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Once, there were two sister towns. And although they got along famously, they couldn't have been more different...
Comox BC - Let's begin with the older: The town of Comox was founded in the mid 1900's overlooking what was once known as Port Augusta - a regular stop for Royal Navy and transport steamers. It was the Kwakwala people who named the area Komuckway, meaning Place of Plenty, in reference to the area's abundance of wild berries and free-running game. (European settlers adapted the name to the more recognizable Komoux.) Now the wild game is less accessible and the berries are best bought at the farm-market but this destination still lives up to its name -- there's plenty to do in Comox!
Naturally, the heartbeat of this seaside community of 12,000 is the popular Fisherman's Wharf, a large marina complete with a boardwalk, seaside shops and pubs. Comox is home to four marinas, mooring over 500 pleasure vessels and a fleet of commercial fishing boats. The seafood can't get any fresher when it's bought off the boat! More the DIY type? Day-charters provide access to some of the world's best salmon fishing...
The ocean heritage has truly defined this beautiful town. Nautical Days held on the BC Day long weekend, celebrate the sea through a parade as well as a festival in Marine Park.
Not surprisingly, Comox's beaches are some of the most beautiful on Vancouver Island's east coast. Goose Spit Regional Park has miles of sandy beaches and for the serious trekkers, Strathcona Provincial Park provides endless hiking and camping possibilities. For a more skilled hike, try the two Comox Valley golf courses: The Crown Isle Golf Club and Comox Golf Course, a surprisingly challenging nine-hole in the middle of town.
An integral part of the community is the Canadian Royal Air Force base (CFB Comox), providing search-and-rescue, marine patrol and defense support operations. The Comox Air Force Museum provides an intriguing and educational journey through the area's aviation history. Don't miss the Heritage Air Park, where several historic aircraft (including the H-21 Piasecki Flying Banana) are on display.
Comox offers year-round cultural experiences. August's 4-day Filberg Festival showcases hundreds of artisans from all over the province, displaying their arts and crafts. The stars of February's Trumpeter Swan Festival are the 2000 birds of that name who call Comox their home each winter. Even sea lions can be seen at Sea Bay Regional Park. Daytripping? Take a ferry to nearby Denman or Hornby Island and tour artists' studios, hike the bluffs, scuba dive or just relax with a picnic...
Both Comox and Courtenay are easily accessible from The Island Highway which links the area with southern Vancouver Island and Victoria, only a 2.5 hour drive south. BC Ferries operates between Comox and Powell River on the mainland while Comox Valley Regional Airport provides numerous daily direct flights from Vancouver and Calgary. Additionally, Courtenay is the northern terminus for the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railroad, a small dayliner that carries passengers to and from Victoria.
But we've only seen one half of the family. Let's meet the little sister... Courtenay BC.
Courtenay, located in some of Vancouver Island's most picturesque rural countryside, is Comox Valley's urban centre. Only 6 kilometers from Comox, this fast-growing community of almost 26,000 is home to amazing shopping, restaurants and attractions, including the Public Contemporary Art Gallery and the Sid Williams Civic Theatre.
Founded in 1891, the town was the namesake of the Courtenay River, the body of water that is the result of the merging Tsolum and Puntledge Rivers.
After dinosaur fossils were discovered in the Trent and Puntledge River area, Courtenay was designated as the first step of the Great Canadian Fossil Trail. Today, a trip down to the 80 million year old Puntledge River Seabed will find visitors digging for fossils of their own. The Courtenay Museum houses the fossil of an elasmosaur, the largest marine reptile fossil in BC!
But the future is as intriguing as the past. For a firsthand look at BC industry, visit the Puntledge Fish Hatchery which includes an underwater viewing area to watch the action as various breeds of salmon are farmed.
If the flora provides you with more excitement than the fauna, explore the Kitty Coleman Woodland Gardens - 24 forested acres of meandering cedar bark paths and home to over 3,500 plant species.
Courtenay's biggest attraction is the beautiful Mt. Washington. Only 30 kilometers from town, this popular 1590 meter-high alpine resort is the Island's ski and snowboard mecca. The second busiest recreation destination behind Whistler, this particular winter wonderland is full of surprises, receiving more snowfall in 1995 than anywhere else in the world!
From Flying Bananas to fresh fish, from snowboarding to scuba-diving, Comox and Courtenay are clearly two sisters worth spending your vacation with!