Art Comes In All Shapes and Sizes: Enjoy a Tour of the Famous Chemainus Wall Murals

Sight Seeing

Chemainus is a small, charming seaside community 35 km (21.7 miles) south of Nanaimo, tucked right in the heart of the Cowichan Valley. This quaint town draws in thousands of tourists every year from every corner of the world to discover the secrets of what is recognized as one of Vancouver Island’s crown jewels.

Among its famous tourist attractions are the 41 murals, which continually grow in number, easily the largest outdoor art gallery in Canada today. Most of these larger than life art pieces depict the history of Chemainus, along with the latest additions which celebrate Emily Carr’s art and life, a well-respected and loved artist of the island.

To visit all these stunning murals, you can either go by foot on a self-guided tour or you can view these artworks via a horse-drawn carriage. Along with the murals are the string of charming boutiques, pretty bistros, galleries and sculptures, potteries and glass arts, all produced by the highly talented pool of local artisans.

Beyond Art

Mural painting is not a modern concept. The history of this art form can be traced back through centuries and known to be prevalent in many countries around the world.  So what makes the Chemainus murals unique and well worth the trip? It was primarily designed to spur the economy and used the arts as a strategy to revitalize the town during the 1981 recession. As a mill town, its very existence primarily relied on the mill production.

With pure ingenuity and spunk, the then mayor, Graham Bruce enthusiastically presented the concept. This then became the world-famous example of just how a small town is able to turn things around and successfully create substantial change for its survival. This earned its monicker, “the little town that did”. So more than just the art pieces that are truly breathtaking in person, the very meaning of its existence makes it all the more profound and evocative, making Chemainus one of the most loved places in all of Vancouver Island.

Today, the town is a hub of bustling activity where both locals and visitors alike enjoy what this small village has to offer. Discover for yourself and be captivated at how Chemainus is able to combine old world charm with modern conveniences that is just so rare these days.

Mural in Chemainus

Getting There

Chemainus is easily accessible from different major cities of the island. If you are starting from Victoria BC, travel north and enjoy a one hour scenic ride, the town is just 77 km (46 miles) away. From Nanaimo, it’s a mere 34 km (21 miles), making it a perfect weekend side trip.

  • By Bus – You can travel by bus (coach) from Nanaimo and Victoria via BC Ferry Terminals.
  • By Ferry – enjoy a day trip to Chemainus via BC Ferries, which takes you on small tour of the scenic Gulf Islands.
  • By Plane – the nearest terminal is the Cassidy Airport, which is just a short 10-minute drive north of Ladysmith. If coming from Victoria Airport, it’s a 6-minute drive to the town.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Amazing Vancouver Island and a clickable link back to this page.

Publisher of Amazing Vancouver Island. Doug grew up in Kamloops and Vancouver. He is also the President of KIAI Angency, an Internet Marketing and Branding agency in Vancouver. He is an avid photographer and you can see his many pix of Vancouver Island on Flickr.

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