Secrets Of The Sunshine Coast
I’ve been living in Vancouver for more than a decade and I’ve had the opportunity to explore many of the most beautiful parts of this province. But when it comes time to plan vacations with my young family, I find myself heading for the Sunshine Coast more often than not.
The Sunshine Coast stretches for 180 km along the southwest corner of mainland British Columbia, just north of Vancouver. It sits along the shores of the Strait of Georgia and houses a lush temperate rainforest. It is home to a number of tiny, laidback communities and has many amazing spots to explore. It is similar in feel to Vancouver Island — with an emphasis on food, art, nature and outdoor adventure — but has a more intimate vibe.
The region is not accessible by car, which makes it feel remote (one of the many reasons we love it). But it is actually quite easy and fast to get to by ferry from Horseshoe Bay, one of Vancouver’s main ferry terminals.
If you’re planning a visit to the British Columbia and have never been to the Sunshine Coast, I urge you to add it to your list. We have some incredible road trips and resort stays in this area under our Vancouver Experiences if you’d like a ready-made getaway or read on below for all the information you need to plan your own Sunshine Coast trip.
Getting to the Sunshine Coast
Many visitors to Vancouver and coastal British Columbia miss seeing the Sunshine Coast, perhaps because it is inaccessible by car. But getting to the region is actually quite easy. BC Ferries runs a ferry between West Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal and the Langdale Ferry Terminal in the Sunshine Coast on a regularly daily schedule.
You drive on and settle in for a short (45 min) and very scenic boat ride. You’ll sail through gorgeous Howe Sound between Bowen and Gambier Islands. With the huge coastal mountains of Lion’s Bay in the background, this is one of my favourite ferry crossings in the world. Many times you can spot marine life in the water from the boat’s deck. On our last visit to the Sunshine Coast a few weeks ago, we actually saw a pod of orcas swim by.
Getting around on the Sunshine Coast
Once you arrive in Langdale, getting around the Sunshine Coast is easy and enjoyable. The region is broken up into two sections, the north and the south, which are joined by yet another ferry (more on that below). Most places are within an easy drive of each other so you can explore quite a lot from wherever you make your home base.
From Langdale, you can drive along the Sunshine Coast Highway all the way to Earls Cove near Egmont. There is just one lane in each direction and the road winds and dips as it makes it way along the rugged coastline. A particularly scenic stretch of the road is coming up from Davis Bay to Sechelt. At high tide, you’re right by the water and it just has a huge wow factor.
The entire drive takes about one hour and a half. This section constitutes the south part of the region.
Once in Earls Cove, you can take another ferry (BC Ferries) to connect to Saltery Bay, near Powell River. This is another scenic ferry crossing and takes about 45-50 minutes, albeit on a much smaller ferry. The northern part of the Sunshine Coast is more remote and is one of my favourite places to go camping.
What’s so special about the Sunshine Coast?
We love coming to the Sunshine Coast mainly because of the gorgeous West Coast scenery and the long list of things to do that keep everyone in our group happy. There are beaches to explore, great hikes for all fitness levels and an abundance of amazing places to eat and drink.
If you’re a sucker for sunsets like I am, you’ll love this region. The sunrises and sunsets are just spectacular.
Lush rainforest trails and big old-growth trees can be found all throughout the region. Douglas firs, red cedar and sitka spruce dominate the landscape but you also get to see incredible arbutus tree, which is unique to the West Coast. It is actually the only broadleaf tree in Canada that doesn’t lose its leaves for the winter.
The arbutus trees are my favourite and I love seeing their twisted trunks and peeling branches on exposed rocky bluffs overlooking the ocean.
Bears, cougars, coyotes and deer are frequently spotted in the forests. The region is also a great place for birdwatching. But the stars of the show for me is the accessibility to marine life. On our last visit to the region, we saw whales from shore almost daily, as well as sea otters.
Five Things Not To Miss On The Sunshine Coast
While I love the wild and remote nature of the northern Sunshine Coast, I realize that it is not as accessible to most people looking for a quick getaway as the southern portion. So here are my top five things not to miss on the Sunshine Coast: south edition. I’ll be sure to write a north edition soon.
1.Visit the Provincial Parks
Green spaces and parks on the Sunshine Coast are all pretty stunning and many offer great hiking, cycling, paddling and swimming options. One of my favourites is Sargent Bay Provincial Park, which has a lovely rocky beach perfect for exploring. It is a great spot for a dip in the ocean as it is peaceful and quiet.
Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park on the Sechelt Peninsula is also amazing. It is a nice quiet inlet and has a popular coastal hike that’s well worth doing.
2. Explore Sechelt
The main community on the Sunshine Coast is definitely Sechelt and it is well worth either a stop here or to make this your home base for the duration of your stay. It has a terrific small coastal town feel, with a downtown right on the water, a decent selection of restaurants and a great boardwalk. There are a lot of rental vacation properties here as well as homes with spectacular ocean vistas.
3. Watch rapids at the Skook
Skookumchuck Narrows sits at the entrance to Sechelt Inlet and is home to some of the best whitewater rapids in the world. What makes this spot so special is the narrowness of this point in relation to the huge inlet. The power of the changing tides funnels the huge volume of water from the inlet through the narrows, causing big whirlpools and rapids to form. The volume of water that goes through this narrow point is upwards of 200 million gallons and produces a tide of more than 9 feet.
An easy 4-km hike through Skookumchuck Narrow Provincial Park to two lookout points, which get you right up to the water.
4. Visit Chatterbox Falls
Princess Louisa Inlet is a spectacular trip up Jarvis Inlet that requires a boat as it is very remote — but the effort to get there is completely worth it. We can help you book a trip with a local supplier who will take you along an inlet with imposing wilderness and huge cliffs on either side and an abundance of marine life. At the end is Chatterbox Falls, a truly special sight. Flying in is also an option and it is completely stunning as well to see the mountain scenery from above.
5. Stop in at a local brewery
Persephone Brewing, a cool farm and brewery, is one of my favourite stops when we go to the Sunshine Coast. Located in Gibsons very close to the ferry terminal, Persephone has this beautiful farmhouse and tasting room. You can get little nibbles to eat on site but there is also a store to pick up fresh seasonal produce. We love to stop there on our way in and buy fruit and vegetables for our trip but it is also a great last stop before heading back on the ferry.
If cider is more your thing, a great stop is the beautiful Bricker Cider Company. It is just five minutes outside of Sechelt and has a huge orchard, amazing dry cider and delicious food. Plus there is a playground onsite to keep the kids happy so that’s a huge win in my books.
Below are some photos of my recent holiday to the Sunshine Coast. It was a perfect family vacation. If you have any questions on the booking a vacation to this beautiful region in British Columbia or anywhere in Canada, don’t hesitate to reach out.