Vancouver Island Gem! Overlooking Chemainus Harbour, Croft Cottage & Studio, designed and refurbished like new by David Coulson Designs, unique C2 zoned property with en...
Courtesy of RE/MAX Generation (CH)
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Recognized as an “artisan village” and famed for its 40+ giant murals that depict its heritage and culture, Chemainus is a small, picturesque seaside community located between Duncan and Nanaimo. Steeped in history, its name is derived from the lore and legend of the Stz’uminus First Nation and in particular from a shaman and prophet, Tsa-meeun-is (Broken Chest) who became a powerful chief after surviving a potentially fatal chest wound.
A series of bays, its earliest residents lived off the abundance of herring and shellfish, establishing a permanent village in the process, until others discovered the area, which led to the evolution of the village into a small town, in the location that is today considered the heart of Old Town Chemainus. Rich in natural resources from the water and the forests, it was only a matter of time before the forest industry arrived, with the town becoming officially incorporated as a logging town in 1858 followed by the erection of a sawmill in 1863 making mining, fishing, and forestry the main original industries. The 1880s brought with it the railway along with different industries allowing Chemainus to thrive and while its reliance on the mill and forestry industry proved lucrative for some time, as natural resources waned, it was harder to sustain the population and with the recession in the forest industry in the 1980s and the closing of the mill in 1983 after 120 years in operation, the need for a new vision emerged. And it was this new vision, which included the creation of the first murals designed to beautify the town, that helped to bring Chemainus back to life and which earned it a prestigious award, “The New York Downtown Revitalization Aware for Redevelopment” in turn attracting new business ventures and visitors and solidifying it as a tourist destination, bringing with it the moniker of “The Little Town That Did”©.
Located in the heart of the Cowichan Valley, part of the North Cowichan municipality, south of Nanaimo and Ladysmith and approximately 20 km north of Duncan, Chemainus is situated off the Trans Canada Highway, nestled between the mountains and the coast, and while residents are afforded convenient highway access, it is far enough off the highway to maintain a rural feel and a sense of peace and quiet.
With a population that is purported to be 3,900, forestry is still the dominant industry in the community however, its revitalization has led to its emergence as a tourist destination with its picturesque charm and small-town atmosphere now the ideal location for movie shoots.
Falling under School District 79, the Cowichan Valley School District, Chemainus has an elementary school, the Chemainus Elementary Community School, for K to grade 6 students from Chemainus, Saltair, and Crofton, while for grades 7 through 12, students attend the Chemainus Secondary School.
Boasting farmers’ markets and trendy boutiques that sell antiques, clothing, galleries, gifts, and many unique and locally made, grown, or sourced items coupled with the traditional amenities you would expect from a small town, shoppers in Chemainus will find that most of their daily needs will be met locally, from groceries, pharmaceuticals, and liquor sales to banking needs, hair and personal care, and health care services while larger nearby centres, such as Ladysmith, Duncan, and Nanaimo, just a short drive away, will provide a greater variety and selection.
With its rural, coastal location featuring forested land, mountains, lakes with sandy beaches, rivers, and ocean inlets, and its mild climate, it is no surprise that the Chemainus area offers numerous outdoor activities and recreational pursuits in its parks, trails, and open spaces, as well as in the water. From walking, hiking, mountain biking, and skateboarding to golfing, fishing, boating, and swimming there is never a shortage of things to do, while scuba divers will be drawn to the artificial reef that has been provided by a Boeing 737 which was sunk just off the Chemainus coast in 2006, BC’s first artificial reef made from an aircraft.
In addition to its famous murals, sculptures, statues, and carvings, Chemainus is also recognized as Vancouver Island’s Theatre Destination with the Chemainus Theatre Festival offering a fully professional theatre featuring some of the finest performers and performances in Canada that has reportedly attracted talented guest actors, directors, musicians, and designers from across North America. For outdoor lovers, the many parks and outdoor spaces and its oceanfront location offer entertainment opportunities of all kinds from golfing to fishing and walking to kayaking, with all surrounding communities offering many other entertainment options for the whole family.
There are a variety of dining establishments in Chemainus to satisfy a number of tastes from Pacific Northwest craft beers and authentic farm-to-table tapas and appetizers at the Sawmill Taphouse and Grill, to Thai food at Thai Pinto Cuisine, Sushi at Sushi Kuni, and authentic Indian food at Invitation Indian Cusine. There are also cafes, such as the Maple Lane Cafe, ice cream at Scoops by the Sea, and Subway for all your sandwich cravings while surrounding area locations will offer an even greater variety to suit any taste.
Chemainus boasts a myriad of parks all of which offer a range of, or specific, activities to maximize enjoyment for locals and visitors alike from Cook Beach Park with its small stretch of beach, best explored at low tide; Fuller Lake Park which is an ideal spot for swimming, boating, and fishing, and the Kin Beach Park that offers a sandy beach, boat launch, picnic spot, and a playground; a great place to launch a kayak, at low tide you can also walk out to the lighthouse from here.
For those looking for a great hike or walk, the Askew Creek Wilderness Park located in the heart of Chemainus is home to old-growth Cedar and Douglas fir trees and offers a total of about 8 km of trails that run alongside and over the Askew Creek. The Chemainus Lake Park, also known as Weddles Lake Park, offers a 2.3 km trail loop that circles the shoreline in addition to a well-stocked lake with a fishing dock. Echo Heights Wildnerness Park is a municipal park that features self-guided forest trails which loop through 52 acres of Douglas Fir Forest complete with ponds, rock outcrops, and farmers’ fields
In addition, there are a number of City parks, such as the Daniel Street Park which includes stairs down to the ocean offering exploration of the shoreline at low tide, and the Gerry Smith Park which features a steam locomotive that was in service for 82 years, operating in Chemainus through the 1960s, until it was retired in 1969, making it one of the last operating steam locomotives in BC.
You can also access the Trans Canada Trail near the elementary school, the Chemainus section of which is an approximately 7 km round trip all on groomed level trails while nearby Saltair is a short drive away and offers its equally exceptional parks such as the Stocking Creek Park and the Diana Princess of Wales Park.