When it comes to spending time outdoors, there’s no place like Vancouver Island.
And if you’re looking to get lost in nature this spring, look no further than Cowichan. With its vast lakes, breathtaking mountains, and lush landscapes, the area was made for exploring.
Located just one hour from Victoria, the region is renowned for its natural beauty — it’s got some of the best hiking and biking trails on the island, half a dozen regional parks, incredible wildlife, and endless opportunities for adventure.
With that in mind, here are five must-do outdoor activities in Cowichan that will make your spring break visit one to remember.
Head out on an exhilarating hike
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking for an easy way to experience the outdoors, there’s something for you in Cowichan.
Kinsol Trestle in Shawnigan Lake, located along the historic railway, is the perfect spot for adventurers to explore. A short 1.2-km forest hike leads to the Trestle itself, which is one of the tallest free-standing timber train trestle structures in the world.
Picnic tables and benches can also be found in the surrounding area, making it a perfect place to spend an afternoon.
For those looking for something a little more adventurous, there are four mountains in Cowichan, all of which are hikeable and bikeable: Mount Tzouhalem, Maple Mountain, Mount Prevost, and Cobble Hill Mountain.
Cobble Hill Mountain Park is a popular spot with tourists due to its 26 kilometres of single- and double-track trails, which allows hikers to choose their own expedition to the summit (or take a new route each time they return). All routes are well-marked, so you won’t get lost as you ascend. The mountain has various breathtaking viewpoints to stop at and enjoy along the way.
Get up close and personal with amazing animals
Wildlife watching is an amazing way to reignite your passion for the natural world, and in Cowichan, you don’t have to just do this from afar.
Head out on a whale-watching tour with Ocean Ecoventures for a chance to see majestic orca and humpback whales crash through the waves. You might even get to see playful sea lions as they swim and witness beautiful bald eagles soaring above.
Or, get up close with captivating birds of prey at The Raptors, a conservation centre in the city of Duncan. There are daily flying demonstrations — and you’ll even have a chance to hold some of the birds. Visitors can take a walk through the woods with a hawk, meet some curious owls, and even hold a falcon on their arm (with gloves, of course).
If super adorable animals are more your thing, stop by Yellow Point Farms, outside Ladysmith town. Here, you’ll meet some miniature creatures that are sure to steal your heart, like Nigerian dwarf goats, olde English babydoll sheep, and Kune Kune pigs. The best part? You can pet all of them.
And when you’re done, check out the quaint farm store on-site for local produce, such as seasonal fruit and veggies, pastured meats, honey, wool products, and more.
Take a dip
Thanks to Cowichan’s mild year-round temperatures, swimming is a must-do activity for a huge chunk of the year. From lakes and rivers to water parks and beaches, there are so many places to take a refreshing dip or simply relax next to the water.
Head to Gordon Bay Provincial Park for a swim in Cowichan Lake, a gorgeous warm lake with sandy beaches and a great place to partake in some action-packed water sports.
On the other side of Lake Cowichan, in the town of Youbou, you’ll find Arbutus Park, which is another ideal spot for a swim. It’s also got a grassy area and a beach with picnic tables.
Meanwhile, the idyllic seaside community of Maple Bay — just 10 minutes from Duncan — is surrounded by pretty pebbled beaches, making it an ideal spot for strolls in the sun, swimming, sailing, fishing, and even scuba diving.
If you’re looking for something a little more off-the-beaten-track, check out Fuller Lake, one of Cowichan’s smaller lakes. The water is just 920 metres long, but that doesn’t mean diving in for a swim is any less fun.
Check out the tranquil parks
Cowichan is home to some of the most gorgeous parks you’ll find on Vancouver Island.
Stoney Hill Regional Park is a great place to go for a hike with amazing views of the surrounding area. Take the 3.2-km loop trail and immerse yourself in blissful nature, stopping off at the lookout points along the way to take in the beauty of your surroundings.
Cowichan River Park is another must-visit that stretches along the banks of the Cowichan River, a designated Canadian Heritage River. The park offers an incredible mix of nature and recreational activities — it’s the place to be if you want to spend some time swimming, canoeing, white-water kayaking, tubing, camping, or fishing.
Visit vineyards and farmers’ markets
Cowichan is well-known for its impressive vineyards and wineries, which are reminiscent of something straight out of the Italian countryside.
There are 14 wineries in the area, making Cowichan one of BC’s esteemed wine regions. Whichever one you choose to visit, you’ll get to try a variety of delicious wines, view beautiful vineyards, and learn about farming practices.
Cowichan is also home to a number of diverse outdoor farmers’ markets, such as Duncan Farmer’s Market, one of the largest markets in BC. Browse through over 150 vendors, full of locally grown and produced products.
To plan your spring trip to Cowichan, or to learn more about all of the fantastic outdoor activities that will keep you coming back to the region, click here.