Located just northwest of Vancouver, the 180km-long Sunshine Coast is
picture-perfect Canada with an island-like mentality; where old growth forests
collide with sandy beaches and where razor-tipped mountains meet the wild
waters of the Pacific.
But since the region is cut off from the Greater Vancouver mainland by
the rugged, tree-covered Coast Mountains, this picturesque coastline is only
accessible by boat or seaplane, making it one of British Columbia’s best-kept
secrets, complete with kayaking, hiking, first-nation history and a bohemian
Start your journey at Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay, where the BC Ferry transports both cars and people to
the town of Langdale. The 40-minute journey passes by rocky mountains blanketed
with snowy tips and tiny green islands peeking out of the fjords. When you
disembark, take the Pacific Coast Highway 101 –
one of the world’s longest roads – as it winds its way north along the Sunshine
Coast, passing through fishing villages and cutting through ancient forest. In the
town of Lund, 150km northwest of Langdale, a “Mile 0” marker proudly indicates
the start of the 15,200km highway, which ends in Quellon, Chile.
As you drive north, look out for colourful wood-carved totem poles rising
out of the ground. Three tribes – the Squamish, Sechelt and Sliammon – have
populated the area for centuries, and some still live here to this day. Explore
the tribes’ history and heritage further at the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives
in the town of Gibsons, just 5km from Langdale.
Following the coastline to the west from Gibsons, Roberts Creek is worth
a stop both for its nature and history. The small town was named after Englishman
Harry Roberts, one of the area’s first settlers in the early 20th Century.
Roberts was responsible for giving the Sunshine Coast its current name,
painting the words “Sunshine Belt” on the town’s first freight house to advertise
it as a holiday spot. Hoping to attract tourists, the name was adapted to
Sunshine Coast in 1951 by the Black Ball Ferry
Company, which runs between Washington’s Port Angeles and Vancouver
Island’s Victoria. Although it was one of the coast’s first communities, Roberts
Creek still has a rural feel, with vast driftwood-covered rocky beaches and
clear, mirror-like water that reflects the crisp sky and soft clouds.
Wild chanterelles and blackberries can be found in the forests around
Roberts Creek, but if foraging is not your thing, Gumboot restaurant (1057
Roberts Creek Road; 0604-885-4218) offers a wide selection of locally sourced
organic food; try their freshly prepared bison burger or their curried
As you drive further along the coast, look for seals basking in the sun,
bald eagles scanning the area for food and brown bears making their way through
the surrounding forest or crossing the road. In the mornings, steam rises from
the water, creating a mystical atmosphere. During the evenings, unforgettable
sunsets cover the coast in an inflamed mist, as if seeing the world through
soft red curtains.
In addition to stunning scenery, the Sunshine Coast is ripe with outdoor
activities, with choices ranging from relaxed family fun to challenging adventures.
Diving, snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, fishing
and biking can be found all along the coast, with renting facilities available in almost every
For a watery adventure, pick up a vessel at Sunshine Kayaking in Gibsons
and drive 20km north to the Sechelt Inlet, from which you can paddle out to one
of the off-shore islands, such as Poise Island. The combination of clear water,
deep-green forests and crisp air are a perfect reward for the workout, and Poise
Island’s sandy and rocky beaches make it an ideal place for a picnic. Even the
more exposed Straight of Georgia – the Pacific arm that stretches along the
Sunshine Coast – offers family-friendly kayaking and canoeing; sheltered by
Vancouver Island, much of the wind is kept at bay.
If you prefer to explore the area on two wheels, Off the Edge Adventure Sports is a family-run
bike renting facility in the town of Sechelt, about 20km west of Gibsons. For an
excellent day trip, bike 30km north to Madeira Park, one of the biggest towns on
the Sunshine Coast and where the ocean collides with some of the coast’s
freshwater lakes. The easy ride along tree-lined roads has few hills, and the snow-covered
mountains, off-shore islands and deep forests make for majestic scenery. Loons,
bald eagles and seals are common sights, and you may even spot a whale offshore.