If you are looking for a pleasant way to dawdle away a leisurely morning or afternoon, Cowichan Bay, located on the east coast of the Island, just may be the ticket. The funky little waterfront village is located smack in the middle of the route between Victoria and Nanaimo, just an hour’s drive from each of the Island’s major cities.
The laid-back atmosphere of the village can’t help but transmit to visitors, who will find a cornucopia of interesting shops and galleries to visit, several top flight restaurants to enjoy, many outdoor activities and scenic views from every vantage point.
The Cowichan Bay area has served as home to First Nations people for thousands of years, and was the gateway for European settlement of the area in the 1860s. Sport and commercial salmon fishing and log and lumber exports served the area well in later years; sportsmen from throughout the British Empire traveled to the area to enjoy some of the best salmon fishing to be found anywhere in the world. Although much was going on in the small community during the 19th and 20th centuries, it was bypassed by both the Island Highway and the railway that ran north-south on the Island. In retrospect, that was probably a blessing – that extra bit of an out-of-the-way location has no doubt helped to preserve the ambiance that attracts so many visitors today. The pretty drive along the back roads to get to Cowichan Bay helps set adventurers up for the slow pace they will encounter in the village.
In addition to all the expected visitor-oriented businesses in the area, Cowichan Bay serves as home to the Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre, which stretches along 82 metres (269 feet) of wharf into the bay. The centre is operated by the Cowichan Wooden Boat Society and serves as home to all sorts of interesting artifacts related to the area’s maritime history. Designed and purpose-built by a member of the society, the centre’s four galleries are an attractive addition to the waterfront scene and offer an unusual diversion during a tour of the area.
We found when we visited Cowichan Bay that the best plan was to park our vehicle at the far end of the village and walk the length of it, so as not to miss anything. Depending on the time of year that you visit you may end up parking on one of the residential streets and having to hike a little, but it’s worth the trouble. There is so much to see and enjoy in this appealing little community, and much of it is tucked away down obscure alleyways and through hidden entries that are easy to miss if you are moving at anything more than a strolling pace.
It should also be noted that Cowichan Bay would be a good spot to stay for a few days if you like touring wineries and great places to eat. There are many bed and breakfast accommodations available in the area, and the Cowichan Valley wineries are gaining considerable attention for the excellent vintages they are producing. Foodies will love the area as well – it serves as home to some of the very best culinary experiences to be had on the Island.
Further information on Cowichan Bay can be obtained at:
GPS co-ordinates are (roughly) :
Lat. 48.742047562461856 Long. -123.62569570541382
N 48 44.523 W 123 37.542