The Cowichan Valley includes a wide variety of habitats from Subalpine to Maritime Mediterranean, old growth to farmed land and lakes, rivers, estuaries all leading to the Salish Sea. Only a few of the many attractions are listed below. Of course birds, flowers, and plants can be seen everywhere in May.
Duncan is often referred to as the “City of the Totems.” Many poles were constructed to honour the city’s partnership with First Nations. A walking tour of about 40 poles begins at the Museum, located in the old Duncan Crossing train station along the E&N railway.
Farming forms a big part of life in the Warmland with Cowichan Bay certified as part of the Slow Food movement. Stroll the Farmers Market in downtown Duncan every Saturday from 9-2 for veggies, crafts, and music. Food sustainability is supported by the Cowichan Green Community with offices just east of the train station near the Duncan Garage.
Spirits are abundant in the valley, too! Upwards of 15 wineries, distilleries and cider houses can be found. Conference handouts will include maps and wine tours are available through www.cheerscowichan.com and several other groups operating from Victoria. Tastes are also often available at the Saturday Market in Duncan.
Artisans working in paint, clay, glass, wood, and stone are also plentiful in the valley. Create your own studio tour by consulting www.cowichanartisans.com and arranging with the artists in advance, or look in the shops for a selection of local artwork. Check the website of the Cowichan Valley Arts Council for current shows and other events.
Hiking trails are numerous in Quw’utsun for all levels of difficulty. Many of the parks are located in a conference handout, but information can also be found at www.cvrd.bc.ca/96/About-Parks-Trails and from North Cowichan. Suggestions for easier hikes include a few along the river, around Somenos Oaks Park and the wild flower reserve on Mt. Tzuhalem. For moderately difficult hikes, consider the Cowichan River Footpath (loop from Glenora), the Blue and Yellow trail along the east side of Maple Mountain (from east of Maple Bay) or the loop at Stoney Hill Park.
Biking route information is available at www.naturecowichan.net/wp/outdoors/bicycling/ assembled by the CVNS’ own John Scull. The valley is on the Great Trail (Trans Canada Trail) so there are bike trails westward to Cowichan Lake along the old rail beds on both the north and south sides of the river. In addition you can go southward to Victoria via the Brentwood Bay-Mill Bay ferry or over top of the challenging Malahat via the connector southward from Shawnigan Lake.
Canoeing or Kayaking in the Warmland includes lake, river and ocean destinations. For a variety of resources visit www.cowichankayakandcanoe.wordpress.com/ or look on www.meetup.com/Cowichan-kayak-club/ for club paddles. Somenos, Quamichan, Fuller and Cowichan Lakes are all lovely locations for calm water paddling. By contrast, early May is the perfect time for white water on the Cowichan and Chemainous Rivers. Cowichan flows 58km and drops 168m with a series of steep falls and over a hundred sets of rapids – suitable for intermediate-level kayakers or guided beginners. The valley is also located along the Gulf Islands Marine Trail, part of the BC Marine Trail system. In Cowichan Bay the estuary offers a quiet ocean paddle, and with tide-timing you can be carried upstream and down again.
Diving is an underrated activity of our area. The colourful works of photographers such as Ian McAllister are opening our eyes to the amazing underwater diversity of the Pacific Northwest. Sansum Narrows between the Tzuhalem headlands and Saltspring Island is perfect for this activity due to the strong currents there. www.pacificwatersports.ca/
Other nearby attractions in Quw’ utsun can also be listed. To the east, overlooking Cowichan Bay, the Cowichan Estuary Nature Center houses information and displays about the importance of the estuarine habitat and a Heron Rookery lies on the hill just above. A little further east is the Museum of the Wooden Boat Society along a pier extending out from town (). Just north of Duncan is the Raptor Center for up close encounters with caged birds and flying demonstrations with trained birds . South of town near Shawnigan Lake are a Museum and the Kinsol Trestle one of the world’s tallest free standing timber rail trestles in the world accessed by a 1km flat trail.