Cradled by verdant hillsides and surrounding mountains, the active community of Crofton is situated on the calm waters of Osborne Bay in the Cowichan Valley.
The original townsite of Osborne Bay was homesteaded by a handful of families in the mid-1800s. The pioneers farmed land and timber claims granted by the government of the day. Then, just before the turn of the century, a chain of events reshaped the town forever.
Australian-born Henry Croft, a lumber and mining magnate, had developed the prosperous Lenora mine at nearby Mount Sicker. By 1902, his mine was producing more ore than railway cars could load and haul away to the Ladysmith and Nanaimo ports. Inspired by significant profits, Croft bought the townsite to build a copper smelter and house his workers.
The town prospered until world copper prices plummeted, causing the closure of the mine in 1908. The miners struggled to find work in the logging and fishing industries until 1956, when a large pulp and paper mill was built on the outskirts of town, attracted by Crofton’s deep-sea port.
These days, this friendly forestry community offers quiet parks, comfortable accommodation and a host of family activities, such as golfing, swimming, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. If this sounds too strenuous, you can just relax in Osborne Bay and watch the sun rise over Saltspring Island.
Crofton is central to Victoria and Nanaimo, and with ferry access to Saltspring Island, Crofton is a great place from which to base your south island activities.
Location: Crofton is located off the Trans-Canada Highway 1, on the southeast coast of Vancouver Island, 5 miles (8 km) north of Maple Bay, and 7 miles (11 km) south of Chemainus. Crofton can be reached by taking the scenic drive from Maple Bay Road to Herd Road, and Herd Road to Osborne Bay Road.
Visit the Old School House Museum, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1905 and used as a school until 1948. The restored Old School Museum, located on the waterfront near the ferry to Saltspring Island, now houses Crofton’s historic artifacts and a delightful gift gallery. The museum features displays of pioneer and smelter-town life, and an interesting section on the Crofton school.
Crofton is the location of a BC Ferries terminal. Car and passenger ferries to Vesuvius Bay on Saltspring Island leave regularly from morning to early evening.
Stroll along the new seawalk that starts from the lower parking lot at the fishing docks, pack a picnic lunch and explore Osborne Bay Regional Park, or hike the trails on nearby Maple Mountain (Maple Mountain Centennial Park), Mt. Richards and Mt. Prevost.
Golf: Golfers have a few golf courses in the area to choose from; Cowichan Golf and Country Club in Duncan (20 minutes from Crofton), Duncan Meadows Golf Course (15 minutes from Crofton), Mount Brenton Golf Course in Chemainus (10 minutes from Crofton), and Arbutus Ridge Golf Club in nearby Cobble Hill. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Fishing is good at Osborne Bay Park and many of the lakes in the area, including Quamichan Lake, Somenos Lake, and Fuller Lake just south of Chemainus. Saltwater fishing is excellent in Sansum Narrows, between Vancouver Island and Saltspring Island. Boat launch facilities are available in Crofton and Maple Bay.
Osborne Bay: You can clam on the beach at >Osborne Bay, home to a herd of barking sea lions, and you might see a pod of killer whales swim by during the salmon runs.
B.C. Forestry Museum: Just to the west of Crofton, approximately 15 Km south of Chemainus on the Island Highway, is the B.C. Forestry Museum. This is an extensive display covering several acres of wooded land and boasts its own working logging road. The main power for this operation is a refurbished Shay locomotive. Besides locomotives, there are many other pieces of early forestry equipment, including a Ruston steam road roller in full working order and looking “like the day it left the factory” in England.
Adjacent to the B.C. Forestry Museum on the Island Highway, is the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Refuge. Somenos Lake is part of the Pacific Coast flyway, where thousands of birds cut in from Cowichan through Somenos Marsh, up the Cowichan Valley, and over to the west side of Vancouver Island. Over 200 species of birds have been identified on the Marsh, which has a boardwalk and nature viewing platform.
The Great Blue Heron Festival is held at Somenos Marsh, and over 300 members are currently committed to keeping this wondrous resource as pristine as possible for future generations.
South of Crofton is the pretty seaside community of Maple Bay, located in a narrow inlet and surrounded by smooth, pebbled beaches. Maple Bay is one of the finest natural harbours on the West Coast, and bustles with marine activity all year round.
North of Crofton is the town of Chemainus, world renowned for its 41 murals. Artists from around the globe were invited to paint huge heritage murals on the sides of buildings, transforming a small coastal mill town into the world’s largest outdoor art gallery.
From Crofton, you can catch a ferry across to Saltspring Island – another one of BC’s treasures. Saltspring Island is the largest, most populated, and most visited of the Gulf Islands chain. The setting is West Coast Canadian, forested islands surrounded by emerald ocean, with wonderful vistas. Spend the day browsing through the marketplace in Ganges.