Known as the “Little Town That Did”, Chemainus BC is located on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley, just south of Nanaimo and north of Victoria. Charming, artistic, and unique, Chemainus is most well-known for its 40+ murals which can be found all throughout the town. These historic depictions have turned Chemainus from a mill town into the Island’s largest outdoor art gallery, making it one of the most popular Canadian destinations for artists and creative minds alike.
In 1983, the Chemainus lumber mill closed, leaving approximately 700 people unemployed. The town had to make a choice; either it would disappear, or the townspeople would need to do something to prevent the pending disappearance from happening. Thankfully, the residents joined together to recreate the heart of downtown Chemainus, helping it turn into an enchanting cultural hub deeply rooted in its storied history.
Chemainus has become a popular Vancouver Island destination for this and many more reasons, from its enchanting beauty and diverse dining options to its mesmerizing murals and numerous opportunities for outdoor adventure. Here is a look at some of the top attractions in this captivating town.
Famous Chemainus Murals
The murals are incredible paintings that have been done right on the town’s buildings. These murals provide an insight into area’s heritage, including its logging roots and historical beginning. The murals were created over many years and turned Chemainus into an arts centre that is a must-see for anyone visiting Vancouver Island.
You can see these world-famous murals in a variety of ways:
- By boarding a trolley and taking a heritage tour.
- By taking a horse-drawn carriage.
- By following the footprints and taking the self-guided tour.
Be sure to stop off at the Visitor’s Centre to get a map and more background on the murals.
Chemainus Theatre Festival
With a year-round schedule, the Chemainus Theatre Festival presents a variety of contemporary and classic musicals, comedies and dramas. The theatre is architecturally beautiful and houses an excellent restaurant, as well as a gift shop that features the work of about 100 artists and carries original art, such as glasswork, sculptures, pottery, and paintings.
If you are craving a taste of the local shops and boutiques while visiting Chemainus, be sure to check out Willow Street and the Old Town neighbourhood. Parking is free at Waterwheel Park, which is right across from the Visitor Centre, allowing you to conveniently peruse the many shops and storefronts.
Shopping on Willow Streets runs for about two blocks and features numerous boutiques specializing in original art, antiques, locally designed women’s clothing, and several mouth-watering sweets shops. There is also an open-air street market that takes place in downtown Chemainus on Wednesdays throughout the summer, as well as a “giant market day” that fills Willow Street with vendors in early July.
In addition to the beautiful outdoor murals, you will find many different art galleries and stores carrying work from local artists. Some of the main attractions include the following:
- A co-operative potter’s gallery on Willow Street.
- Vivid paintings and semi-precious jewelry on the corner of Laurel and Maple.
- Several dozen home studios for which you make an appointment to visit the artist and see their work, which includes, potters, weavers, jewelers, painters, and glass artists.
For every artistic adventure to be found in the “Little Town That Did”, there are also wonderful outdoor adventures to be had. Snuggled in-between a mountain range and the ocean, Chemainus features a wide range of opportunities for recreational activities and adventure. Some of the most popular include the following:
- Mount Brenton Golf Club – Featuring a world-class golf course which is open year-round and famous for its challenging par-71 golf course, tree-lined fairways, and spectacular greens.
- Fuller Lake or the Chemainus River are perfect for those looking to fish or dunk themselves in the crystal clear waters.
- Diving – Be sure to contact one of several local organizations which offer guided expeditions of the famously sunken Boeing 747 airplane.
- Clark Beach and Kin Beach are very relaxing if you want to spend a more low-key kind of outdoor day.
- Cycling is a popular mode of transport in and around Chemainus and the Cowichan Valley.
- Hiking – There are numerous trails around Chemainus that lead to local peaks like Mount Prevost as well as nearby Echo Heights Forest.
- Camping – A popular Chemainus activity, be sure and visit the Chemainus Wooded Campground, which takes up 9 wooded hectares and runs along the Chemainus River.
All this and so much more awaits you in Chemainus! Be sure to drop in for a visit and let us help you plan a vacation you won’t soon forget.