What to Eat, Drink and Do on the Sunshine Coast

Skip the big city bustle this summer, and opt for a sojourn up the coast

Skip the big city bustle this summer, and opt for a sojourn up the coast

You could spend an hour waiting in line for brunch in the big city, or you could hop a 40-minute ferry to the lower Sunshine Coast, offering patios galore and a hip food and drinks scene this summer.

Here’s what to do in Gibsons and beyond…

1. What to eat in Gibsons

Drift Café and Bistro: The original 1940s wooden floor and a dumbwaiter that rushes food up to your water-view perch from the downstairs kitchen are among the charms of the former telegraph building in Gibsons. Chefs schooled by Scott Yeager (of the Pear Tree in Burnaby) use field-fresh local produce and wholesome ingredients to produce brunch buckwheat waffles indulgent enough to have for dessert, thick-stacked steak and chicken sandwiches at lunch and a toothsome homemade pasta every day.
Try: Vegan Caesar salad, a green goddess-like creamy avocado dressing on kale topped with crunchy nuts and seeds

Lunitas Mexican Eatery: Perched in lower Gibsons with seats both patio- and water-facing, this fun and fresh Mexican eatery reels you in with craft cocktails packing tons of flavour, made with ingredients like a mouthwatering coconut-aged white balsamic from the nearby Sunshine Coast Olive Oil Co. The savoury Mangonada has house-made chamoy (a spicy-sweet Mexican fruit condiment), a chile-lime shrub from Squamish-based Booze Witch and a lip-licking rim of Tajin seasoning. Shatter-thin tortilla chips with three salsas or guac are a killer cocktail snack, but flavourful three-bite tacos, layered burrito bowls, tamales and quesadillas all come with Baja fish, beef barbacoa, carnitas-style pork, drunken prawn or vegetarian (charred avo or rosted poblano and portobello) toppers.
Try: A cup of tortilla soup that hits all the right hot, creamy, crunchy, spicy, bright and savoury notes

2. What to drink in Gibsons

Persephone Brewing: The Sunshine Coast is pretty laid-back, but spending an afternoon here is next-level chill. As in: eating brick-oven pizza and spot prawn ceviche tacos from the Farm to Feast food truck on a shady patio, sampling stellar craft beer with chickens, beehives and a hop and a sustainable vegetable farm in view. Smart locals order a summer CSA veg-and-beer-box bursting with tomatoes, squash, peppers, sweet beets and rainbow chard, but produce is also available in the tasting room and at Sunday on-site farmers markets. Look for farm-made products like pesto and hot sauce to debut this summer. Yoga is on tap Saturday mornings.
Try: A lightly hoppy ISA mixed with on-tap house lemonade for a super-refreshing DIY radler

Tapworks Brewing Company: Play games, lounge around a fire pit and snack on flatbreads or warm, soft pretzels as you sip a paddle of the weekly new microbrew releases. Topping an old appliance repair shop overlooking the water in Gibsons is now a great rooftop patio deck (which gets enclosed and heated in winter). With everything from comedy to live music nights, the good times keep rolling after dark.
Try: The Margarita Kettle Sour, an upscale version of a crisp Corona with lime and salt

The 101 Brewhouse and Distillery: This industrial-chic room rolls up the garage doors of a former auto repair shop to reveal a sweet patio where you can eat upscale pub food (like crispy reuben or creamy chicken-avocado club sandwiches) and sample from both beer and spirits made in house. Since it was the Sunshine Coast’s first craft distillery, sample the vodka (it’s rich apple-pear nose works great in a Bartlett cocktail) or a barrel-aged Negroni showcasing the softly evergreen-fragrant gin. Regulars reserve seats for Tuesday rock-and-roll bingo, while Sunday live music and Saturday karaoke nights often turn into dance parties. Watch for educational brewery and distillery tours to debut soon.
Try: On-tap Raincoast Rose Kombucha mixed with 101 Gin for the pink drink of the summer

3. What to do in Gibsons

Gibsons Public Market: A mini-Granville Island, this three-storey powerhouse packs a fishmonger, cheese shop, green grocer, florist, butcher, coffee shop-bakery combo and a healthy snack bar (try the vegan coconut ice cream bars at Wholesome Market Eats) onto one level, with both pro-grade commercial and community kitchens available for bookings. Pop-up dinner party, anyone? Upstairs, a bright atrium hosts everything from yoga classes to art shows and live music, which you can enjoy while sipping wine and nibbling coconut prawns or calamari at happy hour (or brunch, lunch and dinner) at Emelle’s Market Bistro.
Try: Friday Night Markets on long weekends, with an array of makers, artisans, street food and kids movies

Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre: A family-friendly spot on the second floor of the market, this “collect and release” educational aquarium captures Howe Sound marine life in more than 30 tank exhibits (after a few months, all species are released back into their natural habitat in a community release). Promoting healthy ocean ecosystems to the public (Friday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with school groups during the week) is the official goal, but kids will love getting up close and personal with sea stars and urchins.
Try: A $35 per year market membership is like a local insider card, scoring you insider discounts around town

4. What to eat up the Coast

Lone Wolf Bakery: Third-wave coffee has yet to wash broadly over this coast (though Beachcomber Coffee Co. is also bringing it), but you’ll find it here—along with what have to be some of B.C.’s best croissants, deeply laminated and toasty (and best grabbed before mid-afternoon, when they tend to sell out). Country-style loaves, focaccia and kid-pleasing big cookies are among the irresistible treats.
Try: A dense, decadent cinnamon bun or breakfast bun to dip in your proper cappuccino

The Wobbly Canoe: When the Sunshine Coast Highway breaks out of the trees and offers you a breathtaking view of the coast around Davis Bay, you’ve just got to stop. And this is the perfect patio for it. With a menu divided into bites, bowls and handhelds you can choose from white wine and fennel-steamed mussels, a poké bowl dressed with squid and wakame salads or a free-range chicken banh mi. They have tacos, too, but the Nauti-Girl Tacos truck is often parked on the beach across the street if you want a built-in beach-picnic option.
Try: Crispy ling cod on a tangle of garden greens is a healthier, elevated take on fish ‘n’ chips

5. What to drink up the Coast

Bruinwood Estate Distillery: Jeff Barringer and Danise Lofstrom might look familiar. For two decades, they produced and hosted TV shows like B.C. Wine Cellar, right out of their Roberts Creek home studio. Now, behind their home is a one-year-old distillery turning out small-batch spirits made with chef and wine-taster precision (and their own aquifer water). There’s an anise-scented gin, a lightly sweet raspberry vodka and a new pale-coral rhubarb gin—all unique on the B.C. craft scene. Try and buy them in the tiny four-stool tasting room, or taste them in cocktails at local watering holes.
Try: Creamy, dreamy Advocaat liqueur won the audience favourite award at the B.C. Distilled artisan spirits festival this year 

The Bricker Cider Company: In B.C., apples are synonymous with the Okanagan, but as English brewer-turned-cider-maker Nick Farrer points out, the Sunshine Coast’s weather has similarities to the cider mecca of northern France. His ciders are dry and bursting with flavour: the clean, fresh Sun Coaster, made from five tons of fruit donated by locals through the Fruit Tree Project, is even wild fermented, creating a cider that’s as authentically local as it gets. Family owned (it’s named for matriarch Ann—her portrait is on the wall) and adjacent to a longtime family farm, the cidery and tasting room has a family-friendly picnic area.
Try: Limited-run collaborations, like an Earl Grey Cider with Davis Bay Tea Co. or Juniper (using the spent gin botannicals from Bruinwood)

6. What to do up the Coast

Plethora Fine Foods: Punching way above its size, this Sechelt shop is packed with every gourmet delicacy city folks would expect to find, from fine charcuterie (including Two Rivers meats) and cheese to top cocktail mixers, condiments and sweets. B.C. products (from chilled cans of Fernwood Coffee Cream Soda to packages of Pleasantside Salami Jerky) are spotlighted alongside global goods, a selection that’s masterfully curated by longtime chef James Covell.
Try: A $15 picnic box, with meat and cheese of your choice, pickles, nuts, dried dates and fruits, crackers and a condiment

7. Where to stay up the Coast

Painted Boat Resort Spa and Marina: With all the foodie and drinkie treasure you’ll pick up toodling north along the coast towards the Pender Harbour area, there’s no better place to park than Painted Boat. The waterside villas (one-, two- or two-plus-loft bedrooms) have full kitchens and patio with barbecues where you can enjoy an locally assembled brunch or sunset feast. And, if you don’t want to eat in, elegant dinners at The Lagoon Restaurant include excellent cocktails and a maple- and soy-marinated wild sockeye salmon with umami-rich shitake and asparagus risotto. Look for seasonal packages that include treatments, from deep tissue massages to an Ocean Elements seaweed and clay facial, with a villa stay.
Try: Call in the morning to book a kayak or stand-up paddleboard for the day on the serene water in front of the resort