the (try) IT list

Find IT all in Cowichan. Romance. Adventure. Relaxation. We wanted it all… and we only had two days!

It was my husbands birthday weekend, and almost Christmas. Meaning we had things to celebrate, and gifts to buy. Like many of you reading this, we too needed a recharge after a busy “I-blinked-where-did-the-time-go” fall. Still, let’s be honest here – there’s no true relaxing unless we get organized for the holidays.

I have a big family, but we’re not into excessive gift giving. We give gifts, but our gift traditions are more about games and silly presents. One year I had to diffuse a pretend bomb to access my present. Yup. Families are weird and awesome.

I have a big family and a new one. G and I just got married at the end of August. Making family traditions of our own, we agreed that gifts we give will be thoughtful to both the receiver and the planet. Shop local. Meet your maker. No junk. No excess waste. No rainbow dancing unicorn poo. (ooh actual crap… we did buy that as a joke this year didn’t we?)

So, the question remained – where to find romance, adventure, relaxation – AND a unique shopping scene with gifts people will actually use – AND still be home in time for real life grocery shopping on Sunday night?

We didn’t have to look, or travel, far. We heard the call of Cowichan. Living my fitness and life belief that every moment matters – we went for IT. Inspired Time = Island Time.

Thanks to Helijet, in under twenty minutes we traded the city-stress of Vancouver for the calm of Vancouver Island. We landed in Nanaimo where National Car Rental was waiting with keys for our next ride. This is my new definition of smooth sailing, since we saved so much time by not taking the ferry!


Since I’ve always wanted to stay at the Villa Eyrie Resort, we did! A mountainside retreat on the Malahat with beyond stunning views of Finlayson Arm, it’s super close to the area where I grew up, yet feels like a world away. With a great restaurant on site, we also enjoyed the giant Jacuzzi tub in our room and a visit to the Tuscan Spa. Points for both romance and relaxation!


As for adventure, I scored big points myself with the birthday boy when I suggested a visit to Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit. Called the “most beautiful track in the world” by Autoweek Magazine- it was definitely a highlight for one of us. G already has multiple plans to go back for more. We did the Circuit Taxi Experience- that’s 5 laps and 19 corners- as passengers. I was in the backseat and would like to stress you should never, ever, ever sit in the backseat if you tend to get car sick.


More my pace, a walk along the Kinsol Trestle, one of the tallest free-standing timber rail trestles in the world. Although super packed with visitors in the summer months, this time of year you might luck out and get the trestle all to yourself! What to marvel at more -the beautiful work of mother nature or this astounding engineering feat? The point is no stress friends, just walk in wonder and breathe.


Of course, besides nature, the other big draw of the Cowichan Valley is the local food & wine scene. We had lots of great meals this trip, however our biggest and best surprise was dinner at The Ainslie, a brand new spot in Duncan. Owner and Executive Chef Ian Blom was born and raised in the Cowichan Valley, so yes, you bet, he’s highlighting the bounty of the area. Our meal was delicious, locally-sourced and met my gluten-free diet. We loved the ambiance with the twinkling lights in the front courtyard, art work by the chef’s wife on the walls, and a super friendly and unpretentious staff.

During out whirlwind trip we also visited three of the area’s fourteen wineries. We were married at Blue Grouse Estate Winery, so obviously it felt pretty special to pop back in just months later. Fortunate timing as some new wines had just been released, and we certainly have a lot to toast to!

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We also visited Averill Creek Vineyards for a fascinating tasting with their brand new winemaker, and spent some quality together time at Unsworth Vineyards over a standout wine paired lunch.

I’m such a huge fan of this wine region and I’ll tell you why on my next Try IT List post- Visit Cowichan Wineries in Winter – IT’s Good For Your Health.

It’s not just the wine, I love the vibe in the Cowichan Valley. Usually I get restless on drives, but here driving from place to place feels like an easy-going adventure. We plan to keep that Island vibe with us to balance the energy of the hectic holiday season. Isn’t that the bonus of getting away? Connecting with what matters… inspired time together.


Yes, I admit, the to-do list still matters! We got most of our shopping done since we have so many foodies and wine lovers in our lives. Added bonus, we are stocked up on Charme de L’ile – Cowichan’s answer to Prosecco – to ring in our first New Years Eve as a married couple.

Check out my last-minute gift ideas below and be sure to include something special for yourself. Making the most of every moment means knowing YOU are worth IT, too.

Christmas is Made in CowichanLast Minute Gift Ideas

Racy Romance Package. Follow our itinerary & surprise your sweetheart with a weekend away! Stay at the Villa Eyrie. Get facials or massages at the Tuscan Spa. Try the Vancouver Motorsport Circuit. Have a romantic dinner at the Ainslie.

Wine & Dine Ideas. In person, online, or lined up for a date down the road.

Pizza Party Playdate. Invite your family or friend group for good times together. Walk the Kinsol Trestle & finish up with Pizza at Prima Strada in Cobble Hill. There’s a tasty polenta dish for the Celiacs. Offer to buy everyone’s gelato dessert.

Spend Your Time & Shop Together. Make a day of it and let them pick the gift! Wander through the local shops near Cow Bay Marina or check out the Christmas Market at the Villa Eyrie Resort.