As you drive the Island Highway (Highway 19), it’s always a treat to look across the Strait of Georgia at landmarks on the mainland and the spires of the Coast Mountains that rise on the eastern horizon.
As you head up island towards the Comox Valley and Campbell River, the peaks and glaciers of Vancouver Island’s ranges that rise in the west now vie for your attention, principally the imposing Comox Glacier, Forbidden Plateau, and Mount Washington.
Take your time as you meander through this laid-back region. Its rhythms are subtle, but with gentle probing they reveal themselves, showing greater complexity than first meets the eye. This is a serenely rural part of the journey up island, as the highway winds past well-kept farms. Flowers abound in the gardens that front many of the homes along the way. Streams, little rivers and mightier rivers such as the Puntledge and the Campbell empty into the Strait of Georgia.
From the highway you catch glimpses of quiet green forest settings on the banks that line each river’s course. Come late summer, these streams teem with spawning salmon.
The name Comox is derived from the Kwakwala Indian word Komuckway, meaning Place of Plenty, a reference to the abundant game and berries in the Comox Valley. European settlers adapted the name to Komoux, then finally to Comox. Rich in natural beauty, with a superb climate, Comox Valley now offers a unique blend of recreational experiences, from warm sandy beaches through rich, rolling farmlands to the alpine playground of Mt. Washington and the Forbidden Plateau.
With year-round recreational activities like skiing, swimming and golfing, and all amenities close by, Comox Valley certainly lives up to its name, billing itself as the Recreational Capital of Canada! Where else could you dive in the morning, play a round of golf before lunch and ski in the afternoon – all amid such breathtaking surroundings?
The Comox Valley’s central location on Vancouver Island makes it the perfect launching point for day trips to nearby communities and attractions. Explore alpine meadows or mysterious caves, experience the picturesque charm of island life, visit the magnificent orcas in their natural habitat, or spend the day touring a historic townsite – all of these adventures and more, are just a short drive away!
The Comox Valley cradles the following friendly communities (South to North):
- Fanny Bay
- Buckley Bay
- Union Bay
- Black Creek
- Saratoga Beach
Location: The Comox Valley is a 2.5 hour (220 km/137 mile) drive north from Victoria or a 75-minute (107 km/66 mile) drive from Nanaimo, where the ferry terminals of Departure Bay and Duke Point are located. Drive Highway 19, the new inland, four-lane expressway. From Highway 19 take Exit 101, 117, 127, 130 or 144 to access various points in the Comox Valley. Visitors can also take the scenic Oceanside Route on the old Island Highway 19A.
BC Ferries operates a ferry route between Comox and Powell River on the British Columbia mainland. The Comox Valley Regional Airport is served by three major airlines, with daily flights between Vancouver and Comox and direct flights from Calgary. Small aircraft and floatplanes land at the Courtenay Airpark near downtown Courtenay. Daily coach lines connect all parts of Vancouver Island with the Mainland, and local bus service is also available in Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland. Those travelling by boat will find a full range of facilities including moorage, showers, restaurants and shops adjacent to the Comox Marina.
View maps of the area
The Comox Valley Heritage Experience is a group of self-tours that take visitors on a journey through the stunning landscape and intriguing history of the Comox Valley. Visitors can choose between four heritage walking tours and one driving tour. From booming coal mining towns, rural seaside farms and bustling harbours to early mountaineers exploring the deepest and highest reaches of Strathcona Provincial Park, the Comox Valley Heritage Experience offers a glimpse into the rich social, cultural, natural and industrial history of the Valley. Pick up your brochure at the Comox Valley and Cumberland Visitor Centres or local museums.
Mt. Washington Ski Resort: The Comox Valley comes alive in winter with world-class skiing in the Mount Washington Ski Area, located 19 miles (31 km) west of Hwy 19 at Courtenay. Mount Washington (elevation 5,216 feet/1590 m) has long been known for having good snow conditions from early in winter to well past Easter. Mountain Washington offers scenic chairlift rides during the summer. From here you’ll get breathtaking panoramic views of the Comox Glacier, Mt. Albert Edward and the Strait of Georgia. Other summer activities on the mountain include hiking, mountain biking, disc golf, bungee trampoline and mini golf.
One of the Comox Valley’s most popular parks is the Courtenay Riverway. This paved walkway follows the Courtenay River and estuary and is bordered on one side by the Courtenay Airpark. This is a prime location for viewing Canadian geese, Trumpeter swans and other marine birds.
Hiking: Hiking is one of the most popular recreational activities in the valley, with trails ranging from easy strolls to strenuous mountain climbing. Take a guided hiking tour to Comox Glacier, the most visible and accessible of the hundreds of glaciers on Vancouver Island. With more than 40 local parks and countless kilometers of hiking trails through picturesque island and alpine wilderness, the Comox Valley beckons to be explored on foot.
Mountain Biking: The Comox Valley is blessed with a plethora of multiuse and Mountain Biking trails, with a diverse network of trails ranging from easy forest roads to slick rock downhill and classic gnarly single track. Many of the trails revolve around the Puntledge River and Comox Lake in the Courtenay area. Mountain bikers who like their ascents easy, and their descents long and sweet, can’t get it any easier or sweeter than catching the Blue chairlift up Mount Washington and riding down. The mountain biking season here generally begins by July 1 and extends through August. At the end of the day you can take a long time making your descent back into the Comox Valley.
Golf: Tee off on your choice of 6 year-round golf courses and 3 seasonal courses: Comox Golf Club, Crown Isle Golf Resort, Glacier Greens Golf Course, Longlands Par 3 Golf Course, Mulligans Golf Centre, Pacific Playgrounds Golf Course, and Sunnydale Golf Club. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Marinas: Comox is home to four marinas, which hold over 500 pleasure boats and a commercial fishing fleet. The marinas are protected by a rock breakwater. The breakwater is in turn protected by Goose Spit, which extends out into Comox Harbour, providing one of the safest year-round harbours on Vancouver Island. Comox Harbour is a great launching spot for some of the best salmon fishing in the world. The Comox Marina offers a boat launch located right next to Marina Park, with plenty of parking, washroom facilities and a play area for children. Summer westerly winds and the predominantly sheltered waters of the Strait of Georgia provide ideal conditions for boating and sailing. Local businesses offer a range of charter and tours services to fulfill your vacation dreams!
Farmers’ Market: From May through October, visit the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market to shop for fresh, organic and specialty products. Whether you buy fish off the boat at Fisherman’s Wharf, take a tour at Fanny Bay Oysters or Natural Pastures Cheese, buy fresh from the farm in Merville or visit the mead makers on Hornby Island – the Comox Valley will taste incredible!
Festivals: In the spring and summer months, every weekend offers a festival – more than 50 annual festivals and events take place in the Comox Valley year-round. Some of these events celebrate the bounty and beauty of the Valley’s farms, rivers and ocean. Others showcase the diversity and abundance of arts and culture in the area.
Trumpeter Swans: Attend February’s weeklong Trumpeter Swan Festival and discover why 2000 Trumpeter Swans spend their winter in the Comox Valley! Over the past decade, as population numbers of trumpeter swans have continued to rebound remarkably from a dismal low of several hundred in the 1960s to well over 10,000 today, many Comox Valley farmers put out winter feed for the swans. More than a thousand of them remain to winter here and form the largest colony on the west coast of North America. Trumpeter swan viewing sites abound in the valley, including along the well-marked scenic route on Comox Road between Courtenay and Comox. Shoreline sites include Point Holmes and Cape Lazo as well as Kin Beach, Singing Sands, and Seal Bay Parks.
Art & Art Tours: Many artists’ studios and galleries are open 12 months a year. Special Art Tours can be enjoyed on specific weekends during the year. The Denman Island Pottery Tour in May, and the Comox Valley Community Arts Council Studio Tour in June, are events where artists and artisans open their studios to the public to discuss the creative process, give demonstrations and exhibit their work.
Wineries: The Comox Valley offers an ideal environment for wine production and other specialty agri-business. A wide, gentle sloping coastal plain is crisscrossed with a web of rivers and protected in the west by a ridge of mountains capped by the majestic Comox Glacier. The Comox Valley enjoys mild coastal winters with little or no snow, a long growing season and more sunshine than other British Columbia growing area. Many new vineyards and wineries are currently producing fabulous Comox Valley bottled wines.
Beaches: The beaches of the Comox Valley are amongst the best and most popular on Vancouver Island. The tide at Saratoga Beach and Miracle Beach goes out for over a quarter of a mile, creating a hard-packed oceanfront playground. The gently sloping beach continues far into the Strait of Georgia, creating warm, shallow and safe swimming conditions. The quiet little seaside town of Comox is surrounded by miles of sandy beach, including the beaches at Goose Spit Regional Park and Kin Beach Park. Low tides are great for exploring tidal pools for marine life.
Water Sports: For those wanting a little more action on the water, the Comox Valley is a great place for a variety of water sports including wakeboarding, kitesurfing, waterskiing, windsurfing and snorkeling. Rentals and lessons are available locally for this kaleidoscope of water fun!
Just south of Courtenay in Royston, across the bay from Comox Harbour lies the rusting remains of 15 historic ships. To protect floating log booms for the Comox Logging and Railway Company, a breakwater was built from the sunken hulks of old Canadian warships and freighters – the hulks can still be seen in the harbour. Even though most of the ships have broken up and some have disappeared into the mud, they still represent a fascinating cross-section of West Coast maritime history.
South of the Comox Valley are the Oceanside communities of Parksville and Qualicum Beach, where visitors can go spelunking in the Horne Lake Caves, stroll the beautiful beaches, walk through the ancient forest of Cathedral Grove, or visit Englishman River and Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Parks.
Day Trips: The Comox Valley’s central location on Vancouver Island makes it an ideal launching point for day trips to nearby communities and attractions. It is only a short drive up Highway 19 to Campbell River. From Campbell River it is easy to catch a ferry to the Discovery Islands of Quadra Island and Cortes Island.
Circle Tours: See the best of BC when you embark upon one of the many circle tours that take in Vancouver Island, the Discovery Coast, and the Sunshine Coast. The coastal tours involve exciting road and ferry trips on BC Ferries, and scenic highways flank the coast, taking you through charming beachside communities, rolling farmlands and majestic mountain ranges. Check out the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour, and other Circle Tours in British Columbia.