Courtenay, about 100 km north of Nanaimo on the east cost of Vancouver Island, was founded in the 1860s as a farming community in the Comox Valley. There is a garden known as the mile of Flowers. The town is the terminus of the ferry to Powell River. In the nearby Puntledge River valley, in 1989 an intact fossilized skull of a 9 metre long (30 ft) elasmosaur, which was a long-necked marine reptile that lived 80 million years ago. Nearby recreation includes Mount Washington and Forbidden Plateau ski areas. The town has a beautiful view of glacier-capped Mount Washington, which rises a mile into the air (accessible from Campbell River)
You can travel along the east coast of Vancouver Island on Highway 19A, the Oceanside Route, much more leisurely than Highway 19. This route extends from Parksville all the way to Campbell River, 50 km to the north of Courtenay.
The legacy of the region’s Indigenous heritage, combined with the contributions of settlers and subsequent generations, is an integral part of Courtenay’s identity.
The Comox Valley and the area around Courtenay was inhabited by the K’ómoks First Nation for thousands of years, who thrived on the abundant resources in the ocean, the forests, and the rivers.
in the late 1700s, Spanish and British navigators began to explore the coast of Vancouver Island. Only in the mid-1800s dis that European settlement begin with a Hudson’s Bay Company fort at nearby Comox in 1862.
The settlement at Courtenay was originally known as “Comox Town” and later “Comox City” though in 1874, it was renamed “Courtenay” after Courtenay Bay in Nova Scotia. The construction of the E&N Railway in the late 19th century (which connected various parts of Vancouver Island to Nanaimo and to Esquimalt) played a significant role in the development of the area.
The fertile land around Courtenay led to the development of a prosperous agricultural industry through the 1800s. Dairy farming, fruit orchards, and logging were drivers of economic growth in the region.
During and after the World Wars, the neaby Canadian Forces Base Comox played a significant role in the region’s economy. After World War II, Courtenay experienced a period of growth and urban development, with infrastructure improvement like roads and schools helped the city to expand.
Courtenay saw diversification beyond agriculture and logging. Tourism, arts and crafts, technology, and education began to play more significant roles in the local economy.
Courtenay and District Museum & Paleontology Centre
207 Fourth Street, Courtenay, BC V9N 1G7
This museum showcases the natural and cultural history of the Comox Valley. It includes exhibits on paleontology, First Nations culture, and local wildlife.
Cumberland Museum & Archives
2680 Dunsmuir Ave, Cumberland, BC V0R 1S0
(10 km wouthwest of Courtenay via Comoz Valley Rd)
In nearby Cumberland, this museum is a short drive from Courtenay. It focuses on the history of the local coal mining industry and the town of Cumberland.
Seal Bay Nature Park
Bates Rd, Courtenay, BC V9J 1T8
This nature park offers a network of trails through forests, wetlands, and along the shoreline. It’s a great spot for hiking, birdwatching, and enjoying nature.
20 20th St, Courtenay, BC V9N 9C8
This waterfront park features walking trails, picnic areas, and a playground. It offers beautiful views of the Courtenay River and Comox Glacier.
Comox Valley Farmers’ Market
1701 Comox Ave, Comox, BC V9M 3M3
While technically in Comox, this vibrant market held Saturdays (in season) is very close to Courtenay. It offers a wide variety of fresh, local produce, artisanal crafts, baked goods, and more.
3310 Comox Rd, Courtenay, BC V9N 3P8
This Indigenous-owned and operated art gallery features a diverse collection of First Nations art, including carvings, jewelry, prints, and more.