Cowichan is a sought after destination for travellers of all kinds — the thrill-seekers, the nature lovers, the food and wine connoisseurs. And although there are many options for travelling through the region, the best way to slow down and savour life is by bike.
We’ve put together this three-day cycling/e-biking itinerary to link some of Cowichan’s natural, historical and culinary attractions along some of our favourite bike routes. However, this guide is just a suggestion. There are many great routes and combinations you can weave together to experience all the exceptional sights, sounds and tastes of Cowichan!
This itinerary starts and ends in Mill Bay. If you’re coming from Victoria, you can park your car overnight here or leave your car behind and take the ferry from Brentwood Bay to Mill Bay and start your tour with a boat ride.
If you’re new to cycling, review road safety precautions before setting out.
Leaving Mill Bay, you’ll head west toward the Shawnigan Lake village and the Shawnigan House Coffee + Chocolate. It’s never too early for a pitstop — grab a coffee and some handmade chocolates to go!
From the village, travel along the north end of the lake to the Cowichan Valley Trail (which is a part of The Great Trail). This route passes over the historic Kinsol Trestle — a 44-metre tall timbre trestle that spans 188 metres across the Koksilah River. Enjoy a short break here (maybe with some of those chocolates from Shawnigan House) and take in the views and history of the trestle.
From the trestle, continue north on the Cowichan Valley Trail. Built along a retired railway, the trail is flat and wide enough to ride side by side. Breathe in some fresh air while peddling through Cowichan’s farmland and forests — and remember to watch for wildlife.
Coming off the trail, ride along one of Cowichan’s many picturesque farm roads to the Alderlea Farm & Cafe. The cafe is inside the farmhouse, making this an authentic farm to table dining experience. Choose lunch from their menu of wood-fired pizza, soups, salads and burgers. Then, enjoy a table on their veranda with 360-degree views of the farm. With a freshly fuelled body, you’re ready to continue on your adventure!
Local Tip: In Duncan, avoid the traffic and the highway by hopping onto the Friendship Trail that travels from downtown to the Cowichan Commons shopping centre.
Cowichan is full of hidden gems and unexpected attractions. Nestled in the farmland of North Cowichan, Westholme Teais the only tea farm in Canada. At this idyllic valley spot, Westholme Tea cultivates its own tea and blends teas from around the world. Enjoy their truly Canadian tea in the beautifully handcrafted ceramic teaware that is made on-site!
After a relaxing cup of tea — and maybe a biscuit — continue on your journey to Chemainus, the final destination of day one. Known as the “Mural Town”, this seaside village offers a picturesque end to your first day of cycling. Stop at the Sawmill Taphousefor some well-earned wood-fired pizza, then walk next door to Riot Brewing to enjoy a pint of local beer.
Rest your head (and legs) for the night at the Castle Cove Inn. This unique accommodation is perched right on the rocky shores of the Stuart Channel. Or double back to the Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn – they offer secure bike storage and a hot tub/swimming pool (you might need a soak after the day of riding).
On day two, you’ll experience some of Cowichan’s natural and cultural history as you pedal from Chemainus to Cowichan Bay.
Start your day with a delicious breakfast at the Owl’s Nest Bakery. Don’t forget to grab some snacks to go! Day two starts with a 16-kilometre ride from Chemainus, through Crofton to the Pacific Northwest Raptors.
Plan your departure from Chemainus to arrive in time for the 11:30 am flight demonstration at the Raptors. Here you’ll experience eagles, hawks, owls and vultures as they soar over your head. The educators at the Raptors will teach you about the importance of these magnificent birds of prey and what we can do to protect them.
The Grove Hall Farm Italian Kitchen & Market is just around the corner from the Raptors. Their outdoor picnic area is an ideal bike pitstop. Not only can you pick up some lunch, but also grab some tasty supplies to go. Don’t miss their handcrafted, small-batch gelato!
It’s all downhill from the Italian Kitchen to the central area of Duncan. So lock your bike and stretch your legs as you explore the quaint area of downtown Duncan. Known as the City of Totems, learn about the area’s history through the Totem Tour. This tour is now one of the world’s largest outdoor collections of publicly displayed totem poles.
Duncan is also home to three bike shops, Cowichan Cycles, Cycle Therapy and Experience Cycles. These shops can help you stock up on any extra bike supplies you may need or offer local advice on places to shop, eat or pedal.
Once you’ve spent some time exploring Duncan, jump back on the bikes and head out to Cowichan Bay. Take the rural route — along Tzouhalem and Cowichan Bay Roads — to experience incredible scenery. This road travels along the base of the mighty Mount Tzouhalem and cycles along the Cowichan Bay Estuary.
Safety Note: this road is relatively narrow; keep to the side and be aware of passing cars.
Cowichan Bay is a picturesque part of the Island that brings together the natural environment, modern industry and thousands of years of cultural history. The local ecosystem and economy have been tied together in this area for thousands of years.
Drop your bike off at the Oceanfront Suites and explore the quaint shops and attractions along the village strip. The Oceanfront Suites offers secure bike lock-up, or you’re welcome to bring your bike right into your suite with you.
There are several sites in Cowichan Bay where visitors can learn more about the natural and cultural history of the region. If you have time, visit The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre or the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre to learn more about this area. On the other end of the village is the Arthur Vickers Gallery. Arthur Vickers is an acclaimed First Nations artist, a master storyteller, a journeyman carpenter and a recipient of the Order of British Columbia. His work has been displayed worldwide, but his gallery is located on the waterfront of Cowichan Bay.
For dinner, reserve a table at The Masthead Restaurant. Situated right on the shore of Cowichan Bay, the Masthead’s dining room overs a beautiful lookout over the marina. The decadent seasonal menu ensures that diners are always experiencing the freshest local flavours.
Day three is the shortest day on the itinerary, so it is all about indulgence.
If you’re an early riser, watch the sunrise on the pier from the Oceanfront Suites or down on the Government Wharf. Savour the morning stillness and smell of the ocean before starting the last leg of this journey.
Enjoy a pastry breakfast just down the road at True Grain Bread’s Leeward Coastal Cafe. True Grain is an organic bakery that crafts all its products from wheat and grain grown and milled in BC. Their new cafe puts their products into delicious menu items. Or, if you’re in Cowichan Bay on the weekend and want to have a leisurely start to your day, visit The Vinefor brunch and feast on their extensive crepe menu. But beware of filling up too much as you’ll have to climb quite a big hill out of Cowichan Bay!
Cowichan is home to a unique microclimate with wet winters and hot, dry summers, creating ideal conditions for winemakers. There are 14 wineries in Cowichan, and they each have a unique story to tell. Once you’ve climbed the big hill out of Cowichan Bay, you’ll be in an area rich with wineries. We’ve chosen two to stop at, but you can add many wineries to your itinerary.
Head to Damali Lavender Farm and Winery to stroll through the lavender farm, home to more than a dozen varieties of lavender. Then, in the tasting room, you can have a tasting of their beautifully crafted wines.
Just one kilometre down the road is Enrico Winery. Enrico is one of three Cowichan vineyards that produce the sparkling wine Charme d’ile (meaning charm of the Island). This specialty bubbly is unique to the west coast islands and has a fresh and vibrant profile.
BONUS: Stopping at wineries last means you can purchase a couple bottles to stash on your bike for the short ride to your end location.
From Enrico, you’re almost back to the start. Cruise into Mill Bay and indulge at Bridgeman’s Bistro for a celebratory lunch over the ocean. Known for its excellent seafood and signature cocktails, this is a great spot to unwind and recap your adventure.
Or, if you’re still feeling adventurous, walk down onto the pier and talk to the folks at Blue Dog Kayaking. They offer SUP and kayak rentals, so you can give your lower body a break and explore Cowichan from the water!
This itinerary is just a suggestion of how to explore Cowichan’s history, attractions, and foodie destinations by bicycle. There are unlimited routes you can explore.
Have you biked in Cowichan before? Be sure to share your experience with us by using #explorecowichan!