Along the British Columbia coast you will find a coastal road called Highway 101. It is the world’s longest highway extending from Castro in Chile to Lund in British Columbia, a total of 15,020 km. The section between Gibsons, north of Vancouver to Lund, some 150 km northwest is known as the Sunshine Coast offering tourist and locals alike stunning scenery and a truly beautiful drive (with a couple of ferry crossings thrown in).
If you are planning on touring the Sunshine Coast you will probably be starting your journey from the Vancouver area, so will need to take a ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver across to Langdale. The journey will take approximately 40 minutes and will cost around $10 per adult depending on the time of year. Make sure your camera is handy as you sail between islands such a Howe Sound and Bowen Island.
Once you reach Langdale you drive south along Highway 101 to Gibsons which is known as the “Gateway to the Sunshine Coast.” It is also known as the location of the TV series The Beachcombers. Although filming no longer takes place some of the places seen in the series are still there to see such as Molly’s Reach restaurant and the pier. Although not a huge tourist destination it is perhaps worth spending a little time here to explore the harbour front and take in the views.
The town is home to around 4,000 people and has recently undergone a revitalization which included the downtown area and the harbour as well as creating the Winegarden Waterfront Park which opened in 2001. This area includes ponds, play areas, walkways, boardwalks, wetlands, watercourse and is wheelchair accessible with beautiful views over the coast.
Once back on the 101, your next stop will be Roberts Creek, a quaint town which has become a haven for artists and craftspeople. It is known as the “Gumboot Capital of the World” a symbol adopted by the Gumboot Acoustic Society and the Gumboot Garden Cafe.
Whilst here, apart from visiting the town itself you will want to take a look at Roberts Creek Provincial Park located a couple of kilometres north of the town. The park covers an area of 40 hectares with cedar forests. The park has several trails as well as campsites and is wheelchair accessible. The beach area offers excellent picnic facilities where you can watch the ocean and if you are lucky see seals and whales pass by.
The next place you will come to is Sechelt which itself is not an especially stunning location, however just north of the town is Porpoise Bay Provincial Park which is definitely worth a visit. The park has easy to walk trails and access to Angus Creek known for its salmon population. The park covers an area of 4 hectares and includes campsites, playgrounds, picnic areas and facilities such as toilets and showers.
Once you have taken in the beauty of Porpoise you can continue north to Halfmoon Bay. This bay is protected from the open sea by Thormanby Island making it a peaceful location to watch the world go by. Here you will find a pretty coastline, harbours and wooded shores. This area is known for its arts and crafts and is home to several galleries as well as many home studios that locals open to the public.
The next location on your trip will be the equally romantically named Secret Cove which has become a popular summer destination for tourists. The town offers some of the best fishing available along the coast and this alone attracts many visitors and locals alike.
Smuggler’s Cove Marine Park is also located here and is another favorite. There are several hiking trails which are easy to navigate as well as campsites and other facilities.
Back on the road and your next stop off will be the area known as Pender Harbour, if you can find it! This area consists of many islands and three communities: Madeira Park, Garden Bay and Irvines Landing. Even the locals have trouble getting their bearings in this area as it forms a complex maze of inlets, coves, lakes, islands and reefs. There are freshwater lakes and salt water coves and where one begins and another ends is open to much guess work.
The harbour is home to many boats and yachts which are moored here and the deep clear waters are world renowned for excellent diving and underwater photography opportunities.
This is a great location for kayaking and other water sports as much of the water is sheltered making it ideal for leisurely boating.
If you visit during May be sure to plan your visit round Victoria Day when the area celebrates May Day with games, activities, crafts, music and an outdoor barbecue. Fun for all is guaranteed.
Okay, so if you did manage to find Pender Harbour you can now return to Highway 101 which now travels inland and heads towards Earl’s Cove. Here you will need your sea legs again as another ferry journey is in order. You will need to get on the ferry to Saltery Bay which crosses the Jervis Inlet and takes around 50 minutes and again costs around $10 per adult. .
You will not need or want to stop at Saltery Bay as it really is just a ferry terminal. Instead you will get back on the road and continue northwest to Powell River. This is an area made up of several communities including Cranberry, Wildwood, Lang Bay and the largest, Westview.
Westview is the main destination for travelers as it offers the most amenities with hotels, restaurants and stores. If you visit during August you may experience the Blackberry Festival which has nothing to do with personal electronic devices but more to do with those lovely berries we pick from the many bushes located here. The festival coincides with the peak of the blackberry season and is a week-long party featuring music, dancing, crafts and a street party.
From Powell River you can also take ferry trips to Texada Island or across to Vancouver Island to the town of Comox.
The area north of Powell River leads up to Lund which is the last destination on Highway 101 and the gateway to Desolation Sound. The most famous landmark here is the Lund Hotel which overlooks the ocean. Lund is used by tourists as a staging point for trips to the northern British Columbia coast, Savary Island and Desolation Sound.
Desolation Sound Marine Park is known around the world s a premier sailing area. It offers stunningly beautiful scenery with bays, coves and waterways that attract boaters and paddlers worldwide.
There are lots of camping opportunities along the coast as well as activities such as kayaking, canoeing and backpacking. If you don’t have your own equipment, there are plenty of places where you can rent everything you need for a few hours or a few days.
The Sunshine coast not only offers tourists an excellent place to visit, but it also offers an excellent way of life for those who choose to live here.
Many of the communities, particularly those to the south are close enough to commute to Vancouver if you have a job in the city. You can get the best of both worlds by living in relative isolation, but still have all the amenities you need close by or be a short hop to the city.
There are many types of real estate in the area from single family homes to condominiums. Some offer cheaper alternatives to those seen in Vancouver, however for that special waterfront home you really can expect to pay in excess of a million dollars for that million dollar view.
Although the area is great for families with schools and local amenities, many also choose to retire here. The relaxed way of life along with great health care, recreational facilities and social community gives seniors exactly what they are looking for without being too far away from city life. The Sunshine Coast certainly has something for everyo