community within North Cowichan, British Columbia, Canada

Chemainus is a town of over 4,000 people (2021) in central Vancouver Island. It's notable for the dozens of murals that transform the compact city centre into an open-air art gallery. It also has a thriving theatre festival, and various other creative arts. It's a pleasant place to visit and stroll through.

Understand edit


The name Chemainus comes from the native shaman and prophet "Tsa-meeun-is" meaning broken chest. Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community, the Stz'uminus First Nation, formerly the Chemainus Indian Band.

The railway arrived in the 1880s and by the early 1920s the town's population had ballooned to 600 people. Chemainus was eventually designated a census populated area by Statistics Canada comprising the more built-up residential and commercial neighbourhoods. Its population had further grown to 3,035 residents by 2011.

Get in edit

By car edit

The easiest way to get to Chemainus is to drive. Chemainus is located 80 km north of Victoria and 35 km south of Nanaimo along Highway 1 (Trans-Canada Highway). It is located just off the highway, and the turnoff is well marked.

By bus edit

By plane edit

The nearest planes land is now in Maple Bay harbour near Duncan where seaplanes fly two to three times a day from Vancouver's harbour and airport. The nearest land airport is in Nanaimo with direct service to Vancouver and several other points in the region. It is also possible to charter a seaplane to fly into Chemainus harbour.

Get around edit

By boat edit

  • BC Ferries, toll-free: +1-888-223-3779. Operates ferries connecting coastal communities.    
    • 1 Chemainus ferry terminal, 2830 Oak Street. Ferry route:
      • Served by a ferry route that connects with 2 Thetis Island (Preedy Harbour), and 3 Penelakut Island (Telegraph Harbour). There are 11 round trips daily, 6 traveling in the order of Chemainus, Thetis, Penelakut, and Chemainus, and 5 traveling in the reverse of that order. Travel time is 30 min if travelling direct between Chemainus and either Penelakut or Thetis, 50-60 minutes if the trip is not direct, and 15 minutes between Penelakut and Thetis. Reservations are not available on this route.

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.     Routes serving Chemainus include:
    • Route 6 between Duncan and Chemainus (50 min) via Crofton. Operates multiple times daily.
    • Route 34 operates between Ladysmith and Chemainus (21-24 min). Operates multiple times per day from Monday to Saturday.

By taxi edit

See edit

Outdoor murals at Chemainus
  • Chemainus is most commonly known for its murals (gargantuan paintings on the sides of the buildings). Times for the horse-drawn-buggy-tours or walking tours can be found either on Willow Street from the guides or within the Information Office in Water Wheel Park. Though the town is small enough to explore by foot in a single day and visit the murals by yourself, you won't get the history behind them without a tour guide.
Chemainus Theatre
  • 1 Chemainus Theatre, 9737 Chemainus Rd, toll-free: +1-800-565-7738, . Where you can enjoy many famous and original plays performed by experienced and up-coming actors alike. The shows can be hit or miss depending on the current talent and script selection though, so always ask the locals if the current viewings are worth it. Most tour guides and information clerks feel more or less obligated to give a positive review however, so check in with the younger service workers for an honest opinion. Regardless of the performances, the show-and-dine combination is always an interesting experience.  
  • 2 Chemainus Valley Museum, 9799 Waterwheel Crescent, +1 250-246-2445. A museum of the history of the local area, which is linked with the timber industry.

Do edit

Buy edit

  • 1 Chemainus Giant Street Market, Willow Street. Held in July, when 150 with tents and stalls are set up along Willow Street, selling pretty much anything from quality home-made crafts to imported decorative swords and knives. It really is an interesting experience though, so plan for it if you manage to find out the dates it occurs on.
  • 2 Chemainus Public Market, 9790 Willow St, +1 250-324-4710. Featuring a number of boutique shops and places to eat.
  • 3 Willow Street Antiques, 9756 Willow St, +1 250-246-4333. 25 dealers.
  • 4 Silver Mine on Chemainus, 9650 Chemainus Rd, +1 250-246-5003, . Jewellery gallery with a stunning collection of silver jewellery, green amber, moonstones, opals and turquoise from around the world and a collection of wearable copper art by local First Nation carvers.
  • 5 Highway Antique Emporium, 3088 Henry Rd, +1 250-246-2372.

Eat edit

  • 1 Pho Triple 7 Restaurant, 9779 Willow Street, +1 250-324-0777. Tu-Sa 11AM - 8PM, Su M 11AM - 3PM. Naturally flavored, healthy Vietnamese cuisine. Traditional bowls of soup (of which Pho is the most popular choice) with many different topping such as steak, meatball, brisket.
  • 2 Willow Street Cafe, 9749 Willow St, +1 250-246-2434, . Daily 7AM - 3PM. Wraps, sandwiches, quesadillas, homemade soup, pizzas.
  • 3 Owl's Nest Bakery and Bistro, 9752 Willow Street, +1 250-324-8286. Tu-Sa 9AM-4PM. Serves all day breakfast, lunch, baked goods, desserts, and beverages. Breakfast $10-14, lunch $7.50-16.

Drink edit

  • 1 Sawmill TapHouse and Grill, 201B - 3055 Oak St, +1 250-324-0222. M-F 11AM–10PM, Sa Su 9AM–10PM. Pacific Northwest craft beers, forno oven pizzas, farm-to-table tapas and appetizers.

Sleep edit

Connect edit

Cope edit

Newspaper edit

Hospital edit

  • The nearest hospital is in Duncan.

Go next edit

Routes through Chemainus
NanaimoLadysmith  N   S  DuncanVictoria

This city travel guide to Chemainus 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.