Did you know that Cowichan is Canada’s only Mediterranean climate? With our warm coastal climate comes the highest average median temperatures in Canada, which is why it’s no surprise that spring seems to always come early to the Cowichan region!
Take full advantage of our early spring by getting active outdoors in Cowichan. With a pristine coast, stunning mountains, crystal clear rivers and lakes, and hundreds of kilometres of trails, there are endless opportunities for adventure!
Before you get out and active this spring, make sure that you have the supplies to make your outing as fun and as safe as possible. Head into Bucky’s Sports Shop, in Duncan, and pick up some outdoor gear (especially if you’re fishing) and ask their knowledgeable staff about their favourite Cowichan spots.
1. Go Chasing Waterfalls
There’s something mystical and mesmerizing about watching water cascade over a bluff. With our many mountains and rivers, Cowichan has some great falls that are worth the hike!
Christie Falls is a perfect example of a west coast waterfall. To get the falls, turn left at the end of Christie Road and park by the orange gate. Follow the logging road past the Bush Creek Hatchery, and watch for the signs directing you up the trail to the falls. Continue on the path over the log bridge to Christie falls. There’s plenty of room here to admire the falls, snap some pictures and have a quick snack.
Travel along the country roads of Saltair and explore the Stocking Creek waterfall. Stocking Creek Park is full of meandering forest trails, including access to the Cowichan Valley Trail. The waterfall is just a short distance from the parking lot off of Chemainus Road. Descend the staircase and view the falls from the platform. Pack a lunch and enjoy the picnic area.
2. Watch For Wildlife
Experience the thrill of viewing wildlife in its natural habitat. Book a wildlife tour with Ocean EcoVentures in Cowichan Bay. Headed by an expert captain/naturalist, these wildlife tours take you on an expedition off the Cowichan coast. Not only do these adventures try to locate Orca, Humpback, Grey and Minke whales, they also provide opportunities to view sea lions, bald eagles, harbour seals, dalls, and harbour porpoises!
The Island Raptors believe that having a better understanding of birds of prey will help save them. These vulnerable birds need human protection, which is why the Island Raptors focuses on education. Visit the Raptors and take in a demonstration with their magnificent birds of prey. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get close to these incredible animals, so don’t forget your camera!
3. Horseback Riding
Cowichan is a perfect getaway for horse enthusiasts. Experience fabulous rides through old growth forests, climbing up mountainside trails to breathtaking valley and ocean views. Book a trail ride with Alpine Stables, lead by expert guides, these trail rides are suitable for all experience levels.
For those who wish to holiday with their horses, reserve your stay at Hillcrest Farm’s Bale and Breakfast. Your horse can rest comfortably in the barn while you stay in the farmhouse. This is a perfect getaway to experience some new riding trails or take some training time in Hillcrest’s 90 X 160 sand ring!
4. Hop on a Bike
One of the best ways to experience Cowichan is on two wheels! Whether you’re cruising down the Cowichan Valley Trail or tackling some challenging mountain bike paths on Mount Tzouhalem, Cowichan is the cycling destination for riders of all skill levels.
Did you know that you can ship your bike with Velofix? That’s right, if you live in a community that has Velofix, they’ll ship your bike safely to Cowichan. Velofix here will assemble and deliver your ride to your accommodation. If you’re not able to bring your bike with you, no problem! Cowichan Cycles and Cycle Therapy both offer bike rentals and can provide some insider cycling tips that will have you riding like a local.
Or ride at a leisurely pace to reveal some hidden gems on Vancouver Island with Citrus Cycles! Cruise through Cowichan on one of their electric bikes and let them guide you through the region’s beautiful landscapes.
Mark your calendars! If you love cycling for a cause, you’ll want to get training for the Cowichan Valley Experience of the MS Bike Ride. This two-day event is hosted from Shawnigan Lake’s Camp Pringle and is an excellent ride for cycling enthusiasts. And if you’re dusting off your bike for the first time this season, stop in at Riot on March 24th for a Bike Tune-Up and Beer! All proceeds go to Riot’s MS Bike Team!
5. Take a Paddle
Take a deep breath and breathe in some fresh ocean air. Enjoy the stillness of the water as you glide across the surface. Whether you’re standup paddle-boarding, kayaking or canoeing there are many opportunities to get out on the water. In Ladysmith, Sealegs Kayaking Adventures offers rentals and unique wildlife viewing tours — these tours paddle through Ladysmith’s inner harbour and are perfect for novice paddlers and families.
In Cowichan Bay, book a canoe or kayaking excursion with Coastal Bliss Adventures. You’ll want to experience an evening of paddling through the Cowichan Estuary — this magical night paddle is available on full moons or new moon nights.
If the ocean isn’t your scene, head out to Lake Cowichan and rent some kayaks from ORKA Adventures. Paddle around the calm waters of the lake and enjoy the fresh air and wildlife!
For paddlers looking for more of an adrenaline rush, the Cowichan River can be paddled year-round but is in its prime season from October to May when the waters are higher. Get more information about paddling on the Cowichan Watershed here.
Find out more water-based adventures on our website.
7. Reach a Summit
Climbing to the peak of a mountain is not only an exhilarating accomplishment, but in Cowichan, it also provides some stunning views. There are so many great mountain hikes in the valley, the only thing you’ll need to decide is what sort of view you want to see at the top!
Lake Views: In Lake Cowichan head out to Bald Mountain and explore the 7.6 kilometres of hiking trails, and take in the stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
Ocean Views: Maple Mountain has beautiful lookouts over the bay, with clear skies you can see across to Saltspring Island and out to the Olympic Mountains.
Valley Views: The twin peaks of Mount Prevost offer spectacular valley views of Duncan and the surrounding farmlands. One peak is home to the War Memorial from 1929, and the southern bluff is a launch point for hang gliders. To reach this summit, you can drive up the Prevost Mainline gravel road. Always check the weather and road conditions before exploring.
For those who enjoy mountain summits from a more leisurely seat, cruise up to the Villa Eyrie’s Summit Restaurant and enjoy lunch with a view. Or enjoy some traditional comfort food at the Moon Water Lodge!
6. Recharge In Nature with Forest Bathing
Forest bathing is the practice of being present in nature. Taking time to breathe in the fresh forest air and experience the sights, sounds, smells (and maybe even tastes) of the forest can be good for your health. Studies done in Japan showed that people spending 30 minutes in nature had lower cortisol levels (which increase with stress).
Cowichan has many great places to step into nature. You can walk the leisurely 3-km loop at Stoney Hill, or take a stroll through Bright Angel Park to soak in the trees and the sounds of the rushing river.
8. Walk through history
If you are looking for ways to get outside that are a bit easier on your body, there are plenty of excellent walks in Cowichan. The Ladysmith Heritage Walk is a self-guided tour from downtown Ladysmith to the waterfront. The walk is full of artefacts and historical tidbits that are perfect for the avid walker and history buff.
Literally walk ON history at the Kinsol Trestle. The trestle is an impressive 187-metres long and 44-metres high, making it one of the tallest free-standing timber trestles in the world. You can access a parking lot for the Kinsol Trestle in Shawnigan Lake off of Glen Eagles Road. The walk from the parking lot to the trestle is a flat 1.2 kilometres, an easy trek for kids (and parents) of all ages. Before you see the trestle, stop in at the Shawnigan Lake Museum to peruse the Kinsol Trestle Exhibit. Learn about how it was built and how it was almost lost forever.
In Duncan, follow the yellow footprints through the Duncan Totem Tour. This area is the traditional territory of the Quw’usun’ (Cowichan) people who have been cultivating arts and culture in this region for thousands of years. The totem tour is an on-going project that has developed into the most extensive outdoor collection of publicly displayed Totem Poles in the world. Read more about the Totem Tour Here.
In Chemainus, stretch your legs and take a tour of Canada’s Mural Town. Learn about local history and art through the extensive display of murals exhibited throughout the community. Recently Mural #3 had to be relocated, and once again, through the assistance of dedicated community members, the mural was successfully relocated. Learn more about that story here.
9. Cast Away – Fishing
The spring is the perfect time to start thinking about getting back out on the water. Whether you enjoy saltwater or freshwater fishing, Cowichan can offer some amazing water-based adventures.
The Cowichan River is one of Canada’s best fly-fishing spots, with a variety of salmon and trout inhabiting its waters. Experience the rivers’ bounty for yourself with the expert guides at RiverQuest Charters.
Before you head out on your ocean expedition, stop in at the Maple Bay Marina and get supplies for you and your boat at the fuel dock and the Mariners Market and Espresso Bar.
Or if you want the experience of being on the water but don’t have your own boat, cruise the coast on a luxury yacht and book yourself a Maple Bay Day Charter. If you’ve brought your fishing license, they’ll even drop some crab traps on your way out in the morning. Hopefully, you’ll be able to pull up some dinner on your return!
If at the end of the day, you had no luck fishing, you can still taste the flavours of fresh seafood at one of our many seaside communities. Tie-up to the Genoa Bay Cafe for some fine dining, dig into some Ocean Wise fish and chips at the Rock Cod Cafe in Cowichan Bay, or dine at Bridgemans Bistro in Mill Bay for some spectacular food with a view (just to name a few!).
Energize your mind, get your blood pumping and breathe in some fresh air with a round of golf!
With sprawling countryside and our Mediterranean climate, golf in Cowichan is a year-round activity. Cowichan has five golf courses, so regardless of where you are in the region, you’re never far from the greens!
Find out more about what Cowichan has to offer golfers here.