Enjoy life in the slow lane on a leisurely road trip along the south Sunshine Coast
Only a short 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast offers easy access to lakes and parks galore, as well as a diverse array of accommodations. One immediate (and welcome!) realization is how slow and unhurried life is on the Sunshine Coast. After spending a week there, Vancouver felt a whole lot busier. Mental wellness was certainly a priority as we rested and relaxed in uniquely designed accommodations, went on scenic hikes and more.
But it isn’t just the lack of hustle and bustle that makes this trip worth embarking on. The past few months of self-isolation and staying indoors have inevitably taken an emotional toll. A recent study highlighted the long-term mental health impacts arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, with 38 percent of Canadians reporting that their mental health has declined. This short and sweet getaway in B.C. is an ideal way to unplug and mentally recharge, especially in beautifully remote surroundings off the beaten track.
Read on and find out more about places to stay and what to eat and do on the Sunshine Coast…
1. Where to stay
Sure, staying in bigger towns like Gibsons and Sechelt puts you in proximity to supermarkets, stores and eateries, but take a walk on the wild(er) side and zip over to the tiny waterfront village of Egmont instead.
West Coast Wilderness Lodge
West Coast Wilderness LodgeAfter a one-and-a-half hour drive from the Langdale ferry terminal, I arrive at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge, an eco-luxe resort that should be on every avid traveller’s bucket list. My oceanview suite in Cabin 5 is roomy and perfectly suited for a couple, with a comfortable king-sized bed, a plush sofa, TV and balcony. The bathroom boasts an accessible bathtub and shower, as well as lemongrass-scented toiletries. There is complimentary coffee service and even a bottle of hand sanitizer to boot.
After checking in, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reason to leave your room because of the one thing that you’ll be raving about for years to come—the view. The mark of a good vacation is when you get a chance to fully unwind and destress, and that’s exactly what takes place here. Most of my two-night stay is spent out on the glass-panelled balcony in a deck chair, enjoying the unparalleled view of nature in all its glory. Trust me when I say that there is nothing like waking up to this picturesque sight in the morning, and watching the sun colour the sky with pastel pink and orange streaks as it sets in the evening.
With that stellar view, alongside its beautiful architecture and tastefully appointed rooms, it certainly comes as no surprise that the lodge’s rooms sells out quickly. “Almost all the rooms are booked out on weekends next year,” says co-founder and owner Paul Hansen. “There are only 26 rooms in total, so it never feels busy even at full capacity,” he adds. The lodge is only open for a limited season from May to October, and while their guest demographic is typically skewed toward international visitors—only three to five percent of their guests are Canadian—there’s a higher chance for locals to snag a room now since international travel is restricted due to COVID-19.
Backeddy Resort and Marina
Backeddy Resort and MarinaAlso located in Egmont is Backeddy Resort and Marina, home to another Instagram-worthy form of accommodation on the Sunshine Coast: chic glamping domes perched prettily in a row at the water’s edge.
My two-night stay is in the farthest dome next to a bountiful blackberry bush. What strikes me immediately is the homey, intimate atmosphere it exudes: there’s a sitting area complete with a carpet, wicker chairs, blankets and a carafe of water and glasses; freshly laundered towels and hotel-quality toiletries on the queen-sized bed; privacy curtains; and bedside dressers with dimmable lights. There is no washroom within the dome, but these facilities are a stone’s throw away, and the resort provides loonies for showers. Heater fans are also provided as it gets cool at night.
What makes a stay in these domes (open only between May and mid-October) 110 percent worth it? For one, it’s an opportunity to sleep under the stars in comfort. There’s a skylight above the bed and the front half of the dome is see-through plastic, so it’s almost like I’m still immersed in nature while indoors. But if you’re sensitive to light and noise, it’s best to bring along earplugs and sleep masks because the domes are not soundproof. For two, it affords a front-row seat to wildlife activity. While lounging in the deck chair right outside my dome, I spot a seal looking for food in the water and a variety of birds. Nature’s healing, restorative properties are doing wonders for my mental health—and all it takes is some quiet time in this charmingly sheltered space.
2. Where to eat
Don’t leave West Coast Wilderness Lodge without dining at Inlets Restaurant. Its top-notch food offerings—plus that unbeatable view—make this one of the most memorable dining selections on the Sunshine Coast! Book early to snag a table in their spacious (and socially distanced) outdoor patios. Our dishes come topped with a colourful nasturtium flower plucked right from the garden outside the restaurant. The ribeye steak is paired with a delightful wild mushroom risotto, while the saffron seafood tagliatelle (one of the most popular menu items) is fresh and flavourful. For those in the market for a fancier experience, you can even fly in via floatplane from Vancouver or Sechelt with the resort’s Fly n' Dine packages.
El SegundoWhile exploring Sechelt by foot, I stumble upon a newly opened restaurant, El Segundo. With its vibrant, tropical décor accents and breezy, laidback vibe, it feels like I’ve been instantly transported to Bali. But they’re not just winning on the design front: Executive chef and co-owner Heidi Murphy tells me that she’s trained at Bangkok’s Landmark Hotel, and learned how to make crispy pork belly Singapore-style while at the World Culinary Fair in the Southeast Asian city. With such diverse culinary expertise under Murphy’s belt, expect nothing less than a wonderful mash-up of Asian and Western flavours and ingredients on your plates, like a sweet-and-sour pork belly bowl and five-spice pulled duck tacos.
Besides savoury fare, satisfy your sweet tooth with Deadly Donuts' decadent vegan and gluten-free treats (only available at Beachcombers Coffee Company in Gibsons) and the fluffy, ginormous cinnamon buns from Skookumchuck Bakery & Cafe. On a rainy day, make a pitstop at The Bricker Cider Company, where you can sample a cider flight featuring intriguing seasonal flavours like root beer or earl grey. And if you’re peckish, just head out to the garden and order nibbles at the food shed, which is staffed by El Segundo.
3. What to do
Backeddy Resort is a convenient spot to launch off on a kayak or canoe. Check in with the friendly front desk staff, pick up your gear (and sunscreen!), and you’re all set to go. While out on the water, stop by a cluster of big rocks just across from the resort to glimpse seals lazing and swimming about. Stand up paddleboard and mountain bike rentals are also available.
Hiking enthusiasts will also be spoiled with choices here. While in Egmont, hike out to the raging whirlpools in the Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park. There are two trails—North Point and Roland Point—leading to different viewing locations. The former is relatively flat while the latter is rockier with some elevation gain. Whichever route you choose, download this handy brochure on the best viewing times in 2020 beforehand so you can time your visit to coincide with the most dramatic whirlpool sightings.
For an easy-going and photogenic hike, stop by Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park. The map at the park entrance indicates that it’s a short two kilometre walk, but it takes longer because of the elevation. My hike there takes about one-and-a-half hours at a leisurely pace. My suggestion: Pack a light lunch and find a rocky outcrop to sit at as you admire the rugged coastal views on display.
While these trails were moderately busy when I visited, there was ample space to be physically distanced and everyone was respectful of each other’s bubbles. In short: Yes, you can take a much-needed mental break, have fun, and travel safely in B.C.—and roadtripping on the Sunshine Coast might just be the best way to celebrate the end of summer with a bang.