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Chemainus Travel Guide, British Columbia

Chemainus is a little town of 3,500 residents located on Vancouver Island's east shore. This agreeable little town started life in the 1850s as a shipment port around the Horseshoe Bay.

The port of Chemainus was one of the first ports to have been developed in the Pacific Northwest. The place attracted all those who wanted to earn a living off the natural resources that were to be found in the area. The major industries were fishing, forestry and mining and people came from all over the place to work here.

Former home of The Original First Nations peoples and their ancestors for countless generations the town welcomed immigrants and Scots and Germans, Chinese, Japanese mingled to forma cultural diversity that has enriched the town’s cultural scene. Things were going well for the town snuggled in between a mountain range and the ocean and it was here that you could find the largest sawmills in the world. The prosperity of that period can be seen in the handsome homes and a boosting commercial district.

Then when the natural resources were no longer sufficient to maintain the industries going, a period of decline followed, mills closed in 1983, the forest industry began to show signs of decline, the Chemainus mill operation suffered greatly and future did not look promising for the laborers who helped the town develop. But it was then that the locals proved how determined and inventive they are in keeping their town alive. And they did excellent, better that expected. They turned their little town into the “City of Murals”, one that has become a popular destination for all those who want to see Canada's largest permanent outdoor art gallery.

It all began with one mural to continue with many others until much of downtown became covered with murals dealing with the area’s history and local events the paintings being images of real people, and life in the early years. Now there are 33 murals painted on the downtown business walls. It sounds simple but there were many who didn’t believe in the project’s success and it took all the determination of Karl Schutz, who came up with the concept of painting history on the walls of Chemainus and the one that pushed things ahead, to make it happen. And it did happen!

Locals adhered to the project and Festival of Murals Society was established to oversee and preserve the murals project. The little town tucked in the heartland of the Cowichan Valley has become more famous than ever and changed from a town of laborers into a place of artists. No other idea could have revitalized the city more. Being such an original idea it started attracting tourists from all over the county and there was no question about the city moving on up. Tourism became the economic mainstay and the city draws approximately 400,000 visitors annually who come here can admire the murals depicting the town's history.

For visiting the murals there are plenty of ways among which join a horse-drawn wagon tour or yellow shoeprints painted on the sidewalks. For more information on the murals and other touristy spots you can address to the Chemainus Visitor Information Centre.

You can easily visit the town on foot as it is pedestrian-oriented and you can enjoy the view and get a real feel of the city that has wonderful Victorian cottages converted into shops and cafes.

From a thriving arts and culture scene, world class attractions and endless shopping possibilities, to nationally recognized chefs, and pleasant nightlife, the city welcomes you to experience, explore and discover how the Chemainus will awaken your senses like nowhere else.

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