In Part Two of my article on Canada’s West Coast, Cathryn and I explore what’s known as the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia. It’s an area of the province I wanted to visit for years, but never quite managed to get there. I have a buddy I haven’t seen in years who lives in Gibsons. So that, and rave reviews about the area, were good reasons to visit.
Although Sunshine Coast BC is part of the province’s mainland, you can only get there by ferry or seaplane. There are no roads in, and that alone makes it special. The strip is flanked by the Coastal Mountains and thick forest on one side and the Strait of Georgia on the other. Quaint little towns are scattered throughout the old-growth cedars along the scenic waterfront.
To get there from Vancouver, follow Highway 99 north from the city, where you’ll find a ferry crossing at Horseshoe Bay. The vehicle and passenger boats depart several times a day, but reservations are recommended in the high season. The cost for two people and a vehicle is just under $100 Canadian for a peaceful and scenic sailing that takes about forty-five minutes and docks in Langdale.
Gibsons: Home of The Beachcombers
The Sunshine Coast BC Highway starts in Langdale and goes south to Gibsons. Not one who always does what the GPS tells him to, I checked the road map and drove the scenic route—a narrow, curvy, and hilly road lined with houses and cottages offering magnificent views of the waterfront. It may be the slow route, but we were in no hurry, and the view was well worth it.
Like the yellow brick road to OZ, the coastal route led us to the magical town of Gibsons. Once a fishing village, it was made famous by The Beachcombers television show that filmed on location there. It aired on CBC from 1972 to 1990. Fans will recognize places like Molly’s Reach and the Persephone fishing boat, showcased at the mouth of the harbor. There’s also a museum at the tourist center to commemorate the TV series.
We fell in love with Gibsons the moment we set foot in town. Everything is within easy walking distance; the older part of Gibsons wraps around a natural harbor. A boardwalk and path trace the shoreline, only interrupted by the fishing pier and waterfront restaurants where you can sample the local catch or simply enjoy the view.
Pubs & Grub
Thirsty from our exploration of the pier, we grabbed a beer and asked about lunch at Gramma’s Marine Pub. Disappointed barely describes how we felt when the server told us nachos were their specialty. She said they were out of seafood, hard to believe considering their harbourfront location, and that we saw a guy selling fresh fish less than a hundred yards away in the marina.
After more exploring, we retreated to the Tapworks Brewing Company and sat on their raised deck that offered spectacular views of the harbor. The beer was excellent, but there wasn’t time to sample the menu. It was time to check in at our Airbnb, further up the coast. We returned to Gibsons the next day to meet friends and had an excellent lunch at the Blackfish Pub. We also had dinner there, at Leo’s Tapas and Grill Greek Cuisine. The menu was extensive and the food was delicious.
The drive along the coast from Gibsons to Sechelt takes less than thirty minutes, and that’s without stopping in little hamlets like Roberts Creek or at cute craft stores or the numerous roadside beaches and restaurants along the way.
Seashells in Sechelt
We stayed further west on the Sunshine Coast, in the town of Sechelt. Similar in size to Gibsons, it has a small-town charm with all the modern conveniences. One could say Sechelt sits on a peninsula since the town is almost surrounded by water. Our Airbnb was out of town and off the beaten path, but hidden in the forest and so very quiet. The house sat on a hill, and from our patio, we could see the blue water of the Strait of Georgia.
There are many walking and nature trails for all levels of hikers, all throughout the Sunshine Coast. We stumbled on one just outside of our subdivision that was privately owned and maintained by a local club. Cathryn and I felt lost amongst the two-hundred-foot-tall and two-hundred-year-old trees. Thankfully, the trails were color-coded and clearly marked along the paths for distance and to find your way.
Beaches and Trails
My wife loves to walk along the beach, so we stopped at the nearby Sargeant Bay Provincial Park. The tide was out, allowing people to dig for clams, and others like Cathryn, to stroll and collect unique seashells to bring home. The provincial park has its own nature trails and lots of campsites for tents or trailers.
I do my exploring by driving down backroads, just to see where they go. I drove down each and every one that headed toward the water and found cool little beaches. We discovered secluded mansions and rustic little cottages. At home and in other big cities, people give dirty looks to nosy tourists like us. But in the little hamlets, villages, and towns along the Sunshine Coast, a friendly wave was more the norm.
The Lighthouse Pub in Sechelt was close by and came highly recommended. It was one of the best eateries in British Columbia for seafood chowder. The mussels were also top-notch, served with hot garlic bread. The view of the marina and harbor at the bottom of nearby Porpoise Bay was second to none. To work off lunch, we checked out the adjacent pier and got some cool pictures of starfish and jellyfish.
Sunshine Coast BC: Canada’s Western Frontier
Next month, in Part Three, I will take you to Vancouver Island, where we visited Nanaimo, Chemainus, and the capital city of Victoria. For those who missed it, here is Part One, and if you want to read about any of my other adventures, you can at my personal website.