Posted by: cherylyoung | March 16, 2012

You would never dream of going to Chemainus without staying at the Best Western Plus Chemainus


“The Little Town That Did” earned its nickname after

Chemainus residents decided to expand their forest

industry past into a vibrant tourism-driven future.

Through the dreams, imagination and energy of the

community, the little town of Chemainus found a new life

by putting on a new face.

The town transformed itself – capturing and expressing

its history, its people and its future.

Artists from around the globe were invited to paint huge

heritage murals on the sides of buildings, transforming

a small coastal mill town into the world’s largest outdoor

art gallery.

Population: 4,000

Location: Chemainus is located south of Nanaimo and

one hour north of Victoria on the Trans-Canada Highway.

Cassidy Airport is 20 minutes to the north and the town

is also serviced by coach lines between Victoria and


A more spectacular route to travel is via the Esquimault

and Nanaimo railway, which passes through some of the

most beautiful scenery in Canada and provides panoramic

views of the Gulf Islands.

  • in 1982, the first five murals were created

  • – today there are 41 murals and 13 sculptures,

  • attracting over  400,000 annual visitors to Chemainus.

Chemainus Theatre, the Playbill Dining Room and The

Gallery gift shop are all under one roof!

The Chemainus Theatre, a professional regional theatre

company, features classics, musicals, comedies, and

contemporary favourites.

In summer 2002 Chemainus claimed ‘independence’ as

the Commonwealth of Chemainus, with a Festival of

Independence held to celebrate the marketing occasion.

The flag colours are green, blue and brown – symbolizing

the forest, sea and farmland – and the official animal

on the flag is the unicorn.

Residents and visitors can become citizens of the

new state, with passports available by donation from

the Visitor Information Centre and many of the shops

in downtown Chemainus.

A small car and passenger ferry runs from downtown

Chemainus to nearby Thetis Island and Kuper Island,

home of the Penelakut First Nation.

One cannot truly experience Chemainus without

sampling one of their legendary ice cream cones.

Around each corner is a dealer in antiques and


Gift shops and art galleries abound, offering some

of the Island’s best pottery and native and local


Fish or swim in Fuller Lake Park…just three minutes

from downtown Chemainus.Visitors can find a quiet

spot in beautiful Waterwheel Park, located across

from the Visitor Info Centre.

The Weyerhauser Mill is another unique attraction.

This new high-tech mill is smaller but more efficient

than its predecessor.

It makes wood to order, and is able to extract the

highest grade  of lumber from every piece.

You can watch the entire process at work.

If you’re looking for a relaxing day on the beach, visit

Clark Beach or Kin Beach.

The Chemainus Valley Museum provides “safe harbour”

for the artifacts and archives of Chemainus history.

The museum is operated by volunteers through the

Chemainus Valley Historical Society, and is open


On the last weekend in June, take part in the annual

”Festival of Murals”, the celebration continues through

the summer with outdoor theatre, puppetry, clowning,

food booths, street music, folk dancing, arts and crafts

demonstrations, and an annual giant swap meet.

A great way to see the murals is to board a trolley

for a heritage tour through Chemainus, via horse-drawn

carriage  or follow the footprints for a self-guided tour to

view the  world’s largest outdoor gallery.

Golf: Mount Brenton Golf Club on Henry Road in

Chemainus is a challenging par-71 golf course, with

tree-lined fairways and spectacular greens.

Open year round. Golf Vacations on Vancouver Island.

For the passionate diver there are limitless opportunities

for exploration around Vancouver Island. Explore Xihwu

Reef the worlds only Boeing 737 artificial reef, just

off Kin Beach.

Just to the north of Duncan, approximately 15 Km south

of Chemainus on the Island Highway, is the home of the

B.C. Forestry Museum.

This is an extensive display covering several acres of

wooded land and boasts its own working logging road.

The main power for this operation is a refurbished Shay

locomotive. Besides locomotives, there are many other

pieces of early forestry equipment, including a Ruston

steam road roller in full working order and looking “like

the day it  left the factory” in England.

Adjacent to the B.C. Forestry Museum on the Island

Highway, is the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Refuge.

Somenos Lake is part of the Pacific Coast flyway,

where thousands of birds cut in from Cowichan

through Somenos Marsh, up the Cowichan Valley, and

over to the west side of Vancouver Island.

Over 200 species of birds have been identified on the

Marsh which has a boardwalk and nature viewing


The Great Blue Heron Festival began at Somenos

Marsh in 2001, and over 300 members are currently

committed to keeping this wondrous resource as

pristine  as possible for future generations.

More Photographs of Chemainus

Wall Murals- painting the history of our region

Mural painting is not a new concept- it goes back in

history for centuries and are prevalent in countries

around the world.

Even in North America, the concept was not new

(see Los Angeles), but as an economic development

strategy- that’s what makes this small town’s mural

project unique, and the standard by which many

communities followed suit.


Like many resource based communities, and

communities that are reliant on a single major

employer, its future would always be dependent on

the fluctuating successes of both employer and

environmental resources.

British Columbia was in a recession in 1981 as

resource revenues fell and affected communities

large and small.

Chemainus represented the typical mill town whose

very existence was a result of the mill itself.

With an impending threat of possible closure of the

town’s major employer, Chemainus was faced with

that very real possiblity of becoming the next

ghost town.

The fact that the town was off the main highway

made it more vulnerable.

Under then BC government of Bill Van der Zalm,

community initiative grants were being developed

to aid towns in revitalization projects.

  Our then Mayor, Graham Bruce, was young,

enthusiastic and forward-thinking.

He presented the concept to the community and

they in turn rallied to oversee what was to be t

he first community to complete a revitalisation,

and also to  become a world-famous example of how

even a small  town can create substantial change

for survival.

More of this story to come . . .

See a tour of the Murals here

The mural-making process- from artist and

administrator points of view

Mural Programmes as part of a tourism strategy for towns


When I originally started this blog it was going to be a

about 50 days one day at a time about the beauty

that is B.C.

Well I  wasn’t half way into it and I have decided to

make it a year day by day.

Each day I fall further in love with the wonders of

this province and I hope that you will bookmark the

site and come along on the journey with me.

Perhaps by the end we can share our thoughts




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