The early history of the Chemainus area is inextricably tied to its forests and the First Nations people that lived here for centuries. Chemainus, or more specifically the bay around which the town grew, was home to natural features which made it attractive to the forest industry. The sawmill, which opened in 1862, was operated by a powerful stream with a potent waterfall.
The late 1880s heralded the arrival of the railroad and the town slowly grew for the next thirty years. In the early 1920s the population was estimated at 600 with the inhabitants being of Chinese, Japanese and Salish Indian origin.
Today, this seaside community is a world-class attraction with over 40 murals and sculptures that depict the area's history adorning the walls and parks.
Chemainus is located 32 km (20 mi) south of Nanaimo and 80 km (50 mi) north of Victoria on the Trans-Canada Highway 1. The town is also serviced by coach lines between Victoria and Nanaimo.
An award-winning neo-classical building houses the 274-seat theatre and Playbill Dining Room, where professional stage productions, musicals, concerts and pre-show dining are offered year round.
Pristine, free of pollutants, and stocked with trout, Fuller Lake is a great place to enjoy swimming, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, picnicking, hiking, or just relaxing on the beach.
In the heart of town, nestled in giant fir trees, is Waterwheel Park. While children play in the whimsical, nautical-themed play area, parents can relax and watch performers at the outdoor bandshell. There is also has a small museum in Waterwheel Park which has many interesting artifacts on display.
Explore this 100-acre open-air living museum in Duncan. An operational railway, exhibits and heritage buildings chronicle the forestry industry in British Columbia. A 1930s logging camp shows what life was like for the loggers. Marsh and forest trails offer excellent bird-watching opportunities. This is a fun attraction for kids and adults with events on-going throughout the year.
Chemainus is home to over 40 professional murals, carvings and statues that depict the history of the area. These murals attract thousands of visitors every year. Gift shops and art galleries also abound, offering some of the Island's best pottery and native and local artworks. Peruse the antique malls and collectibles shops for one-of-a-kind treasures.
Surrounded by forests, Chemainus provides dozens of trails for visitors to enjoy. Some of these trails are located in Askew Creek Wilderness Park that is home to nesting bald eagles, Cook Street Park, Fuller Lake Park and Chemainus Lake Park.
The unique Boeing 737 Dive Site is located in Stuart Channel between Chemainus and Thetis Island. This unusual site has been decorated with First Nations artwork.
In operation since 1948, Mount Brenton Golf Course is a scenic gem within Chemainus with plenty of creeks, ponds, and towering firs. These combine to make a challenging course for every level of golfer.
Visitor Information Centre
PO Box 575, 9796 Willow Street
Chemainus BC V0R 1K0
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia