31 Jul Travel | Top things to do in Cowichan
Over the weekend we got to explore one of the most hidden gems in our country – Cowichan. We were familiar with Victoria and Nanaimo on Vancouver Island and never knew about there’s such a beautiful wine region in between. Cowichan also known as Warmland – literally means beautiful fertile soil warmed by the sun.
Here I would love to share my Top 8 experiences in Cowichan Valley and you will know why the food, people and of course the view, everything we experience makes such an amazing journey.
very little would I know growing and crafting tea is even possible in Canada, visiting this gem on the Island is one of the most remarkable things to do on this trip. Not only just about learning how to grow tea, it’s the one of a kind experience you can taste the tea from where it’s grown makes it so special. The first thing that caught my attention is the welcome quote at the entrance “Steeped in Nature”. The also sums up what we feel about this place. This place is so secluded that you must access by car, but totally worth it with the beautiful surroundings. The founders Victor and Margit have both travelled around the world, brought back their experience and knowledge about making tea and turned their vision of combining Tea+Art into Westholme. Victor always gives every single customer a warm welcome and a tea sample to start with. Give yourself at least 2 hours to tour around the property, get up close and smell the tea plants, taste the fine grown terroir teas at the outdoor patio and check out the bespoke ceramics handmade by Margit.
- Highly recommend the tea and local cheese pairing for a surprise to your taste buds.
- Try the bespoke flavours like the Maple Smoked Green tea that you can’t find anywhere else in the world.
Westholme Tea Farm – 8350 Richards Trail, Duncan, BC V9L 6B2
2) Cowichan the Wine Region
When we talk about BC wine, 90% of the time we assume it’s about wines from the Okanagan. Up until now I realize Cowichan on the Island also makes some of the best BC wine, like the pinot noir from Averill Creek Vineyards that won the silver award of The Global Pinot Noir Masters 2017. I truly believe preference of wine is very personal and I’m not an expert here to tell you how great they are, but in general I love how smooth and clean taste Cowichan wines are, mainly due to lower tannin ratio that makes it easy to drink and also less likely to trigger allergic reactions to people like me with sensitive body type to alcohol.
Averill Creek Vineyard – 6552 N Rd, Duncan, BC V9L 6K9
Merridale Cidery – I have been to numerous wineries and breweries, but never been to a craft cidery before. Merridale is more than just a typical cidery or tasting bar, it’s a family friendly destination to chill out and relax in their 20 acre orchard farm. Highly recommend to take a long lunch at their eatery and order their cider flight, each of them is made with 100% first pressed apple juice but every cider comes with different notes and finish. My personal favourites are Traditional and Cyser. Cyser is infused with their in house apple blossom honey (from the bee hives right at the orchard!!), sweet and smooth with a hint of honey taste! Merridale is also one of the first craft distilleries on the Island and their cocktail flight is the perfect delicious way to sample their spirits made with BC grown fruits and botanicals. Lavenade is my favourite choice of cocktail, with lavender lemonade, soda and vodka.
- Kids friendly facilities and large patio dining space for families.
- Stay at their gorgeous yurts to get the full summer night experience! Glamping at next level with crawfoot tub and large comfy bed.
Merridale Cidery & Distillery – 1230 Merridale Rd, Cobble Hill, BC V0R 1L0
3) Enjoy Farm to Table Feast
The Culinary scene in Cowichan is beyond spectacular and no matter where you go, you will be amazed by the farm to table menu with generous portions. They take their local products and ingredients very seriously, the farm fresh eggs and milk make some of the best desserts we had in our life. The creme brulee in Unsworth Vineyards and the ice cream from Udder Guys are something not to be missed!
Old Town Bakery – specializes in freshly baked cinnamon rolls, not the ordinary kind because they make 9 different flavours daily! Blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, almond slices cream cheese and many more…
Unsworth Vineyards & Restaurant – Fine dining with casual vibe and very reasonable pricing. Delectable West Coast inspired menu made with top notch local ingredients and wonderful wine pairing, my favourites on the menu are the Seafood chowder and the lavender honey creme brulee, simple but exceptionally delicious.
2915 Cameron Taggart Rd #1, Mill Bay, BC V0R 2P2
The Old Fork – local favourite with daily specials, quality comfort food and generous portions! We had the 2 for 1 appetizer specials, both crab cakes and wings were perfectly deep fried and seasoned. Their portions were huge that we had to skip desserts. Main course I highly recommend their Coffee and Ancho chili braised beef short rib and carbonara with house made pasta, both were so homey, rich and flavourful!
140 Trans-Canada Hwy, Duncan, BC V9L 3P7
Pizzeria Prima Strada – well known pizza chain in the region and trust me their thin crust Neopolitan pizzas are truly authentic and delicious! You would have a hard time to choose what kind of pizza to get, no problem because you should just order the sampler, get 2 flavours in 1 pizza. Recommend you to pair with their house special Prima Frizzante because this special sparkling wine is made by Averill Creek Vineyard, only available at Prima Strada.
14-1400 Cowichan Bay Rd, Cobble Hill, BC, V0R 1L3
4) Up close and personal with wildlife & nature
Raptors is absolutely must do if visiting Vancouver Island. How likely you can get up close to wild owls, hawks and bald eagles! Honestly I was exciting but also nervous at the same time, but the overall experience is very fun and educational. The staff are all very passionate and knowledgable about what they do. We went straight to the flying show and were amazed by how intelligent and well trained these predators are. No worries we felt totally safe to watch these birds of prey flying right above us. I followed the trainer’s instruction to raise my fist and heard the hawk from my back flied right across and alighted on my glove very gently to catch his treat, that feeling was hard to describe with my own words, just truly phenomenal and awed! I highly recommend you do the close encounter and hawk walk, that give you time to hang out with the amazing birds like spectacled owls and falcon on your arms.
- explore wildlife in a safe and open environment
- extremely rare experience to get so close to these flying predators and see what are they capable to do
- family friendly and educational
Kinsol Trestle – take the scenic track to admire the amazing view and engineering of this trestle bridge that’s built more than 100 years ago. The walk to the trestle is pleasant and easy for beginners. The bridge itself is also well maintained and totally safe to walk across. You might run into friendly locals saying hi and start engaging conversation with you on the way. They love telling how great Cowichan is, and suggest some local favourite places to go.
Glen Eagles Rd, Shawnigan Lake, BC V0R 2W0
4) Afternoon stroll in Seaside town
It’s about enjoying sun and warm breeze in the picturesque Cowichan Bay. We took our time slowly to have walk around the boutique shops and gallery. Met the most talented artist Arthur Vickers who specializes in remarkable gold leaf artwork and serigraphs. Each of his masterpiece is created with a pursuit of blending rich tradition of First Nations with his creativity to connect feelings and tell a story. We also met Laurie, the owner of Wild Coast Perfumery. She creates small batch bespoke fragrances and named them after destinations such as Tofino, Salt Spring, Whistler etc. How fun is that with a meaning to let you bring a piece of memory from these places back home. I’m so addicted to the fragrances she crafted and Tofino is my favourite one, light and refreshing that I feel instantly transported to the beach side.
Arthur Vickers Gallery – 1719 Cowichan Bay Rd, Cowichan Bay, BC V0R 1N0
Wildcoast Perfumery – 1721 Cowichan Bay Rd, Cowichan Bay, BC V0R 1N0
5) Fast & the Furious
Vancouver Island Motorsports Circuit is literally Disneyland for car lovers, the only year round circuit in Canada to experience a taste of fast & furious. I kept this itinerary as a birthday surprise to Will and he was thrilled to find out his ride was a Porsche Cayman. The circuit taxi was nothing I could ever imagine of, I came unprepared for the speed and thought I was just the passenger but no I was wrong, it’s really FAST and the excitement was sky high when my driver was doing tight turns and sharp brakes. This is a must do activity If you have a strong need for speed.
4063 Cowichan Valley Hwy, Duncan, BC V9L 6K4
6) Cozy & luxurious stay
Cowichan region stretches from north of Victoria all the way to Nanaimo almost, the area is huge that you can consider lodging in different locations for multiple nights. We stayed in the Marifield Manor – cozy B&B with old English charm situates close to scenic attractions of Shawnigan lake and Kinsol Trestle. The hosts Mitch and Jocelyn did a fantastic job to up keep this heritage property and their personal touches to make sure all guests are comfortable and welcome. Let the pictures do the justice, especially looking at the pancake breakfast Mitch freshly made for us, totally worth getting up early for that.
- Quiet and roomy that we feel like we had the entire place
- Tastefully decorated and very well maintained
- Unbelievably delicious breakfast
Marifield Manor – 2040 Merrifield Ln, Shawnigan Lake, BC
We also spent 2 nights at Villa Eyrie which was an absolute treat to ourselves. The resort was huge and divided into a few different sections with mineral pool, restaurant, spa etc. What we like the most is the stunning view, no matter which room/suite you stay, or even just decide to have a romantic dinner at their Summit Restaurant, the viewpoint is always unobstructed. We stayed at Villa Cielo on the very top of the mountain, totally private and huge suite with large outdoor patio overlooking stunning lake and mountain view. This is the one stop destination to unwind and relax because it already got everything you need.
- Perfect for romantic stay and weddings
- Great facilities with indoor pool and spa treatments available for booking
- Dining at Summit Restaurant is pleasant, good portion and reasonably priced
- 180 degree unobstructed view from the property
Villa Eyrie – 600 Ebedora Ln, Malahat, BC V0R 2L0
Villa Cielo at Villa Eyrie Resort
7) Scenic helicopter ride
It’s our first time on helicopter so we were too exciting and having our camera all the way from boarding to landing just to make sure we didn’t miss capturing the bird’s eye view of the beautiful cityscape, and the entire journey only takes less than 20mins to Nanaimo. If you can make room in your budget to travel with helicopter, not only it saves you half a day of travelling but this also makes your experience even more special.
Helijet – 455 W Waterfront Rd, Vancouver, BC V6B 5E8
8) Friendly Community
One thing that I remember the most about Cowichan beyond the top notch culinary scene and invigorating nature, it’s the sense of community and people. They are always chilled and friendly. There were so many times we got approached by the business owners and locals, they never saw us as strangers, instead they gave us the warmest welcome and gave us a list of recommendations about where to explore. The people in Cowichan define what friendly and loving mankind is all about and I’m truly grateful to make acquaintances and new friends on this trip, this is something we feel the most precious and unforgettable.