While locals bask in mild, year-round temperatures, it’s the warmth of the people that bears the true nature of this landscape along the province’s southern coast. Here, a string of rural oceanside communities welcome explorers with an eclectic mix of year-round play, alluring sights and delectable eats — in and out of the sunshine.
See: A short ferry hop from Vancouver, Gibsons Landing proves an excellent starting point, with its harbourside shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafes, all chockablock with residents keen to wax poetic about their favourite local haunts. One such draw: nearby Persephone Brewing Company, a brewery and tasting room set on 4.4 hectares (11 acres) where visitors can sample pours fashioned from the farm’s own hops.
Further north, Pender Harbour’s pretty landscape will tempt landlubbers to climb aboard with SloCat Harbour Tours, a 90-minute narrated cruise of the local waters from a seafarer’s point of view. Post-trip, adventurers can continue their sightseeing journey at nearby Egmont, where access to the Princess Louisa Inlet rewards with views of nearly 60 waterfalls, including the 40-metre (120-foot) Chatterbox Falls.
Still have steam? Head further up the coast to Powell River where the designated National Historic District townsite — one of only seven in Canada — boasts more than 400 original buildings that date back to 1910. While there, cultural explorers would be wise to visit the grand dame Patricia Theatre, a Spanish Renaissance-style live performance venue, and Canada’s oldest continuously running movie theatre.
Do: Sometimes it’s not enough to visit a destination — not when explorers can meet local artisans along the way. Here, more than 100 home studios and galleries comprise the coast’s Purple Banner Tour, a creative collective that rolls out the welcome mat when purple banners fly high.
Sechelt’s Coast Gravity Park offers mountain bikers an opportunity to shift gears with fast, flowy terrain peppered with berms and rollers, jumps and twisting turns. Bonus: its mild oceanside setting encourages bikers to shred all year long. More challenge awaits along the Sunshine Coast Trail, a 180-kilometre (112-mile) hiking-only pathway that stretches from Saltery Bay ferry terminal in the south to Desolation Sound’s Sarah Point in the north. Twelve free huts rise along the trail for shared public, making this journey Canada’s longest hut-to-hut experience.
If underwater exploration is preferred, fans of the deep can suit up in Desolation Sound, along the coast’s northern reaches near Lund. Here, a Snorkel With The Stars with Powell River Sea Kayak promises up-close views of giant sunflowers, spiny red sea urchins and, of course, the starfish that make their home in the emerald depths.
Eat and Drink: To get his authentic barbecue flavours just right, Smoke on the Water BBQ Shack Chef Chris Van Nus travelled to Arkansas to train with a pit master, an effort that shines through in his Gibsons-based slow-smoked brisket with cowboy beans, and succulent pulled pork paired with cabbage and kale slaw. Sweet tooth? Head north to Sechelt’s Basted Baker, where loyalists indulge in decadent, towering cakes and an array of sweet and savoury morsels from the Biscuit Bar.
For fine dining with a view, The Restaurant at Painted Boat Spa & Marina in Madeira Park offers modern menus anchored by sustainable seafood and ingredients sourced from nearby organic farms, neatly paired with local pours of reds, whites and brews. Coastal Cookery embraces all things local at its Powell River address, resulting in a fresh and fun take on regional favourites, while Townsite Brewing Inc., also in Powell River, excels in year-round and seasonal pours with Belgian flair. For a final stop, the Laughing Oyster in Okeover Arm, along the coast’s northernmost tip, draws the faithful with seasonal seafood dishes that celebrate coastal life.
Sleep: “West Coast Zen” best describes the mood at Shades of Jade Inn and Spa, a Roberts Creek retreat that offers tranquil coastal rainforest gardens and simple Japanese-style accommodation in equal measures. Further up the coast, the Pointhouse Suites on Sargeant Bay stand tall along a rocky promontory, melding modern architecture with natural elements.
Nearby Madeira Park is home to the Painted Boat Spa & Marina’s 31 delightfully spacious villas. Hint: the roomy Family Villas are sure to encourage multi-generational harmony. On the cliffs overlooking Sechelt Inlet near Egmont, guests can move far away from the madding crowd at The West Coast Wilderness Lodge, thanks to ocean- and forest-view rooms and suites that inspire calm and summon the sunshine.
A more intimate Tudor-style stay awaits at The Old Courthouse Inn further north in Powell River, where history buffs can overnight in one of eight guest rooms at the town’s former jail and police station. A hearty homemade breakfast at Edie Rae’s Café caps every stay, and promises yet another opportunity to rub elbows with sunny locals.
For more information, or to find out what other adventures await along the Sunshine Coast, visit sunshinecoastcanada.com.