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Jun 9, 2011 03:06 PM

Cowichan Valley in August

My husband and two teen boys will be spending a few days in August on Vancouver Island. We are staying at the Affinity Guesthouse in Cowichan Bay. Travel & Leisure did an article last year on the Cowichan Valley that lead us to include a few nights here. Otherwise, we would have only known of Victoria. While the article mentioned a few places to eat: Craig Street Brew Pub, Deerholme Farm, Hilary's Cheese & Deli, The Masthead, and Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub, as well as Sooke Harbour House, I was hoping to get additional input on these spots and any others you may recommend. I tried researching on other threads on CH, but mostly came up with recs in Victoria, or Comox (which I doubt we'll drive that far). Any help would be appreciated. We love good food, especially locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and will venture to high end or hole-in-the-wall places or anything in-between.

We're also starting our trip in Banff & Jasper, if you have any restaurant recs for that area. Found plenty on info on CH for Vancouver! Thanks in advance!

Harbour House Restaurant
607 Oswego St, Victoria, BC V8V4W9, CA

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  1. We love the Cowichan Valley with all its farms, wineries and artisan products. Can't beat Hillary's for cheese or a light lunch, True Grain Bakery of coffee and breads and pastries, The Masthead for dinner, Amuse Bistro near Shawnigan Lake, or Merridale Cidery's bistro for lunch or cider tasting. Also check out Stone Soup Inn near Cowichan Lake. The ultimate dining experience on Vancouver Island is Sooke Harbour House but it is almost an hour's drive from Cowichan Bay. We stay there 3 times a year and love their creative food and presentation. Much easier to relax and enjoy if you actually stay at the inn. There are also some casual seafood restaurants on the water on Cowichan Bay and bistros in downtown Duncan. There is lots of good food because the products are so fresh and local. Several good wineries where you can taste the locally grown wines in the Valley if that is of any interest. Don't miss the homemade ice cream at Udder Guy's on Cowichan Bay.

    5 Replies
    1. re: saraWM

      We were there years ago and visited a winery called Cherrypoint vineyards. We had the most amazing blackberry "port" dessert wine. I am not sure if they are still around or carry that product but if you are there it is definitely worth seeking out.
      We had lunch at the Aerie Resort which was very local and delicious. This was however about 6 years ago so I am not sure if it is still good but hopefully someone more recently familiar with it, chimes in for a more relevant review.

      1. re: selena03

        A number of BC Wineries now produce 'Blackberry Port'-haven't had a bad one yet.

        To my taste Madeline Sylvaner is the grape that suits Cowichan Valley terroir the best-sad to see so few producing it now.

        1. re: Sam Salmon

          Thanks, we'll look for it when we are there!

        2. re: selena03

          The Aerie Resort no longer exists, sadly. We have lost a treasure. There are a number of wonderful wineries, including Averill Creek, Rocky Creek, Godfrey-Brownell, Vignetti Zanatta, Venturi-Schutz, Alderlea, Twenty-two Oaks, Muse and many others.

          As far as restaurants go, Amuse in Shawnigan Lake is primo, as is the Sooke Harbour House . Both feature fresh local ingredients.

          If you are looking for pub fare, Craig St. Brew Pub in Duncan is a good choice for some lovely on-site produced beer, and in Victoria you can find first class fare at Spinnaker's which also has an on-site brewery.

          Enjoy the visit!

          Harbour House Restaurant
          607 Oswego St, Victoria, BC V8V4W9, CA

        3. re: saraWM

          Thanks, saraWM, for all of your feedback! I'll check out Stone Soup Inn and the other places you mentioned. And we are absolutely going to Udder Guy's! I had a note on that from somewhere. And the Merridale Cidery is a must for my family! If you think of any other places by name, please post them.

        4. Great suggestions up above. I add the Zenatta winery restaurant - lovely spot for light lunch

          If you're there on a Saturday, the Duncan farmer's market is well worth your while.

          3 Replies
          1. re: kinnickinnik

            Zenatta sounds like a great addition to our list. And I love the website you directed me to. Very helpful! And yes, the farmer's market is on our list. I love a good farmer's market!

            1. re: ellen23

              Deerholm is a fabulous experience. More like eating in someone's home and having a guest chef. Check his website for dates and menus. I was at a mushroom dinner that was incredible.

              1. re: cassie

                Cassie, that sounds fabulous! Looked up his website and it doesn't appear that anything is going on when we are there. :( I will check back again or try emailing them, since our visit is still 2 months away. It looks incredible!

          2. For something a bit different - The Crow and Gate in Cedar - and near-authentic plaster and beam English pub complete with black swans swimming in the pond on the 10 acre property. Steak and kidney pie, ploughman's lunch, oyster stew, roast beef, yorkshire pudding, bitters, ales, etc.

            1. Several years back, I took part in the MS Bike Tour Cowichan Valley Grape Escapes. It was a great twist on fundraising.....a culinary/wine tour through the Cowichan Valle on a bike. The course is all set out for you. It occurs yearly in August and if you go to the MS Website the route is outlined which basically highlights all the best places to visit. You can access the information here




              I loved the area so much after this trip that a couple of years ago I took my husband for a culinary tour of the area. We went for a three night getaway in August. We stayed at the Stone Wood Inn in the North Cowichan area which was amazing. They had a beautiful swimming pond built right into the property and the breakfasts were a real highlight to our day. We went kayaking for a day to Maple Bay through Wilderness Kayaking and there is a nice restaurant there called Grapevine on the Bay. Don't miss the farmer's market in Duncan on Saturday. For other dinners we went to Amuse Bistro in Shawnigan Lake and The Masthead in Cowichan Bay, both highly recommended. A nice day trip is a hike along the Cowichan River bed. We also went to the Sunday lunch at the Fairburn Culinary farm served family style on their patio which was quite nice though a bit on the pricey side.

              Sooke Harbour House is beautiful. My sister got married there several years ago but is quite a trek from the Cowichan valley. You might want to venture a bit north of the Cowichan Valley to Chemainus. They have a very nice theatre there and I remember going to a lovely place for high tea there called The Twisted Sisters Tearoom.

              1 Reply
              1. re: GoaGirl

                All great ideas! Thanks for the non-culinary recs as well. I'll check out the links you gave me as well, GoaGirl. And thanks fmed for the English pub. Hadn't come across that one yet.

              2. Venturi Schultze makes great wine and I hear balsamic vinegar too.