The quaint town of Chemainus on BC's Vancouver Island was almost lost to history when, amid the nation-wide recession of the 1980's the sawmill that had been the town's lifeblood was force to close. But just when this community of 4 thousand was about to meet economic demise, Chemainus' maverick of a mayor had an idea. And if necessity is truly the mother of invention, then what followed can only be described as a little town's reinvention of itself.
Chemainus undertook a uniquely creative revitalization project. One that involved the painting of murals on every available visible surface. Whether large or small, these works of art turned this faltering town into British Columbia's newest tourist destination instead of its newest ghost-town. In 1982, the collection consisted of 5 murals but today, this community of 5 thousand enjoys over 37 murals from massive, breathtaking works that celebrate the area's heritage to numerous finely-decorated fire hydrants and over a dozen public sculptures.
This community facelift has contributed to the sustenance of over 300 businesses from restaurants to curiosity shops, but the most popular and successful of local ventures is the Chemainus Theatre. Its Italian-styled building is impossible to miss and its amazing productions shouldn't be. A night here is an unforgettable experience from the lobby's domed rotunda to the gourmet buffet dinner served in the Playbill Dining Room -- not to mention the 273-seat theatre which consistently produces some of the best musical theatre and theatre performances in Canada.
There's more to the Chemainus experience than great art and great theatre. There's great shopping too. A stroll down Willow Street will uncover everything from a legendary ice cream parlour to collectables shops that showcase some of the island's finest pottery and native art. And there's also the great outdoors, of course. Whether swimming or fishing, Fuller Lake Park, Waterwheel Park, Clark Beach or Kin Beach are all fantastic places to catch a few rays and enjoy a well-deserved dip. For memorable overnight camping excursions, visit the Gulf Islands of Thetis Island and Kuper Island that are conveniently serviced by a BC Ferry terminal at the centre of town. Rather make undersea memories? Scuba divers come from near and far to experience the wonder of the sunken Boeing 737 that makes up the area's popular artificial reef!
Chemainus enjoys over 400 thousand visitors yearly and it's easy to see why.