There are no roads to the Sunshine Coast. Though part of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast can only be reached on one of the eight daily ferries that ply between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Langdale, a journey of approximately 40 minutes. The Sunshine Coast is an easy day trip from Vancouver, but if you are interested in hiking, kayaking, fishing, or scuba diving to see giant octopuses then you may wish to stay longer.
From Langdale it is a short trip to Gibsons, the gateway to the Sunshine Coast and the home of Molly’s Reach seafood restaurant, used as the set for the popular TV program The Beachcombers. You can watch fishermen sell their catch in the harbour, browse in the stores of Molly’s Lane, or visit the Sunshine Sunshine Coast Museum which details the history of the Coast Salish First Nations people.
History fans should visit Chaster Park with its cairn commemorating the 1792 arrival of Captain George Vancouver. Take the B&K logging road on your right as you head out of Gibsons on Highway 101 for some great hiking opportunities. This is an entrance to Mount Elphinstone, an area of old-growth hemlocks, cedars, and maple that is criss-crossed with paths and bike trails.
The next community is Roberts Creek, where the provincial park is a lovely place to enjoy any picnic items you may have brought with you. Further along Highway 101 are Brookman Park, a great place for a stroll alongside a creek and the Chapman Creek Salmon Hatchery near Wilson Creek, which raises over half a million salmonids every year. Hands-on displays and presentations will provide you with plenty of information on the Pacific Salmon. Children are allowed to catch a rainbow trout and take it home for dinner, a fund-raising idea that helps the hatchery to keep up their valuable work. Davis Bay has the finest sandy beach on the coast and hosts a midsummer sand-castle building competition.
North on Highway 1 Sechelt is the culture capital of the Sunshine Coast as any perusal of the town’s shops, restaurants and galleries will show. Sechelt sits on a spit of land between the Georgia Strait and the Sechelt Inlet. At the First Nation’s Tems Awiya Museum you can see totem poles, cedar carvings, and baskets.
The Sechelt Marsh near the inlet is a haven for birdwatchers. The inlet itself has nine provincial marine parks along the shoreline and was recently rated as one of the top 20 recreational diving sites in the world by Scuba Diving magazine. The Porpoise Provincial Park on Sechelt Inlet Road has a sandy beach with a protected swimming area, hiking trails through second-growth Douglas Firs, and a playground that could be useful if any children with you need to let off some steam.
Halfmoon Bay, 10 miles north of Sechelt, has a fine walk called the Redrooffs Trail through the forest with interpretive signposts to explain the finer points of the surroundings. Another pretty provincial marine park is nearby at Smuggler’s Cove, where the locals will tell you that both Chinese immigrants and rum have been hidden in the past, though at different times of course.
More birdwatching opportunities exist at Sargeant Bay Provincial Park where you can also see a fish ladder that allows spawning salmon to make their way up the creeks.
Pender Harbour has a maze of waterways which have earned it the soubriquet “The Venice of the North.“ Excellent ocean fishing, canoeing, and kayaking opportunities are available here. A great boat trip from here is the one offered to see the Chatterbox Falls at the head of Princess Louisa Inlet. This journey goes along Jervis Inlet with its steep granite walls that show pictographs from long ago.
At the sign to Egmont, turn off Highway 101 and park your car when you see the signs for the Skookumchuck Trail. The walk from the car park to the fenced viewpoints should take one hour. Time your hike to coincide with peak tidal flow in the Skookumchuck Narrows so you can witness the churning tidal surge (check tides at http://www.bigpacific.com/whattodo/viewtides.html) which is spectacular and dangerous. During a tide change, the surging waters force 200 billion gallons of water through the narrow channel between Jervis and Sechelt Inlets. Adults, children, and animals must stay well back from the torrential waters whose currents move at around 16 knots per hour.