When you’re planning a trip to British Columbia, Canada, you should consider Vancouver Island! When it comes time to plan your trip here, it’s likely that you’ll end up staying in one of the two major cities on the Island: Victoria or Naniamo. These cities are filled with heritage sites and offer incredible dining, shopping, entertainment and endless outdoor adventures – but there is so much more to Vancouver Island! All over this incredible Island you can find gorgeous little towns to explore who have their own unique histories and identities. Just south of Nanaimo, perched on the edge of the ocean and on the 49th parallel, there is the little town of Ladysmith BC where you can find incredible Edwardian-era heritage buildings, stunning natural beauty, incredible dining, boutique shopping and friendly people! So if you want to explore more of the Island during your visit to Nanaimo or the Cowichan Valley, a day trip to Ladysmith is a great idea!
For over 5,000 years the Stz’uminus First Nations communities have lived and thrived on this land where the coastline offers abundant fishing and the dense forests, plentiful hunting to ensure the health and survival of the communities. The colonial history of Ladysmith, BC began in 1896 when James Dunsmuir of the Dunsmuir coal and mining family chose Oyster Harbour as the shipping port for his nearby mine. This decision required homes, shops, churches and hotels to be built in a short time to accommodate the miners, shipyard workers and their families who moved to the area. These buildings were brought to the area by rail from Naniamo and from there, Ladysmith expanded. In 1904, the town of Ladysmith, named after the siege of Ladysmith, South Africa during the Boer War, was officially founded. For the next 80 years, Ladysmith’s economy was driving almost solely on natural resources. Copper and coal mining as well as forestry were the chief sources of revenue for the area until the 1980s when the town began to diversify. Tourism, retail, service and other business sectors grew as more and more people began visiting Vancouver Island. Today, Ladysmith is a part of the Cowichan Valley Regional District and is focused on progressive projects and partnering with the Stz’uminus First Nation to create an inclusive and prosperous town.
Dining in Ladysmith
While Ladysmith may not be well known as a Vancouver Island dining destination, this little town has been serving up some incredible food and drinks in the past few years! On First Avenue in downtown Ladysmith, you can find an incredible array of cuisines from Japanese, Chinese and Indian to delicious plant-based goodies, Canadian comfort food and baked treats! Here are some of our favourite places to eat in Ladysmith!
Oyster Bay Cafe on the Ocean – 611 Oyster Bay Dr, Ladysmith
Floating on a dock in Oyster Harbour, this sweet little cafe serves up delicious, fresh, light lunches to keep up your energy while you explore Ladysmith!
Apetit Food for Thought – 534 1st Ave, Ladysmith
This casual diner is a local favourite! Serving up huge portions of all the comfort-food classics, and global inspired dishes, this little diner is definitely worth a visit!
Zack’s Lounge – 530 1st Ave, Ladysmith
This eatery is the place in ladysmith to find mouthwatering handheld classics and incredible cocktails! Perfect for a mid-exploration appy or a cozy dinner in downtown Ladysmith!
Wild Poppy Market – 541 1st Ave, Ladysmith
For the most incredible fresh, gluten-free dishes you’ll want to head to Wild Poppy Market! You can choose to sit in the little café to enjoy your food or take one of their many grab-and-go options if you’re on the move!
Shopping in Ladysmith
While you’re visiting Ladysmith, you won’t want to miss out on popping in to some of the incredible shops! You can find antiques, women’s fashion, gourmet kitchenware and so much more! Here are some not-to-miss boutiques we love!
Neck of the Woods General Store – 28 Roberts St, Ladysmith
If you’re looking for a local store that carries a wide selection of handmade local items, Neck of the Woods is the place to go! You can spend hours here browsing through the jewellery, pottery, glassware, home decor and more!
Antiques Post Office Mall – 340 Island Hwy, Ladysmith
Are you an avid antique hunter? Then you’ll want to make the trip to one of Vancouver Island’s largest antique malls! With three floors of treasures to hunt through, you can find everything from large furniture items, collectibles, clocks, art and so much more!
Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery – 444 Parkhill Terrace, Ladysmith
Vancouver Island is known for its vibrant art scene and Ladysmith is no exception! This art gallery has an incredible collection of art by local artists so you can take your time to peruse the work and purchase something that catches your eye!
Left Coast Fashions – 432 1st Ave, Ladysmith
With a great selection of unique, one-of-a-kind women’s fashions, jewellery and bath products, left coast fashions is where the locals find the best gifts and local, ethical fashion and accessories!
LIke most places on Vancouver Island, there are almost endless outdoor adventures to have from Ladysmith year-round!
Kayaking & Paddleboarding
If you’re looking for an easy way to enjoy the ocean while you’re visiting Ladysmith, check out Sea Legs Kayaking at beautiful Transfer Beach! This company rents kayaks and paddleboards, ideal for anyone who wants a calm way to paddle around Ladysmith Harbour and the shores around Burleith Arm. If you’re travelling to Vancouver Island with a boat or if you’re looking to rent one, there are municipal boat launches to get your vessel in the water.
Distance: Approx. 400 m – Time: 10 min. – Rating: Easy
This short, refreshing walk near the waterfront offers gorgeous views of the water. At low tide, you can enjoy a stroll along the shore all the way to Transfer Beach Park and the Marine Walk. In the fall, you might even be able to spot some salmon entering Holland Creek.
Heart Lake Loop
Distance: Approx. 6.4 km – Time: 2 hrs – Rating: Challenging
Even though there are some steep climbs on this trail, with stunning views of the town, Gulf Islands and Mount Baker at the summit, this hike is worth it!
Holland Creek Trail
Distance: Approx. 5.8 km – Time: 3 hrs – Rating: Easy
If you’re looking for an easy hike with some spectacular sights along the way, this is it! This beautiful trail leads you around Holland Creek where you can see Crystal Falls and the Colliery dams, plus in the fall you’ll see the salmon spawning! This is an excellent trail for people with mobility issues as it’s mostly wheelchair accessible from the Methuen / 6th Avenue entrance west to the upper Collier dam.
Distance: Approx. 1 km – Time: 25 min. – Rating: Easy
As a part of the Trans Canada Trail, this regularly maintained trail starts at Transfer Beach and meanders through the trees to the waterfront.
Transfer Beach is the best beach in Ladysmith! Located in the heart of town, it’s a great place to enjoy sunny days, beachcomb and storm watch during the fall and winter months! Here, you can find some great seaside walking trails, public beach volleyball, a spray park and playground for the kids, and it’s the perfect beach to launch a kayak or paddleboard.
Whether you’re an experienced rider or a novice, Ladysmith has both on-road and off-road cycling trails that are perfect for you! There are on-road routes through town that connect to shopping and services with the least amount of hill climbing. If you’re an avid rider, you could take on the trip from south Cowichan Valley all the way to Ladysmith and back and Nanaimo to Ladysmith is a gorgeous ride as well! For mountain bikers, the hills and trails west of Ladysmith provide prime off-road trails that are challenging and fun! If you’re looking for something more easy-going without traffic, the Rotary Bicycle Route and the Trans Canada Trail offer cycling routes to the north and south of town.
Birdwatchers will love a trip to Ladysmith! While there are an abundance of gulls, sea ducks, and shorebirds the most exciting thing about Ladysmith (to an ornithologist) is that Ladysmith Harbour is one of the few nesting sites for the vulnerable purple martins species! These little guys happily nest in boxes on the dock pilings at the community marina so you’re sure to catch sight of a few!
Imagine being on the golf course, year-round! When it comes to Ladysmith, that’s the norm! While it may not be a Niklaus designed 18 hole course, Ladysmith’s 9-hole course is a fun way to spend a day where you can practice your game and enjoy the spectacular ocean and mountain views.