Heritage Tourism on Vancouver Island
First Nations peoples have called Vancouver Island their home for thousands of years. They have long thrived on the bounty from the ocean—salmon, clams, oysters, cod and halibut—and the land's abundant deer and elk, and many edible and medicinal plants.
Duncan, known as the “City of Totems,” is home to the Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Centre. The centre shares the stories and traditions of the Cowichan people with interpretive tours, traditional artwork, salmon barbecues, displays and live demonstrations of traditional ways. It is located on a 2.5-hectare site along the banks of the Cowichan River, and is owned and operated by the Cowichan Tribes, the largest Aboriginal Band in B.C. www.quwutusun.ca
The richly historic story of B.C.'s forest industry is told in a captivating way at the BC Forest Discovery Centre, a 100-acre open air museum. Exhibits, heritage buildings, logging artifacts and an operational railway take visitors on a journey through time, while forest and marsh trails provide excellent bird watching. The centre is operated by the BC Forest Museum Society, a non-profit and charitable organization. Special events are offered throughout the year, which include family activities and workshops for adults and seniors. www.bcforestmuseum.com.
The Nanaimo Museum offers a glimpse into the history of the community and its evolution from five Coast Salish villages to a Hudson's Bay Company outpost, a coal mining boom town and a transportation crossroads. Visiting exhibits share space with the Sports Hall of Fame, a vintage motorized bathtub from the city's famed bathtub race, and a gallery of Nanaimo's best-known citizens. The HBC Bastion, erected in 1853, is the last free-standing original of its type in North America, and is open for tours in the summer. www.nanaimomuseum.ca
When the nearly complete fossilized remains of an 80-million-year-old Elasmosaur were found on the shores of the Puntledge River in 1988, it marked the first major fossil discovery in B.C. west of the Rockies. Now the Courtenay and District Museum and Palaeontology Centre displays that 12-metre-long discovery, and a lot more modern history, too. www.courtenaymuseum.ca.
The Comox Air Force Museum displays the heritage of 19 Wing Comox and West Coast Canadian Military Aviation, including the restoration of a WW II Spitfire Mk. IX. Many theme exhibits complement the collection and highlight the operations of 19 Wing, past and present. There is an extensive research library and museum store. Located at the historic and operational 19 Wing Comox. www.comoxairforcemuseum.ca
The Cumberland Museum & Archives is alive with artifacts from the community's colourful coal mining era, including a replica walk-through coal mine and echoes from 100 years ago when it was the largest Chinese settlement north of San Francisco. On Cumberland Road, near Highway 19, Cumberland Cemetery is the burial site of Albert "Ginger" Goodwin, a popular labour leader whose 1916 slaying sparked riots. The entire village of Cumberland joined the funeral procession and, by the time it reached the cemetery, the line stretched a mile back into the community. www.cumberlandmuseum.ca.
The Museum at Campbell River celebrates the people of the coast through permanent and changing exhibits that tell the stories of First Nations, colonization, early settlement and resource industries. The Museum also offers an extensive archives, and an audiovisual theatre, which features a fascinating presentation about the famous Ripple Rock explosion. www.crmuseum.ca
The Maritime Heritage Centre, located adjacent to the Discovery Pier, is home to BCP45, the boat which graced Canada's $5 bill from 1972 to 1986. The fully restored boat is a national historic site, and the centre also contains an eclectic collection of marine artifacts. www.bcp45.org
Roderick Haig-Brown, a renowned local sports fisher and nature conservationist, published more than 25 books on fishing and related outdoor subjects. His home on the Campbell River is preserved as a heritage site, and operates as a bed and breakfast. www.haig-brown.bc.ca
Through the looking glass of its collections of artifacts and historic photographs, Alberni Valley celebrates community history, Nuu-chah-nulth art and culture and the region's industrial roots in logging, fishing and farming. The Alberni Valley Heritage Network includes the Alberni Valley Museum, McLean Mill National Historic Site, the Alberni Pacific Railway, and the Maritime Discovery Centre. The Alberni Valley Museum, renowned as one of the finest community museums in the province, uses a unique and experimental visible storage system that makes nearly the entire collection available all the time. McLean Mill, the only steam-operated sawmill in Canada, can be reached by boarding a train at the 1912 CPR Station. The Alberni Pacific Railway carries passengers to the operating mill with a fully-restored 1929 Baldwin ex-logging steam locomotive. Alberni Valley’s Maritime Discovery Centre, topped by the light from a 111-year-old coastal lighthouse, is a unique maritime museum, situated on the waterfront with great access to the city's deep-sea harbour. www.alberniheritage.com
The history of the Pacific Rim is the story of the people and the ocean. In Tofino, The Whale Centre Maritime Museum showcases displays collected and donated by local residents over the last 25 plus years, including objects washed ashore, and Aboriginal artifacts from the Nuu-chah-nulth culture. www.tofinowhalecentre.com/museum