Peak birdwatching attracts visitors during the shoulder seasons -- the fall, winter and spring.
Located on the Cowichan Bay Waterfront, just west of Hecate Park, the Cowichan Estuary is rich with marine and intertidal life. This region, like most of Vancouver Island, is actively pursuing economic diversification and focused on attracting niche tourism markets and high value opportunities. Community members, supported by the Cowichan Land Trust, envisioned creating a Nature Interpretive Centre to help preserve the estuary and provide an opportunity for people to learn about the diversity of the rich coastal environment. The Cowichan Land Trust also recognized the opportunity to leverage the region’s existing profile as a prime birdwatching destination and the availability, in the Cowichan Bay area, of high-end accommodation and dining options to attract higher income birding tourism market.
The Cowichan Estuary Interpretive Nature Centre is an impressive post and beam structure located on the estuary in the heart of Cowichan Bay. Indoor amenities include aquaria, touch tables, microscope stations and interactive displays. An oceanfront interpretive trail was built and outdoor signage placed along the trail leading to a two-level viewing platform with telescopes for wildlife and bird viewing.
Completed in August 2012, visitors, school groups and local families now have the opportunity to learn about the amazing diversity of intertidal systems and coastal environments. The development of the Cowichan Estuary Interpretive Nature Centre has helped position Cowichan Bay as a prime birdwatching destination. The increase in this higher-end market has created new employment and supported local retail shops, hospitality and eco-tourism businesses. As peak bird watching season is in the spring and fall/winter, the Centre is attracting significant tourist dollars into the community during the shoulder seasons, when they are most needed. This helps support a more sustainable economy and create better investment opportunities.