This winter, while on your holiday commute, detour off the highway and take a pit stop (or two) in Cowichan. Because, whether you’re driving through the valley to visit family or looking for a holiday getaway, Cowichan is full of festive experiences and yuletide shopping that are sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

Here are just a couple of suggestions for festive highway detours.

Malahat

If you’re driving up the Island from Victoria, your first Cowichan stop will be on the Malahat. You’ll want to pull over to take in the stunning views, but you’ll have to stay for some fabulous dining.

Stop in for lunch with a view of the Saanich Inlet at the Moon Water Lodge. Or, if you’re crunched for time, you can still take full advantage of their ‘grab and go menu’ which includes their fabulous house-made meat pies!

If you’re looking for Christmas dinner without the cooking or cleanup, book your seat at the Villa Eyrie’s Christmas under the stars! Just sit back and enjoy a prep-free yuletide feast. Throughout December, Santa will be making appearances at the Villa Eyrie on the weekends, so bring all your good girls and boys to the summit to share their wish list with Santa.

Cowichan Bay

We recommend you slip off the highway and take the pristine road to Cowichan Bay. Here you’ll find a strip of fabulous shops perfect for authentic Christmas shopping and holiday eats. You’ll want to linger a while in Canada’s first ‘Cittaslow’ (slow city) community.

Pop into True Grain Bread for a delicious baked treat and stock up on your Christmas baking — their shortbread is famous amongst Islanders. Then stroll down the road to explore fabulous seaside shops and find a new scent at Wild Coast Perfumery. Made from 100% natural ingredients, Wild Coast produces locally inspired perfumes, like the Cowichan Rose, Whistler and Saltspring.

Cobble Hill

Have any pizza lovers on your shopping list? You’re going to have to make a pit stop in Cobble Hill at Prima Strada Pizzeria and become someone’s Pizza Angel! Say, ‘I love you with pizza’ and pick up a pizza angel button and gift card. While you’re there you might as well pick up something for yourself like their house made Candy Cane Gelato.

Once you’ve hopped off the highway, you can take a drive through the country roads of Cobble Hill leading up to Merridale’s idyllic farmhouse just in time for Christmas at the Farm. Weekend evenings through the end of the year experience, festive cheer at its finest with a mug of hot mulled cider, a live holiday play and family-style dining. The farm is decked out with hundreds of lights, decorations and displays. Don’t have time for dinner and a show? No problem, they’re open seven days a week for tastings, shopping and lunch/brunch!

 

Duncan

As you drive through Duncan, you’ll no doubt see the signs prompting you to turn left (or right, depending on where you’re coming from) and head into downtown. Once you’ve parked in Downtown Duncan, you’ll be greeted by some of the best shopping on the island. Enjoy some festive window shopping then pop into The Old Firehouse Wine & Cocktail bar for one of Jeff’s daily creations!

 And of course, you can’t pass through Duncan without taking the kids for a ride on the Christmas Express! Climb aboard the 1910 steam locomotive as it winds its way through thousands of twinkling lights adorning the 100-acre woods of the BC Forest Discovery Centre. Experience the light displays, holiday music, festive crafts, and ride the Christmas Express!

Lake Cowichan

Looking for a delicious detour near Lake Cowichan? Stopping off at Farm Table Inn is a must, although you’ll want to book this detour in advance. Join them for traditional gourmet holiday dinners with menus prepared by Chef George throughout December. On weekends, for an extra fee, you can book the shuttle home so you can have a holly jolly Christmas and get home safely!

Once you’ve finished your celebrations at home, you’ll want to congregate with your friends at the Inn for Boxing Day and New Years Day brunch!

Chemainus

Not only is Chemainus a perfect spot to fill out your Christmas shopping, but it is also a beautiful town to stretch your legs in and do some window shopping. Stop in at Beyond the Usual to pick up gifts for the outdoors enthusiasts on your list. On December 1st join them for Moonlight Madness, an evening of great deals, prizes and a visit from Santa!

While you’re in Chemainus, enjoy the Theatre Festival’s final performance of the season. Cornwall’s All-Inclusive Cancun Family Christmas will take you back to 80’s with full-bodied hairdos and classic 80’s chart-toppers mixed with your favourite Christmas carols. This all-inclusive performance runs until the end of the year and is sure to put you in the holiday spirit!

Ladysmith

The Ladysmith Festival of Lights is a must for any holiday road trip. Detour up Ladysmith’s historic First Avenue, recently awarded the title of Canada’s Great Street, and be dazzled by the thousands of Christmas lights.

On Thursday, November 30th, head to Ladysmith for their 30th Annual Light-Up Celebration! This action-packed evening has all the festive activities you could wish for including a Christmas craft fair, a light parade, food vendors, live music, fireworks and of course, Lights!

Wine Touring

Looking for the perfect wine to pair with Christmas dinner? Take a day (or two) to tour through Cowichan’s wineries and find a new Christmas favourite. Drop in at Unsworth Vineyards for a tasting, but stay for lunch at their quaint and cozy heritage house restaurant. If you’re in Cobble Hill you can also swing by Blue Grouse Estate Winery for a tasting, and while you’re out there you might as well spend the night at the Grouse House B&B.

If you’re on your way out to Lake Cowichan, or cruising past Duncan you can make a stop at Averill Creek Vineyard. You’ll want to taste their award-winning Pinot Noir.

 If you’re not into wine, stop by Red Arrow Brewing and try their new seasonal feature “1000 Lightyears From Home” chocolate milk stout!

Wherever your adventures take you this season, have a very Happy Holiday and please drive safely!

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