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Think the Sunshine Coast is only a summer destination? With spas, hiking, unbelievable sunsets and more, this is a year-round destination
Don’t let the summery-sounding name throw you off; the Sunshine Coast is also the perfect destination for a winter weekend away. With crowd-free snowshoe trails, romantic hotels and a range of experiences from offbeat to off-the-beaten-path, now’s the time to visit the region and bag an off-season bargain. Not sure where to start? Here are seven reasons to visit the Sunshine Coast this winter.
Travelling to the Sunshine Coast involves a quick and easy 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale: we caught a day sailing to see the sweeping views up Howe Sound as the ferry wound its way between Bowen Island and the mainland to reach the coast. As well as squeezing in some sightseeing before you arrive, travelling by ferry gives the Sunshine Coast an island feel without the steep price tag. Plus, the reduced journey times means you can fit more into weekend break.
We’ve found Heaven… and it’s on the Sunshine Coast. Run by friendly couple Doug and Doreen, Absolute Heaven Oceanfront Suites & Spa is smack-dab on the beach at Sechelt. The comfy self-contained suite underneath their house features a lounge, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom kitted out with thoughtful extras such as handmade soap, complimentary wine and welcome snacks. The beachside hot tub and well-equipped fitness centre are a nice touch, but the best surprise is the stunning sunrises that take place on the driftwood-strewn beach right next to the suites.
When we were getting ready in sunny Sechelt, it seemed unlikely that we’d soon be crunching through snow, but a short drive up to Dakota Ridge brought us to a 1,532 acre plateau dusted in the white stuff. An energetic but easy snowshoe trek, part of the 7-km network of trails, led through old-growth forests to spectacular views from Vancouver Island, across to the North Shore and even as far as Mount Baker. Our guide from Alpha Adventures pointed out some of the 20-km of cross-country ski trails that crisscross the ridge (a two-and-a-half hour snowshoe tour costs $109pp). If you want to explore on your own but don’t have snow tires (usually required to reach the plateau), take Alpha’s shuttle for $23 instead.
After a sub-alpine snowshoe expedition with Alpha Adventures, we popped into Strait Coffee, the cafe next door to their HQ. It was time to refuel with a hearty sandwich and creamy cheesecake – since 1996 the Strait Coffee team has been roasting organic coffee just up the road from the cafe. If you want to hit the harder stuff, try Mark Brand’s latest venture – Persephone Brewing. Named for the Beachcombers TV show that put the Sunshine Coast on the map, the brewery opened last year and the hops are grown on a farm at Gibson’s Landing. Taste their ale at the brewery or a pub, such as the Blackfish, which is close to the ferry terminal.
Hidden down a forested hill in Sargeant Bay, The Pointhouse is an architectural gem that wouldn’t look out of place in a James Bond movie: with its plush decor, roaring fireplaces and luxurious plunge baths with superlative views of the bay this romantic hideaway is the perfect secret lair for lovers.
Heather and Bob Newman’s spectacular home is an unexpected slice of green luxury for a reasonable price, especially in the quieter winter months. Built using sustainable green roofs and eco-water management principles, the house is on the former estate of Ron Basford, the Trudeau-era cabinet minister, and the renovated home is now a love-letter to minimalist design.
We made the most of the quiet house and lounged in the hot tub under the stars after enjoying a special dinner – Heather arranged for a private chef, Alan Barnes from Ricolan Chef Services, to come and create a gourmet meal for us. The next morning we spotted seals splashing in the bay as we tucked into homemade sausages and pancakes for breakfast before we set off back to reality.
Get a group of girlfriends together and head to the Painted Boat Resort in Pender Bay for a seasonal spa retreat. The winter weather can get as wild as it wants when you’re inside the luxurious two-bedroom villas, which have a fully-kitted out kitchen and big lounge area; we enjoyed a bottle of wine and dinner without leaving the house. Spend the weekend in the soothing outdoor spa garden. We happily hopped between the hot pools and cool showers and soaked in the tub with a backdrop view of the mountains. Guests can also indulge in a massage, body scrub or facial. The outdoor infinity pools and restaurant are seasonal (opening again in May), but the Spa Garden opens on weekends year-round and the resort offers winter specials.
Head off the highway and get under the skin of the Sunshine Coast with Catch My Drift; a tour company with a difference that offers ‘Earthly Journeys’, which are a collection of unique experiences featuring extraordinary local people. We visited Gail Hunt for a tour of her ‘green home’ to discover her quirky house, which was built to be totally eco-friendly. Gail also runs craft lessons making fabric ‘postcards’ and she hosts cooking lessons to create vegetarian feasts with various international influences. Ex-home economics teacher Gail shared her guacamole recipes with us as we helped make tortillas, and we soon we had a table of Mexican food ready to enjoy in the sunshine overlooking the North Shore.