Cowichan Valley vs. Sunshine Coast

Howdy readers,

I need some help answering a question I received from Tom in Vermont, USA:

“How would you compare the communities, weather and overall vibe in the Cowichan Valley with the Sunshine coast?  Thanks.”

Given I’ve never been to the Sunshine Coast (it’s on my must-do-that-one-of-these-days list), I’m hoping some of you can help answer Tom’s question. Let’s try to be unbiased!



p.s. In response to Lezlie’s comment below, here’s a picture of what happened in our mild Valley today…

First snowman of the season!


  1. I’ve lived in both places! The Cowichan Valley is the best for these reasons;
    -The Sunshine Coast is a long peninsula and has one entrance at the S.end ( Langdale:Ferry from Mainland/Horseshoe Bay)and one exit at the N. End( Earls cove/Powell River)and between the two one Hwy. and it is a narrow winding Hwy.that is always busy.
    -Sechelt and Gibsons and Pender Harbour are 3+ delightful small towns that offer many of the same things as the 6+ (Chemainus, Crofton, Ladysmith, Mill Bay, Duncan, Cowichan Bay, Cobble Hill) small towns of the Cowichan Valley.
    -The climate is much the same….maybe Sunshine coast offering a few more hours of Sunshine per year.(the two communities are across the Georgia Straight from each other)
    -There are many more wonderful wineries, restaurants, Farmers Markets and availability of organic products here in the Cowichan Valley.
    -In the Cowichan Valley you have access to Larger centers anywhere from 40 -60 minutes away ( Victoria and Nanaimo). The Sunshine Coast is a 35 min. ferry trip plus waits and drive ( add 2 hr.) to West Vancouver or Powell River.
    -In the Cowichan Valley you have Public access to the Ocean at many many venues. On the Sunshine Coast there are naturally, fewer.(smaller Coastal area)
    -The Cowichan Valley needs ferry access too from the mainland but has access at Victoria, Mill Bay, Crofton and Nanaimo.
    -Both offer Farmland/Forest living for those that are looking for a rural setting. The Cowichan Valley probably offers more rural choices than the Sunshine Coast. The Sunshine Coast’s Rural opportunities would be a wilder more ‘wild west’ new frontier type or rural setting.
    -The ‘vibe’ I get from being on the Sunshine coast is one where you feel hemmed in by the single main Hwy. whereas the Cowichan Valley has many options to go further and branch off the main road. The Cowichan Valley has a real ‘old England’ feel to it….the farms are well established and for want of a better word, ‘groomed’ well kept look.
    -In both places there are many artists and Cultural experiences…..lots more choice in Cow.Valley.
    -Someone else can comment on the Fishing and Prawing, Crabbing, and Clamming…..just because there are more launch ramps to the ocean in the Cow. Valley probably more opportunity here?

    1. Thanks very much for that thoughtful and detailed reply to my question. Vermont, where we live, has many of the virtues you describe as being part of life in the Cowichan Valley, including a wonderful sense of community. Unfortunately, it also has very cold winters that take up almost half the year.

      Tom Maxwell
      Bridport, VT USA

  2. Good question and Ruth – great comrpehensive answer. If Tom searches a bit, he will see that depending on which website, the avg. annual precip. for both the Valley and the Sunshine Coast comes in at close to 40″ per year. I have not lived in both, but am aware that people on the Sunshine Coast often feel like they live on an island more than Islanders do. We have more amenities available without ever leaving the Island. On the Sunshine Coast, many medical services are only available one or two ferries away. Both great places to call home, one just is smaller and more remote.

    1. Thanks a lot for the enlightenment on the remoteness of the Sunshine Coast. I was surprised to learn about so much reliance on ferries. Of course, we have to rely on ferries here in VT to get across Lake Champlain, but fortunately we have all our amenities and hospitals on this side of the lake.

      Tom Maxwell
      Bridport, VT USA

  3. These are all excellent answers. I notice Tom mentioned the winters in Vermont. Should we send him a picture of today in the valley! lol

    1. The really alarming thing about the photo is the caption proclaiming it to be the “first” snowman of the season. I thought your valley was a place where golf is played all year round.
      We’ve only had a little snow here in the lower elevations of Vermont, although they’ve got some at the ski areas up in the mountains. By the way, I live near Middlebury, VT where my wife and I have a B&B. You can visit our website at

      1. Tom,

        I just checked out your B&B website. What a gorgeous place you have! The next time I’m in Vermont, we will definitely stop over for a night!


  4. Maeve,
    Thanks for the nice comments about our B&B. We’ve enjoyed running it for the last eight years. We were looking for a change after three decades in Los Angeles, and it’s certainly been that. Do you get to VT occasionally? We’d love to meet you. Sounds like our areas have a lot in common.
    We’ve been to Victoria, but it was about twenty years ago. We had a good time, but didn’t get up your way. So, now that’s on our list, probably as part of a trip to take a train through the Canadian Rockies.


  5. It’s an interesting comparison, our lovely valley and the Sunshine Coast. I have traveled all over BC (and beyond) looking at possible places to live–including our far north. It’s all spectacular, but what stayed with me was the feeling on the Sunshine Coast that I was more remote there than almost anywhere else I’d been in the province! The valley, by contrast, feels perfect to me–rural and lots of hidden secrets, but still connected to the larger centres. The two places have slightly different vibes, too.

    If you prefer that forest and bold waterfront, and more privacy, the Sunshine Coast is for you. And one more important factor–it’s a lot cheaper! Of course, there are fewer options for commuting to jobs, if that’s an issue. With the shrinking base economies there, the demographics may be narrowing too. I hope not, though.

    What fun to think about! Thanks Tom and Maeve!

  6. Thanks very much to reply to my question. Your valley sounds lovely and I look forward to seeing it for myself.
    My wife and I just got back from a couple of days in Montreal and they were having the same kind of weather you were last week. Of course, that’s expected there–and in Vermont where I live. I’m guessing it’s somewhat unusual for you, or do you usually get some snow in the winter?

    Tom Maxwell

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