Courtenay, about 100 km north of Nanaimo  (via Island Highway #19) on the east coast of Vancouver Island, and 75 km N of Parksville, 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 across the Strait of Georgia to Powell River,  at the top of the the  Sunshine Coast. 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 also 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.

Courtenay History

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 Attractions

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, since 1961. 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. Seal Bay Nature Park was first logged in approximately 1913 and then again in the early 1920s.  Several trails, such as the Mitchell grade  follow rail or logging grades once used to haul logs.

Courtenay Air Park

20 20th St, Courtenay, BC V9N 9C8

This waterfront aerodrome has a runway on the south bank of the Courtenay River and the facilities include ramp access to the river for float plane operations. It offers beautiful views of the Courtenay River and Comox Glacier.

Comox Valley Farmers’ Market

1701 Comox Ave, Comox, BC V9M 3M3

Shop for fresh local produce, artisanal crafts, baked goods, and more. every Saturday  from 9 AM- 1 PM at the Native Sons Hall (360 Cliffe Ave) in downtown Courtenay. While technically in Comox, this vibrant market held Saturdays (in season) .  in the Comox Valley we can grow all year long.

I-Hos Gallery

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.

Courtenay, British Columbia Area Map