Courtenay Travel Guide

Discover the best places to visit, things to do, and where to stay in Courtenay on Vancouver Island, Canada. Read our comprehensive travel guide today.

Introduction to Courtenay

Nestled in Central Vancouver Island, Courtenay is a charming city that boasts breathtaking natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage. From lush forests and river valleys to scenic beaches and tranquil lakes, there’s no shortage of outdoor recreation options in Courtenay. Additionally, the city is also home to several museums, historical sites, art galleries, and a vibrant food and beverage scene that offers plenty of opportunities for exploration and indulgence. In this guide, we’ll take you through some of the best experiences and sights that Courtenay has to offer.

List of Places to Visit in Courtenay

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Comox Air Force Museum: This museum showcases the rich aviation history of the Comox Valley and features numerous exhibits and artifacts.
  • Courtenay and District Museum and Paleontology Centre: This museum highlights the natural and cultural history of Courtenay and the surrounding area. It is also home to the fossilized remains of an Elasmosaur, an ancient marine reptile.
  • Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park: This historic site is situated in a stunning waterfront setting and offers visitors a glimpse of the area’s heritage architecture and beautiful gardens.
  • I-Hos Gallery: A gallery that showcases the art and culture of the K’ómoks First Nation of Vancouver Island.
  • Cumberland Museum and Archives: This museum captures the fascinating history of a once-thriving coal mining town and its communities.

Natural Attractions of Courtenay: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Nymph Falls Nature Park: This park is home to numerous hiking trails, stunning waterfalls, and a river that is ideal for swimming, fishing, and kayaking.
  • Strathcona Provincial Park: One of the oldest provincial parks in British Columbia, this park covers over 250,000 hectares and offers visitors some of the best alpine hiking trails in the province.
  • Seal Bay Nature Park: This park features several hiking and biking trails, as well as a boardwalk through a woodland ecosystem that is home to a large population of seals.
  • Mount Washington Alpine Resort: This resort is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in the winter, as well as mountaineering, hiking, and biking in the summer.
  • Miracle Beach Provincial Park: This park is a popular destination for swimming, beachcombing, and camping, with stunning views of the Strait of Georgia.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Courtenay

Courtenay and the surrounding area offer a variety of hiking and biking trails for all skill levels. Here are some of the best options:

  • Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve: A moderate trail that offers stunning views of Comox Lake and the Beaufort Mountains.
  • Hornby Island: A scenic island that features a variety of hiking and biking trails, as well as beautiful beaches and coves.
  • Goose Spit Regional Park: A popular spot for hiking, biking, and beachcombing, with panoramic views of the Comox Valley and the Strait of Georgia.
  • Mount Washington: This alpine resort offers some of the best hiking and biking trails in the province, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
  • Forbidden Plateau: A popular spot for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter, as well as hiking and mountain biking in the summer.

Best Things to Do in Courtenay: Activities and Tours

  • Comox Valley Farmers’ Market: A farmers’ market that features fresh, locally grown produce, artisanal foods, and handcrafted goods.
  • Whale Watching: A popular activity that allows visitors to see the majestic creatures of the sea up close and personal.
  • Comox Valley Kayaks and Canoes: Rent a kayak or canoe and explore the tranquil waters of the Comox Valley.
  • Vancouver Island Expeditions: Take a guided tour of the area’s wildlife, forests, and beaches with experienced naturalists.
  • COMOX VALLEY FARM Cycle Tour: A guided cycle tour that showcases the region’s farms, wineries, and culinary scene.

Week-Long Itinerary for Courtenay

Day 1: Explore the city of Courtenay

Day 2: Visit the Comox Air Force Museum and Courtenay and District Museum and Paleontology Centre

Day 3: Go hiking or biking on the Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve or Forbidden Plateau

Day 4: Take a whale watching or wildlife tour

Day 5: Explore the beautiful beaches and coastal trails in Seal Bay Nature Park

Day 6: Take a scenic drive to Hornby Island and explore the island’s trails, beaches, and artisans

Day 7: Go skiing or snowboarding at Mount Washington

Food and Drink Scene of Courtenay

Must-Try Dishes

  • Honey Garlic Salmon: A popular dish that features locally caught salmon cooked in a sweet and savory sauce.
  • Poutine: A Canadian classic made with French fries, cheese curds, and gravy.
  • Fish and Chips: A British traditional meal that features battered fish and fries.
  • Clam Chowder: A hearty soup made from fresh clams.
  • Bannock: A traditional Native American fried bread.

Local Beverages

  • Cascadia Liquor Stores: The best place to sample some of the finest craft beer, wine, and spirits on Vancouver Island.
  • Coastal Black Estate Winery: A family-owned winery that produces a wide range of delicious berry wines.
  • Wayward Distillation House: A craft distillery that offers gin, whiskey, and vodka tastings.

Where to Stay in Courtenay: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  • The Old House Hotel and Spa: A luxurious hotel that features stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
  • The Riding Fool Hostel: A charming hostel that offers both private and shared rooms at affordable rates.
  • Beach House Bed and Breakfast: A cozy B&B that is located just a short walk from the beach.
  • Lighthouse Motel: A quirky and affordable motel that is decorated with a nautical theme.

What to Buy in Courtenay: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  • Artisanal Foods: Pick up some locally produced honey, jam, or chutney to bring home to family and friends.
  • Native American Art: I-Hos Gallery features a wide selection of traditional and contemporary art and crafts produced by local indigenous artists.
  • Pottery: Comox Valley boasts several pottery shops, including the Dragonfly Pottery and Seabreeze Gift Shop.

Local Culture and Customs of Courtenay

  • Respect for the environment: Both visitors and locals take pride in keeping the area’s natural beauty intact and pollution-free.
  • Indigenous heritage: The K’ómoks First Nation of Vancouver Island has a rich cultural heritage, which visitors can learn about at I-Hos Gallery.
  • Friendly and open-minded locals: Courtenay is home to some of the friendliest and most welcoming people you’ll ever meet.

Best Time to Visit Courtenay

The best time to visit Courtenay is during the summer months from June to August, when the weather is warm and sunny, and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. However, autumn is also a beautiful time to visit, with the changing colors of the foliage and the crisp, cool air.

Do’s and Don’ts of Courtenay


  • Respect the environment and local customs
  • Hike or bike responsibly
  • Take your trash with you
  • Try the local craft beer, wine, and spirits


  • Litter or harm wildlife
  • Ignore warning signs or barriers
  • Enter private property without permission
  • Be disrespectful to locals or cultural traditions

Safety and Health

Safety in Courtenay

Courtenay is a very safe and welcoming city, but visitors should still exercise caution and awareness while exploring the area. Always research the trails you plan to hike beforehand, and never approach wildlife. Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night, and avoid unlit areas in the city. In case of emergency, dial 911.

Health in Courtenay

Vancouver Island has a relatively good healthcare system, but it’s always a good idea to bring a basic first aid kit and any necessary medications with you. The area’s natural beauty can also pose certain risks, such as sunburn and dehydration, so make sure to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen when exploring outdoors.

Getting to Courtenay: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Courtenay

The closest major airport to Courtenay is Comox Valley Airport, which is located just a short drive from the city center. Alternatively, visitors can also fly into Victoria International Airport, which is approximately a 2-hour drive from Courtenay.

Bus Stations Near Courtenay

Greyhound Bus Lines and Island Link Bus both operate routes to Courtenay from major cities in British Columbia.

Other Options

Self-driving and car rental are also popular options for getting to Courtenay and exploring the surrounding area.

How to Get Around in Courtenay

Courtenay is a pedestrian-friendly city, with most of the downtown area easily explored on foot. For longer trips, renting a car or a bike is the most convenient option.

Where to Go Next from Courtenay: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  • Tofino: A scenic coastal village that boasts beautiful beaches, ancient rainforests, and an abundance of wildlife.
  • Campbell River: A vibrant city that is known for its salmon fishing and wildlife tours, as well as numerous hiking and biking trails.
  • Victoria: British Columbia’s capital city is home to stunning Victorian architecture, world-class restaurants, and a vibrant art and culture scene.


Courtenay is a must-visit destination on Vancouver Island, offering visitors a perfect mix of outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and top-notch cuisine. Whether you’re a hiker, a history buff, or a foodie, there’s something for everyone in this scenic city. Plan your trip today and discover the best that Courtenay has to offer.