Spotlight on Chemainus

Spotlight on Chemainus

Spotlight on Chemainus

The Cowichan Valley is nestled in the middle of southern Vancouver Island and includes the historic lands of the native Quw’utsun people from whom it takes its name. The word “Quw’utsun” itself comes from a word in the Hul’q’umi’num language which means “to warm one’s back in the sun”. Residents of the Cowichan Valley are blessed with the warmest year–round temperatures in Canada which is why the area is known as “the Warm Land.” Chemainus is one of the many picturesque little towns in this area.

Chemainus is right on the eastern shores of Vancouver Island and has a permanent population of about 4,000 people.

A Brief History

Like many towns on Vancouver Island, Chemainus has roots in the native indigenous peoples and is named after a shaman and prophet “Tsa-meeun-is” which means “broken chest”. According to legend, Tsa-meeun-is became a powerful chief after surviving an arrow to his chest in battle. His people became the Stz’uminus First Nation, taking his name in tribute.

In 1858, Chemainus was founded as a logging town. The railway came through in the 1880s bringing European settlers and the area continued to grow and thrive. However, the forest industry declined towards the middle of the 20th century and in the 1980s its large sawmill closed, replaced by a smaller mill. It was around this time that local business people, in particular, Karl Schutz, decided to revitalize the town and try to draw in tourism dollars. The mural project was born!

Those Fabulous Murals

Chemainus is probably best known today for its unusual “living murals”. The 53 large scale murals cover the sides of buildings, some as tall as two stories, and were commissioned to showcase the town’s history and culture.

Dozens of artists have lent their talents to the mural project since its inception in 1982. Each painting tells a story visually using colourful, realistic figures in detailed settings. The murals include depictions of life from the town’s historic logging and mining industries, as well as local wildlife and marine life, and important community events.

Visitors come from around the world to stroll through this “living museum” celebrating the legacy of Chemainus. Guided walking tours allow participants to learning about the stories behind each of the murals and examine them up close.

The “Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest” mural covering the side of a building near the main street shows whales, bears, and eagles and is a popular favourite. Another is the “Chemainus Valley” mural, which portrays the town’s lush green forests and rolling hillsides. The Festival of Murals Society maintains, restores, and adds murals and artwork to the outdoor art collection.

Aside from saving the town’s economy by attracting tourists, the Chemainus murals preserve its history and legacy for the future, and are an enormous source of pride to the town’s residents.

The Chemainus Theatre

The Chemainus Theatre Festival presents a variety of plays and musicals throughout the year at its beautiful white domed, award winning, building. Past productions include The Importance of Being Ernest and Mama Mia! This season will feature a fantastic selection of musicals, comedies, mysteries, and thrillers. There is something for everyone! The theatre has a full dining room and a beautiful gift shop displaying the work of more than 100 artisans including pottery, paintings, prints, jewelry, clothing, glass, wood, books, and sculptures.

Want to Explore Other Options?

Chemainus may be small but there is plenty to do and see. The town is home to a thriving arts scene, with several galleries and studios showcasing the work of local artists. There are a variety of shops and restaurants, as well as several parks and beaches. Take a stroll through Waterwheel Park, which has a working waterwheel built in 1912, head over to Kin Beach Park for a picnic and a swim, take in a round of golf at the 75 year old Mount Brenton Golf Course, or check out the Chemainus Valley Museum to learn more about this fascinating town and its heritage.

For the outdoorsy, hiking and camping in the surrounding forests and mountains of Chemainus will reconnect you to nature’s majesty. Nearby Mount Brenton offers views of the Gulf Islands and is a popular with hikers and mountain bikers. The Chemainus River and Fuller Lake are also great places to go fishing or kayaking.

Whether you are interested in art and culture, outdoor adventures, or enjoying the small-town vibe, Chemainus is charming and unique destination for visitors to the Cowichan Valley.

When is a Pub not a Pub?

When is a Pub not a Pub?

When is a Pub not a Pub?

Remember when, if you wanted to go out for a drink you just went to a local bar? Well, welcome to the age of choices! Now you and your best pals can be shuttled to bars, pubs, brew pubs, craft breweries, microbreweries, and gastropubs. Confusing, right? Let’s see if we can clear this up.

Bars, Pubs, or Taverns

Ale as a drink predates the occupation of Great Britain by the Roman Empire in the first century AD. The construction of the system of Roman roads led to the appearance of the first taverns (known as “tabernae”) serving food and drinks.

A Taphouse is a tavern consisting of a building with a bar and public rooms; often providing light meals.

Bars typically do not serve food and you go to the counter or bar to order drinks, hence the name. There is an age limit for patrons and bars can be attached to other businesses such as hotels.

Pubs, short for “public houses”, became established around the beginning of the 19th century and have been the social centre of the villages and towns of England and those countries once part of the British Empire ever since.

Pubs generally occupy their own building and serve casual food and drinks with a focus on beer and wine although they also provide non-alcoholic drinks. Pubs provide a social gathering place for locals as well as those just passing through.

Microbreweries or Craft Breweries

A brewery, sometimes called a beerhouse, is a commercial establishment that creates and sells beer. It can produce millions of barrels of beer per year.

As its name suggests, a microbrewery produces much less annually – no more than 15,000 barrels. It must be licensed by the Government of Canada, and be independently owned. Microbreweries make specialty beers and most are sold and drunk on site.

Trying to pin down a definition of a craft brewery or microbrewery is difficult as there is no consistency across Canada. Most craft breweries are small and locally or family owned. According to the BC Craft Brewers Guild, member brewers must be majority owned in BC and produce less than 200,000 hectolitres of beer per year.

Brew Pubs

Brew pubs gained popularity in recent years as an extension of the movement towards supporting local businesses using locally-sourced ingredients sustainably. Essentially, a brew pub is a combination of a brewery and a restaurant.

The beer is brewed on the premises and often served directly from the brewing tanks providing a unique look at the technical skill and methods used to create a top-quality beverage. Food offered is typical pub fare.

The Cowichan Valley has become a popular center for the craft beer industry. Take a pub crawl through these local brew pubs:

  1. Red Arrow Brewing Company: Located in Duncan, the Red Arrow brews small batch high quality beer taking every opportunity to use locally sourced ingredients. The food menu features classic pub fare with vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
  2. Small Block Brewery: A family-run brewery with a cozy atmosphere, Small Block even features live music on the weekends. The menu features craft beer, cider, and snacks.
  3. Craig Street Brew Pub: Offering a range of handcrafted beers brewed on site, the pub has a cozy fireplace for winter and an outdoor patio for warmer weather. Food on offer covers the range of appies to desserts.
  4. The Oak Taphouse: Fostering community and connections, The Oak serves up local craft brews and delicious home-grown eats.
  5. Riot Brewing Co.: Located in Chemainus, the Riot Brewing Co. offers a full lounge license, outdoor patio, sleeves, and sample flights. It’s kid- and dog-friendly.
  6. Bayview Brewing Company: Locally owned and operated in Ladysmith, Bayview offers wonderful craft beer and appies, bowls, and sandwiches sure to please anyone.
  7. Sawmill Taphouse and Grill: Another reason to stop in Chemainus, the Sawmill features Pacific Northwest craft beers and forno oven pizzas. Authentic farm-to-table tapas and appetizers complete the incredible atmosphere.


Gastropubs first made an appearance in England in 1991 when the new owners of The Eagle pub decided to offer “restaurant quality” food in their pub moving the focus away from a purely drinking establishment. The word gastropub was created by combining “pub” and “gastronomy” to emphasize the inventiveness and quality of the food on offer.

Whether you’re a connoisseur of beer, a foodie, or just want to hoist a few and kick back with good friends, the Cowichan Valley offers a diverse range of establishments for visitors to explore.


Top 10 Reasons for an Outdoor Wedding

Top 10 Reasons for an Outdoor Wedding

Top 10 Reasons for an Outdoor Wedding

It may be difficult to imagine having an outdoor wedding when it’s cold and rainy outside but for those brides who definitely want a summer wedding, this can be a fabulous way to celebrate “the big day” with family and friends!

Here in the Cowichan Valley, we’ve got it all: flower filled gardens, rolling green hillsides, primeval forest, rocky or sandy beaches, picturesque vineyards, country casual farms, and mountain tops with panoramic views. If you can dream it up, we’ve probably got it.

Here are the top 10 reasons to plan an outdoor wedding.

1. Natural Beauty

They don’t call us “Super, Natural British Columbia” for nothing! The stunning natural beauty of this area provides endless opportunities for your photographer to capture the perfect moments you’ll cherish for a lifetime.

2. More Space

Outdoor weddings offer more space for your guests. Large or small you won’t have to cut down your guest list to fit an inside venue’s space allowance. Your guests won’t feel cramped or overcrowded and they’ll enjoy socializing in a more relaxed and open environment.

3. A Chance to Personalize

Unique settings give you more opportunities to personalize your wedding making your day truly your own. A forest fairy tale? A romantic European vineyard feel? Toes in the sand beach chic? You choose the colours, decor, and seating arrangements to suit your taste, style, and budget.

4. A Relaxed Atmosphere

Not comfortable in a formal setting? Prefer bare feet on the beach over stilettos in the ballroom? An outdoor wedding is a great way to create a relaxed and easy atmosphere for your day. The fresh air, picturesque environment, and open space can help everyone to feel happier and more relaxed. Your wedding will feel more like a celebration than a formal event.

5. More Flexibility

Outdoor weddings offer more flexibility when it comes to your schedule. You won’t have to worry about strict venue rules about decor or time restrictions. You can choose the time of day so take your vows at sunset and dance the night away under the fairy lights in the trees if that’s your dream.

6. More Privacy

Prefer an intimate celebration with your nearest and dearest? Outdoor weddings can provide that private, cozy venue you’ve been looking for. With fewer people, less noise, and less traffic, you and your guests can relax in a peaceful and secluded setting, making your wedding feel more special and exclusive.

7. A Chance to Explore

Whether it’s taking a romantic walk through a garden, strolling along the beach, or exploring a beautiful park, an outdoor wedding can be a chance to enjoy and experience nature.

8. More Fun and Activities

With more space and flexibility, outdoor weddings can offer more opportunities for fun and activities for your guests. Are kids coming to the wedding? From lawn games to photo booths, outdoor weddings can provide a range of entertainment options that can make your wedding day even more memorable.

9. More Natural Lighting

Dreaming of a sunset wedding? Natural lighting can make for incredible wedding photos. The soft, natural light of the sun can help to create a romantic and dreamy atmosphere that can make your wedding photos truly stunning.

10. Unforgettable Memories

Finally, an outdoor wedding can create unique moments in time that you and your guests will cherish for a lifetime. The stunning natural surroundings, relaxed atmosphere, and unique experiences can make your wedding day truly unforgettable, and create memories that you’ll treasure for years to come.

No matter the size of the wedding, your personal style, and the budget, an outdoor wedding can be the perfect venue. 

The Cowichan Valley – Napa Valley North?

The Cowichan Valley – Napa Valley North?

The Cowichan Valley – Napa Valley North?

Anyone who has ever driven around the Cowichan Valley admiring its natural beauty (and who among us hasn’t?) has seen the vineyards that are tucked around corners and sprawled across hillsides. There are more than a dozen, after all!

This has led to the Cowichan Valley being called “Napa Valley North”, but is it really? The Napa Valley is a region of California that has a Mediterranean climate while the Cowichan Valley, here in British Columbia, has a maritime climate. However generally speaking, both have warm summers and mild winters – the perfect conditions for growing grapes.

Growing Grapes

The type of grapes grown on a vineyard depends on the climate of the region and the soil that feeds them. While the Cowichan Valley’s climate helps produce some wonderful grapes, it’s cooler than California having fewer sunny days and definitely more rain than the Napa Valley.

The Cowichan Valley grows cool climate grapes that thrive in the sandstone, glacial till, and granite soil mixture of the area. These grapes produce the wines that the region is known for: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer.

The soil of the Napa Valley is made up of volcanic ash, alluvial deposits, and sedimentary rocks which provide the basis for Napa’s high end Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot wines.

New Kid on the Block

Both Napa Valley and Cowichan Valley have seen the numbers of wineries and vineyards increase and both regions have a reputation for the production of high-quality, award-winning wines. The Napa Valley is a well established wine making region with a long history of producing high quality wines.

The Cowichan Valley is much younger and not as large or deep rooted in the wine industry. The unique flavours and characteristics of the wines grown here are leading to an increasing presence in the world of wine.

Cowichan Valley Wineries

The culture of the region has seen the rise of smaller, often family owned and operated vineyards and wineries. Using traditional methods, Cowichan Valley wineries often focus on the production of artisanal wines made of grapes or fruit. Many are increasingly using sustainable practices.

In addition, many of the wineries are “estate” wineries. This means their wines are created using grapes that are predominantly grown on the winery’s land or estate. A small quantity may be sourced from outside the winery. Quality control is tighter and there is more control over the entire wine making process from growing the grapes through harvesting to production of the wine.

Cowichan Valley region wineries such as these below offer unique wines and picturesque surroundings. Some have scenic tasting rooms and relaxed outdoor seating areas that take advantage of the natural beauty that surrounds us in the here in the Valley.

    • Alderlea Vineyards – one of Vancouver Island’s oldest and most respected vineyards with a commitment to sustainable practices
    • Averill Creek Vineyard – specializes in cool-climate grape varieties such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris
    • Blue Grouse Estate Winery – sustainable farming practices create a variety of red, white, and rosé wines
    • Cherry Point Estate Wines – produces a variety of wines made from estate-grown grapes and has a tasting room with scenic views
    • Damali Lavender and Winery – offers lavender-infused wines as well as artisan lavender oils and soaps
    • Deol Estate Winery – white and red wines made from 100% estate-grown grapes
    • Enrico Winery – produces award winning range of red and white wines and has a rustic tasting room and outdoor seating area
    • Rocky Creek Winery – offers a variety of red, white, and fruit wines and has a tasting room with a patio overlooking the vineyards
    • Unsworth Vineyards – hand crafted wines and an outdoor terrace
    • Venturi-Schulze Vineyards – prodeces pure and natural wines and balsamic vinegar
    • Zanatta Winery – Vancouver Island’s first estate winery

Dessert Wines

Dessert Wines

Dessert Wines

“Life is short – eat dessert first”. Haven’t we all wanted to start with dessert? Well, don’t forget to add a dessert wine. Since dessert wines have a higher sugar content and taste sweeter on the tongue than most other wines, they are perfect when paired with your favourite guilty pleasure. Too much at the end of a meal? Why not try a dessert wine on its own. Just the thing to finish off a meal!


Perhaps the most well known of the dessert wines is Port. This is a fortified wine made from a blend of red grapes that comes originally from the Douro region of Portugal.

Port is rich and sweet because it has been fortified by adding brandy to the grapes during fermentation, increasing its alcohol content. Aging the wine in oak barrels is critical to the production of Port as it creates a distinct flavour and character depending on the length of time it is aged.

Ports range from the full-bodied Ruby Port and smooth, mellow Tawny Port to the light and refreshing White Port and the complex, specialized flavours of a Vintage Port.

Officially, Port only comes from Portugal but “port style” wines are available in the Cowichan Valley. Port is the perfect accompaniment to an after dinner cheese plate with nuts and dried fruit.


Originating in the Jerez region of southern Spain, Sherry is another fortified wine made from fermented white grapes. The dry wine is then fortified by adding distilled spirits such as brandy. As with Port, this increases the alcohol content.

Officially, Sherry is only made in Spain. The Canadian Wine Industry has renamed this type of wine and it is now known as Apera.

There are different types of Sherry determined by the type of grape, how long it is aged and what type of barrel is used. Dry Sherries such as a Fino and Manzanilla are usually served as an aperitif.

The sweet Sherries, such as Amontillado, Palo Cortado, and Oloroso are rich and nutty and popular as dessert wines. Cream Sherry is another sweet wine created by blending other types of Sherry together to get a smooth, creamy texture and nutty flavour.

Sherry has recently been enjoying a comeback and it is now possible to find bars and restaurants offering sherry flights, so give it try. It’s not just for grannies anymore!

Ice Wine

Canadian Ice Wine is highly prized as it is widely considered among the best in the world. No surprise there, we are the Great White North after all!

Creating Ice Wine is quite a process. The grapes (usually Riesling) are left to freeze on the vine and are harvested by hand typically at night in the middle of winter. This unconventional process concentrates the sugar so when the frozen grapes are pressed and fermented, the result is an intensely sweet and rich dessert wine.

Ice Wine is sought after for its honey sweet taste with the flavours of peaches, apricots and citrus. As it is so sweet, it is often consumed on its own and in smaller quantities than some of the other dessert wines.


Rounding out our look at dessert wines is Moscato. This is the lightest of the dessert wines and is becoming an increasingly popular choice.

Moscato is a delicate, sweet white wine made from Moscato Bianco grapes. This wine has the flavours of peaches, apricots, and oranges and provides a refreshing alternative to some of the richer wines. It is light bodied and has a low alcohol content.

As well as pairing well with lighter desserts such as sorbets and fruit tarts, its fizzy taste is perfect for making toasts!

Spend some time and get to know dessert wines. They might be the perfect way to end a meal when you are just looking for a little something sweet.