Home to wineries, bucolic farmland and forests, picturesque small towns and a dynamic food scene, it’s no surprise Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley has been dubbed “Canada’s Provence.”
Blue Grouse Winery | Derek Ford
Less than an hour’s drive from Victoria along the scenic Pacific Marine Circle Route, the area boasts Canada’s warmest year-round temperature. Cowichan’s name comes from the Indigenous word Quw’utsun’: “the warm land.”
Explore the ocean coastline, hike among massive Douglas firs, head inland to kayak on clear lakes, or lazily tube down the Cowichan River.
See & Do
Vancouver Island’s newest attraction is a gentle walk up above the treetops with 360-degree views across the Finlayson Arm fjord, forests and Gulf Islands to distant snow-capped mountains. Walk back down or take the express route via the thrilling spiral slide. The 10-storey wooden tower is situated on the traditional lands of the Malahat First Nation at the gateway to the Cowichan Valley.
Wineries, breweries and cideries
Merridale Cidery & Distillery
There are more than a dozen family-owned estate wineries in the Cowichan Valley, which recently joined the Okanagan as an official B.C. wine region. Drop in at a tasting room or have lunch at a winery restaurant.
Stillhead Distillery | HenHouse Photography
Sample a flight of cider and botanical spirits at Merridale Cidery & Distillery in Cobble Hill, where meals are served overlooking the orchards. Further north in Duncan, sip Stillhead Distillery's flagship spirit, Wild Blackberry Gin, made from locally picked Cowichan blackberries and Canadian honey. Craft beer lovers will want to hit the BC Ale Trail.
Westholme Tea Farm
Westholme Tea | HenHouse Photography
Sip tea in the place where it’s grown at Canada’s only tea estate. Book a guided tour of the tea terraces or sign up for a small-group international tea experience and tasting. Pick up some of Westholme Tea Farm co-owner and ceramic artist Margit Nellemann’s fanciful teaware in the tea shop, which also sells organic teas, custom blends and herbal varieties.
Visit charming Cowichan Bay
Cowichan Bay Martime Centre | Tourism Cowichan/Jordan DyckCowichan Bay Martime Centre | Tourism Cowichan/Jordan DyckCrowfoot Collective | Tourism Cowichan/Jordan Dyck
There’s a relaxed vibe in this small village that overlooks a harbour filled with colourful houseboats and fishing vessels. Pick up a treat at True Grain bakery, then wander along the docks to admire the views. You may even spot eagles and seals.
Wild Coast Perfumery
At Wild Coast Perfumery boutique, owner-perfumer Laurie Arbuthnot works with botanicals, many of them locally foraged, to create “scent memories” of British Columbia locations.
One of the tallest free-standing timber rail trestles in the world, the 101-year-old Kinsol Trestle once carried trains across the Koksilah River 44 metres below. Now it’s a scenic crossing for cyclists, hikers and equestrians. With towering wooden supports that seem to be a Canadian version of the Eiffel Tower’s latticework drama, the curved wooden structure is quite spectacular. It’s one of eight rail trestles along the multi-use Cowichan Valley Trail.
Eat & Drink
Chefs don’t have far to go to find exceptional ingredients from land and sea in the Cowichan Valley.
Sean Fenzl | UnsworthSean Fenzl | Unsworth
Lunch or dinner at Unsworth Restaurant includes a view of Unsworth Vineyards, with Vancouver Island seafood and local fruits, vegetables and cheeses as menu regulars.
Farm Table Inn near the Cowichan River Footpath and Skutz Falls, features menus that draw from the bounty of the farm and local purveyors.
The Lakehouse at Shawnigan Lake has three patios to make the most of the beautiful views and a seasonal, locally sourced menu.
Pizzeria Prima StradaPizzeria Prima Strada
Got a craving for real-deal pizza? The Cobble Hill branch of family-owned Pizzeria Prima Strata (there are two locations in Victoria) serves excellent wood-fired Neapolitan-style pies. Or DIY with picnic ingredients from farm stands or the weekly Duncan Farmers Market.
Sleep & Stay
Merridale Cidery & Distillery
Luxury hotel Villa Eyrie Resort has astounding scenic views from its hilltop perch.
Villa Eyrie ResortVilla Eyrie Resort
The region’s newest hotel, Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Ladysmith Oyster Bay, is a pet-friendly stay. Some rooms have kitchens. It’s close to Nanaimo Airport and Departure Bay ferry terminal.