Have you heard about “The Little Town That Did?”

Do you ever read about a place that piques your interest and you hope to see it in person one day?

My Photo Malahat Lookout(August, 2019)painnt app – Mercury

I used to read a little magazine called “Reader’s Digest” from cover to cover as a young girl.  After I moved away from home my Father bought me a subscription to this magazine.  “Reader’s Digest” was my pop culture, my humour, my miscellaneous trivia, and it contained an abundance of interesting, informative articles.

One of the articles in this magazine in the 1980’s was about a town that had recreated itself on Vancouver Island.  At that time we were living in Northern British Columbia. 

I always remembered this story and I was hoping to one day visit 

                  Chemainus, “The Little Town That Did.”


Chemainus is in the District of North Cowichan, on the east coast of Vancouver Island. 

Lumber used to be the primary industry in this town. The lumber mill operated off and on for 120 years until the mill closed down in the early 1980’s.

As part of a revitalization project, local and international artists were commissioned to create 

                 Giant Murals on the downtown business walls showcasing the history and the culture of Chemainus. 

And like “The Little Engine That Could” written by Watty Piper, Chemainus became known as “The Little Town That Did.”


28 Years Ago

When we moved to “The Island” in 1991 we began exploring many areas near our home.   10 Reasons Why You Should Not Live On The Island   We camped in Strathcona Provincial Park and at Long Beach our first summer. 

We also drove to the picturesque town of Chemainus.  Many times.

We often had visitors and Chemainus did not disappoint.  It was the perfect place to explore on foot with family and friends of all ages.


Now, 28 years later

It occurred to me how I haven’t spent much time exploring Chemainus for many years. 

I go to Chemainus at least twice a year to see the live theatre shows with family and friends.  The performances are always excellent!  In the month of August we saw “The Magician’s Nephew” and “Mamma Mia.” 



We drive directly to the theatre to watch the productions and then we drive home.

This year, we decided to spend the day in Chemainus.

                We decided to become a tourist again.

Chemainus has interesting galleries, boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants,  ice cream parlours and  

                 Forty-plus World Famous Giant Murals.





10 Takeaways When Planning a Visit to Chemainus

1.  Leave early.

2.  Bring a camera and good walking shoes.

3.  Stop at scenic lookouts on the drive through the mountain pass called the Malahat.





4.  Plan on visiting a show at the unique, intimate Chemainus Theatre.  Book early!  The shows are usually sold out well in advance.

5.  Walk into a delightful candy store.  It is a fun, colourful and sweet place to visit.  You will learn how many of the decorations and trim were hand painted.  


6.  Make sure to leave room for an ice cream cone.  The girls had strawberry cheesecake and cotton candy flavours.  I had a double which included three flavours.  Mine was blackberry, peanut butter chocolate and green tea (don’t judge me…….I love ice cream!)


7.  Enjoy the visit with children and adults young at heart.

Sadie having fun with “Old-Timers on a Bench” (painnt app)

8.  Visit Chemainus with a dear friend.  The extra hours together, priceless!

A dear friend of mine for over 50 years

9.  Plan to spend time strolling along the streets looking at the murals and learning about the history of Chemainus.  Pictures do not do the murals justice.   Enjoy the extensive artwork and read the stories describing the murals.

Chemainus is now a world famous tourist destination showcasing forty-plus giant murals with new murals being added.  An Outdoor Art Gallery. 



10.  Drumroll please:

              Become a tourist again.   I am glad I did!




I had fun playing with painnt app (free) on a few photos.  A fun suggestion from Terri Webster Schrandt who is an amazing photographer with a very interesting blog site   Second Wind Leisure Perspectives 

Further information on Chemainus:  Chemainus     Mural Town    Weekly Wanders

North Cowichan




98 thoughts on “Have you heard about “The Little Town That Did?”

  1. That’s so fun that you became a tourist for a day – I need to do that with some of my favorite childhood places to visit. I find it fascinating to see what is the same and what has changed or what has been added. I enjoyed how you played too with the photo software. Terri has fun suggestions, and your photos turned out great!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for reading, Shelley, and your kind comment. I am trying to remember to stay creative and fun with the photos and the blog. No right or wrong. Terri has amazing photos and I want to try and find how I can purchase her book on photography:)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome! I find that it is fun to add photos or write the posts after finding inspiration in my photos. Enjoy the process is what I say! Yes, Terri does – I think she has links to it on her blog?! I look forward to seeing what you learn!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi again, Shelley. I just now downloaded Terri’s photography book by purchasing on Amazon and downloading to my Kindle app on my iPad. I forgot that I could easily do this. I do not have a Kindle. I have a Kobo. I plan to do a lot of reading over the next couple of weeks:)

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this Erica! I had a lovely visit to Chemainus just last weekend- the first time experiencing their famous theatre (loooved Mama Mia!!) and the first time strolling the town. Interesting, sweet & so special.💗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought Mamma Mia was one of the best shows I have seen there, although, they are all good. I wanted to do something with a few of my photos, so I thought I would write a post. I know some people that are visiting The Island for the first time this month, so I hope this whets their appetite:) You are right, Lisa, interesting, sweet and special!💕


  3. Oh my goodness, I loved Reader’s Digest. Cover to cover for me too! The town looks like a fun place to visit. Love the giant murals!! Sometimes I play around with photo apps. I’d love to be able to draw and/or paint so since I can’t the apps help me to create a painting from my photos.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am with you, Dee, on not being able to draw or paint. In Pictionary, my horse and chicken look identical:) I like using the original photos and then I had some fun with the painnt app, thanks to Terri (Second Wind Leisure Perspectives blog) You appear very creative, Dee from what I have seen on your blog site:)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I figured “Reader’s Digest” would be part of many reader’s early years:) Chemainus is a fun little town to visit and I only saw some of the murals. I need to go back there. Thanks for reading, Winnie, and your lovely comment:)


  4. I believe there are also horse-drawn tours of the murals with professional guides. It is interesting to see the cultural revolution from loggers to lovers (as my granddaughter Sadie points out to those old-timers….LOL).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This looks like great fun. Your photos are beautiful and show a fascinating little town. I’m glad you had the chance to visit there. And should I ever go there, I’ll heed your words about wearing comfortable shoes. 😊

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I love the idea of becoming a tourist again.
    The list is great and the photos fun –
    And your mention of reader’s digest reminds me of the gem that was. We never had the subscription but had copies – and in the 90s a neighbor sent us the annual hardcover book they used to have – I can’t recall much about it now –
    But sometimes I feel as if the blog world can be a lot like a reader’s digest experience – well when my feed is working right – I get flash stories – quotes – jokes – and some history posts.
    — and to have read about the revitalized town and then have it be part of your life is spooky cool

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Yvette, You just jogged my memory on the annual hard cover book. My Father used to make sure to purchase these books. I also remember having a huge garage sale and selling all of the books. Long before ereaders:) You are right on the diverse blogs and blog topics, almost like a Reader’s Digest experience. I have had a few spooky cool events (coincidences? synchronicities?). Possibly why I felt compelled to share the Chemainus/Reader’s Digest story. Thank you for your interesting and thoughtful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You bring up a great point, Anabel. I wonder how many countries published a version of “Reader’s Digest?” Magazines seem to be going extinct. I only purchase one (actually a yearly gift from my husband) called “Canadian Living.” Otherwise, my publications are all online. I think the other category was “Life’s Like that”. It’s been years since I thought about this magazine, until I started thinking about Chemainus. Thank you for reading, Anabel, and your thoughtful comment:)


    1. Hi Lisa, I still like original photos, although it was fun to play with the app. Chemainus is a very small town, although this experience reminded me how I have forgotten how to be a tourist in areas close to where I live. You are very comfortable surrounded by water, Lisa. You would enjoy “the Island.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janis, I learned a great deal from you when I met you in July. My Chemainus post was a result of some of our discussions. No rules, have fun, play with creativity, do not have to fit into a genre. A lot to see on The Island. You and Paul explored many areas while you were here. Now, you have an excuse to return:) It has been a long time since I have played tourist. Note to self: I need to do more:)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love it when a town can reinvent itself after losing its main livelihood. It seems that finding a hook that will draw in tourists is the key and Chemainus clearly has done that. Also it doesn’t hurt being located in a beautiful part of the country 🙂

    You have now piqued my interest and I’ve just spent a good chunk of time down a rabbit hole researching hikes in this area. It’s now officially on the list! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The numbers are very high on tourism in Chemainus. The theatre is a major draw with wonderful shows and usually a live band. The energy is amazing in the intimate theatre. The town is quite small although fun to poke around. A lot of hikes all over the Island. Decisions. Decisions:)


      1. I continue to do my research on hiking locations on VI but eventually I’m going to be drawing on people like you for recommendations 🙂
        So far I have 3 items on my list:
        – the murals in Chemainus
        – the totem poles in Duncan
        – the Kinsol Trestle in Cowichan Valley

        Liked by 1 person

        1. OMGosh Joanne, I have sooooo many thoughts! It will of course depend on how much time you have and whether you want to stay in a certain area. I have some day trip suggestions (always depending on weather and tides) that would encompass beautiful ocean views, forest hikes, trail heads to the water…….all doable. We can PM with further discussions. Excited for you! 🙂


  8. I also read the Reader’s Digest when I was younger. It always had articles that presented studies and fact. Never heard of this town Chemainus and lovely for you to walk us through it. Playing tourist again can be so fun, and that looked like gorgeous weather for your walk around the town. The candy store looks colourful both on the inside and outside. Your ice-cream flavour sounds out ofthe ordinary but so delicious…now I want to try that lol 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mabel, Lots of fun playing tourist. I need to remember to do this more often. You are right on how weather can make a difference when exploring, especially scenic areas. The ice cream place has many ice cream flavours. Difficult to choose only a few:) Thank you for stopping by, Mabel, and sharing your thoughtful comment:)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Deb, I haven’t been to Chemainus in the Winter in a long time. We are reluctant to get tickets to the theatre in December since sometimes The Malahat can be sketchy and unpredictable. We lived in Nanaimo for one year, many moons ago, and accessing Chemainus was easier. I made the mistake of taking a 3 and 5 year old into the candy store:) I let them pick out one thing each and they selected mini garbage cans filled with candy. Bizarre! As you know, Deb, no lack of places to explore. Living closer to your daughter, priceless! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. What a cool place, Erica. You’re lucky to have it nearby enough to visit quite often. I enjoyed looking at all the pictures.

    I remember Readers Digest so well. I think my family even subscribed to it for a while, so other than doctors office waiting rooms, that was probably my main experience with it. I know they were also famous for a time in publishing condensed version of books (the concept for which I always thought was self-defeating, but that’s another mater entirely). Great memories reading the magazine, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, Marty, location and access makes a huge difference. Also, likely why I forgot to be a tourist. Chemainus is too close. I have never forgotten the Reader’s Digest article about the reinvention of this town. This magazine was well read in my house and then it was passed on, eventually ending up at the doctor’s office:) I even named one of my daughters after a character in one of the stories. Yes, great memories!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Erica: I’d love to visit Chemainus from your descriptions and photos. The ice cream is enough to draw me in, LOL. Your experiment with the paint app turned out beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Natalie, I wanted to get this story out there since I was really thinking about you. I will have infrequent cell coverage soon so not able to post or connect. I don’t want to over hype Chemainus:) It is quite a small town and easy to walk around. The theatre is a major draw for people, too. Funny on the ice cream, Natalie! You will have fun as you always do as “The Explorer” 🙂


    1. We drive the lookout area often and I haven’t stopped there in many years. The scene can vary depending on lighting, fog, rain. I plan to stop there more often now. Thank you for your kind comment, Joanne:) On another note, I tried to download your book, “Happy Ever After” and unable with Amazon.ca. I don’t understand how everything works and whether it is awkward or not feasible to put it on Canada’s Amazon? I don’t have a U.S. or Australia account? And, I don’t think it is on Kobo. I would love to read it!


    1. Hi Suzanne, It dawned on me I should play tourist more often. Things change or new additions. We have had new visitors to the Island this Summer and new ones in the Fall. Fun to see places with a different set of eyes. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts:)


  11. I really enjoyed hearing about this little town I never heard of, but you brought it to life for me and I’m chomping at the bit to explore, enjoy and soak it all up like you have done all these years…. when one day I have an opportunity to visit your gorgeous island.

    My friend took me to Martha’s Vineyard last year and although it’s a bit different, I felt like you did regarding being an open hearted tourist, enjoying the history, uniqueness, the ferry ride that requires months in advance reservations , gingerbread cottages painted in gorgeous ice cream colors and all the walking! Anyway you reminded me how fun it can be to put on a tourist hat at places in “our own back yards” and just have fun. I love small towns that seem to be a throwback to a different era.

    And I loved your utilization of that painnt app. Awesome!

    Susan Grace

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susan, Martha’s Vineyard would be amazing! I have heard a great deal about it. Chemainus is very small in comparison. The theatre and the murals make it unique. Quite a few ice cream parlours, too, for a small town. Enjoy your weekend! The temperature here dropped about ten degrees overnight. Time to haul out the Fall layers:) Nice to hear from you:) xx


    1. I am with you, Sheryl. I decided to keep this photo enlarged. It is definitely a bit of a challenge taking photos of murals. Pictures do not really do them justice. I also have to go back for a visit since I ran out of time. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts:)


  12. How lovely too be a tourist in one’s own backyard Erica. It’s wonderful to experience and it seems there’s always more. Your photos are lovely and thank you for this post which inspires me to learn more about my own small town …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susan, It dawned on me how I haven’t taken in the scenic stops for a long time along the Malahat. I was missing out on some of the changes in the town of Chemainus. Now, I need to go back:) Thank you for your kind comment and sharing your thoughts:)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I never heard about this town and now I know about it – thanks to you. I want to visit! One of these days… From your photographs, it looks beautiful and fun. And that ice cream! (your combinations are quite…interesting). Oh, and you brought me back to my youth, remembering how I devoured the Reader’s Digest also until I left home for college. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny on the ice cream flavours, Pam. I debated on revealing. When I look back, it does sound bizarre, although it all tasted great! I like your word, “devoured.” I think I read almost every word in the magazine. Nowadays I do a lot of skimming on news sites. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts:)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Donna, It dawned on me how I have stopped playing tourist in many areas. I don’t usually stop on the Malahat summit. I plan to do that more often:) It will be a real treat to see you and Richard next weekend!


    1. Hi Kathy, It occurred to me how I haven’t spent much additional time in Chemainus, except for going to the theatre. I am always grateful that I live close to many beautiful areas. I loved seeing your photos from the summer, too:) Thank you for your kind comment. 🙂


  14. Aside from the scenery Erica, which is absolutely magnificent, this seems like such a charming and interesting place to visit. I love a collection of murals ~ showcasing local talent and informative as well. Man that ice cream combo sounds great to me ~ good for you! If you already gonna eat ice cream, why not GO for it and make it a triple 🙂

    I too used to read Readers Digest, all the way in South Africa, for some reason that and National Geographic are what were available to me as a teenager and I really enjoyed both.

    Lovely post!!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there may have been different versions of “Reader’s Digest” in different countries. Many people read online publications, now. I love how you say “go for it” with ice cream. It was difficult for me to zero in on a flavour😊Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Peta:)


  15. Thank you for a virtual tour of this little town – Chemainus, never heard about it but seems to be picturesque! Lovely pictures and murals! I have never visited Vancouver though I have a dear friend there who keeps inviting. 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration Erica and many thanks for visiting me that nudged me to come here to your beautiful site.

    I grew up reading Reader’s Digest, a magazine that had something for everybody. Online version is no match to that book-like magazine of older times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Balroop. Thank you for stopping by and your lovely comment. We enjoy living in this part of our planet, although there are many gorgeous areas throughout the world. You have a very thought-provoking and inspirational site, Balroop. I am glad our paths have crossed:)

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi Erica,
    Chemainus looks great…reminds me of our Fl town of Lake Placid. It’s nickname is Town of Murals. Since the 90s the town has commissioned a new outdoor mural every year that depicts something about the town or its history. Here is a website about some of their murals https://www.mccooltravel.com/lake-placid-murals/, and I also wrote a post about it https://definingthirdage.com/town-of-murals/.
    And the scenic views along the way were lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I left a note on your blog site, Nancy. I am glad you brought this post to my attention. We were travelling in New Zealand at that time and I missed many great stories. This is the first time I have heard about Lake Placid as “Town of Murals.” Watching an artist at work would have been amazing!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Chemainus looks like a wonderful place to spend a day as a tourist. I love murals so I’d definitely be intrigued by those. Thanks for sharing about the painnt app, Erica. It looks like a fun thing to add to my collection. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your photos are always beautiful, Amy. They immediately transport me. The paint app is fun although I think I will play with it sparingly. I still like the actual photo. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Just back from camping on Long Beach. Fun to catch up on all🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Great fun to return to a familiar place and play ‘tourist’. The scenery/your photos are breathtaking. And how blessed you are to have kept a friend for over 50 years.

    A blogger friend of mine, Lauren, at Shooting Stars Mag, hosts a local tourist series the end of each month. You might visit and link this post up with her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, I think you are Leslie (re the photo of the feet:) I saw your lovely note on Dee’s site. I am thankful for my dear friend. Huge coincidence how we are living 10 minutes away from each other. We have both lived in different cities over the years. I am curious about Lauren’s site, even to get ideas for future adventures. Thank you for sharing your thoughts:)


  19. Erica, your story of Chemainus makes me want to go explore the town again. It has been quite a few years since I last wandered around there. You achieved some really interesting effects with the Painnt program. And, dare I say it, I loved the nose-picking photo of the carved old timers.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found I have been overlooking and even taking for granted many of the sites in our area, possibly because they are close by. The actual “tourist in our home town” events can be chaotic. Yet, there are many opportunities to visit the rest of the year. I still like the original photos, yet Painnt app tons of fun. Your actual paintings of scenery, Jude, are Gorgeous!


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