Duncan is in the heart of Cowichan, gateway to the vacationer's paradise. This south central area of Vancouver Island has been described as having a Mediterranean climate and boasts the ‘warmest mean temperature in Canada’. The word Cowichan, or Khowutsun, comes from the traditional native language and translates to ‘the land warmed by the sun’.
Long before European settlers populated the area in the late 1800s, the land was inhabited by Coast Salish First Nations people. Now the indigenous people with their rich, spiritual art and legends invite visitors to learn more about their culture at the ‘Quw’utsun Cultural Centre’ where you will find carving and knitting demonstrations, traditional salmon BBQs, dancing and displays. Stay for a meal in the Riverwalk Cafe which serves delicious native delicacies and remember your visit with a stop at the world class gift shop and gallery. Discover more than 30 totems proudly preserved and displayed in downtown Duncan…“The City of Totems”. Pick up a map at the Visitor Centre and take a self guided tour or join a free guided tour where you will learn the stories behind these amazing pieces of art.
History comes alive at the Cowichan Valley Museum and the BC Forest Discovery Centre where you can ride a historic steam train and marvel at huge exhibits and interactive displays of the forest industry’s past. Explore the Maritime Museum in the seaside village of Cowichan Bay where the HMS Hecate brought the first pioneers. Pacific Northwest Raptors offers visitors a close up and personal experience with falcons, hawks, owls and other birds of prey.
The streets of Old Town Duncan are steeped in history, culture, cutting edge commerce, and fun! With such a diversity of stores, boutiques, galleries & restaurants, downtown Duncan is ready to provide visitors with many hours of delightful shopping, browsing or sampling the region’s best cuisine. You are likely to be served by the owner who takes pride in giving exemplary service with genuine personable flair. With more than 100 vendors selling local produce, arts and crafts, theFarmers Market on Saturdays is the place to be. Duncan is a colorful quilt that is a reflection of a wonderfully diverse community.
Within a few minutes scenic drive are several unique communities.Chemainus ‘The Little Town That Did’© is home to world famous murals, and the Chemainus Theatre. The quaint seaside town of Ladysmith has wonderful events, parks and shopping. Throughout Cowichan you will find town sites and villages that have enchanting boutiques and galleries; funky antique shops, to top of the line culinary and clothing stores. While in Cowichan Bay visit the local cheese makers, organic bakery, gourmet ice cream shop and enjoy fresh seafood and local fare while overlooking the marina and bay. Whale watching and marine tours are right at our doorstep in Cowichan Bay.
Duncan is proud to have not one but two “world’s largest” attractions!! At 205 feet in length, and weighing 31 tons, the hockey stick that adorns our community centre attracts world wide attention. And on the totem tour is an 800 year old log carved into the 6 foot wide “Cedar Man Holding Talking Stick” totem pole, carved by internationally acclaimed artist Richard Hunt.
In addition to the First Nations artists, Cowichan has many other artisans and performers, many of whom open their studios to the public as well as perform and display their work in the many small galleries, coffee shops and restaurants in the area. There is an uncontested rumour that there are more artists per capita in Cowichan than in any other place in North America, thus giving rise to a lively and thriving arts and cultural scene. The quality and quantity of local performing musicians is also remarkable and everywhere you go you are likely to find live entertainment. Three first class theaters draw high caliber entertainment to the area and many more intimate venues feature members of highly talented small theatre groups.
To discover more about Duncan, City of Totems and the surrounding Cowichan Region, give the friendly folks at the Visitor Centre a call at 1-888-303-3337.