Many British Columbians have spent this past summer seeking out authentic experiences closer to home, and the arrival of fall comes with a bounty of intriguing (and delicious) options to explore.
Located north of Victoria on Vancouver Island, Cowichan (the “land warmed by the sun”) has a temperate climate and is now coming alive with the golden hues and rich flavours of the harvest season. Offering an escape from the fast pace of city life, it’s somewhere you can pause to take in the rolling hill vistas and cultural history.
As the warm autumn sun shines on orchards, farms, and vineyards across the region, immerse yourself in nature by getting up close and personal with the harvest. And to help you navigate your fall adventure in Cowichan, we’ve rounded up seven noteworthy foodie experiences.
Sip cider among apple trees
During the fall, Cowichan’s orchards are filled with crimson red and bright green, ready-to-pick apples. Whether you’re new to the crisp-tasting world of cider or interested in expanding your brew knowledge, Valley Cider in the north and Merridale Cidery in Cobble Hill can introduce you to the region’s distinct flavours. Order a “Love Potion” at Valley Cider or a “Merri Berri” at Merridale and sip al fresco in between charcuterie board snacks.
Discover farm-fresh fare
Across the Cowichan region, there are more than 800 farms filled with ripe fruits and vegetables. In the heart of downtown Duncan, a family of locals spanning three generations run The Ainslie. When you dine on the patio lit by twinkling lights, fall in love with seasonal dishes made using ingredients from the nearby Keating Farm and Haltwhistle Cheese. Specials are customized daily based on what’s available locally, so order a Cowichan wine from the menu and settle into vacation mode.
Cheers with seasonal local beer
Everything on the menu at Small Block Brewing Co. is handcrafted in small batch style and brewed for Vancouver Island locals to enjoy. If you visit on the weekend, order a wood-fired pizza to complement the seasonal craft beer you choose. Pro tip: order a growler and pie for takeout and catch the sunset from the picturesque bluffs.
Taste fresh cranberry treats
It doesn’t take long to realize that this charming Vancouver Island community is connected by local partnerships and a love of the land. Yellow Point Cranberries is a family-operated farm that’s home to a cranberry bog (aka a sea of cranberries) — and it turns bright crimson in October! Stop by to snap a photo of this natural wonder and pick up some house-made cranberry goodies to enjoy on a future hike up Old Baldy Mountain.
Delve into the world of wine
Boasting the longest growing season in Canada, Cowichan is a haven for winemakers. The region even has its own sub-GI wine designation — the first region in BC outside of the Okanagan to receive this. Since Cowichan is home to 14 award-winning wineries, you have the option to join a tour or handpick a select few to visit. You’ll get to see how the grapes are harvested and prepared before tasting the end result. We recommend a glass of the region’s Pinot Noir or Charme de L’ile sparkling wine.
Meet the harvest leaders
If you’re on a tight schedule and can’t make it to visit a couple of Cowichan’s local farms, head to the Duncan Farmers’ Market to find a bevy of the region’s producers in one place. The year-round market takes place every Saturday and features products that are either grown or crafted locally. Here, you’ll be able to pick up everything you need to whip up a mouthwatering meal and get cooking tips from the harvest leaders.
Retreat to a kiwi farm
Foodie experiences in Cowichan are not limited to drop-in visits. At the Kiwi Cove Lodge, you can embrace a countryside stay with a growing kiwi farm beyond your door. Harvest season takes place here in the fall, and when you’re not tasting kiwi snacks or admiring the local mountain views, explore the lush 10 acres surrounding the lodge. You might even see wildlife from the estuary waterfront.
Planning a fall getaway to Cowichan allows you to discover the region’s thriving food and beverage scene while bringing you closer to nature. Explore the expansive farmlands and pastoral settings at an unhurried pace, tasting the fruits of the land along the way.