COWICHAN: Vancouver Island’s Food, Wine & Cultural Heartland


On your drive to Tofino, you’ll pass through Cowichan. Road tripping Up Island? Sure, you’ll have to go through Cowichan. You’ve been to Duncan, you’ve stopped for gas in Mill Bay, and you’ve travelled the Cowichan River in a flimsy inner tube that you’re not sure will survive the whole trip. But have you really been to Cowichan? That Highway 1 has a few turnoffs that you might consider taking next time you are driving from A to B. Consider option C because down that road you’ll find some of the best wine, the most outstanding food, and some of the most supernatural wonders our little Island has to offer.

“Cowichan is a region unto its own and is the perfect day trip or weekend destination for Island locals”, says Karen Elgersma, Executive Director of Tourism Cowichan. Splitting off from Highway 1 from the Malahat to Crofton and from the coastline, inland to Youbou, heading down one of Cowichan’s roads might lead you to any number of hidden gems just waiting to be explored. Turn down Westholme Rd onto Richards Trail, and you’ll find Westholme Tea Company, Canada’s only producing tea farm. Here you can enjoy carefully crafted, homegrown teas, and browse incredible pottery and ceramics. A short diversion down Cobble Hill Rd will take you to Merridale Cidery & Distillery where you can sample delicious ciders, or a have a bite to eat at the gastropub before a hike through the trails of Maple Mountain. If you’re into more of an overnight excursion that isn’t too far from home, you could glamp out in one of Merrydale’s fully furnished yurts with an open view of the stars.

The Cowichan Valley also offers a true farm-to-table experience. The term, so often misused, is simply a way of life up here. “Cowichan restaurants are actively taking back the phrase and making it mean something again”, says Elgersma. Take a trip down the strikingly bucolic Cameron Taggart Rd to Unsworth Vineyards, which boasts some of the best wines in the region. The restaurant at Unsworth offers a Cowichan inspired menu using seasonal ingredients from neighbouring farms and producers. Indeed, many of the restaurants and cafes in the region will provide you with a taste of locally sourced food crafted by people who genuinely appreciate the value of BC farm ingredients. True Grain is one such place. Heralded as one of the best bakeries in Canada by Huffington post, True Grain uses only Certified Organic BC grown grain and is thoroughly dedicated to supporting local farms and producers in their baking. The variety of vineyards, farmers markets, producing farms, restaurants, and cafes in Cowichan will give you the full experience of the regional cuisine

Cowichan is its own regional entity with a distinct culture and a unique way of life defined by rolling hills and mountains, vast farmland, and fertile soil. If BC is the breadbasket of Canada, then Cowichan is the breadbasket of Vancouver Island. Rich with agricultural diversity, the people of Cowichan are committed to the value of food, craft, and natural splendour. If we may be so bold, Cowichan is Canada’s own Provence or Tuscany, providing the foundation for Vancouver Island’s culinary allure and distinct regional palate. —by Jill Van Gyn


Written By:

We get many people writing guest articles for us, as well as past contributors. This is the Guest ...

Comments are closed.