How To Explore The Sunshine Coast (BC)

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British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is a land of rugged white sand beaches, serene lakes, and lush coastal rainforest. Whales, seals and sea otters are seen regularly in its coastal waters, and bald eagles soar overhead.

Nature is all around you on the Sunshine Coast, and it is up close and personal. But this region isn’t just about the natural attractions. There is a thriving community of artists and environmentalists, charming seaside villages, a delicious food scene and friendly locals.

Sunshine Coast BC Marlborough Peak Jervis Inlet
Marlborough Peak and Jervis Bay on the Sunshine Coast, BC.

Canada’s Sunshine Coast is relatively undiscovered, despite being within day-tripping distance to Vancouver, the largest city on Canada’s West Coast. Because of its close proximity, it’s easy to add a day or two in the Sunshine Coast to your Vancouver itinerary.

Sunshine Coast, BC

Sunshine Coast BC Canada
A spectacular summer’s day in Canada’s Sunshine Coast (BC).

British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast consists of two parts, the lower Sunshine Coast and the Upper Sunshine Coast, separated by Jervis Inlet and linked by a regular ferry.

A string of small coastal communities stretches the 180km along this secluded stretch of coastline, from Langdale in the south to Lund in the north.

Due to its location, sandwiched between the Strait of Georgia and the formidable Coast Mountains, the only way to get to the Sunshine Coast is by boat or seaplane.

Despite being so close to Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast retains its distinct vibe.

It is a laid-back and creative place.

In some of the villages, you may feel like you have stepped back in time to the 1960s, where peace and love are still being sought after by ageing hippies and new-age spirituals.

It couldn’t feel more different from life in the big city, yet it is only a short ferry ride away.

The Sunshine Coast is a fantastic spot for a relaxing break or an outdoor adventure.

Things to Do On The Sunshine Coast, BC

1- See one of the Fastest Tidal Rapids in the World 

Bench seat at Skookumchuck Narrows on the Sunshine Coast
Gazing at the Skookumchuck Narrows tidal rapids is one of the must-do things on the Sunshine Coast in BC.

Located near the small town of Egmont, the Skookumchuck Narrows tidal rapids are an impressive sight.

Every day, a high water volume surges through the narrow entrance to Sechelt Inlet, creating rapids and whirlpools.

Two hundred million gallons of water can pass through the narrows on a three-meter tide at 16 knots, making it the second-fastest tidal flow in the World.

The four-kilometre hike to the viewing points is an easy walk through the forest.

Pick up some sweet treats and coffee from the bakery near the entrance during the summer months to eat while watching the rapids’ raw power.

2- Spend Time On A Lake

Sunshine Coast Canada Ruby Lake
Taking a dip in Ruby Lake in BC’s Sunshine Coast.

Lake time is a big part of life for locals and tourists on the Sunshine Coast.

Many lakes around the Sunshine Coast are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, boating, and other water sports.

Ruby Lake and Katherine Lake are two of the most popular in the area and boast forested surroundings, white sandy beaches, and crystal clear waters.

Take a picnic to complete a perfect summer’s day out.

3- Check Out One of the Coastal Villages

People in Gibsons enjoying the Sunshine Coast Canada
Gibsons has a village atmosphere that attracts visitors to the Sunshine Coast in BC.

Every community on the Sunshine Coast is unique and beautiful, and it is well worth visiting a number of them to get a real feel for the coast and its people as a whole.

Gibsons and Sechelt are two of the larger settlements and offer fantastic dining, waterside parks, and eclectic shopping.

Tiny Roberts Creek is a haven for hippies and artists, and its tiny downtown has one of the best restaurants on the coast, the Gumboot Restaurant.

Davis Bay has various stalls selling antiques and one-of-a-kind gifts in its Mosaic Marketplace and has a long stretch of beach with a wharf perfect for jumping off.

The small enclave of Pender Harbour is surrounded by tiny islands and bays and known as the ‘Venice of the North’.

Powell River is a large urban centre with beaches, rainforest and lakes all within spitting distance.

Lund in the far north is a tiny seaside village home to less than 300 residents and is the most remote settlement on the coast.

4- Hit the Beach

Sunshine Coast BC Sechelt Beach
Sechelt Beach is one of the many pristine beaches in the Sunshine Coast, BC.

With 180km of coastline, the Sunshine Coast boasts plenty of beaches to lay a towel out on, and the waters of the Strait of Georgia are calm, clean, and refreshing.

There is a long stretch of polished rock beach and a pier at Davis Bay.

Porpoise Bay has white sands backed by coastal rainforest, silent totem poles that look out over the sheltered waters off Sechelt, and the beach at Marlene Bay in Roberts Creek has large rocks perfect for jumping off.

There are plenty of beaches to visit a different beach every day, with each one being different from the last.

5- Bike Along the Coast

Sunshine Coast BC Gibsons
Gibsons is a quaint village on the Sunshine Coast in BC.

Cycling is popular on the Sunshine Coast, and with well-established and scenic bike trails, you can see why.

Even if you have a car, getting around by bike is a great way to enjoy the fresh air and to soak up the beauty of the coast.

There is a bike lane that stretches beside the road that links the lower Sunshine Coast towns of Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Wilson’s Creek, and Davis Bay, and the fact that it is relatively flat means it is excellent for beginners.

There are several places you can hire bikes along the coast, or if you are staying at Up the Creek Backpackers in Roberts Creek, loaner bikes are free.

6- Attend a Local Cultural Event or Festival

Roberts Creek hippy vibe in Sunshine Coast Canada
Robert’s Creek has a hippy vibe.

The Sunshine Coast is home to many artists, and when you combine that with small and close-knit communities that are fiercely proud of where they live – you end up with some pretty cool festivals and cultural events.

Time your visit to coincide with one of the regular events happening in the towns along the coast.

Join a fun parade and shop at Creek Daze’s markets in Roberts Creek, enjoy live music and fireworks at the Blackberry Festival in Powell River, or participate in an art or photography workshop in one of the coast’s towns.

There is always something going on on the Sunshine Coast.

7- Explore A Provincial Park

With many provincial parks up and down the coast, the Sunshine Coast is the perfect place to hit the trails.

Some trails follow the windswept coastline, pathways through the fern carpeted rainforest, and strenuous routes into high altitude mountains.

There are hiking trails suitable for all ages and fitness levels, with several wheelchair-accessible boardwalk trails to rugged multi-day backpacking trails to the summits of rocky peaks.

8- Hike the Sunshine Coast Trail

While you may have heard of the well-known West Coast trail that traverses the rugged west coast of Vancouver Island, not as much is said about the Sunshine Coast Trail.

The latter is a much longer and arguably more beautiful multi-day trail that runs 180 km from Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay.

The trail offers the longest and the only free hut-to-hut hiking experience in Canada.

It passes through various landscapes from rugged coastline, through old-growth forest, to the top of scenic peaks with panoramic views.

9- Escape To An Island

Keats and Parsley islands and Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, BC.
Parsley Island and Keats Island are not far from Gibsons.

If the towns and parks of the Sunshine Coast aren’t remote enough, you can always head out to one of the islands off the coast.

Texada Island is the largest and offers a pristine environment ripe for adventure travellers, with lots of opportunities to hike, mountain bike and kayak.

Savary Island is ringed by white sand beaches and has some of the warmest waters north of Mexico, and Keats Island is home to eighty year-round residents and is covered in thick forest.

Some islands are reached by ferry from the Sunshine Coast, while others are more remote and you’ll need a water taxi or floatplane.

10- Go Hiking In A Park

One of the best ways to see the Sunshine Coast’s natural beauty is by hiking in one of the many parks. Here’s a list to get you started:

Cliff Gilker Park

Cliff Gilker Park in Roberts Creek boasts over seven kilometres of intersecting trails through a dense forest of Red Cedar and Douglas Fir, past creeks and waterfalls.

There is even a wheelchair-accessible trail leading to a viewing platform.

Tetrahedron Provincial Park

Popular in winter for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing as well as for hiking in summer, Tetrahedron Provincial Park offers trails to backcountry cabins, freshwater lakes, and incredible mountain and ocean views.

Tackle the 15km return hike to the summit of Mt. Steel if you are feeling adventurous.

Soames Hill Park

There are over five kilometres of hiking trails in this small park in Gibsons, with three different access points.

Climb 434 steps to the summit with stunning views over the coastline, Gibsons, and the surrounding islands.

Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park

Located on the southwest slopes of Mount Elphinstone, three parcels of land totalling 139 ha make up this rugged park.

Old wagon trails are now used as hiking trails, and you can hike to the summit of Mount Elphinstone, one of the highest peaks of the lower Sunshine Coast.

Inland Lake Provincial Park

Located 12km north of Powell River, Inland Lake Provincial Park is home to a 13km loop trail around the lake that is entirely wheelchair accessible.

The lake waters are perfect for cooling off after a long hike.

For more things to do in British Columbia see:

Sunshine Coast Transport

Getting To the Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast BC Drive
Driving around Garden Bay Lake on the Sunshine Coast, BC. Photo: Destination Canada/Daniel Ernst.

Although the Sunshine Coast is part of British Columbia’s mainland, you can’t just get in a car and drive there as there are no roads that traverse the mountainous terrain that separates the coast from the rest of the province.

But there are still a few easy options to reach the coast.

The most common way to get to the Sunshine Coast is via BC Ferries.

If you have a vehicle, you can take it on the ferry or board as a walk-on passenger.

To reach the lower Sunshine Coast, you can take a ferry from Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver to Langdale.

If you are coming from Nanaimo or Victoria on Vancouver Island, you can first take a ferry to Vancouver then connect to the Langdale ferry.

To reach the upper Sunshine Coast, you can take a direct ferry from Comox on Vancouver Island.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a car, you can catch the Sunshine Coast Connector bus from Langdale to Powell River or any stops along the way.

You would need to catch the ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale, and if you are heading to Powell River, then the bus goes on the ferry that links the lower Sunshine Coast to the upper coast.

If you have some spare cash, catch a seaplane to the coast from Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

Getting Around the Sunshine Coast

It’s easy to get around by bus between Langdale and Half Moon Bay (just north of Sechelt), as BC Transit has regular buses that ply this route.

If you want to get to further points on the coast, book a ticket on the Sunshine Coast Connector or try hitching, it is very common around here, and it shouldn’t be long before you get a ride.

Hiring a car and driving around is the most convenient way to explore

Where To Stay on the Sunshine Coast

Canada’s Sunshine Coast has a range of accommodation options, from budget options like camping and hostels to luxury resorts and home rentals.

Sunshine Coast Hostels

Up the Creek Backpackers – Roberts Creek

Up Creek is one of those hostels where you instantly feel like you have come home.

Up the Creek Backpackers is small and cozy with comfortable bedding in the dorm and private rooms, a well-equipped guest kitchen, a spacious guest lounge, and a wraparound deck with hammocks.

There is also free WiFi and free loaner bikes.

Powell River Harbour Guesthouse – Powell River

It is located right on the harborfront with views from the sun deck over the water to Vancouver Island’s mountains.

The Powell River Harbour Guesthouse offers both dorm and private rooms and a guest kitchen and common areas. Free WiFi is available.

Sunshine Coast Camping

Porpoise Bay Provincial Park – Sechelt

Sand and sun on the Sunshine Coast BC Porpoise Bay
Enjoy sun, sand and sea at Porpoise Bay.

This is a beautiful beachside camping ground amidst a second-growth forest.

The camping ground offers 84 sites, which are a mix of reservable and first-come, first-served.

Drinking water, hot water showers, and flush toilets are available.

Strongwater Camping and Cabins – Egmont

Located in the tiny village of Egmont, Strongwater Camping and Cabins offers cabins and tenting/RV sites on seven beautiful acres. Clean restrooms and hot showers are available.

Willingdon Beach Municipal Campsite – Powell River

A beautiful 81 site camping ground with a sandy beach, fishing pier, and hiking trails through the coastal forest.

There are coin-operated hot showers, flush toilets, BBQ area, and laundry facilities available.

Sunshine Coast Hotels

Bonniebrook Lodge – Gibsons

The Bonniebrook Lodge is a historic four-story lodge with contemporary suites with a balcony and whirlpool tub.

Free WiFi is available, and each suite has a private entrance and fireplace.

Nestledown B&B – Halfmoon Bay

This well-regarded bed and breakfast offer rooms with kitchenettes and private patios.

There are also cable TVs and WiFi available in the rooms. Shared BBQ facilities and a hot tub are available for guest use.

Beyond Bliss Suites & Spa – Powell River

Each suite at the Beyond Bliss Suites & Spa come with a kitchen, WiFi, cable TV, fireplace, and spa bath.

There are also spa and wellness facilities onsite.

Where to Eat and Drink on the Sunshine Coast

Gibsons

Gramma’s Pub

A massive menu that’s heavy on the seafood, fantastic water views, and a buzzing vibe, Gramma’s Pub is the perfect stop for a night out in Gibsons.

Black Bean Cafe

The Black Bean Cafe is a popular cafe serving up soups, sandwiches, and salads along with freshly baked muffins.

Roberts Creek

Gumboot Restaurant

Another excellent restaurant on the Sunshine Coast, the Gumboot Restaurant, has incredible dishes made with love and served in a classy but relaxed environment by super friendly staff.

Prices are affordable, and there is a significant local clientele that frequents this fantastic restaurant.

Gumboot Cafe & Bakery

The Gumboot Cafe & Bakery is the casual little sister to the more polished Gumboot Restaurant next door.

It exudes a hippy vibe with vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices, home baking, and a cozy atmosphere.

Sechelt

Ty’s Fine Foods and Bistro

With delicious gourmet sandwiches, inventive soups, and salads exploding with flavour, the menu changes constantly but the choices are always good.

The Old Boot Eatery

An Italian restaurant with a western feel, The Old Boot Eatery offers a comprehensive menu that includes pasta, salads, soups, meat and seafood mains, and of course – pizza.

Powell River

Magpie’s Diner

Magpie’s Diner serves up hearty portions of comfort food made from scratch to diners in a cozy setting. It’s open daily for breakfast and lunch.

Here are some of the best things to do in Canada:

Sunshine Coast Travel Tips

• Hitching is common on the Sunshine Coast, and you shouldn’t have to wait long to catch a ride
• Book accommodation in advance over summer weekends if possible, as it can book out quickly
• ATMs are prevalent throughout the Sunshine Coast villages with banks in the larger towns of Gibsons, Sechelt, and Powell River.
• There are large chain supermarkets in Gibsons, Sechelt, Davis Bay, and Powell River and smaller General Stores in a handful of the smaller communities on the coast.
• In summer, there are numerous fruit stalls and farmers markets that sell fresh and delicious local produce.
• Find out about local events on the Sunshine Coast website.

Sunshine Coast BC
Sunshine Coast BC