A fashionable summer recreation and cottage area for over a century, Shawnigan Lake has seen its share of happy anglers, blissful sunbathers, and elegant day-trippers. The lake is still a favourite weekend getaway spot and has become one of Victoria’s more popular “bedroom” communities.
Shawnigan Lake Village is a well-known venue for arts and craft shows. Located on the eastern shore of the lake, the village contains two small general stores, three restaurants, several beaches and various small businesses, including a barber and two coffee shops. There is also a small but excellent museum, run by the Shawnigan Lake Historical Society.
Several beaches and small day-use areas are scattered around Shawnigan Lake.
Population: 14,040 (Area)
Paddling: Numerous shoreline marshes, an island park, and intriguing old lakeside cabins make Shawnigan Lake an excellent spot for kayaks and canoes.
Kinsol Trestle: Spanning the Koksilah River Valley, the Kinsol Trestle is one of the largest and highest wooden trestle bridges in the world. A complete restoration of the Kinsol Trestle was completed in 2011, retaining 60% of the historic timber. The bridge now allows hikers and bikers to see more of The Cowichan Valley Trail and Trans Canada Trail. To access Kinsol Trestle, turn north at the 4-way stop in Shawnigan Lake Village and continue passed Mason’s Store on what becomes Old Port Renfrew Road for about 10km, then follow the signs.
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 in nearby Cobble Hill. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Old Mill Park is located off Recreation Road on the east side of Shawnigan Lake. The park was the mill site of the Shawnigan Lake Lumber Co. from 1881 to 1945. In addition to its extensive industrial heritage, Old Mill Park has become a popular recreation site for family’s and nature enthusiasts.
Memory Island Provincial Park is located on the southern half of Shawnigan Lake. It only requires a short 1km paddle to reach this tranquil little park. Come ashore to picnic, stretch your legs and do a little laid-back bird-watching.
West Shawnigan Lake Provincial Park offers a beach that is very popular with young families. An alternative is Shawnigan Lake Municipal Beach located on Renfrew Road beside the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway on the east side of the lake.
Koksilah River Provincial Park is spread out along the Koksilah River west of Shawnigan Lake. The beautifully clear water offers good swmming, fishing, and paddling, and the network of rustic trails provides easy hiking in the forest.
Bamberton Provincial Park is located east of Shawnigan Lake, and just south of the Mill Bay ferry terminal. A large swath of sandy beach fronts on the Saanich Inlet, and dozens of picnic tables sit on the terraced slopes above the beach, shaded by a Douglas fir and Arbutus (madrona) forest. Bamberton is the closest provincial park to Shawnigan Lake, and is one of the more scenic locations on Saanich Inlet. From the park you look east towards Mount Baker on the BC mainland.
Hiking: Outdoors enthusiasts can hike a section of the Trans Canada Trail. The Trans-Canada Trail Regional Park follows the abandoned Canadian National Railway (CNR) right-of-way from Sooke Lake Road (at the south end of Shawnigan Lake) to the Holt Creek trestle in the Glenora area, known locally as the Holt Creek Trail. The path begins at the entrance to the Cowichan River Provincial Park The trail will eventually connect with the Galloping Goose Trail and create a continuous Trans Canada Trail from Mile ’0′ at Douglas and Dallas Roads in Victoria to St. John’s, Newfoundland, with a branch going up through the Yukon, a distance of approximately 17,400 kilometres.
North of Shawnigan Lake is the tiny farming village of Cobble Hill in the Cowichan Valley. Surrounded by a picturesque landscape and numerous vineyards and wineries, Cobble Hill is a creative community for painters, sculptors, and potters.
East of Shawnigan Lake is the village of Mill Bay, located alongside the Trans-Canada Highway. Mill Bay offers quiet waterfront streets and wonderful views of the southern Gulf Island.