Comox is a town of about 15,000 people (2016) on the east coast of Vancouver Island, approximately 115 km (71 mi) north of Nanaimo. Together with the City of Courtenay and the Village of Cumberland, Comox lies in an area known as the Comox Valley between the Beaufort Range and Comox Glacier in the west, and the Strait of Georgia in the east.
Comox has become a popular tourist area because of its good fishing, local wildlife, year-round golf and proximity to the Mount Washington ski area, the Forbidden Plateau, and Strathcona Provincial Park.
The town is also home to a Royal Canadian Air Force base CFB Comox, an airport for military and commercial airline use and the HMCS Quadra Sea Cadet training facility. The mild climate has attracted many retirees to the area in the 21st century, resulting in a high rate of growth and a sharp increase in the median age of residents.
The warm dry summers, mild winters, fertile soil and abundant sea life attracted First Nations (Aboriginal) people thousands of years ago,. They called the area kw’umuxws (Kwak'wala, the adopted language of the K'omoks, for "plentiful").
At the time of first contact with Europeans, the Pentlatch Nation, who spoke the Island Comox dialect of the Comox Coast Salish language, occupied the shores of present-day Comox Bay. (The last speaker of the Island Comox dialect died in 1995.)
At the fishing village located at present-day Comox, the Pentlatch set out elaborate fishing weirs—nets on tidal flats tied to wooden stakes that would be covered at high tide but uncovered at low tide, allowing trapped fish to be removed. These wooden stakes can still be seen at low tide up to 200,000 wooden stakes remain in the mud flats.
In 1792, Captain George Vancouver arrived, tasked by the British government with charting the northwest coast of North America. Vancouver, in concert with a Spanish expedition, entered the Courtenay River estuary between the present-day locations of Courtenay and Comox and charted the shoreline of Comox.
By the 19th century, the K'ómoks had been driven out of their lands by a particularly fierce group of Kwakwaka'wakw, the Lekwiltok, who raided other villages to capture slaves. The K'ómoks migrated south to present-day Comox, where they allied with the resident Pentlatch against their common enemy.
When the area was opened for settlement by Europeans in the mid-19th century, it quickly attracted farmers, a lumber industry and a fishing industry. In 1862, a smallpox epidemic swept across Vancouver Island, killing an estimated 30% of First Nations people. A census of First Nations in the Comox Valley taken in 1876 revealed that the local First Nations population had dwindled to only 88 K'ómoks and 21 Pentlatch.
By 1876, the K'ómoks and Pentledge had been moved onto two reserves: Comox Indian Reserve No. 1 adjacent to the village of Comox, and Pentledge Indian Reserve No. 2 at the confluence of the Puntledge and Tsolum rivers adjacent to the village of Courtenay.
The village remained isolated from the outside world other than by ship until roads and a railway were built into the area during the First World War. The installation of an air force base near the village during the Second World War brought new prosperity to the area.
In 1910, the Comox Logging and Railway Company was incorporated, and started moving steam-powered equipment to the area to exploit the stands of old growth Douglas fir lying between Comox and Campbell River. With sole access to these forests, the company quickly became the largest logging concern on Coastal British Columbia. Also in 1910, the road from Nanaimo was finally built, linking the Comox Valley to southern Vancouver Island.
In 1942, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) sought to set up a base on Vancouver Island from which air patrols could guard against Japanese incursions. Due to its many days of good flying conditions year round, Comox was chosen as the site, and RAF Station Comox was quickly built. The following year, the Royal Canadian Air Force took over operations, and in addition to patrols over the Pacific, also used the base to train transport aircraft crews flying the Douglas Dakota.
Following the end of World War II, the base was mothballed, and Comox returned to its former state as a small fishing village, with a population of less than 1,000. However, in 1952, due to Cold War tensions, the base was re-activated and has been in continuous operation since then as CFB Comox (YQQ). A civilian terminal was added to the airfield in 1956.
In 1979, the first ski runs on Mount Washington Alpine Resort were built, bringing in new tourists. However, in 1982, the local economy suffered when 409 Squadron was transferred to CFB Cold Lake in Alberta, resulting in sizeable transfer of personnel and their families, and a resultant loss of service industry jobs.
In 1991, the local economy was given a boost when 414 Squadron was assigned to CFB Comox. Retirees from other walks of life also began to move to Comox.
By the turn of the 21st century, although Comox Valley contained half of the agricultural land on Vancouver Island, jobs were moving away from other resource-based industries such as fishing and logging. The largest employers were now CFB 19 Wing Comox, the local school board, Mount Washington Alpine Resort and St. Joseph Hospital.
Comox enjoys temperate weather year-round: summer temperatures average 22 °C (72 °F) and rarely reach 30 °C (86 °F), while winter temperatures rarely fall below freezing. Although annual precipitation averages 1,179 mm (46.4 in), almost 80% of this falls between October and March, mainly as rain rather than snow. The result is dry, sunny summers, and mild, wet winters.
Ferry service to Vancouver Island (arriving in Nanaimo, 115 km south of Comox via highway #19) departs from Horseshoe Bay and Tswassen in the Vancouver area of the British Columbia mainland. Another route is to take the ferry service via the Sunshine Coast from Horseshoe Bay, and travel on highway #101 to Powell River, and from there board the ferry to Comox.
- 1 Comox Valley Regional Airport (YQQ IATA). Accommodates flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and regional destinations in British Columbia.
- Pacific Coastal, ☏ . offers a convenient service to and from Vancouver.
- Central Mountain Air, ☏ . offers a convenient service to and from Vancouver.
- WestJet Airlines, ☏ , toll-free: . operates non-stop flights from Comox to Calgary and Edmonton, with connections to other WestJet serviced airports out of Calgary.
The Comox Marina has all necessary services nearby, including transient moorage, hot showers, laundry facilities, pubs, restaurants, shopping, marine repair, supplies and service.
- Tofino Bus. From Victoria (youth hostel or bus depot) 5 hr 7 min, includes 53 min transfer at Courtenay. 2-3 times daily from Victoria to Courtenay, hourly from there to Comox.
- BC Transit. Between Courtenay and Comox, Route 3 runs about every hour M-F 7AM-7PM and Sa 8AM-7PM; and Route 4 runs at least every hour M-F 6:30AM-10PM and Sa 8:30AM-10PM. Adults $2, seniors and students (5-18) $1.75.
- Filberg Festival, 61 Filberg Rd, ☏ . An annual summer event on the grounds of the Filberg Lodge and Park in Comox, it features juried arts and crafts displays, music and children's entertainment.
- Island Music Fest, At the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds on Headquarters Rd, Courtenay, toll-free: . With its eclectic mix of roots and world music styles, this annual three day event has established itself as one of British Columbia's premier summer music festivals.
- Comox Valley Farmers' Market (CVFM), Fifth Street between England and Fitzgerald Ave (in Downtown Courtenay -), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Summer: W 9AM-12:30PM. An open air market. A gathering place for farmers to sell directly to the consumer. free.
- Avenue Bistro, 2064 Comox Ave, ☏ . Tu-F 11AM-9PM; Sa Su 9AM-9PM. Bistro classics, artisan cheeses, locally sourced bread, and oceanwise seafood selections. Vegetarian and gluten-free choices available. Great wine, beer and spirits list.
- Surfside Fish and Chips, Comox Marina Park, ☏ .
- Spice Hut Indian Cuisine, 1832 Comox Ave, ☏ . M-F 11AM-10PM; Sa noon-10PM; Su noon-9PM.
- Komox Grind Espresso & Smoothie Bar, 1811 Comox Ave Suite 105, ☏ . M-F 6:30AM-9PM; Sa Su 7AM-9PM.
- Blackfin Pub, 132 Port Augusta St, ☏ . Su–Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM. Craft beers, wine, cocktails, seafood.
- Copes Islander Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast, ☏ , toll-free: . Bed and breakfast and self-contained rental suite accommodations set on the shore of Georgia Strait overlooking the Coast Mountain Range of the BC mainland.
- Singing Sands Bed and Breakfast, ☏ , toll-free: . An ocean-view bed and breakfast close to the Comox - Powell River ferry terminal.
- Old House Village, 1730 Riverside Lane, toll-free: . Luxury boutique hotel property in the heart of the Comox Valley.
- Port Augusta Inn and Suites, 2082 Comox Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: . Free breakfast, free WiFi in public areas, a seasonal outdoor pool, and free parking. From $87.
- Courtenay - the largest community in the Comox Valley
- Powell River - accessible via ferry across the Georgia Strait on the Sunshine Coast
- Mt. Washington Alpine Resort - alpine resort with skiing (downhill and cross country), snowboarding, and tubing in the winter and a number of hiking and mountain biking trails in the summer.
|Routes through Comox|
|Port Hardy ← Campbell River ←||N S||→ Lighthouse Country → Nanaimo|