Many years ago, I ventured with my best friend to B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. With my 10-month-old son in tow, we hiked, explored and ate to our heart’s content, and my memories are full of the sublime pleasures of the easygoing communities we explored there.
Ten years have passed, and as much as I wished to, I haven’t had a chance to go back, though I haven’t given up on the idea of taking my family on a road trip from B.C. to California, and stopping back in the Sunshine Coast along the way. Once you make it there yourself, you’ll see why.
The Sunshine Belt
B.C.’s Sunshine Coast lies just a short ferry ride away from Vancouver, one of the busiest cities in North America. Its craggy mountains, lush rainforest and surrounding waters all soothe the soul and will appeal to your taste for adventure, or peace and quiet if relaxation is what you’re after.
The Sunshine Coast’s idyllic name conjures feelings of sweet summertime vibes, but the coastal communities of Gibsons, Sechelt, Roberts Creek and Powell River only became known by that name after 1914. Harry Roberts, from a prominent pioneer family, was hoping to promote Roberts Creek as a summer resort destination, so he painted “The Sunshine Belt” on the first wharf built in the area. The name caught on in 1951, when a car ferry company offering service to the coast used “Sunshine Coast” to promote travel to the area.
The region is home to the Squamish, Sechelt, Sliammon and Klahoose First Nations, who have played a tremendous part in building the local trade, hunting and fishing industries. These First Nations continue to have a significant role in the coastal communities, sharing their knowledge with tourists and residents alike. The area is also known for its mining and logging industries, and its famous paper mills—Scanlon and O’Brien at the turn of the century, and Pulp and Paper, the longest-running paper mill in the province.
Tourism and the arts scene have grown over the years as more and more people discover the area. There’s so much to see and do on the Sunshine Coast, you may not get to everything on your first trip, but you’ll definitely be inspired to return over and over again!
Rockwater Secret Cove Resort
One of the most majestic places to stay on the Sunshine Coast is the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort (rockwatersecretcoveresort.com), which features luxurious and unique accommodations to enjoy your time by B.C.’s Halfmoon Bay. With oceanview rooms in the main lodge, two- and three-bedroom cabins located steps away from it, and dreamy canvas tent houses right by the water, you’ll be lulled to sleep every night by the gentle sound of ocean waves lapping the shore, whichever room you choose. The accommodations here are meant to make you feel at one with the surroundings so you can fully appreciate the nature on full display. Take a walk through the Forest of Endor on a wooden walkway, order the best of West Coast cuisine from the dining room, and visit the Spa Without Walls for an open-air Ayurvedic massage. Hike the trails through the lush rainforest, and if you’re up for it, book a kayaking tour of the waters surrounding the resort through Halfmoon Sea Kayaks (halfmoonseakayaks.com).
West Coast Wilderness Lodge
Tucked high up in the trees overlooking pristine ocean waters, West Coast Wilderness Lodge offers guests an immersive experience in all of the natural beauty that is the Sunshine Coast. The lodge itself is a striking wooden masterpiece, a high-end cabin in the woods, which blends into its surroundings. You can choose ocean- or forest-view rooms, equally enticing for the gorgeous vistas you’ll be getting from either option. Explore the nearby Egmont Heritage Centre to learn about the region’s rich First Nations history in the logging and fishing industries, and then hop over to the Princess Louise Inlet to witness the scenic beauty of dozens of waterfalls trickling down the face of the gorge. Make sure to visit Chatterbox Falls, tucked into the trees and a beautiful sight to behold. Return to your room after your day of adventuring and fall asleep with the sounds of nature surrounding you. wcwl.com
Backeddy Marina and Lodge’s Geodesic Domes
If you’re looking for a unique place to stay on the Sunshine Coast, the geodesic domes at the Backeddy Marina and Lodge offer a comfortable, camp-like experience. Best suited for those who want to be as close to the outdoors as possible, staying in one these cozy domes will have you’ll feeling like you’re sleeping outside . Each dome has a comfy queen bed with a warm duvet to stave off the evening chill, plus a sitting area and the most spectacular views of the Sechelt Inlet from the round windows that dot the spheres. It’s close to Skookumchuk Narrows Provincial Park, so you can hike the many trails during the day, eat dinner at the Backeddy Pub and watch the sunset over the inlet right from your bed.
Mama’s Japanese Kitchen
Located conveniently off Highway 101, also known as the Sunshine Coast Highway, Mama’s Japanese Kitchen is a must-stop for the freshest seafood dishes. The menu changes to accommodate seasonal fare and highlight the best ingredients the area has to offer. The bento boxes are highly recommended, as are the monthly specials, created by head chef Cindy. Definitely a favourite of locals, so make sure you check it out!
Skookumchuck Bakery and Cafe
What better way to reward yourself after a long hike than with a delicious coffee and freshly baked treat from Skookumchuck Bakery and Cafe. Located at the Skookumchuck Narrows trailhead, it’s a quick stop to refuel before you head on to your next adventure. The cinnamon rolls are amazing, the organic espresso and coffee will give you just the jolt you need, and the forest views are stunning.
The Wobbly Canoe
For delicious food made from locally sourced ingredients, The Wobbly Canoe is the place to spend your evening. Nurse a craft beer and hang out with the locals while enjoying your meal, which will surely become one of your most memorable. Try the fresh mussels and the tomahawk pork chop, but, really, everything comes highly recommended. Try to get a patio seat, so you can watch the sun go down over the waters of the Georgia Strait. wobblycanoe.com
Depending on whether you’re on the northern or southern Sunshine Coast, there are great opportunities to take part in First Nations–lead tours and activities that will give you incredible insight into the Aboriginal culture of the area. I’Hos Tours offers a 5-hour canoe trip in a traditional Salish-style canoe to the Copeland Islands (ihosgallery.com/pages/tours). You’ll hear traditional stories and songs, as well as learn about the history of the Salish people on your trip. The Talking Trees (talaysay.com/tours/talking-trees-hike) tour on the southern Sunshine Coast and closer to Vancouver is an immersive 3-hour hike on the Capilano trails near Grouse Mountain. Guided by an Indigenous ambassador, you’ll learn about the local plants that sustained the Squamish people, and the stories passed down through the generations about the land and their deep connection to it.
Arts & Culture
The Sunshine Coast is a hotbed of art and creativity, with inspiration coming from the surrounding beauty of the land and sea. Tour the Artique Gallery (artiquebc.ca), which showcases the incredible work of local artisans, and purchase pieces that catch your eye. Visit the Malaspina Arts Centre (artpowellriver.com) to view the work of local and visiting artists, as well the permanent collection featuring pieces that celebrate Aboriginal art. Visit Canada’s oldest operating movie theatre, the majestic Patricia Theatre (patriciatheatre.com), even if you’re not planning on watching a film festival pick. If you’ll be in Gibsons, check out the many galleries housing extensive collections of art made by local artists. In August, readers and writers descend on the region for the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts (writersfestival.ca). Chat with authors, listen to talks and surround yourself with people who love books just as much as you do.– Catalina Margulis, with files from Rasheeda Ali
DSCF pics were taken by @babieangie
West Coast Wilderness Lodge
An editor with 15-plus years in the publishing business, Catalina Margulis’ byline spans travel, food, decor, parenting, fashion, beauty, health and business. When she’s not chasing after her three young children, she can be found painting her home, taming her garden and baking muffins.