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Courtenay

Encircled by some of the most beautiful farming landscapes on Vancouver Island, Courtenay is the urban centre of the Comox Valley. One of Canada's fastest growing urban communities, with a population of about 22,000, Courtenay is just 7km northeast of Cumberland and 4km west of Comox.

Both the Courtenay River and the Puntledge River run through the city before emptying into Comox Harbour, where they create a rich tidal estuary. The Courtenay River Estuary is an important wintering site for the protected Trumpeter Swan. 

Arts and Culture

Along with excellent shopping, golfing, accommodation and restaurants, Courtenay is home to a new public contemporary art gallery and the Sid Williams Civic Theatre, the north-central Island's major performance centre. 

You can also enjoy the Courtenay Museum, which is located in Canada's largest freespan log building. The museum houses the 80-million-year-old fossil of an elasmosaur— the largest marine reptile fossil discovered in BC. After dinosaur fossils were uneartherd in the nearby Trent and Puntledge River area, Courtenay was named the first step on the Great Canadian Fossil. You can take a trip to the seabed at the nearby dig site, where you can dig for fossils. 

In February, the Comox valley hosts the weeklong Trumpeter Swan Festival. About 2000 Trumpeter Swans spend their winter in the valley! There are plenty of viewing sites along the well-marked scenic route on Comox Road between Courtenay and Comox, a route suited for both driving and cycling. Point Holmes and Cape Lazo, plus Kin Beach, Singing Sands and Seal Bay Parks are good shoreline viewing sites.

Outdoor Adventure

Courtenay has four greenways— Puntledge Greenway, Valley View Greenway, Morrison Greenway and Courtenay Riverway. They offer quiet places to sit—some near rivers, some great for eagle viewing. You can also explore the area around Courtenay if you enjoy mountain biking, kayaking, fishing and skiing… 

You can kayak in the calm, sheltered waters of the Courtenay Estuary or laze on miles of sandy beaches near neighbouring Comox (4km away). Goose Spit Regional Park, which noses out into Comox Harbour, offers long, sandy beaches and one of the best windsurfing locations on the central coast. 

A network of nine moderate-to-difficult mountain biking trails near Courtenay, known as the Comox Lake-Puntledge River Trails, start at the dam on Comox Lake. Once you’ve worn yourself out here, you can drive up to Mount Washington (31km west of Highway 19) and catch a chairlift up to the peak and enjoy the downhill ride (the season is mainly in July and August). If a leisurely bike ride is all you need, Seal Bay Nature Park north of Comox has a quiet network of multi-use trails.

In addition to the multi-use trails, Seal Bay Nature Park (on Bates Road north of Courtenay) is a BC Wildlife Watch viewing site. California and Steller sea lions, seals, and migratory birds enjoy the sunny coastline, especially in the spring when the sea lions arrive behind the annual herring and eulachon migration. 

Getting to Courtenay

  • By Vehicle: The four-lane Island Highway (Highway 19) gets you north quickly. The Comox Valley is a two-and-a-half hour drive north from Victoria, or a 75-minute drive from the ferry terminals of Departure Bay and Duke Point near Nanaimo. 
  • By Boat: Comox is home to four marinas, which hold over 500 pleasure boats and a commercial fishing fleet. The marinas are located in a safe year-round harbour that is protected by a rock breakwater that is further protected by Goose Spit. A full range of facilities including moorage, showers, restaurants and shops are adjacent to the harbour. 
  • By Air: The Comox Valley Regional Airport fields daily flights between Vancouver and Comox and direct flights from Calgary. Small aircraft and floatplanes land at the Courtenay Airpark near downtown Courtenay. 
  • By Bus: Daily coach lines connect Vancouver Island with the Mainland and local bus service is also available in Comox. 
  • By Train: Courtenay is the northern terminus for the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railroad, a scenic track that still carries passengers up island from Victoria. 
Some of the best saltwater fishing on Vancouver Island can be found North of the Puntledge River Estuary between Courtenay and Comox and off of Cape Lazo, King Coho, and Bates Beach, just north of Comox. Because of its sheltered location and the absence of dangerous currents, the shoreline around Comox is well suited for rod fishing in a small boat. However, the weather can change quickly! From August to November, shore angling is popular in Comox Bay.

In winter, Courtenay is the perfect base for skiing at Mount Washington, located 31 km west of Hwy 19. Mount Washington neighbours Strathcona Provincial Park, a rugged mountain area of over 250,000 hectares in central Vancouver Island. Established in 1911, Strathcona is the oldest provincial park in BC and the largest on Vancouver Island. Hiking trails include the Della Falls trail to the highest waterfall in Canada as well as dozens of trails to many pretty alpine lakes in the Forbidden Plateau area.

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British Columbia, Canada

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