Vancouver
Island Part I

Explore Craft Beer from Farm to Sea in the Cowichan Valley and Nanaimo

From the Cowichan Valley’s warm climate and agricultural heritage to Nanaimo’s urban, maritime vibe, and community craft breweries abound -- there is something for everyone here on the BC Ale Trail.

After leaving Victoria and heading north up the Island Highway, the spectacular vistas of the Malahat Summit give way to the rural agricultural splendour of the Cowichan Valley, which takes its name from “Quw’utsun’,” an aboriginal word that means “the warm land.” And it is warm indeed: the region’s maritime Mediterranean climate boasts the warmest year-round temperature anywhere in Canada.

Sounds like a great place to drink craft beer, right? Well, the Cowichan has that covered, too. Duncan is home to three breweries of its own: Red Arrow Brewing, Small Block Brewing and the Craig Street Brewpub in Duncan.

Continuing north, the next stop is beautiful Chemainus, famous for its transformation from a lumber industry mill town to a tourist destination. Check out the town’s murals downtown and then swing by Riot Brewing for a taste in the tap room or on the sun-drenched patio.

The port city of Nanaimo is home to four breweries, including the handsome Longwood Brewpub and its separate production facility, Longwood Brewing, as well as Wolf Brewing and White Sails Brewing. Enjoy the urban vibe at some of the city’s many restaurants and shops and then work off all the tasty treats you sampled by snorkelling with seals or hopping on a mountain bike, stand-up paddleboard, or kayak.

Continue your island ale-venture with the Vancouver Island Ale Trail — Part II. There is so much to discover on Vancouver Island!

 

Know Before You Go 

Before visiting, we recommend that you check directly with the businesses you are hoping to visit to get the latest on-the-ground information. Some businesses are seasonal, and some may have experienced closures due to COVID-19.

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Day 1

Travel Info

Drive from Victoria

restaurant
Villa Eyrie Resort
600 Ebedora Ln, Malahat, BC

Perched 1880 feet above sea level atop the Malahat Summit, Villa Eyrie Resort is a mountain side retreat with a restaurant, spa, hiking trails and more.

activity
Kinsol Trestle
Glen Eagles Rd, Shawnigan Lake, BC

A wooden railway trestle located north of Shawnigan Lake with spectacular views of the Koksilah River. One of the tallest free-standing timber rail trestle structures in the world.

brewery
5255 Chaster Rd, Duncan, BC

Make a pit stop at this Duncan brewery located in a converted custom motorcycle shop.

brewery
203 - 5301 Chaster Road, Duncan, BC

Duncan’s newest brewery celebrates classic car culture alongside “precision made” craft beer.

liquor-store
6- 5777 Trans Canada Hwy, Duncan, BC

Locally owned and managed, focusing on quality craft producers.

brewery
25 Craig St, Duncan, BC

With a menu that has something for everyone, tuck in for a meal and a sampler flight at Duncan’s downtown brewpub.

liquor-store
3287 Cowichan Lake Road , Duncan, BC

Locally owned and managed, focusing on quality craft producers.

brewery
3055 Oak St, Chemainus, BC

Celebrate the riot that is life at this beautiful, custom-built Chemainus brewery.

tap-house
3055 Oak St #201B, Chemainus, BC

Located in Chemainus Village Square, serving Pacific Northwest craft beers, wood-fired brick oven pizza, with an in-house smoker. Good food for good people!

liquor-store
1010 - 1 Avenue, Ladysmith, BC

Locally owned and managed, focusing on quality craft producers.

Explore More

Along with excellent breweries the Cowichan Valley is also home to a number of craft distilleries and Canada’s first estate cidery.  Just north of Duncan is Canada’s only tea farm. How do you experience all of this during a single trip to the Cowichan Valley? Well, if you download this map (and pace yourself), you can visit the lion’s share of these operations in a self-guided tour or, if you prefer, via coach in a guided tour. In all, and depending on the time of your visit, you’ll be able to drop in and experience no less than 20 establishments, many of which offer tours and have their own bistros, gift shops and tasting rooms.

Don’t miss out on local events during your visit! Check the Cowichan Valley events calendar to see what’s happening.

Day 2

Travel Info

Drive to Nanaimo

activity
WildPlay Element Parks
35 Nanaimo River Rd, Nanaimo, BC

Aerial adventures, bungee jumps and zip lines right in the midst of nature. For adults, teens, kids and groups.

pub
Crow & Gate English Pub
2313 Yellow Point Rd, Nanaimo, BC

Charming country-style pub in a quiet spacious setting serving pints and classic pub fare. The first neighbourhood pub in British Columbia.

brewery
940 Old Victoria Rd, Nanaimo, BC

Swing by the brewery in the south end of Nanaimo to visit Wolf’s “beer room.”

poi
Sugarloaf Mountain
3160 Marion Way, Nanaimo, BC

A natural viewpoint overlooking picturesque Departure Bay. A perfect spot to watch sunrises.

brewery
2046 Boxwood Rd, Nanaimo, BC

Longwood’s production brewery has its own tasting room with unique beers on tap.

brewery
5775 Turner Road, Nanaimo, BC

The Longwood Brewpub has anchored the Longwood Station plaza in the north end of Nanaimo since 1999. It has a family-friendly restaurant upstairs and a pub downstairs, with four English-style draught engines serving cellar-conditioned beer to go along with excellent food from the kitchen.

liquor-store
6940 D Island Highway North, Nanaimo, BC

Locally owned and managed, focused on local craft producers

liquor-store
7197 Lantzville Road, Lantzville, BC

Locally owned and managed, focused on local craft producers

liquor-store
#2-2451 Collins Crescent, Nanoose Bay, BC

We are a full-service group of Vancouver Island-based liquor stores.
We are dedicated to delivering outstanding service, a surprising product range with a focus on local, organic and hard-to-find products from the Pacific Northwest and around the world, all at everyday best value pricing.

Day 3

Travel Info

Pair your craft brew sampling with adventure in our outdoor playground! Hike, bike, swim and paddle – Nanaimo is the place to experience your next thrill or moment of reconnection. Rent a paddleboard or kayak from Brechin Boat Ramp and explore the harbour. Take a swim at any of our fine beaches including Blueback and Swy-A-Lana Lagoon, or head to the Nanaimo river for a cool dip. Or take a moment to find yourself in our woods – with biking and hiking trails across the city that take you as far or as close as you’d like to be.

cafe
The Buzz Cafe
1861 Dufferin Cres., Nanaimo, BC

A place where people feel welcome, where community is built, where customer service is key, and where you can find the best darn coffee.

liquor-store
514 Haliburton Street, Nanaimo, BC

Locally owned and managed, focused on local craft producers with over 00 beers to select from!

activity
Snorkelling with Seals with Sundown Diving
22 Esplanade, Nanaimo, BC

For Divers and non divers, there is no other experience like snorkeling with the seals. A 15 minute boat ride takes you out to the beautiful Snake Island where seals can be found resting on the shore or playing in the surrounding waters.

brewery
125 Comox Rd, Nanaimo, BC

A contemporary brewery based in a historic location.

activity
Neck Point Park
1055 Morningside Dr, Nanaimo, BC

36 acres of a waterfront where you’ll find rugged rock cliffs, with pebble bay beaches, and winding trails through Garry Oak groves.

restaurant
Dinghy Dock Pub
8 Pirates Lane, Nanaimo, BC

Take a short ferry to Canada’s only registered floating pub, the Dinghy Dock. Watch the float planes land and watch the sun set behind Mt. Benson at this nautical themed, family friendly pub/restaurant.

liquor-store
2875 Departure Bay Road , Nanaimo, BC

Locally owned and managed, focusing on quality craft producers.

Explore More

Check out Nanaimo’s newest brewery, Cliffside Brewing, right next door to White Sails. If you would like to pair your craft sampling with some of the local food, book a Taste of Nanaimo Tour with Vancouver Island Expeditions. Some of the tours include a visit to the Cedar Valley Hop Yards, St. Jean’s Cannery and even a local distillery. Work up a thirst hiking to Ammonite Falls or up Mount Benson for beautiful views.

Also, while in Nanaimo you simply can’t leave until you sample a Nanaimo Bar (or two). Pick up or download a copy of the Nanaimo Bar Trail and sample a few variations of Nanaimo’s beloved dessert.

restaurant
Villa Eyrie Resort
600 Ebedora Ln, Malahat, BC
activity
Kinsol Trestle
Glen Eagles Rd, Shawnigan Lake, BC
brewery
brewery
203 - 5301 Chaster Road, Duncan, BC
liquor-store
6- 5777 Trans Canada Hwy, Duncan, BC
brewery
liquor-store
brewery
3055 Oak St, Chemainus, BC
tap-house
liquor-store
activity
WildPlay Element Parks
35 Nanaimo River Rd, Nanaimo, BC
pub
Crow & Gate English Pub
2313 Yellow Point Rd, Nanaimo, BC
brewery
940 Old Victoria Rd, Nanaimo, BC
poi
Sugarloaf Mountain
3160 Marion Way, Nanaimo, BC
brewery
brewery
liquor-store
6940 D Island Highway North, Nanaimo, BC
liquor-store
liquor-store
#2-2451 Collins Crescent, Nanoose Bay, BC
cafe
The Buzz Cafe
1861 Dufferin Cres., Nanaimo, BC
liquor-store
activity
Snorkelling with Seals with Sundown Diving
22 Esplanade, Nanaimo, BC
activity
Neck Point Park
1055 Morningside Dr, Nanaimo, BC
restaurant
Dinghy Dock Pub
8 Pirates Lane, Nanaimo, BC
liquor-store
Print

Tasting Notes: Vancouver Island

Join Sonia Motisca on a tasting tour of Vancouver Island’s beer belt.

Journeying north up the east coast of Vancouver Island, this tour starts in the rural Cowichan Valley making stops in Duncan, Chemainus, and the historic harbour town of Nanaimo, before arriving at its final destination – scenic Parksville Qualicum Beach.

Follow along this island journey of quaint communities, beaches, and of course – plenty of beers.

Produced In Collaboration With

Tourism Cowichan

The Cowichan Region takes its name from “Quw’utsun’,” an aboriginal word that means “the warm land.” The First People knew what they were talking about: Cowichan is located in Canada’s only maritime Mediterranean climatic zone and is home to the warmest year-round temperature anywhere in the country.

It’s no wonder this place is so well suited to growing things, including an incredible array of food and an unmatched quality of life. For decades, the Cowichan has been producing amazing artisanal food and drink from the region’s burgeoning farms, wineries, cideries, distilleries, fishers and artists.

Tourism Nanaimo

Located in the heart of Vancouver Island, just 1.5 hours north of Victoria and 30-minutes south of Parksville, Nanaimo is the harbour city and home to 4 craft breweries, a vibrant cultural scene and 360° degrees of adventure. Tap your toes to live music in Diana Krall plaza downtown, or come to one of many outdoor festivals and markets–including internationally recognized Bathtub Days–and Longwoodstock, an annual celebration of music and beer.

There are many options from sea to sky that attract visitors to Nanaimo. Paddle the calm waters of more than 18 lakes in and around Nanaimo, and set your nautical compass for Newcastle Island (Saysutshun), traditional land of the Snuneymuxw First Nation, where you can sample traditional fare of the Coast Salish people.

Find More Things to Explore

in Nanaimo

tourismnanaimo.com

Learn More About Nanaimo

and book your stay

tourismnanaimo.com/stay

Find Places to Stay

in the Cowichan Valley

tourismcowichan.com

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