Courtenay, BC, incorporated as a city, population 24 099 (2011c), 21 940 (2006c). The City of Courtenay is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, 220 km by road north of Victoria. The city is situated on a narrow plain, with mountains to the west rising over 2000 m.
An abundance of fish, game and berries brought a large Comox community to the area (see Northern Georgia Strait Coast Salish). The first European explorers were Spanish navigators in 1791. Rear-Admiral George William Courtenay of the Royal Navy surveyed the area in 1846-49. A Hudson's Bay Company store was established in the 1850s and non-native settlement began in the 1860s.
A settlement was planned in 1859 and named after the nearby Courtenay River, which in turn had been named for Rear-Admiral Courtenay. Reginald Pidcock, who owned the site and built a mill, and Nova Scotian Joseph McPhee, who started the first store and later bought most of Pidcock's land, helped develop the community. Completion of a road from Victoria in 1910 and the arrival 4 years later of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway spurred Courtenay's growth. Immigration from England, Scotland and the Maritimes followed World War I.
Courtenay has become a service centre for the surrounding fishing, logging and farming region of over 54 000 people. Nearby 19 Wing Comox (Canadian Forces Base Comox) and tourism, including skiing at Mount Washington and hiking on the Forbidden Plateau, are also important economic features of this region. A special summer attraction is the Comox Valley Youth Music Centre, known throughout North America as Canada's summer community of musicians.