Detour off the Trans Canada Highway and explore the City of Totems. The streets of Duncan’s revitalized, architecturally striking downtown are lined with shops, galleries, bookstores, restaurants, cafes, and a popular brewpub and wine bar. Verse yourself in local history at the downtown museum next to the train station before taking a free, self-guided or group tour of 38 First Nations’ totems (including one of the world’s widest) that line downtown streets. Along the way sample Duncan’s water (voted best in Canada in a national competition) from a remarkable water fountain known locally as “Quench”.
Downtown shopping options include tots, fashion, books, Cowichan sweaters, and First Nations’ art. Catch live music at such festivals as Duncan Daze and the Duncan Summer Festival. And don’t miss the Duncan Farmers’ Market, a year-round Saturday tradition in city Square that features live entertainment and more than 120 vendors selling local produce, crafts, baked goods, fashion, jewellery, and more.
A short drive north of Duncan’s historic core is the BC Forest Discovery Centre. Set on generous grounds that can be circled about a steam train, the centre honours the Island’s forestry industry with exhibits, special events, and an open-air museum that houses vintage locomotives. Further down the road, birds of prey perform incredible aerial feats under the guidance of skilled handlers at Pacific Northwest Raptors. Country music fans flock to SunFest at Laketown Ranch, the largest country music festival west of the Prairies.
Through the eyes of the travellers
Things to do in Duncan
- Tour downtown’s remarkable collection of 38 totem poles (one of them the world’s widest) on group outings or via a self-guided walking route.
- The streets of Downtown Duncan are chockablock with independent stores selling everything from artisanal creations to the latest in fashion and home décor.
- Learn about local history at the Cowichan Valley Museum.
- Dine in style on locally grown produce. Downtown’s streets are lined with cafés, bistros, a popular brewpub and wine bar, and a tantalizing range of ethnic cuisine.
- Downtown festivals include the Duncan Summer Festival (also known as “39 Days of July” since it’s spread over six mid-summer weeks) and Duncan Daze, a lively street party in mid-July featuring musicians, entertainers and family fun.
- City Square hosts a vibrant, year-round farmers’ market that features local fruits, veggies, baked goods, art and crafts. While you shop, enjoy musicians and street entertainers.
- Take snapshots of the world’s largest hockey stick and puck.
- Board a vintage steam train for locomotive tours of the BC Forest Discovery Centre, an open-air museum that chronicles the colourful history of the Island’s logging industry.
- Visit the Raptor Centre to see magnificent birds of prey – hawks, owls, eagles, vultures and falcons – in natural settings and flying free just a few feet away. Take a hawk walk or owl prowl.
- The riverside Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre features First Nations dance, storytelling, artefacts, crafts, carving and food (salmon barbeques included).
- Catch live theatre or a music performance at the Cowichan Theatre.
- Bring binoculars and a bird guidebook to the Somenos Marsh Conservation Area, recognized as a globally significant conservation area.
- Play golf at one or more of several championship courses in the area.
- Hikers and mountain bikers make tracks for the trail networks on Maple Mountain and Mount Tzouhalem. The latter offers spectacular views of Duncan, Quamichan Lake, Providence Farm and the surrounding valley and mountains.