Cowichan is a region that’s ripe with culinary treasures! Its warmer growing conditions and rich soils create the perfect growing conditions for vegetables, herbs, grapes, and even some fruits. Add to that the bountiful opportunities for fishing and catching shellfish in the Salish Sea and world-class chefs who call Cowichan home, and it’s easy to see why the region is a gastronomer’s dream destination.
It’s little wonder why the late James Barber, a distinguished foodie, referred to the region as “Canada’s Provence”.
Here are just a few must-stop places to sample incredible local cuisine in a curated route, starting in Mill Bay and heading north to Ladysmith.
Bridgeman’s Bistro is an incredible location for brunch, lunch, or dinner all year-round thanks to its impressive floor-to-ceiling glass design, connecting your dining experience with the marina and ocean below. Their menus are based on West Coast ingredients, including local clams and mussels.
The experience at Unsworth Vineyards is rooted in Cowichan’s growing conditions. The family’s sustainably managed vineyard produces some of the region’s most sought-after wines, while in the restaurant, you’ll find dishes that celebrate fresh produce from neighboring farms. Reservations are highly recommended.
Continuing along in Cobble Hill is another must-stop location: Merridale Cidery & Distillery. The first thing you’ll notice when pulling into the Merridale parking lot is the picturesque property, which you’re welcome to explore at your leisure! Stop in for a tasting of their award-winning ciders then head out into the orchard to see where it all begins!
Back along the Trans Canada Highway in Valleyview Centre is Pizzeria Prima Strada and Drumroaster Coffee. Drumroaster Coffee is one of Vancouver Island’s best roasteries, and one of the hardest decisions you’ll have to make that day is choosing from their selection of baked goods! Similarly, at Pizzeria Prima Strada, choice is far from limited! They pride themselves on only the best locally sourced ingredients for their authentic, wood-fired recipes.
Who doesn’t love brunch? Brunch on 3rd in Duncan serves up your favourite brunch classics with an upgraded twist. For a truly Cowichan experience, we recommend their Warmland Welcoming Eggs Benedict, featuring wild, cold-smoked salmon, pickled onion, and crispy capers.
Genoa Bay Cafe is one of the region’s best hidden gems. Tucked away in scenic Genoa Bay, behind Mount Tzouhalem, 20 minutes away from Duncan, is this picturesque bistro that serves up casual and refined dishes with ingredients fresh from the sea and surrounding farms. Don’t miss the opportunity to try their famous Calamari or West Coast Seafood Chowder.
At Sawmill Taphouse Chemainus, you’ll find an impressive selection of locally crafted beers and farm-to-table tapas. It’s one of the best places where you can sample the best of what the region has to offer in one place if you’re pressed for time!
We’re ending our culinary tour in the sweetest way, with a trip to Old Town Bakery and Wild Poppy in Ladysmith. These cafes and bakeries are hands-down some of the best baked goods on Vancouver Island. Have a food sensitivity? Wild Poppy specializes in gluten-free goodness that’s made fresh daily!