Comox is a tranquil and beautiful seaside town located on the southern coast of the Comox Peninsula that juts out into the Georgia Strait on the Eastern side of mid Vancouver Island. The town is nestled against the protected waters of Comox Bay whose entrance is defined by the Comox Spit. The Comox Harbour and its four marinas provide the main commercial and recreational access to the ocean for the Comox Valley. The views across the bay to the Comox Glacier and surrounding area are captivating. Comox is the only town in the Comox Valley that borders on the city of Courtenay. It occupies the southern portion of the Comox Peninsula and sits prominently above the Comox Harbour. Its name is a derivative of the First Nations name K’omoks that dates back to 1862 when the Grappler, a gunboat assigned to Base Esquimalt, brought a group of pioneer settlers to the Comox Bay which was known then as Augusta Bay. As of the 2016 Census 14,028 residents called this charming retirement community home. This represents an increase of 2.9% from the 2011 population. As of the 2016 census, there were 6410 private dwellings in the town. The town’s main street is lined with a variety of shops, restaurants and commercial ventures. A scenic nine-hole golf course touches the downtown area from the north. Most days deer can be seen grazing on the fairways.
The Hudson Bay Company “Beaver” steamboat, built in 1835, searched the South and East Coast of Vancouver Island in 1837 for suitable locations and new trading posts. Governor James Douglas visited the Comox area in 1853 on the Beaver and saw the potential for agriculture. The HMS Plumper surveyed the Baynes Sound area (south of Comox) in 1860 and reported positively on the potential for settlement and safe anchorage. In 1861 the Governor offered $1 an acre to anyone who would relocate to the area and in 1862 the first settlers arrived with some staking claim to the area on the shores about Augusta Bay (now known as Comox Bay) which became known as “The Landing”. James Robb and his son took what was believed to be 260 acres of heavily treed sloped land over open farming land because they thought that it wold be the most likely place for a town to emerge and for a shipping hub.
Throughout the late 19th Century many Royal Navy ships anchored in the Comox Bay. 1874 was a significant year because a government wharf was constructed in the area of “The Landing” we now call Comox. The 1035 foot long and 12 foot wide wharf allowed freight and passengers to be landed without the need for smaller boats for delivery to shore. In 1874 Joseph Rodello bought lots on Wharf road and built a store. A survey was completed for a connecting road from Courtenay up over Comox hill to the wharf and in 1876 Goose Spit became a Royal Navy training base. The Wharf hotel (later called the Elk hotel) was built in 1877 and a one room school house was built on Anderton Road in 1877 for grades 1 through 8. The Lorne Hotel was built that same year. The area began to change in 1910 when a connecting road from the south was built and the first automobile owned by Walter Scott came to Comox. In 1913 four sisters came to Comox from Toronto and established St Joseph’s hospital as a four bed infirmary. In 1915 the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion was formed and housed at Goose Spit. They left for was service in 1916 from “The Landing”.
Following the repealing of the 1916 enacted prohibition in BC in 1921, the Elk and Lorne hotels were renovated and reopened. A new Comox school was built in 1927 to replace the ones on Anderton Road, at Little River and at Knob Hill. The Comox King Salmon Club was formed in 1932 and R Filberg donated logs to the club for them to build docks for members to tie up their small row boats. The Comox 9 hole golf course (which started as a private course in 1928) opened as a public course in 1934. In 1940, the Royal Canadian Navy built a training facility at Goose Spit and the Royal Air Force established an airport nearby in 1942. A year later it was taken over by the Royal Canadian Air Force and called RCAF Station Comox. The town of Comox was established as a village in 1946. The airfield was extended to 10,000 feet in 1954 and a civilian terminal was added to the airbase in 1956 and run by Transport Canada. New municipal offices were opened in 1962 and Comox was incorporated as a town in 1967. By this time the influx of military personnel drove the population of the town to 2500.
The Elk Hotel burned down in 1973 and shortly thereafter James Robb’s 90 year old pier was demolished and replaced by a marina for recreational vessels at the Comox Harbour in 1977. The local economy suffered during the recession of the 1980s and the relocation of 409 Squadron away from Comox in 1982 added to the downturn. Another breakwater and guarded walkway were built at the Comox dock in 1991. By the turn of the century jobs were moving away from the resource-based industries and the largest employers were CFB Comox, the local school board, St Josephs Hospital and Mount Washington.
In 2001 the population, which had been fairly stagnant since the 1970s, started to increase. Many of the newcomers were retirees and the town median population increased in age from 42.1 to 46.2 between 2001 and 2006. By 2001, the tow’s population had grown to 3,626 and the median age had risen to 49.1
The Town Today
The town of Comox of 14,028 residents continues to grow. It’s main street maintains a small town charm that is host to thousands of visitors each year. The Comox Marina and pier can be reached a short stroll from the main street. The marina is home to a variety of recreational and commercial vessels and it is the host of the annual Nautical Days Festival. The Filberg Heritage Lodge and park is only a few minutes’ walk from downtown. This nine acre waterfront property is open to the public. A few minutes’ drive from downtown takes you to Goose Spit Park which juts out into the entrance of the Comox Harbour. Ocean views include those of the Coast Mountains on the mainland to the East. The town continues to enjoy spectacular mountain and ocean vistas and being host to an increasing number of people who come for a visit and then decide to stay.