Cowichan Valley

A breathtaking drive over the Malahat or a picturesque ferry ride brings you to the southern end of Cowichan Valley and the communities of Shawnigan Lake, Mill Bay, and Cobble Hill. Sheltered by a ridge of high mountains to the west and warmed by the Strait of Georgia to the east, the valley has long been called by local First Nations people 'The Warm Land'. Indeed the region boasts the highest average temperature in Canada, which creates ideal growing conditions for almost any crop. Approximately a quarter of Vancouver Island's cultivated land is found in the valley and it's a local tradition to sell products fresh off the farm.

Keep an eye out for vineyards and orchards with Tasting Room Open signs, where you can sample traditional cider, fruit wines made from local berries, and elegant, aromatic wines that are nurtured by rich soil and the climatic combination of warmth and moisture. Local winemakers work with vinifera favourites such as Pinot Gris, Ortega, and Pinot Noir, along with lesser-known varietals carefully matched to the maritime climate. Foodstuffs such as jams and jellies, gourmet mushrooms, organic milk and meats, and specialty vinegars are sold in market gardens and farmstands.


The Warm Land continues to Duncan, one of Vancouver Island's best places to explore the art and culture of the regions original inhabitants. The town itself is dotted with dozens of traditional totem carvings and the Quw'utsun' Cultural Centre showcases First Nations history. You can stay for the unique experience of a traditional salmon feast, or seek out other fare in one of the city's fine restaurants. Chances are your dinner will feature some of the local bounty, from herbs to organic vegetables to exotic game.

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