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Ladysmith Day-Trip Diary #1: Chemainus

Vancouver Island is FULL of wonders, and Ladysmith is in the middle of it all!

Drive time from Ladysmith: less than 10 minutes

Getting There from Ladysmith: A quick, panoramic oceanside drive from Ladysmith, down the appropriately-named Chemainus Road, lies the idyllic town of Chemainus. This charming community of around 3,000 folks is famous for its outdoor “gallery” of over three dozen painted murals on the sides of local buildings. Chemainus also has an excellent theatre in a grandiose domed building. In 2006, a Boeing 737 airplane was sunk off the coast to form an artificial reef about a hundred feet down. It’s quite popular with free divers!

If you have the time, though, another great way to get to Chemainus from Ladysmith is to walk, hike, run, or bike along the Cowichan Valley Trail, a relatively wide, flat gravel pathway that winds through lush rolling farmlands, three types of forest (BC Maple, random coniferous, and the other kind – I’m not a botanist…), and some lovely residential back yards. Along the way you may see some deer, some bunnies – essentially the whole cast of Bambi – and also some horseback riders, cyclists and other assorted wanderers.

Along the Cowichan Valley Trail

There’s also a seven-foot-tall carving of a mother heron with her babies, just incongruously installed in someone’s backyard.

Heron statue along the Cowichan Valley Trail from Ladysmith to Chemainus

From the Coronation Mall parking lot in Ladysmith, you head down the bike path alongside Chemainus Road until just past Gourlay Janes Park, a relatively undiscovered gem down by the water. After that you cross the road (carefully!) and hit the trail proper. You’ll know you’re in the right spot when you pass the lemonade stand.

Roughly 9km along the trail from your start at Coronation Mall, you’ll reach the Sawmill Taphouse at the outskirts of Chemainus – definitely worth a stop. They have a couple dozen Pacific Northwest craft beers on offer, and you can get a sampler “flight” of six half pints (they call it “tap dancing”) to go along with your oven-fired pizza or farm-to-table tapas. 

About a kilometer further on, once you’re in the town proper, you’ll want to check out the Water Wheel Park for some shade and rest – sometimes there’s music on the bandstand, and you can also get on a horse-drawn carriage or trolley tour of the world-famous murals around town! (Fun fact – I used to be a mural tour guide, way WAAYY back in the day!)

Water Wheel Park in Chemainus

And no trip to Chemainus would be compete without tickets to a show at the Chemainus Theatre Festival. Performances run year-round; be sure to get dinner reservations as well, the buffet is fantastic but the desserts are to die for.

Chemainus Theatre Festival Building

So there you have a great day out from Ladysmith – down the road or on the trail – in lovely Chemainus!

Thanks for reading!

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