The valley’s cultural hub is a modern, smartly planned city featuring a walkable downtown packed with boutique shops and slow-food restaurants all within easy reach of parks, bike paths and hiking trails. Reinvigorate with a spa treatment or yoga class. Browse the contemporary and First Nations art in galleries. And enjoy a variety of arts and community festivals. Be sure to book tickets early for the Vancouver Island MusicFest, an A-list roots music weekend in July that sells out fast. With its full range of accommodations, Courtenay is a four-season base for exploring the region. Embark on a guided hunt for riverside fossils after a visit to the Courtenay & District Museum & Palaeontology Centre, where visitors learn about the giant marine reptiles that lived here once upon a Cretaceous time. With 500 farms and a vibrant shellfish industry in the area, the fresh sheets at the city’s splendid array of hip bistros and formal restaurants are exactly that: fresh as the morning’s harvest from soil or sea.
Things to do in Courtenay
- Count the urbane pleasures while wandering a pretty downtown district centred on 4th, 5th and 6th Streets. Expect a fine assortment of eclectic shops, galleries, coffee houses and restaurants along attractive boulevards lined with greenery.
- Dine locally on fresh valley produce or the catch of the day. The Comox Valley has long been a productive food belt, and the vast majority of BC shellfish is harvested from nearby Baynes Sound.
- Art aficionados linger at the Comox Valley Art Gallery, the I-Hos Native Gallery and the Muir Gallery. Local festivals include Art and Bloom (at Kitty Coleman Woodland Garden in May), Elevate the Arts (music, dance and theatre in numerous Courtenay venues over a week in early June); and the Local Colours Arts & Culture, which takes over downtown streets in mid-July.
- Enjoy a concert, play or musical at the Sid Williams Theatre. Book tickets early for the perennially sold-out and always star-studded Vancouver Island Musicfest at the Comox Valley Fairgrounds in early July.
- Plunge in for a refreshing swim in the Courtenay River, then invite the kids to splashabout at the Lewis Centre waterpark and pool.
- The Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre showcases First Nations, pioneer and prehistoric history in a remarkable collection highlighted by the 80 million-year-old fossil of a marine reptile known as an elasmosaur. Get your hands dirty on guided fossil-digging expeditions in the summer.
- Learn about the salmon’s life cycle via self-guided tours and underwater viewing windows at the Puntledge Fish Hatchery. The river itself is popular with swimmers, kayakers and tubing enthusiasts.
- Founded in 1874, the Comox Valley Exhibition is a classic, always popular West Coast fall fair featuring agricultural events, family entertainment and blue-ribbon competitions.
- Take the gentle hikes to Stotan Falls and Nymph Falls, both excellent summer picnicking and swimming spots. Near downtown, wander with the locals along the Rotary Riverside Trail.
- Visit a public woodland garden that’s home to one of western Canada’s largest rhododendron collections.