to the conservation of birds of prey and features interesting displays and demonstrations. Bird watchers will love the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Refuge, home to more than 200 species. West of Duncan is the Cowichan Lake District with its freshwater lakes, parks, and campgrounds where kayaking, hiking, biking and swimming is popular. To the East are the oceanside villages of Maple Bay and Genoa Bay; plus Crofton where you can board a ferry to Saltspring Island.
One of the most visited towns on Vancouver Island, Chemainus is renowned for the 36 professionally painted murals and 12 sculptures beautifully depicting its history and culture. A wonderful place to browse, Chemainus has dozens of small shops, galleries, restaurants and the Chemainus Theatre, a star attraction offering live, year-round theatre. This high-spirited community also boasts a great line-up of family events, especially between May and September, plus golfing, cycling, steam train rides, the Chemainus Valley Museum and daytrips to Thetis and Kuper Islands.
Named by Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine as one of the top ten prettiest towns in Canada, Ladysmith is a picture postcard community tracing its’ roots back to Edwardian times. Visit one-of-a-kind boutiques and artists studios or consider a walking tour of the carefully restored heritage buildings. One of the town’s popular attractions is Transfer Beach in Ladysmith Harbour. Picnic, swim, kayak or take a harbour tour. Kids love splashing and playing at Spray Park right on the beach.