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Duncan is a city in the South Vancouver Island region of British Columbia. It is known for having one of the largest totem pole collections: more than 40. The Cowichan Historical Society (Museum) provides free totem tours in the summer months.


Duncan City Hall

Although the City of Duncan has a population of just under 5,000 (2016), it serves the Cowichan Valley which has a population of approximately 84,000, many of whom live in North Cowichan and Cowichan First Nations (Indigenous) reserves. People in areas of North Cowichan and bordering on Duncan usually use "Duncan" as their mailing address.

The name Cowichan is an anglicization of Halkomelem Quw̓utsun̓, which means "the warm land".

Duncan has a large Indigenous community and is the traditional home of the Cowichan Tribes, who are the largest band among the Coast Salish people. The Coast Salish men and women of the Cowichan Tribes are makers of the world-famous Cowichan Sweaters.

Get in[edit]

Map of Duncan (British Columbia)

By car[edit]

Duncan is on Trans-Canada Highway 1 roughly halfway between Nanaimo and Victoria, a 30-45 minute drive from either city. The city is about 45 km from Victoria to the south and Nanaimo to the north.

By bus[edit]

  • Tofino Bus. Service from Tofino, Ucluelet, Port Alberni, Parksville, Nanaimo, and Victoria. Pickups/drop-offs are at the 1 Duncan bus depot, 180 Central Rd.
  • Islandlink Bus also has four times daily service to Nanaimo and Victoria. Pickups/drop-offs are at the 2 Duncan train station, 120 Canada Ave.
  • BC Transit operates routes between Duncan and Chemainus (Route 6) and Ladysmith (Route 36), departing from the train station and Village Green Mall. Departures to Ladysmith are 3-4 times per day on weekdays and twice on Saturday. Departures to Chemainus are 7 times per day on weekdays and 2-3 times per day on weekends. Cost is $2.25. Route 66 is a commuter bus service to Victoria that leaves Duncan four times in the morning and returns from Victoria four times in the late afternoon. Cost is $10.

Get around[edit]

Having your own car is the most convenient way to get around Duncan.

The Cowichan Valley Regional Transit System (operated by BC Transit) has a number of bus routes servicing Duncan and nearby communities. It can get you close-ish to attractions but service on many routes is infrequent with buses often over an hour apart. The fare is $2.25.


Riding the steam train at the BC Forest Discovery Centre
  • 1 BC Forest Discovery Centre, 2892 Drinkwater Rd, +1 250-715-1113. June-Aug: 10AM-4:30PM daily, May & Sept: 10AM-4:30PM Th-M, also open for special events around Halloween, Christmas and Easter. Indoor and outdoor exhibits on logging, including a reconstructed logging camp and steam train rides. The site also includes trails, a playground, picnic tables, gift shop and concessions. $11-16 in summer, $8-12 May & Sept. BC Forest Discovery Centre (Q4835286) on Wikidata BC Forest Discovery Centre on Wikipedia
  • 2 Pacific Northwest Raptors, 1877 Herd Rd, +1 250-746-0372. Mid May-Sept: 10:30AM-5PM daily, March-mid May & Oct: 10:30AM-3PM daily, Nov-early Jan: Th-Su noon-3PM. Conservation, research and educational facility on birds of prey with eagles, owls, hawks, falcons and vultures. The entrance fee lets you tour the facility, hear from the biologists and falconers who work there and see the flying demonstration (1-3 times per day, depending on the time of year). Additional activities available for a fee. $10-18 (child-adult), extra $20 for a walk with the hawks, and an extra $40-42 for one-hour hands on experience with the bird (includes walking with the hawks).
  • Totem poles - Duncan is nicknamed the City of Totems, with over 40 totem poles in town.
  • 3 World's Largest Hockey Stick, 2687 James St. Commissioned for Expo 86, this wooden and steel replica of a hockey stick and puck is on display outside the local arena. Measuring 205 ft and weighing 61,000 lb, it is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest hockey stick in the world.




  • 1 Alderlea Farm Cafe, 3390 Glenora Rd, +1 250-597-3438. F-Su 11AM-8PM mid-March to Oct. Cozy restaurant in a converted barn. Menu features produce and meat from the farm, and freshly baked desserts. Drinks include a number of local craft beers and wines. A specialty is the wood-fired oven baked pizzas only available on Sundays after 4PM. $6-20.
  • 2 Craig Street Brew Pub, 25 Craig St, +1 250-737-2337. M-Th 11AM-11PM, F-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-10PM. Pub-style restaurant with large menu covering appetizers, smaller plates, sandwiches, burgers and entrees. $11-25.
  • 3 Hudson's on First, 163 First St, +1 250-597-0066. W-F 11AM-9PM, Sa-Su 10AM-9PM. An old heritage home converted to a restaurant. There are lunch, brunch and evening menus, which include steak and frites, tartine, pasta, fish and seafood options. Appetizers & mains $11-26, brunch $18-24, fixed price dinner options $55-78.



  • 1 Best Western Cowichan Valley Inn, 6459 Norcross Rd, +1 250-748-2722, toll-free: 1 800 780-7234. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Rooms with one or two beds, and include coffee/tea maker, fridge and free Wifi. There's also a restaurant, small exercise room and business center. $160 and up.
  • 2 Thunderbird Motor Inn, 5849 York Rd, +1 250-748-8192. Queen, king and double queen rooms, and include a coffee maker and free Wifi. There's also a restaurant and business center on-site. $120-155 in summer with cheaper rates off-season.


Go next[edit]

  • Salt Spring Island is a short ferry ride from nearby Crofton (from Herd Rd go north on Osborne Bay Rd). There are artist studios, farms and the weekly market in spring, summer and fall.
  • West on BC Highway 18 (or bus route #7) is Lake Cowichan, with a number of outdoor activities in the area.
Routes through Duncan
NanaimoChemainus  N BC-1 (TCH).svg S  LangfordVictoria

This city travel guide to Duncan is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.