Nestled along the shoreline of the Salish Sea, Chemainus is a friendly community that welcomes visitors with cozy accommodations, a wide and varied array of restaurants, and lots to do.
Like many towns along Vancouver Island’s coastal region Chemainus has its roots in mining, forestry and fishing. When the region’s natural resources failed to provide a viable living for the population a new vision was formed. That vision was to use giant outdoor wall murals depicting local history in a revitalization strategy. Chemainus is now world famous for its murals and as a tourist destination.
It is best to explore the charming downtown by foot. The first stop should be at the Visitor Centre located across from Waterwheel Park on Willow Street (250-246-3944) During the summer it is open 7 days a week 9am -5pm. Throughout Chemainus follow the painted footsteps to tour the murals. There are 42 historical murals and 2 Emily Carr Murals: #1 Beloved Trees- Trompe L’ oeil (which is on the side of the Theatre) and # 2 which is the First Nations Longhouse incorporating two paintings by Emily Carr (by the museum). The 42nd historical mural is located on the side of the Silver Mine building on Chemainus Road. Guided walking tours are available during the summer months where you can walk in the foot steps of Chemainus history as actors dressed in period costumes bring the stories of the murals to life. For a different experience hop aboard one of the horse drawn trolley or carriage tours and let the mural story unfold from the comfort of your seat. Don’t miss one of the 10 sculptures that are scattered throughout the town.
The Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society hosts various performances at the Waterwheel Band Shell throughout the year, including Tuesday evening “Music in the Park” during the summer. This popular landmark park is the heart of the community. Here you’ll find a playground for children, and benches to relax while enjoying an ice cream cone.
Also in the park is Chemainus Museum, showcasing the area’s heritage. A statue of HR MacMillan, a lumber baron, overlooking the bay makes a great photo opportunity as well as being the perfect spot to view the waterfront. A large part of the downtown waterfront is Western Forest Products Sawmill Division. Although they do not operate tours of the facility it is enjoyable to watch from this viewpoint as the lumber is brought in and taken away.
Building on the huge success of the murals Chemainus has taken it a step further with the Chemainus Theatre Festival showcasing world class theatre performances. A dining room and ever changing art gallery add to the enjoyment.
Chemainus is much more than world class murals and top rated theatre, it also has mountain vistas and ocean playgrounds. Whether hiking, exploring, or wildlife viewing, you will find it here. A ferry runs from this area to Thetis Island several times a day which makes a great day trip.
For the diving enthusiast, off the shores of Chemainus lies the world’s only deliberately sunken Boeing 737-200, and since its final flight this aircraft has been transformed into a wonderful artificial reef, including a First Nations sculpture of a sea urchin. Visit Kin Beach with a playground and the view that is a must see. At low tide you can walk to the lighthouse on Bird Rock .
Just south of downtown on Highway #1, Fuller Lake is a hidden jewel with its sandy beach and fresh water fun. Tennis courts are available and in the winter there is skating at Fuller Lake Arena. Chemainus Lake Park, located north of town off the Highway #1, is a great place for fishing off the dock, or hiking the trail that encircles the lake. Askew Creek Wilderness Trail with its 8km of trail systems is a place for the whole family to enjoy. Once you’ve visited Chemainus, you will want to return again and again.