It is said that when you’re planning a trip to Cowichan, it’s not about deciding what to do here – it’s about deciding what you can’t leave out. While your visit is sure to boast numerous activities and experiences in the distinctive Cowichan style, there are some things that are truly unique to this region. Check out our list of seven things you can only do in Cowichan.
Stroll Across the Historic Kinsol Trestle
Standing 44 metres above the waters below and 187 metres long, the Kinsol Trestle near Shawnigan Lake is one of the world’s largest wooden trestles. Just a short walk from the parking lot, enjoy the stunning views of the trestle from all angles; peek over the edge to the flowing waters of the Koksilah River, or walk across and hike down to the picnic tables to look up at the soaring views of the railway bridge. The trestle, originally built in 1920 and recently restored, is open to cyclists, hikers and equestrians and lies along the 122-kilometre Cowichan Valley Trail.
Taste Vancouver Island’s very own sparkling wine
Charme de L’ile – “Charm of the Island” – is a Prosecco-style sparkling wine produced exclusively on Vancouver Island. Made with grapes grown in Cowichan vineyards, this crisp bubbly is light, crisp and refreshing! Enjoy it best as an aperitif or paired with a light meal. You can taste several varieties of Charme at three Cowichan wineries: Enrico Winery, Averill Creek Vineyard and Unsworth Vineyards.
Explore Canada’s Great Street
The Canadian Institute of Planners named Ladysmith’s historic First Avenue “Canada’s Great Street” in 2017. Take a stroll through this quaint setting that is straight out of a storybook. Filled with unique boutique shops and charming eateries, peaceful gathering places and intriguing artistic details, a wander down First Avenue is sure to please. Ladysmith’s charm extends well beyond First Avenue; extend your walk to include Transfer Beach Park and the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery located at the Ladysmith Marina.
Explore Canada’s only Commercial Tea Farm
Nestled in a beautiful part of the Cowichan Valley, Westholme Tea Co. is Canada’s first and only commercial tea farm. Visit the farm to meet Margit Nelleman & Victor Vesely, proprietors of the farm, tea room and gallery. Explore the grounds on a farm tour with Victor and browse Margit’s eclectic collection of handmade tea ware before sitting down to a cup of Canadian tea and a sweet or savoury treat in the tearoom.
Photo: Westholme Tea Farm
Pay a visit to North America’s first Cittaslow Village
The quaint Cowichan Bay is North America’s first Cittaslow (pronounced “chee-ta-slow”) Village – one of a community of 236 towns in 30 countries that focus on living a high quality of life and maintaining strong community relationships. Wander past the cheerful float homes and pay a visit to a number of charming businesses, from eateries to art galleries and Cowichan’s very own perfumery. We like to think that Cittawslow communities embody the Cowichan mantra: Slow Dow, Savour Life.
Explore over 60 murals in Chemainus
An afternoon exploring “mural town” in Chemainus is a Cowichan experience to note. The Chemainus Festival of Murals project launched in the 1982 in an effort to save the town from economic collapse following the closure of the local sawmill. The murals revitalized the community through art tourism, and now draw in thousands of visitors every year. Now, visitors can wander the 60+ murals throughout the quaint community on the water while visiting the many charming businesses that call Chemainus home.
Sip & savour at Canada’s first cidery & distillery
You may be surprised to hear that Cowichan is home to not just BC’s first craft cidery – but also to BC’s first craft distillery! Merridale Cidery & Distillery is located on 20-acres in Cobble Hill. On site, guests can wander the orchard, taste spirits and estate ciders, dine in the Merridale bistro and experience unique events and opportunities throughout the year.
A trip to Cowichan is never truly complete – it would take a lifetime to experience everything this region has to offer. These are just a few “firsts” and “only’s” to note for your upcoming trip to Cowichan. If you’re ready to begin planning your trip to Cowichan, visit our Getting Here page to get started.