Cowichan Valley, BC is an area on Vancouver Island that surrounds the Cowichan River and Lake. Within the valley are numerous communities that attract visitors from around the world throughout the year. Some of the most popular destination spots in the Cowichan Valley include Lake Cowichan, Duncan, Shawnigan Lake, and Chemainus. Home to a growing number of vineyards and wineries, the Cowichan Valley is known for its maritime Mediterranean climate and the Trans Canada Trail, which provides an impressive network of trails for hiking enthusiasts.
The town of Lake Cowichan is nestled against the eastern edge of Cowichan Lake within the valley and is considered an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. With a population of just over 3,000, Lake Cowichan is just over an hour northwest of Victoria and 20 minutes west of Duncan. The town’s namesake lake is 31 km (19.2 mi) long and features more than 150 km (93 mi) of coastline. In fact, the lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes on Vancouver Island.
A drive along the lake’s northern edge takes you to the poetically-named Youbou, while the road from Lake Cowichan along the southern perimeter first encounters Mesachie Lake and then Honeymoon Bay. All are on the eastern half of this large lake.
You will quickly find that there is no shortage of things to do and sights to see when visiting Lake Cowichan. Some of the most popular attractions in this area include the following:
Kayaking is one of the best ways to view sea birds and marine life up-close. Try your hand at this unique sport and see how easy it is to glide into bayside nooks and glimpse otters, seals, kingfishers, and cormorants. Outfitters provide instructions, equipment, and tours that last a few hours or multiple days.
While not exactly in the neighbourhood (it’s actually on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island, 70 km from Cowichan Lake), Nitinat Lake deserves a mention because it’s been named among the top ten windsurfing and kite surfing venues in the world. Nitinat Lake, technically a tidal saltwater fjord, can be accessed on Nitinat Main and South Main logging roads from the western end of Cowichan Lake, by way of Youbou.
Lake Cowichan has so many artificial reefs and types of marine life that the renowned Jean Michel Cousteau rated it the second best scuba diving destination on the planet. Tank service and equipment can be rented on-site.
Boating and Fishing
You will find there are many different options for boating and fishing adventures around Lake Cowichan. Charter a power boat, launch your own craft, embark on a guided tour, or even rent water skis, an inner tube, or a wakeboard and let the rush of the water splashing against your face take over. There are also numerous sailing options even during the winter months, partly because of Cowichan Lake’s famous gentle breezes.
Additionally, both Cowichan Lake and Cowichan River offer excellent fishing opportunities. After King Edward VIII made several visits to the lake, it became known as Canada’s Fly-Fishing Capital.
Camping and Hiking
One of the best places for camping in the Valley is at the Lakeview Park Campground. It’s owned and operated by the Town of Lake Cowichan and offers water and power at some of the campsites.
You’ll also find excellent camping and hiking in the Cowichan River and Gordon Bay Provincial Parks. If you’re a flower fancier, you’ll want to check out the Sutton Creek Wildflower Reserve. Because the area is west of Honeymoon Bay, it’s also known as Honeymoon Bay Ecological Reserve. Each spring, Canadians flock here to see the largest-known, naturally occurring collection of rare pink fawn lilies (Erythronium revolutum), in British Columbia.
The fish ladder at Skutz Falls on the Cowichan River makes for a stunning hiking destination during salmon spawning season.
Visit Duncan BC during Your Cowichan Valley Trip
Another popular vacation spot in this part of the Island is the town of Duncan, which is situated about 50 km from both Victoria to the south and Nanaimo to the north. Duncan itself has a population of just under 5,000; however, it serves as a hub for many people in areas of North Cowichan.
Considered a recreational and cultural centre, Duncan has plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure on the Cowichan and Koksilah Rivers, as well as the nearby Mount Tzouhalem and Mount Prevost. Called the City of Totems, Duncan boasts a small-town charm and features numerous skillfully-carved totems in the downtown areas as well as near the main Trans-Canada highway.
Duncan BC Attractions to Check Out
Duncan features several popular freshwater lakes, all of which are good for fishing, canoeing, boating, and kayaking. Beyond the lakes and the historically-rich totem poles, there are plenty of other things to do and see when vacationing in Duncan, including the following:
- Visit the BC Forestry Discovery Centre
- Watch the annual salmon spawning
- Scuba diving and beachcombing
- World-class golfing
- Whale watching
- Take a self-guided or group tour of the wineries and lush vineyards
- Visit the Pacific Northwest Raptors
- Shop in the revitalized downtown
The Cowichan Valley is one of the most beautiful areas on all of Vancouver Island, making it an excellent choice for a weekend getaway or longer. Come explore this community and bring your sense of adventure!