Courtenay’s Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens – an exquisite pocket of beauty and tranquility


Water features are found throughout the gardens

Many fountains add to the charm and serenity of the gardens

The Kitty Coleman Woodland Garden is an exquisite pocket of beauty and tranquility tucked away just 15 minutes north of Courtenay. Anyone who appreciates any aspect of the natural world and peace and quiet would be well-advised to take the time to visit the stunning 24-acre garden – one man’s labour of love that attracts visitors from around the world.

3,500 rhododenrons grace the pathways, adding splashes of colour in unexpected places

            The gardens have evolved under the caring hand and expertise of owner Bryan Zimmerman over the course of almost two decades. What started out as a chunk of untamed bush has flourished as he developed a meandering network of woodland trails, ponds, fountains, grassy meadows and unique accoutrements fashioned from natural elements like driftwood. There are rustic structures scattered over the property, artful installations of driftwood that is appreciated for its simple beauty and form, resting spots and bridges fashioned of – you guessed it – driftwood.  A massive inukshuk fashioned of 1,700 horseshoes greets visitors near the entrance. Several ponds, waterways and Kitty Coleman Creek provide the water elements that add a serene aspect as visitors wander the pathways. There are a number of fountains, many of which also feature driftwood as their centerpiece.

Driftwood is used for a variety of purposes, gracing many parts of the gardens

Unlike more ‘civilized’ and highly-cultivated garden attractions, Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens pays homage to the natural and the wild. If you visit at the right time of year you will be treated to bursts of colour in the form of 3,500 rhododendrons. The beautiful pink, yellow, white and red blooms brighten the darker spots of the woodland, providing a visual feast for visitors. Lupines and irises also make an annual showing, bordering pathways and waterways. And, of course, all the native plants that the owner has had the good sense to leave well enough alone offer up their own charms and interest.           

A place to rest, relax, contemplate....

One of my favourite aspects of Kitty Coleman is the fact that it isn’t all dark woodland. Sun-splashed meadows, lawns and glades offer brightness and warmth as we wander the many pathways. There is a huge abundance of wildlife, highly variable depending on where you choose to stroll.

A giant inukshuk greets visitors near the entrance

            Because of the extensive network of pathways, it is easy to spend an entire day exploring the gardens and all they have to offer. Visitors often bring along a picnic lunch so as to be able to extend their stay and their discovery of this most lovely of environments. While the mulched pathways in the upper gardens are easily navigable and level, the trails leading down to Kitty Coleman Creek provide a bit more of a challenge for adventurers.  It is a good idea to wear sturdy walking shoes, and take along a jacket – even in warm weather the woodland paths can be cool.

           Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens is open year-round. It hosts a number of special events throughout the year, including artists and artisan festivals and annual family-oriented Christmas gatherings. Further information can be obtained at the gardens website:


Rustic directional signs show visitors the way

Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens is located at 6183 Whittaker Road, Courtenay

 GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 49.7881094  Long. -125.0018414

N 49 47.287  W 125 00.110


About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers.
In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.

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