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From scenic kayak tours to serene spas experiences, here's the best of B.C.'s Sunshine Coast
B.C.’s rugged Sunshine Coast is sprinkled with cheery towns and blink-and-you’ll miss them hamlets hidden on this peninsula from Langdale (where the ferry lands after departing from Horseshoe Bay) to Lund, the unofficial end (or beginning) of Highway 101.
Here are 10 things to do along on this 140-kilometre stretch of beautiful B.C. once you hop off the ferry from Langdale on the Sunshine Coast.
Persephone Brewing Company is a quick detour from the ferry landing, en route to the heart of Gibsons (see next slide) where you can learn more about its namesake tugboat from The Beachcombers and sip some suds in the tasting room. But first: what’s this about “farm-fresh” beer? The farm-cum-brewery (the brainchild of Save-on-Meats’ Mark Brand) stretches over 11 bucolic acres, where the hops and grains grown here go into Persephone’s Goddess Golden Ale, Keller Pilsner and PBC Dry Stout, among others. Hundred Mile Diet devotees, locavores, food security advocates, beer lovers, Beachcomber fans – everyone! – this brew’s for you.
Ryan Reynolds remembers Molly’s Reach, the Gibsons restaurant that was originally a set on the long-running TV series, The Beachcombers. (When Reynolds was hit by car when filming Deadpool in his native Vancouver last spring, he Tweeted about the return of the show.) It’s here that Nick, Jesse (and their beloved tugboat, Persephone), Relic and the other colourful characters chewed the fat about the comings and goings of life on the coast. If you get here between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., go ahead — order Nick’s Omelet, which pays tribute to the Beachcombers’ character’s Greek heritage and coastal connection with spinach, feta cheese and salmon.
The Sunshine Coast is at its finest when you’re surrounded by stunning scenery and serenaded by the lively sounds of jazz music. On June 19 to 21, the Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival marks its 20-year milestone, with performers such as Soulstream, Jazz Group of Seven, Orkestar Slivovica – a Balkan brass band from Vancouver – and Hi-Fi, described as “a New Orleans-inspired funk brouhaha.” Check out the full jazz week schedule for locations, free events, ticket prices and more.
Once you leave the buzz of Gibsons and its daytrippers behind, the highway narrows and ventures into a woodsier landscape that leads to Roberts Creeks. It’s worth a stop for a snack at the beating heart of this community – the Gumboot Cafe – or to poke around in the handful of galleries, but we suggest you unwind even more. Book an appointment at the Shades of Jade Inn and Spa. This serene retreat promises a calming experience with treatments such as full body massages with warm jade stones and 100 per cent natural Seaflora Wild Organic Seaweed Skincare, which is made from seaweed sustainably hand-harvested on the B.C. coast.
“Land between two waters” is the lyrical and literal translation of the word “Sechelt,” which plays quadruple duty, describing the town, the inlet, the peninsula and the people who make their home in this part of the Lower Sunshine Coast. Take a stroll down the streets to learn more about the clans of the Shíshálh people, represented on totem poles. Download this handy map, which lists the locations of the totems and provides a fascinating overview of each. See if you can spot carvings of the eagle, frog, wolf and grizzly bear.
Think you know camping? Think again. The glam tenthouse suites at Rockwater Secret Cove Resort are more Gwyneth Paltrow than Grizzly Adams. Forget about sleeping bags and bathing in the sea. Instead, you can wash away the days’ activities by soaking in your hydrotherapy tub before tucking into a king-sized pillow-top bed to drift off, as the canvas tent gently rustles in the breeze. But be warned – you’ll be ruined for roughing it after staying at this retreat perched on a boardwalk in the forest, overlooking the sea.
At the end of the Lower Sunshine Coast, just a kilometre from the ferry to Saltery Bay and the Upper Sunshine Coast, wend your way along an easy four-kilometre trail through hemlock trees and salmonberry bushes to Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park. If you time it right (check out the tides table and give yourself about an hour to walk there), you can see the big waves at flood tide. What does that mean? Oh, about 200 billion gallons of wild water in action, with speeds sometimes exceeding 30 km/hr, creating the Sechlet Rapids, which rise up to nine-feet high. Keep your eyes peeled for crazy kayakers braving the tides, expertly using their paddles to stay upright in the roiling rapids.
If you’re looking for solitude, alone time, wildlife, and a bit of exercise, the Powell Forest Canoe Route delivers. Adventure awaits just a 10-km drive from the ferry terminal. Within minutes, you’ll be at one with your canoe, paddling up to 77 kilometres through a chain of eight pristine lakes, and bunking in one of the 20 campsites along the way. You don’t need to paddle the entire route, and less hardy souls might want to skip the steeper portages. Check out this link for a detailed description of the route.
To get to the Upper Sunshine Coast, take the 50-minute ferry ride from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay (or take the ferry from Comox on Vancouver Island). On a hot summer eve, when you’re jonesing for a smidge of city life in Powell River, check out a film at the Patricia Theatre. Yep, it’s Canada’s longest-running theatre, which has been in operation in this recreational hub and mill town since 1913. (True story: I grew up seeing movies here, and theatre wasn’t just the only game in town. It was also a place where you could watch a movie and enjoy the sight and sound of an organist performing live before the lights went down.) The theatre is as stylish as ever, thanks to a 2014 restoration project (as a result of a sprinkler malfunction), which revealed some historical details that had been hidden from site. And the bonus: tickets for adults are only $9!
Ready to get up close and personal with spiky sea urchins, purple and orange sea stars and curious-looking sea cucumbers in nature’s aquarium – Desolation Sound Marine Park? Take a tour with Powell River Sea Kayak, which will outfit you with all the gear (wetsuits, gloves, hoods, masks, snorkels, fins) so you can channel your inner Jacques Cousteau (he dove here) in the intertidal zone.