Road Trip to Nanaimo via Cowichan Bay & Duncan, BC

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Good day,

A lot has transpired since the last update so we’ll dive right into dinner like a family that’s been waiting far too long. Suffice to say these types of trips are like an assault on your senses and if you even dare attempt at recording it all, you must be proactive. Since we last spoke I’ve been golfing, gorging at PIG and finally went on a road trip to Nanaimo via Cowichan Bay & Duncan before exploring the Nanaimo Bar Trail and hitting up Protection Island…

After the last update I made great haste to visit my friends and we did what civilized people do with a free afternoon, we went golfing. By golfing I mean we went to play pitch & putt at the cheapest and closest place we could find aka the Henderson Recreational Centre. It’s only $8 for 9 holes and the longest hole is like 85 yards or something aka it’s the PERFECT place to learn or just kill an afternoon with your friends, if you’re into that type of thing…

Afterwards I was excited to get involved with the first “listen to the locals who know” aka the Tourism British Columbia Facebook page was crowd sourced and the result was a list of suggestions on where to go for dinner. As it happens there were LOTS of suggestions and I read them to my friends who live in Vic. When the word “PIG” came up, one of the gents was like “YES” and everyone quickly headed downtown. It’s an affordable place to get a good greasy meal in a fast and informal way… That basically sums it up. They had this epic limited edition special called the “Boss Hog” and for more details, click here to watch the video…

Afterwards it was time to retire as this trip has JUST gotten underway. It was great to see old friends that you pick up with where you left off but the show MUST go on. As a result Brendan and I loaded up the Toyota and began driving to Cowichan Bay. If you ever make that road trip, stop at all the “rest stops” as they have killer views most of the time. We took some shots and before long we were in Cowichan Bay.

Cowichan Bay is a cool hippy little place where fast food chains are strictly prohibited, YES! There is a place called True Grain but I’m not big on baked goods so I did not procure anything. That said, right next to it they had a place called The Lighthouse Eatery and the lady who runs it is super sweet and she makes a mean, mean mean breakfast wrap. I could go on about such said wrap for eons but who really cares, just know it was bomb and I recommend the homemade chipotle mayonnaise. We kicked it in Cowichan Bay for awhile before heading to the Merridale Cidery…

Right when we got to the Merridale Cidery, we were greeted by these two lovely ladies who later brought our palates on a pleasure tour as we tasted the various ciders. It’s a relaxed place and they make great cider, besides that they have a peaceful little estate that you can wander around. Both myself and Brendan bought different types of cider and that’s that. From there it was time to make our way to Duncan for the next leg of road trip.

Duncan has “the largest” or “one of the largest” or whatever largest hockey stick in the world outside the arena, it’s massive. They also have a killer skatepark with a bowl that would make boys who like extreme sports around the world cry tears of angry youth joy. Suffice to say that was cool to see and then we randomly found Rick’s James St Cafe aka Grandma’s Kitchen in Duncan. Oddly enough, he was celebrating 11 years of business TODAY. He makes great homemade sandwiches, soups and all that jazz.

From there we investigated the BC Forest Discovery Centre and took their train ride. I’m just going to be real with you, it was informative and well run but unless you have small children… The whole purpose of the place was to educate the public on the history of the area and how big a role the logging industry played. It had lots of old harvesting equipment, classic photos, videos as well as miniature models that depicted the whole process. Another big attraction is the train ride which I think my future children would eat up and it lasts about 10-12 minutes.

After that brief visit it was a short but sweet ride to Nanaimo aka home of the internationally beloved “Nanaimo Bar”. I don’t like sweets, I rarely eat desserts and generally avoid anything with added sugar but know this, I love Nanaimo bars, really really love them. I could easily lose all semblance of self control and go on a Nanaimo bar eating binge for the ages but I digress…

We quickly checked into the Painted Turtle Guesthouse and met up with a gregarious lady named Jenn who heads Nanaimo Tourism to go on a tour of the Nanaimo Bar Trail. The trail took us down Commercial Drive which was named Canada’s “Greatest Street” in 2011 by a notable publication. The street is a mix of privately owned restaurants and cool shopping. We drank a Nanaimo bar martini at The Modern Cafe before heading to Pirate Chips for their notorious deep-fried Nanaimo bar… It was delicious and dangerous but if you have friends, split it… It’s so rich that Bill Gates would feel poor in its company, seriously.

From there we headed to Acme Food Co where we dined on sushi and learned about their new but already popular Nanaimo bar sushi which is becoming a classic dessert in the area. I also had my first bellini ever, I think I liked it, a lot. After that it was time to take a ferry to Protection Island and visited the Dinghy Dock Pub aka Canada’s only floating pub for some pints and appetizers…

The Dinghy Dock Pub is a short ferry from the Nanaimo Harbour and totally worth the trip for the same reason as Spinnakers in Victoria, the experience is unique. Getting to and from and having that extra beer while you wait for the ferry back is part of the entire process for many not to mention you’ll see a lot of cool private boats on the way and while you’re lounging on their patio…

I do believe that is all, time to start re-paying my sleep debt as we’re just getting going…

I’m here with the Explore BC Project, to learn more  visit the Tourism BC Facebook Page and look up #ExploreBC on Twitter.

Tips hat,

Author: Sportestery

26 thoughts on “Road Trip to Nanaimo via Cowichan Bay & Duncan, BC

  1. I am so interested in all the stuff you are seeing on your road trip. I love that the locals are helping out your team on FB to get you to the best places. That is just to darn cool! Very much appreciated the skate-park pics and detail about BC Forest. That must have been fabulous to take in. Safe travels.

    1. I also think it’s cool that some local people interested in the initiate are lending expert advise on where to check out. So far, so good! :]


  2. Rob, I’m having trouble keeping up with your busy schedule and all I have to do is read about it! 🙂 Anyway, I think my favorite aspect of this part of your trip is all the water. I love to find myself in the “company” of a large body of water. I love to have it as a view, to be on a boat on the water or just be in the water. Thanks for inspiring new locations for my travel list!

    1. I definitely lucked out and this adventure takes place predominantly along the coast. It’s been pretty hectic so far aka the way I like it. :]

      I’m excited about possibly seeing my first orca.

      1. I hope very much that you do get to see an orca. I have yet to see one myself. I’ve gone whale watching of the West coast of Mexico twice and have seem many humbacks. It was an ncredible site.


    1. Hey Phil,

      I hear what you are saying about moving fast but I am not the conductor, merely an over zealous passenger on this crazy train. We have to move this fast though to really cover our ambitious itinerary.

      Just finished a round of golf, cool video coming! #Sportestery

  4. glad you are enjoying the island Rob! Nanaimo has some interesting history. I remember learning that is has the oldest original freestanding Hudson Bay Company fort in North America. YOu probably saw it right in the harbor. Looking forward to some posts from Tofino. PS i loved going on that train in Duncan when i a was a kid.

    1. Thanks for the tip on Nanaimo, I had no clue. I am also looking forward to Tofino and can picture my 5-12 year old self also loving that train ride.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion, good sir.

  5. I’m so happy to see you included the giant hockey stick! For whatever reason it’s one of those weird things that stand out in my mind after many trips up Vancouver Island.
    Enjoy your stay,

    1. I’m glad I got a good shot and it was all Brendan’s idea. Oddly enough stopping to check it out led us to that skate park and the sandwich shop.

      Good to hear from you J.

  6. Best image of Duncan’s iconic hockey stick that I have ever seen…..brilliant to include the skate park! If you make a swing through the Cowichan area again, I would love to host you……and show you a few more sights worth seeing and activities worth doing (there’s much more than the Forest Discovery Centre)……every been to the Raptor Centre? The experience of having a massive and beautiful eagle fly within inches of your head is not to be missed.
    Call me anytime! 250-746-1099

    1. Thanks for the compliment on my shot, it came out great! That Raptor Centre sounds way more up my alley. I have a friend who has a cottage in the area, I’ll call you next time I am out that way. :]

      Thanks for the offer!

  7. loving the look of those ciders! which flavour was your fave? also, can’t believe you haven’t had a bellini until now! wow!

    1. I enjoyed most of them but the one I’d go with is the cyser cider as it’s 10% and tastes like grown-up apple juice.

  8. Looks like an amazing time already!! Your pics are ridiculous good sir. Best purchase ever!! Honestly blown away at the clarity. Makes a huge difference. Keep it up man, great work.

    1. The video is ridiculous. Sadly I nuked a stellar BC ferry experience by user error but have some great stuff, definitely a worthy purchase.

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