Slow down, savour life with a quick getaway in Cowichan this harvest season

The journey to Cowichan on its own could make your harvest season unforgettable.

It begins with a gentle, picturesque drive through the coast, mountains and farmland. Then Cowichan unveils its natural mysticism, and memories of the green and golden valley under the autumn sun leave visitors longing to return.

Only 45 minutes north of Victoria, it is the perfect getaway from city and mainland life, a place to unwind with some “you” time or reconnect with loved ones.

Once there, dwindling days glow longer in “the land warmed by the sun.”

Explore

To find Cowichan, cruise the Malahat Drive, a winding, 20-kilometre stretch of highway considered among the most scenic routes in Canada. Stop to take in the views from Villa Eyrie Resort and enjoy a world-class lunch at their Alpina Restaurant overlooking the Saanich Inlet. Malahat Summit and Split Rock also offer incredible ocean and mountain views.

Or catch the Mill Bay Ferry from Brentwood Bay, known widely as the Island’s “most beautiful shortcut.” Take a deep breath of fresh ocean air during the 25-minute sailing across the Saanich Inlet.

Stop for lunch at Bridgemans Bistro at the Mill Bay Marina, just a seven-minute drive up the coastline from the ferry terminal. Every Sunday throughout October, they’ll be serving a new Harvest Meal, a traditional roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a piece of delicious walnut pie paired with a glass of Blue Grouse Quill from local vineyard, Blue Grouse Estate Winery.

Once in the valley, take a winding drive through farmland to see vivid fall colours with a pastoral backdrop.

Trod a less-beaten path on one of more than 170 hiking and biking trails, which cover 180 kilometres across five mountains, offering breathtaking vantage points.

Savour

Farm-to-table is a way of life in Cowichan where, each fall, more than 800 farms burst with plump fruits and vegetables.

Thanks to surrounding mountains, a mild climate and fertile soil, the region is home toCanadas longest growing season, and farmers here make the most of it.

Meet them at the Duncan Farmers Market — one of B.C.’s largest markets — where they share their backyard bounty with pride every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Check the region’s many roadside farm stands, open seven days a week, at Cowichan Green Community.

Pair a meal carefully prepared from locally-sourced ingredients with a glass of Pinot noir from the valley, which was recently recognized as an official B.C. wine region, the first to gain such a distinction outside of the Okanagan. Award-winners like the family-owned Rocky Creek Winery bring prestige and fandom to Cowichan’s 14 wineries.

Taste the best of Cowichan’s culinary scene at The Ainslie in downtown Duncan, a restaurant whose proprietors have built strong relationships with local organic farms, wineries, distilleries and artisan producers.

Fall, when salmon are entering the Cowichan River, is a great time of year for fresh-caught seafood in the region, and the Rock Cod Cafe in Cowichan Bay is renowned for it. You can’t go wrong with its fish and chips and fish tacos, which were featured on Food Network Canada’s popular show “You Gotta Eat Here!”

The Genoa Bay Café in Duncan, adjacent to the marina, also offers incredibly fresh local seafood in its mouthwatering jambalaya, Salt Spring Island mussels and famous calamari.

Learn

To best understand Cowichan, turn to its nearly 5,000-year history.

Visit the Duncan Totems — the world’s largest collection of publicly-displayed totem poles — which tell compelling stories of the region, on the traditional lands of the Quw'utsun' (Cowichan) people.

Climb Mount Tzouhalem, a famous local landmark steeped in Indigenous history, originally named Shkewetsen” (meaning warming in the sun”) by the local people.

Explore and appreciate natural beauty, and unwind close to home. Slow down and savour life in Cowichan.

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