Courtenay was officially incorporated as a town on January 1, 1915. The city was named after the Courtenay River, which in turn was named after George William Courtenay, captain of the British ship HMS Constance, which was stationed in the area between 1846 and 1849. Courtenay became a city in 1953.
Today, Courtenay is home to more than 40 parks making it a great base for a vacation. A series of walkways link the forest, rivers and the ocean.
Courtenay is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, 4 km (2.5 mi) west of Comox and 108 km (67 mi) north of Nanaimo on Highway 19. It is the largest city in the Comox Valley.
Throughout the year the Courtenay & District Museum offers on-site and outdoor programming suitable for all age groups. Program subjects include fossils, geology, First Nations history, pioneer settlement history, social history of the Comox Valley, logging and lumber history, river way study, as well as, a series of changing exhibitions. The museum is a proud member of the The Great Canadian Fossil Trail, and was named the first, westernmost stop in 1998. The friendly and informative staff make learning fun - and the museum is famous for the quality of its tours. Fascinating artifacts have put Courtenay and the Comox Valley on the national and international map. Visitors come to explore the museum on a year-round basis, view the marine fossil exhibits, and visit fossil sites in the local area. The area has been featured in numerous television documentaries, including shows on the Discovery Channel and the Knowledge Network.
During the winter, come here for alpine and nordic skiing. During the summer, there's mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, fly fishing, mini-golf, and camping. There are also special events every month.
Surrounded by mountains and fed by a glacier, Comox Lake has good freshwater fishing for trout and char year-round. A popular area to visit there are hiking and biking trails, a sandy beach, rock climbing areas, and boating.
Vibrant, fun and unique, Downtown Courtenay has a classic charm that is not often found, and one that is well worth the trip. From cozy bookshops to cutting edge fashion, fresh flowers to hand-made chocolates, antique treasures to fossil discovery tours.
The Puntledge Fish Hatchery is open year-round and has an underwater viewing area to observe the fish in the pond. Several salmon species use the Puntledge River. Chinook Salmon are present from mid-September through November, Coho from mid-September to mid-December, Chum from mid-October through November, and Pink Salmon from mid-August through October. Young fish are present in tanks and troughs from March through June. The Puntledge River Hatchery also operates another site upstream of the hatchery.
The Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens is set amid the tranquil beauty of 24 forested acres. Enjoy leisurely strolls through the extensive network of meandering cedar bark paths. Experience the splendour of over 3,500 rhododendrons, plants, and waterfeatures thriving in a beautiful, natural setting.
Strathcona Provincial Park, designated in 1911, is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia. Located almost in the centre of Vancouver Island, Strathcona park is a rugged mountain wilderness comprising more than 250,000 hectares. Mountain peaks - some perpetually mantled with snow - dominate the park. Lakes and alpine tarns dot a landscape laced with rivers, creeks and streams. Summer in Strathcona is usually pleasantly warm, while winters are fairly mild except for the higher levels, where heavy snowfalls are the norm. Buttle Lake and vicinity and Forbidden Plateau - offer a variety of visitor-oriented developments. The rest of the park is largely undeveloped.
The park is a unique landform, which together with Gartley Point creates the Comox Harbour. It is a flexible sand spit fed by the Willemar Bluffs and is a Class I recreational beach. On the inside is a sheltered lagoon. There are unique and rare plants and excellent views to the south and east.
Fifth Street is the heart of downtown Courtenay and has an eclectic mix of shops and galleries. Arts and culture lovers will appreciate the Muir Gallery, the Big House and I-Hos Native Gallery, as well as the Comox Valley Art Gallery. Theatre and music fans can take in a show at the Sid Williams Theatre and see musical performances at various venues.
Some of the best saltwater fishing on the island, particularly for salmon, can be found in the waters of the Strait of Georgia north of the Puntledge River Estuary between Courtenay and Comox, and off Cape Lazo, King Coho, and Bates Beach. Because of its sheltered location and an absence of dangerous currents, the shoreline around Comox is well suited for rod fishing in a small boat. Shore angling for salmon is popular in Comox Bay from August to November.
The Comox Valley and Baynes Sound are designated as "Globally Significant" Important Bird Areas by the BC Federation of Naturalists and Bird Studies Canada. The second highest concentration of over-wintering waterfowl in British Columbia is found here due to the availability of protected waters and nearby farmlands which provide habitat and an abundant food supply. The Comox Valley is the winter home to approximately 2000 Trumpeter Swans, a magnificent bird that can be spotted in many fields during the day from October until March. As evening falls flocks of swans can frequently be seen in the Courtenay River estuary, easily viewed from the Courtenay Municipal Air Park Walkway located near the Visitor Info Centre. Numerous bird species that can be spotted here include 10 species of gulls and terns, 16 types of diving ducks, nine dabbling ducks and 13 species of raptors. A comprehensive Bird Checklist for the area can be purchased from the Visitor Info Centre along with a book of Nature Viewing sites produced by the Comox Valley Naturalist Society.
Jacques Cousteau rated the waters near the Comox Valley as the "second best cold water diving destination in the world", and it's easy to see why! The area is one of only a few locations where divers can view the elusive 12-foot long six-gill sharks. Add to this a high level of visibility, very slight fluctuations in seasonal water temperatures, massive boulders, steam ship wrecks (Capilano 1915, Gulfstream 1947) and a wealth of sea life including huge Steller and California Sealions, giant Pacific octopi, cloud sponges, wolf eels, ling cod, rockfish and colourful reefs and you are guaranteed a rewarding dive. Visit one of the local dive shops to rent equipment, takes lessons or guided trips or to get tips on the best diving spots in the area. The Comox Valley offers everything you need to access an incredible diving experience!
The Comox Valley is surrounded by wilderness and there are unlimited hiking opportunities. Great trails, awe-inspiring scenery and plenty of wildlife await. Stroll in the shadows of an ancient, old growth rainforest. Hike through a pristine sub-alpine meadow amidst an explosion of wildflowers and a cacophony of birdsong. Take the chairlift to the top of Mount Washington for a magnificent view of the entire Comox Valley framed by the deep blue of the Georgia Strait and the mainland's Coast Mountain Range. With more than 40 local parks, and countless kilometres of hiking trails through some of the most spectacular island and alpine wilderness anywhere on the planet, the Comox Valley beckons to be explored on foot.
Mount Washington, a 25 km (16 mi) drive west of the Comox Valley, is Vancouver Island's year-round alpine destination. Winter activities include downhill and cross country skiing as well as snowboarding and snow tubing. The resort is famous for its 55 km (34 mi) of cross country trails, and downhill skiers and snowboarders have their choice of numerous chairlifts. Other winter recreation activities include a snowboarding camp, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, and guided back-country skiing. Adventure operators offer heli-skiing trips into more remote areas.
Ocean and river kayaking and canoeing are popular pastimes in the Comox Valley. You can bring your own gear or rent it from one of our local outfitters. Most kayak and canoe rental outlets also offer lessons and eco-paddling tours which explore the Comox Valley's natural and cultural history. Paddlers can view seals and sea lions, ocean birds, lush forests, log booms and tugs and the majestic coast mountain range. The calm waters of Baynes Sound are perfect for beginners or those looking for a relaxed paddle, while faster moving rivers offer a more challenging excursion for experienced paddlers. The waters surrounding Denman and Hornby Island are wonderful paddling destinations and pristine fresh water lakes throughout the region welcome the gentle glide of engine-free explorers. Guided rafting trips are available within a short drive of the Comox Valley. Operators offer professionally guided river rafting tours ranging from the thrills of whitewater rafting to serene scenic river floats and snorkelling with thousands of returning salmon. These trips are suitable for adventurers of all ages.
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Visitor Information Centre
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia