Chemainus is a city of over 3000 people (2011) in central Vancouver Island. It's notable for the dozens of murals that transform the compact city centre into an open-air art gallery. It also has a thriving theatre festival, and various other creative arts. It's a pleasant place to visit and stroll through.
The name Chemainus comes from the native shaman and prophet "Tsa-meeun-is" meaning broken chest. Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community, the Stz'uminus First Nation, formerly the Chemainus Indian Band.
The railway arrived in the 1880s and by the early 1920s the town's population had ballooned to 600 people. Chemainus was eventually designated a census populated area by Statistics Canada comprising the more built-up residential and commercial neighbourhoods. Its population had further grown to 3,035 residents by 2011.
The easiest way to get to Chemainus is to drive. Chemainus is located 80 km north of Victoria and 35 km south of Nanaimo along Highway 1. It is located just off the highway, and the turnoff is well marked.
- BC Transit, ☏ . Route 34 runs from Ladysmith to Chemainus M-F four times a day.
- Vancouver Island Connector, toll-free: . 5 buses a day from Victoria (1 hr 25 min). $94.
The nearest planes land is now in Maple Bay harbour where Salt Spring Air flies to three times a day from Vancouver harbour and airport, and from the Gulf Islands. The land airport is in Nanaimo, BC with direct service to Vancouver and several other points in the region. It is also possible to charter a seaplane to fly into Chemainus harbour.
- Go Taxi, ☏ .
- Chemainus is most commonly known for its murals (gargantuan paintings on the sides of the buildings). Times for the horse-drawn-buggy-tours or walking tours can be found either on Willow Street from the guides or within the Information Office in Water Wheel Park. Though the town is small enough to explore by foot in a single day and visit the murals by yourself, you won't get the history behind them without a tour guide.
- Chemainus Theatre, where you can enjoy many famous and original plays preformed by experienced and up-coming actors alike. The shows can be hit or miss depending on the current talent and script selection though, so always ask the locals if the current viewings are worth it. Most tour guides and information clerks feel more or less obligated to give a positive review however, so check in with the younger service workers for an honest opinion. Regardless of the performances, the show-and-dine combination is always an interesting experience.
- If you visit near the beginning or end of summer you may be able to witness one of the market days where nearly the entire town is lined with tents and stalls selling pretty much anything from quality home-made crafts to imported decorative swords and knives. It really is an interesting experience though, so plan for it if you manage to find out the dates it occurs on.
- Willow Street Antique Mall, 9756 Willow St, ☏ . 25 dealers.
- Silver Mine on Chemainus, 9650 Chemainus Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Jewellery gallery with a stunning collection of silver jewellery, green amber, moonstones, opals and turquoise from around the world and a collection of wearable copper art by local First Nation carvers.
- Highway Antique Emporium, 3088 Henry Rd, ☏ .
- Pho Triple 7 Restaurant, 9779 Willow Street, ☏ . Tu-Sa 11AM - 8PM; Su- M 11AM - 3PM. Naturally flavored, healthy Vietnamese cuisine. Traditional bowls of soup (of which Pho is the most popular choice) with many different topping such as steak, meatball, brisket.
- Willow Street Cafe, 9749 Willow St, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 8AM – 5PM. Wraps, sandwiches, quesadillas, homemade soup, pizzas. Lunch $14.
- Odika Cafe, 2976 Mill Street, ☏ . Tu-Th 4PM-8:30PM, F Sa 4PM-9:30PM. Global recipes inspired by local ingredients. Eclectic menu features dishes from Africa to Asia and New York to Sicily. Mains $25-32, burgers $13-17.
- Owl's Nest Bakery and Bistro, 9752 Willow Street, ☏ . Daily 9:30AM-4PM. Breakfast $10-14, lunch $7.50-16.
- Sawmill TapHouse and Grill, 3055 Oak St #201b, ☏ . M-F 11AM–10PM; Sa Su 9AM–10PM. Pacific Northwest craft beers, forno oven pizzas, farm-to-table tapas and appetizers.
- Eagle Rock Bed and Breakfast, 10150 Island View Close, toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Seaside home with ocean view, on a beach near a creek and a forest with wildlife. $135.
- Fuller Lake Motel, 9300 Smiley Rd, ☏ , toll-free: . On 2.5 acres of wooded and landscaped grounds overlooking the BC coastal mountain range. All units include fridge, microwave and coffee maker, wireless internet, cable TV. Guest laundry available. Some pet friendly rooms. Some smoking rooms. From $95.
- [dead link] Best Western Plus Chemainus Inn, 9573 Chemainus Rd, ☏ , toll-free: . From $140.
- Little Inn on Willow, 9847 Willow, ☏ . No-frills guestrooms with fireplaces. Refrigerator, coffee/tea maker, minibar. From $130.
|Routes through Chemainus|
|Nanaimo ← Ladysmith ←||N S||→ Duncan → Victoria|