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.
BC Ferries, toll-free: . Operates ferries connecting coastal communities in British Columbia.
- 1 Comox (Little River) ferry terminal, 1300 Ellenor Rd. Has a route from Powell River (Westview) ferry terminal. 1 hour 25 minutes crossing. There are four round trips daily. BC Transit offers bus service to Comox (Little River) from Monday to Saturday, and daily to Powell River (Westview).
- West Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo (Departure Bay)
- Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Nanaimo (Duke Point)
- 2 Comox Valley Regional Airport (YQQ IATA), 1250 Knight Road, ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Numerous direct flights to Comox from Vancouver (35-40 minutes), Calgary (1.5 hours), Edmonton (1.75-2 hours), and regional destinations in British Columbia. There is some public transit service from Monday to Saturday.
- Air Canada, ☏ , toll-free: . Canada's largest airline with hubs in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal. It operates across Canada and services international destinations.
- Flair Airlines, toll-free: . A new low-cost airline with flights across much of Canada.
- Pacific Coastal Airlines, ☏ , toll-free: , email@example.com. Operates flights primarily in the south coast area of British Columbia with its hub in Vancouver.
- WestJet, toll-free: . Canada's second largest airline services with hubs in Calgary and Toronto. It operates across Canada and services international destinations.
- Harbour Air, ☏ , toll-free: . Operates seaplane flights mostly to coastal communities in southwestern British Columbia. Seasonal flights to Comox from downtown Vancouver (50 minutes).
The Comox Marina has all necessary services nearby, including transient moorage, hot showers, laundry facilities, pubs, restaurants, shopping, marine repair, supplies and service.
- IslandLink Bus, firstname.lastname@example.org. Operates daily using a hub and spoke bus service with hubs in Nanaimo and Buckley Bay. Trips run non-stop from the hub to the destination area. This system works well if direct travel would run by a hub anyway, but can result in significant detours if direct travel would not pass by either hub. Using this service, the hubs connect to Campbell River, Oyster River, Comox, Courtenay, Cumberland, Bowser, Parksville, Nanaimo, Duncan, and Mill Bay, and Victoria. As of January 30, 2023, service is also available to Port Alberni, Tofino, and Ucluelet, though trip frequency ranges from 3 days per week in the winter to daily in the summer.
By public transit
- BC Transit (Comox Valley Regional Transit System), ☏ . Although it is quite small with only 13 bus routes, it provides quick and inexpensive transportation throughout the Comox Valley. Most buses in the region travel to and from downtown Courtenay. From there buses go to Comox, Cumberland, Royston, as far south as Fanny Bay, and as far north as Oyster River. Service to Oyster River operates Monday to Saturday, where passengers can transfer to BC Transit's Campbell River Transit System to reach Campbell River. BC Transit also operates a handyDART transportation service, for people who have a disability or require extra assistance.
- 1 Comox Air Force Museum and Heritage Air Park (at the main entrance to 19th Wing Comox, on the corner of Ryan Road East and Military Row), ☏ . Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM. The museum has exhibitions from the First World War onwards and is open year round. The Heritage Air Park is home to several aircraft and is open from April to September. From the Dakota to the CF-100, the Air Park allows you an up-close view of the planes that made the RCAF great. The Air Park is about 500 m from the museum, on Military Row/Little River Rd, across from the Base Chapel. Parking is available at the entrance to the park. By donation.
- 2 Comox Archives & Museum, 1729 Comox Ave (downtown Comox across from the Comox Shopping Mall), ☏ , email@example.com. Tu-Sa 10AM-4:30PM. Depicts the history of the town. It covers the history of Port Augusta, a century of military presence on Goose Spit, the archives from early settlers, and the famous wharf in Comox where the 102nd Battalion headed off to World War I. Wheelchair accessible By donation.
- 1 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.
- 1 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.
- 2 Surfside Fish and Chips, 127 Port Augusta St (Comox Marina Park), ☏ .
- 3 Spice Hut Indian Cuisine, 1832 Comox Ave, ☏ . M-F 11AM-10PM; Sa noon-10PM; Su noon-9PM.
- 4 Komox Grind Espresso & Smoothie Bar, 1811 Comox Ave Suite 105, ☏ . M-F 6:30AM-9PM; Sa Su 7AM-9PM.
- 1 Blackfin Pub, 132 Port Augusta St, ☏ . Su–Th 11AM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-10PM. Craft beers, wine, cocktails, seafood.
- 1 Copes Islander Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast, 1484 Wilkinson Rd, ☏ , 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.
- 2 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.
- Comox Valley Record, ☏ .
- The nearest hospital is in Courtenay.
- 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.