Download GPX file for this article
48.799-123.696Full screen dynamic map

From Wikivoyage
Jump to navigation Jump to search

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 Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) 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]

  • IslandLink Bus, . 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.
  • Tofino Bus (Vancouver Island Connector). Service to Tofino, Nanaimo, and Victoria, summer months only.

By taxi[edit]

By plane[edit]

The nearest airport with scheduled flights is in Nanaimo.


Get around[edit]

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

By public transit[edit]

BC Transit (Cowichan Valley Regional Transit System), +1-250-746-9899. Operates buses connecting communities within the Cowichan Valley, including: Chemainus, Cowichan Bay, Crofton, Duncan, Lake Cowichan, Ladysmith, Mill Bay, Shawnigan Lake,. $2.50 for local travel. BC Transit (Q4179186) on Wikidata BC Transit on Wikipedia Routes in Duncan include:

  • 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.
  • Route 6 between Duncan and Chemainus (50 minutes) via Crofton. Operates multiple times daily.
  • Routes 8 and 9 between Duncan, Mill Bay, and Shawnigan Lake. The two routes run as loops with route 8 operating clockwise and route 9 operating counter-clockwise. Route 8 reaches the Mill Bay ferry (which crosses to Brentwood Bay, where there are public transit connections to Victoria), but route 9 does not. Route 8 operates daily and route 9 operates Monday to Saturday.
  • Route 36 between Duncan and Ladysmith (40 minutes). Operates multiple times per day from Monday to Saturday.
  • Route 44 and 66 operate between Duncan and Victoria (1.25 hours) with a stop in Langford. Route 66 operates Monday to Friday. Route 44 operates on Saturdays. Trips from Monday to Friday operate leave Duncan before 6:30 am (before 9:30 am as of September 3, 2023), and leave Victoria in the afternoon. Saturday trips operate during daytime hours. Starting September 3, 2023, route 44 trips will be renumbered as route 66. $10 per trip.
  • Route 70 operates between downtown Nanaimo and Duncan (1.25 hours) with stops in Ladysmith and at Nanaimo Airport. Operates multiples times per day from Monday to Saturday. $7.50 per trip.


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.


South of Mill Bay:

  • 4 Malahat Skywalk, 901 Trans-Canada Highway, toll-free: +1-833-625-2428. Daily 9AM-8PM. Offers a spiral tower for great views of the local area and an elevated path, called TreeWalk, to walk through an area of forest.



In Shawnigan Lake (accessed south of Duncan, along Highway 1, then by taking Shawnigan-Mill Bay Rd):

  • 2 Kinsol Trestle. A 44 m-high and 187 m-long wooden former railway bridge, which can crossed by foot or bike as part of the Cowichan Valley Trail. Kinsol Trestle (Q6414309) on Wikidata Kinsol Trestle on Wikipedia




  • 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.



  • 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.
Routes through Duncan
NanaimoChemainus  N  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.