Top 5 Reasons to Visit Nanaimo & Cowichan
Vancouver Island is an ideal place to visit year round. Home to some of the warmest temperatures in Canada, the region offers great options for culture seekers, culinary enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and water lovers.
Nanaimo and Cowichan in particular benefit from a close proximity to the coast and a Mediterranean-like climatic zone. Whether you choose to visit in summer or winter, there will be a trail to explore, fresh food to eat, or a water sport to enjoy.
Here are our top five reasons to visit.
1. The Perfect Temperate Climate
While the majority of Canada is trapped under winter’s blanket of white, Vancouver Island locals (and visitors) enjoy some of the warmest year-round temperatures in Canada. The mild climate is what makes this area the only maritime Mediterranean climatic zone in the nation. Which means outdoor recreation is possible any month of the year. Here you’ll find excellent hiking trails and biking routes, produce that grows year-round, and idyllic beaches to stroll.
2. A Rich Indigenous History
Cowichan is the English translation of the Indigenous word Quw’utsun, which means “the warm land,” in the local Hul’q’umi’num language. The nations that make up the Cowichan region of Vancouver Island have a long and deep connection to this land. It’s an area rich in culture, art, language, and tradition, and visitors can still be witness to it today. No other art form is more synonymous with the area than the Cowichan knit sweater. These distinct sweaters evolved from the textile traditions of Coast Salish weavers, and later with tools introduced by European settlers, and are unique to the Cowichan people. They are living—and wearable—works of art.
The City of Nanaimo rests on the unceded territory of the Snuneymuxw First Nation. It takes its name from Sne-ny-mo, meaning gathering place. Saysutshun (formerly known as Newcastle Island), located just across the harbour from Nanaimo, holds great meaning for the Snuneymuxw people. Take in the island through the perspective of a First Nations guide; while the water taxi doesn’t operate in winter, kayak tours are available from Nanaimo and the journey over is scenic and quick.
3. A Year-Round Paradise for
On Vancouver Island, mountain bikers can ride snow-free trails all year. Trails here have good dirt, interesting features, and scenic views. Tackle North Cowichan’s 9-km (5.5 mi) Maple Syrup Trail on Maple Mountain, and enjoy views of the Salish Sea and nearby Salt Spring Island. Or ride one of the many trail networks in Nanaimo–Doumont, Westwood, The Abyss, and more. Check Trailforks for the latest trail conditions.
4. A Culinary Scene of Locally Grown,
Brewed, and Aged Bounty
There is a thriving agricultural community in the Cowichan region of Vancouver Island with more than 700 farms growing produce – from honey to organic hazelnuts – or raising cattle, sheep, and goats among other livestock. All this bounty provides restaurants like Mon Petit Choux and Gabriel’s Cafe, both located on Commercial Street in Nanaimo, with a seemingly endless source of local ingredients to create farm-to-table recipes.
Where there are farms, there are wineries and breweries. In Nanaimo, you’ll find two wineries and three craft breweries, including Longwood Brewing, who source most of their ingredients from the area. Nanaimo is also the gateway to Gabriola Island, a nearby Gulf Island, that is home to an apple farm, and not surprising, a cidery too.
Duncan, in the heart of the Cowichan Valley, has three craft breweries, plus boutique wineries and cideries to visit in the surrounding area. You can easily spend a day touring country roads that lead you to lush vineyards and lovely tasting rooms.
5. 365 Days of Playing on the Water
Vancouver Island’s temperate weather means water activities know no season. The area’s many lakes, and its location at the edge of the Salish Sea, means you can sail, fish, cruise, kayak, paddleboard, or simply swim. If you prefer to relax by the shore, beaches like Transfer, Departure Bay, Blueback and Swy-A-Lana Lagoon are a great place to kick back, while the Nanaimo River is perfect for a cool dip on a hot summer day.