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Lovable Ladysmith

Ladysmith is just a laid-back, easygoing, West Coast kind of town, nestled between the ocean and the hills. Often considered a “bedroom community” for nearby Nanaimo, the Ladysmith downtown is still vibrant and bustling. It features heritage buildings with modern goods and services, and there are some interesting little restaurants to fit any taste.

But the friendly people are at the heart of the matter. Ladysmith is that kind of small town where people walking down the street will not only make eye contact with you, they’ll actually smile and say hello as well!

Ladysmith rolls up from the Pacific on undulating hills, offering ocean views on just about every street corner. Hardly a day goes by without seeing an eagle or two soaring in the skies. Nestled amid water, forest and mountain, it’s a nature lover’s paradise. Note to gardeners – things grow here, often of their own accord.

Transfer Beach is a wonderful spot for families to spend the day, with rolling lawns, a giant playground and splash park, and a sand court for beach volleyball enthusiasts. There is also a picturesque amphitheater for community gatherings, concerts, and ‘selfie opportunities’. Kayak rentals are available, and fish are jumpin’.

For a small town, Ladysmith certainly has a wide variety of cuisine on offer in local eateries. There are well-established family restaurants, coffee shops and pubs, an Indian restaurant and a Tapas bar, plus a few sushi and teriyaki options to round out your available choices over and above the regular fast-food chains. There’s even a vegan restaurant AND a gluten-free café!

Ladysmith residents enjoy doing things outdoors, all year round. Family-fun celebrations in the summertime include Ladysmith Days, Logger Sports, the Maritime Festival and Arts on the Avenue – and of course the annual “Brits on the Beach” and “Ladysmith Show and Shine” automobile love-ins.  

But the undisputed champion of Ladysmith events has to be the Festival of Lights, when the charming downtown shops and streets are illuminated with a blaze of holiday brilliance all through December and January. And it all kicks off with the Light-Up Parade on the last Thursday in November, where – for one evening – the population of Ladysmith nearly doubles as people come from far and wide to watch Santa flip the switch and kick off the holiday season.

Ladysmith Light-Up Parade. Photo by the Ladysmith Chronicle

For the cultured soul, Ladysmith has an Art Gallery, a Museum, and a “Little Theatre”. The High School music and drama programs are also excellent, if you’re fortunate enough to get a ticket to a performance.

So if you’re looking to relocate to an incredibly friendly small town that’s abuzz with lots of social activities, great schools and programs for the kids – and plenty to eat – then Ladysmith may be just the town for you!

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‘Cittaslow’ Cowichan Bay

The seaside village of Cowichan Bay became internationally famous in 2009 when it was designated as the very first ‘Cittaslow Town’ in North America. The Cittaslow movement (the name means “Slow City”) originated in Italy, but is now a worldwide movement rating eligible towns on everything from friendliness to environmental policies. The main aims of the movement are to make life better for everyone living in an urban environment; to protect the environment; to promote cultural diversity and uniqueness; and to provide inspiration for a healthier lifestyle. So if you’re looking to slow down, relax and appreciate the view, Cowichan Bay is just for you!

For many thousands of years, Cowichan Bay was home to First Nations people who harvested the wealth of salmon and shellfish found in its many coves, tidal flats and swiftly flowing rivers. When Europeans sailed into Cowichan Bay in the 1850s, they discovered waters teeming with steelhead and salmon, sheltered deep bay harbours for their ships, rich forests for timber and a warm microclimate ripe for farming.

Cowichan Bay is a hub of boutique cheese, seafood and ice cream shops, cafes and artists’ showrooms, including the well-known Arthur Vickers Shipyard Gallery. Visitors can dine with a view of the fish boats, floating homes and buildings on stilts on “Cow Bay’s’’ historic pier and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Local maritime history is celebrated at Cowichan Bay Maritime Centre, where wooden boat and model tall ships are on display. It’s an active maritime museum and the home of the Cowichan Wooden Boat Society which preserves, exhibits and demonstrates the Maritime heritage and culture of wooden boats, especially as experienced on Canada’s West Coast. You can walk along the pier and view the displays, and the building at the end of the dock contains model boats, historic pictures and even a marine library.

The Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre is an interpretive center overlooking the Cowichan Estuary, a 400 hectare estuarine ecosystem in the unceded territory of the Quw’utsun people. The Nature Centre offers interactive opportunities for all ages to learn about the estuary, its watershed, marine life, and natural and cultural history. Visitors can see and touch marine and intertidal creatures in the aquarium and touch tank, and enjoy wildlife and bird watching along the ocean front interpretive trail and from the viewing tower. Ocean kayaking, whale watching and float plane sightseeing charters can all be arranged here as well!

Close by is the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club, built in 1887, a reminder of a British pioneer past and, except for Wimbledon, the oldest grass tennis court in the world!. Also in the area are the hiking, mountain biking and nature trails of Hecate Park, Mount Tzouhalem and Kingscote Heritage Trail. Bird watching is big at the Cowichan Bay Estuary, home to an estimated 220 species of migrant shorebirds and waterfowl.

Whether you’re visiting Cowichan Bay for the great outdoor recreation opportunities, or you want to check out the local food and drink produced by our local farms, bakeries, cideries, breweries and distilleries – you’re sure to find lots to love!

Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley is known as “the Warm Land”, a name given to it by the First Nations Coast Salish, who named the area Quw’utsun’ or Cowichan, meaning ‘land warmed by the sun.’

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Cultivated Cobble Hill

Nestled right in the heart of the Cowichan Valley, Cobble Hill is the quintessential Warm Land community. The slow pace and old-fashioned country life in this tiny agricultural village has attracted an influx in recent years of skilled winemakers, chefs and organic farmers, as well as artists and artisans of all stripes. And if you’re looking for forests, freshwater lakes, saltwater beaches and marinas, farmland or vineyards, Cobble Hill is the place for you!

Visitors can spend a night in a yurt here, have a pedicure in the vinegar room and dine on fresh local cuisine on the bistro deck. Cherry Point Nature Park is an ocean waterfront park with stunning views across the channel to Separation Point and Saltspring Island. The beach is teeming with life and offers many nature viewing opportunities. Horseback riding is also a popular pastime along the Koksilah River to the Kinsol Trestle.

The Kinsol Trestle is one of eight found along the Cowichan Valley Trail route, and by far the largest and most spectacular. Built in 1911 for the Canadian Northern Pacific Railway and in use until 1979, the Kinsol Trestle is one of the tallest free-standing and most spectacular timber rail trestle structures in the world. At 187 metres in length and standing 44 metres above the salmon-bearing Koksilah River, it’s truly an incredible structure.

There is also scenic hiking and mountain biking on the network of trails criss-crossing Cobble Hill Mountain, offering lofty views at the top across the Cowichan Valley to the Gulf Islands. And near the end of the warm summer months, the Cobble Hill Fall Fair is a showcase for local farmers, food-producers and artisans each late August.

Cobble Hill is also home of the Arbutus Ridge Golf Club, awarded four stars for “Best Places to Play’’ by Golf Digest 2009.

Cobble Hill is located in the heart of the Cowichan Valley, and if you’re looking for a small-town feel surrounded by lush agricultural land, Cobble Hill may be the place for you!  

Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley is known as “the Warm Land”, a name given to it by the First Nations Coast Salish, who named the area Quw’utsun’ or Cowichan, meaning ‘land warmed by the sun.’

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Dynamic Duncan

Known as the “City of Totems”, Duncan is the commercial center of the Cowichan Valley region. Halfway between the cities of Victoria (to the south) and Nanaimo (to the north), Duncan offers quiet, “agricultural-adjacent” living, but with all the amenities and cultural opportunities of a larger metropolis.

Off the Island Highway, you’ll find trendy boutiques, art and antique galleries, fashionable restaurants and local brew pub in the historic downtown core.

Along the highway, Cowichan Commons has become a prime retail destination, full of big-box stores as well as smaller boutique shops. And you can’t miss the world’s largest hockey stick and puck, the crowning glory of the Cowichan Community Centre, a recreational multiplex that’s home to the Cowichan Valley Capitals hockey team.

The CCC also houses the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, a 731-seat proscenium arch theatre that presents a multitude of concerts and presentations throughout the year. If you love art, comedy, dance, live music, or theater – or all of the above – there’s something for you here!

Up to 80 carved totem poles erected around Duncan depict the proud legends of the Cowichan First Nations.  At the beautiful Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre, visitors can experience First Nations’ culture, crafts, ceremonies and cuisine firsthand, and visit a gallery showcasing up to 100 Coast Salish artists.

A popular stop on the E&N railway line from Victoria, the Duncan train station, built in 1887, is a National Historic Site. Major area attractions include the BC Forest Discovery Centre, the Somenos Marsh Bird Sanctuary, and the birds of prey demonstrations at Pacific Northwest Raptors.

Northwest of Duncan, Chemainus River Provincial Park provides a river corridor for protected Roosevelt elk, and is where anglers head for abundant spring and summer runs of steelhead. The activities enjoyed in the river park include hiking, river kayaking, swimming, horseback riding,  tubing, canoeing and fishing. In the river are steelhead and Coho salmon for fly fishing.

The pristine Cowichan River, a designated Canadian Heritage River, flows from Cowichan Lake through Duncan, offering excellent “source to sea“ whitewater kayaking year round.

Duncan is a great place to live, work and play. The town offers an enviable quality of life – residents can enjoy a short walk or bike ride along the river pathways and visit their favourite shops, grab a bite from one of dozens of restaurants featuring a variety of cuisine, and then head back to the comforts of home. They can take in a local hockey game, attend the ballet, or visit the local library – all in the same building!

Take a look at Duncan – you’ll be glad you did!

Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley is known as “the Warm Land”, a name given to it by the First Nations Coast Salish, who named the area Quw’utsun’ or Cowichan, meaning ‘land warmed by the sun.’

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Famous Chemainus

If you’re considering a move to the wonderful Warm Land, you might consider the charming community of Chemainus, British Columbia.

More than a quarter of a million visitors a year flock to this little picturesque seaside town.

They follow painted yellow footprints throughout the streets, on a self-guided tour of more than 40 outdoor murals and 13 sculptures depicting the local history of the First Nations and early Pioneers.

They attend performing arts events at the Chemainus Theatre Festival, housed in an iconic domed-roof building that presides over the town’s skyline like a benevolent sentinel.

And they embrace the joyful silence of the briny deeps, scuba diving in and around an artificial reef that was created in local waters when a Boeing 737 airplane was (deliberately) sunk to its final rest.

And that’s just for starters!

The town’s quaint core is lined with art galleries, antique malls, gift shops and cappuccino bars – along with old-fashioned ice cream parlours and candy stores! A horse-drawn trolley and a simulated steam train will allow you to take in the sights at a leisurely pace.

Waterwheel Park is a popular place to picnic, and offers a playground where children can climb in a tall ship and paddle a canoe. And for even more adventure, a passenger-only ferry can float you over to Thetis Island and Kuper Island, just across the Stuart Channel.

The Chemainus Theatre Festival offers year-round professional musical theatre and comedy, along with a gallery showcase for BC artists and artisans. There are several original mill houses along Chemainus Road, as well as historic character homes in the Old Town.

Chemainus is a serene, artistic-leaning town of about 4,000 that has fairly temperate weather, allowing for an abundance of year-round recreational pursuits. The residents are friendly (they call themselves “Chemainiacs”), there are excellent schools in the area, and there is ALWAYS something to do.

Nestled amid water, forest and mountain, Chemainus is an art lover and nature lover’s paradise!

For more information on “the little Town that Could”, please visit:

Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley is known as “the Warm Land”, a name given to it by the First Nations Coast Salish, who named the area Quw’utsun’ or Cowichan, meaning ‘land warmed by the sun.’