- For other places with the same name, see Courtenay (disambiguation).
Courtenay is a city of about 26,000 people (2016) on the east coast of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. Together with the Town of Comox and the Village of Cumberland, Courtenay 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.
From its inception, Courtenay's economy relied heavily on the extraction of natural resources, like coal, logging, fishing, and agriculture. Over the years as this natural resource extraction decreased, Courtenay has focused its economic growth on supplying services to the large retiree community and the military families at CFB Comox, which is the largest employer in the Valley, supplying approximately 1,400 jobs. Tourism has also been steadily increasing.
For thousands of years before the first contact with European explorers, Courtenay had been the home to the Comox people now the K'ómoks First Nation. The K'ómoks people farmed the rich agricultural land, and proximity to the local waterways allowed for fishing and trade with nearby First Nations people. In the Comox language, K’omoks means "plenty" – resulting in the Valley being known as the "Land of Plenty". In 1792, Captain George Vancouver, anchored HMS Discovery in what soon would be known as the Comox Harbour and made contact with the First Nations people in the area.
The settlement of Courtenay by Europeans began in the spring of 1862. The first settlers were coal miners from Nanaimo who were drawn to the area, because it had been known as one of the best agricultural districts in the colony. The early settlers relied on the knowledge and help of the local First Nations people. They hired them for general labour and farm work, although they were paid low wages as were most non-white people during that time. Many of the settlers ended up marrying or living with First Nations women who provided trading and social connections to surrounding First Nations people.
In 1864, Robert Brown, leading the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition, discovered coal deposits in the Comox Valley, and by 1888 Robert Dunsmuir purchased mining claims in the area. He eventually established a mine in Union, later renamed Cumberland, which brought an influx of settlers, and Chinese and Japanese immigrants. During the establishment of the mining and farming industry, the downtown of Courtenay developed on both sides of the Courtenay River, initially on the east side then the west. The two sides were eventually connected by a bridge in 1874.
Courtenay was incorporated as a town in 1915, and designated a city in 1953. The city was named after the Courtenay River, which in turn, was named after George William Courtenay, captain of the British ship HMS Constance, which was stationed in the area between 1846 and 1849. On 12 July 1915, a large fire ripped through 5th Street destroying much of the south side of the downtown. After much of the street was rebuilt, another fire hit the south side of 5th Street, again destroying many of the stores.
On 14 June 1946, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck just west of Courtenay, with the epicentre at Forbidden Plateau. The earthquake was felt as far north as Prince Rupert and as far south as Portland, Oregon. Many of the town's chimneys were destroyed, and there was some significant damage to the post office and the Courtenay elementary school. This was the largest earthquake to hit Vancouver Island, and the largest onshore earthquake in Canada on record. There were only two reported deaths.
The climate in Courtenay is very similar to that of the rest of Vancouver Island. In the summer months it can sometimes be considered to have a Mediterranean-like climate due to the low levels of precipitation and drying. In the spring and fall seasons, Courtenay tends to be quite cool and wet. It has one of the mildest winters in Canada. The high precipitation levels can be attributed to both the oceanic climate and also its proximity to the Insular Mountain range which results in the rain shadow effect.
The Comox Valley stretches from Fanny Bay to Saratoga Beach and includes the communities of Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland, as well as Denman and Hornby Islands. The Comox Valley is accessible by land, sea or air.
The Comox Valley is a three-hour (220 km/137 mile) drive north from Victoria or a 75-minute (107 km/66 mile) drive from Nanaimo, where the ferry terminals of Departure Bay and Duke Point are located. Drive Highway #19, the new inland, four-lane expressway. From Highway #19 take exits #101, #117, #127, #130 or #144 to access various points in the Comox Valley. Visitors can also take the scenic Oceanside Route on the old Island Highway #19A.
Regular ferry service links the British Columbia Mainland and Washington State to the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Riding a ferry provides an opportunity to stretch your legs, get something to eat, browse the gift shop and observe marine traffic and wildlife. It is a mini-cruise in the middle of your vacation.
Take advantage of discounted ferry fares with the Sunshine Coast CirclePac. This Circle Tour offers four ferry/highway routes linking the Comox Valley with the Mainland and lower Vancouver Island. A truly unique way to make the journey a memorable part of the holiday!
From the BC Mainland, you travel to Vancouver Island via BC Ferries. Contact BC Ferries at ☏ for route information and at ☏ for reservations on major routes.
- Tsawwassen (Vancouver) to Swartz Bay (Victoria)
- Tsawwassen (Vancouver) to Duke Point (Nanaimo)
- Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver) to Departure Bay (Nanaimo)
- Powell River to Comox
- Prince Rupert to Port Hardy
- Bella Coola to Port Hardy
From Washington State, you can travel to Vancouver Island via several routes. Schedules and information can be found at the Washington Ferries website.
- Princess Marguerite: Seattle to Victoria
- Victoria & San Juan Cruises: Bellingham to Victoria
- Victoria Clipper: Seattle to Victoria
- Victoria Express: Port Angeles to Victoria
- Washington State Ferries: Anacortes to Victoria
- 1 Comox Valley Regional Airport (YQQ IATA) (in Comox). Numerous direct flights from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and regional destinations in British Columbia at land daily at the Comox Valley Airport.
- 2 Courtenay Airpark (YCA IATA) (near downtown Courtenay), ☏ . Small aircraft and floatplanes.
- Helijet International offers non-stop flights to and from Seattle Boeing Field to the Campbell River Airport (YBL IATA), which is a 35-minute drive from the Comox Valley.
Those travelling by boat will find a full range of facilities including moorage, showers, restaurants and shops adjacent to the Comox Marina. Contact the Comox Valley Harbour Authority [dead link] at ☏ , for more information.
Throughout the Comox Valley and surrounding areas, local bus and 24-hour taxi services are provided.
Courtenay is served by the Comox Valley Transit System, which is managed and run by the BC Transit Authority. Although it is quite small with only 13 bus routes, it provides quick and inexpensive transportation throughout the Comox Valley. From the main bus stop, on Cliffe Avenue in downtown Courtenay, there are buses that go to Cumberland, Royston, as far south as Fanny Bay, and as far as Oyster River, where a connection to the Campbell River Transit System is offered. BC Transit also operates a handyDART transportation service, for people who have a disability or require extra assistance.
- Sid Williams Theatre, 442 Cliffe Ave, ☏ (Ticket Centre ext 1), toll-free: . In downtown Courtenay, it is the major performance theatre in the Comox Valley.
- Stan Hagen Theatre, Ryan Road (at North Island College, next to the Comox Valley Aquatic Centre and the Comox Valley Hospital.).
- Performing theatre groups include the Rainbow Youth Theatre and the Courtenay Little Theatre.
- HMCS Alberni Museum and Memorial (HAMM), 625 Cliffe Ave #5 (in the heart of downtown Courtenay at the Courtenay Mall), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Sep 15 - May 31: Tu-Sa 10AM-4PM; June 1 - Sep 14: M-Sa 10AM-5PM. HAMM features the memorial to the men of HMCS Alberni (1941-1944) and U480 (1940-1945), as well as exhibits from the Great War to the present day of the Canadian Forces.
- Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre, 207 Fourth Street, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Late May-early Sep: M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-4PM; early Sep-late May: Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM. Historical exhibits and fossil tours of local rivers. By donation.
- 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.
- Comox Archives & Museum, 1729 Comox Ave (downtown Comox across from the Comox Shopping Mall), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
- Cumberland Museum & Archives, 2680 Dunsmuir Ave., Cumberland, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5PM. Depicts the history of coal mining in the area. Wheelchair accessible. Adult $5, youth (12-18) $4, senior $4, children under 12 free.
- Nim-Nim Interpretive Centre (on the Puntledge RV Campground, north of the city). The site was the original home of the now extinct Pentlatch People, and is named for Chief Joe Nim-Nim. The centre highlights the achievements of the First Nations people of the area.
- Comox Valley Art Gallery, 580 Duncan Ave, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu–Sa 10AM–5PM. Contemporary art by professional artists from the region, the country and beyond.
- Muir Gallery, 440 Anderton Ave. Tu-Sa 11AM-4PM. A project of the Arts Council of the Comox Valley, it offers exhibition opportunities to local and emerging artists.
- Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens, 6183 Whitaker Rd,. Daily 9AM to dusk daily. A woodland garden that was developed by hand. Bryan Zimmerman spent more than two years clearing the brush on his 24-acre (9.7 ha) lot and using a wheelbarrow to make the paths. It has one of the largest rhododendron collections in Western Canada with over 3000 plantings. It is also home to a multitude of native plants, birds and wildflowers. It has bark mulch paths and many water features. It is recognized as one of the world's finest informal show gardens. Adults $8, 5-12 years old $3, under 5 years old free.
- Island Music Fest, Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds (close to downtown), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. In mid-July, the largest music festival on Vancouver Island takes place in the Comox Valley. Three days of an eclectic mix of music. On-site camping. A shuttle bus brings people to the site all weekend. Day passes $100-130; weekend passes: adults $195-200, seniors $185-210, youth $120-130, children 12 & under free. 12% tax and service charges extra.
- There are several other festivals in the area and they include the North Island Festival of Performing Arts, Fiddlefest, Comox Valley Highland Games and the Comox Valley Piano Society puts on performances at the Stan Hagen Theatre.
- Woodhus Slough [dead link] is a nature area especially for bird watching. It is midway between Courtenay and Campbell River, about 1.5 km north of the Miracle Beach Provincial Park turn-off. From Highway 19A turn onto the Salmon Point Road and continue to the end of the road to the Salmon Point Pub, the trail sign is on the right hand side of the Pub by the beach. It is an easy trail in good condition, 2 km long, and can take 35 minutes return.
- Walking trails include Nymph Falls Regional Park, Seal Bay Regional Nature Park and the Courtenay Riverway Heritage Walk.
- 1 Mt. Washington Alpine Resort (from downtown Courtenay, take Cliffe Ave north to 1st St. and then turn right on 1st St. Take the next left onto Condensory Rd (Anderton Ave). Follow Condensory Rd to Piercy Rd. Turn left onto Piercy Rd and follow this to Hwy #19. Turn right onto Hwy #19. Turn left at the lights (Exit #130) and follow Strathcona Parkway up the mountain for 18 km. It is at the end of Strathcona Parkway), ☏ , toll-free: . The largest commercial ski area on Vancouver Island. Skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snow tubing, snow shoeing, sledding. Summer attractions such as mountain bike riding and hiking. The resort has a lot of on-mountain accommodation in the Alpine Village.
- Mitlenatch Island Nature Provincial Park, about 29.8 km (18.5 mi) away, is on Mitlenatch Island, a small islet in the northern Strait of Georgia
- Kitty Coleman Provincial Park, about 10.7 km (6.6 mi) away, is south of the mouth of the Oyster River just northeast of Courtenay
- Mount Geoffrey Regional Nature Park, about 29 km (18 mi) away, is on Hornby Island
- Tribune Bay Provincial Park, about 30.7 km (19.1 mi) away, is on Hornby Island
- Fillongley Provincial Park, about 23 km (14 mi) away, is on the east side of Denman Island, southeast of Courtenay
- Helliwell Provincial Park, about 33.5 km (20.8 mi) away, is on the southeast end of Hornby Island
- I-Hos Gallery, 3310 Comox Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 10AM-5PM, closed on holidays. Run by the K'ómoks First Nation , it displays and sells modern and traditional BC coastal First Nations art, including masks, prints, gold and silver jewellery, and wood carvings produced by First Nations artists. The beautiful house front design of I-Hos Gallery incorporates a whale and the double-headed sea serpent, which represent important crests of the K’ómoks people.
- Comox Valley Farmers' Market (CVFM), Exhibition Grounds, 4839 Headquarters Rd, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Year-round (except for last two weeks of December): Sa 9AM-1PM. An open air market. A gathering place for farmers to sell directly to the consumer. free.
- Atlas Cafe, 250 6th St, ☏ . W Th 8:30AM-9:30PM, F Sa 8:30AM-10PM, Su 8:30AM-3:30PM. Global cuisine. Mexican and Asian dishes, gourmet burgers, and many vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, or add in tuna, salmon, pulled pork, roasted chicken.
- The Hen and Hog Cafe, 1190 Cliffe Ave, ☏ . W-Su 7AM-2PM. Breakfast & brunch restaurant
- Manvirros Indian Grill, 1-450 Ryan Rd, ☏ . Su-Th 11AM-2:30PM, 4PM-9PM, F Sa 11AM-2:30PM, 4PM-10PM. North Indian restaurant with vegetarian and gluten-free options.
- Gladstone Brewing Company, A-244 4th St, ☏ . Daily 11:30AM-midnight. Focusing on Belgian ales, European lagers, and Pacific Northwest style India pale ales.
- Anco Inn, 1885 Cliffe Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Seasonal outdoor pool. Free Wi-Fi. A refrigerator and a coffee maker are offered. Cable TV. Some rooms offer a kitchenette. Accessible rooms are available. Laundry facilities are available. From $100.
- River Heights Motel, 1820 Cliffe Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Adjacent to the Strait of Georgia, free WiFi, cable TV, air-conditioned. Some rooms are equipped with a kitchenette. From $80.
- Old House Village, 1730 Riverside Lane, toll-free: . In the Comox Valley on the Courtney River. 79 rooms.
- 1 Smith Lake Farm, 1481 Larkin Rd, Comox, B.C., ☏ . Smith Lake Farm's agritourism suite, is a two-bedroom accommodation with all the amenities. Swim in the private lake in the summer or ski or snowboard Mt. Washington in the winter.
- [dead link] Courtenay River Vacation Homes, ☏ . Three-bedroom, two-storey townhouse alongside the Puntledge river. In the heart of the Comox Valley and short drive to Mt. Washington Alpine Resort. Call for more information.
- The Vancouver Island Regional Library has a branch located in downtown Courtenay. The Courtenay branch offers many services such as free Wi-fi for library members, computer access, and printing and photocopying stations.
- Comox - neighbouring municipality 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 Courtenay|
|Port Hardy ← Campbell River ←||N S||→ Lighthouse Country → Nanaimo|