Known for being a haven for artists of all walks of life, there is huge amount of great art, crafts and music here, including local Indigenous art. The vibe is laid back and coastal and as the ferry pulls away from the terminal, it feels like you are exhaling the chaos of city life and inhaling the joy of coastal life. Come and stay for the sunsets ad seafood.
When you first arrive on the Sunshine Coast in BC you could be forgiven for thinking you have arrived on an island. It’s connected to the southern mainland and divided into two parts, Lower and Upper Sunshine Coast. There is no direct road access and the only way to get to here is by float plane or ferry. But it’s not an Island and there is plenty of merchandise available to remind you that ‘Sunshine Coast, BC, Not an Island!’
Getting to the Sunshine Coast
The Lower Sunshine Coast is a short, but incredibly scenic, 40 minute ferry sail from Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver. The ferry weaves its way through the Howe Sound, past Bowen Island and Gambier Island and arrives at Langdale Terminal, near the community of Gibsons. The float plane is even quicker—a 15-minute flight from Vancouver Harbour. If you decide to fly, you’ll land at Porpoise Bay in Sechelt, where you can rent a car. Advance reservations are strongly recommended for travelling by ferry or float plane.
The regions of the Sunshine Coast
The main communities of the Lower Sunshine Coast are Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Sechelt, Half Moon Bay, Pender Harbour, Madeira Park and Egmont. All are situated along Highway 1 and the journey from Gibsons to Egmont takes about 75 minutes. During the late spring and summer you’ll find lots of artists and artisan crafts at farmers markets, as well as plenty of fresh produce. There is an abundance of fresh seafood available here and plenty of good restaurants offering local cuisine.
Gibsons & Chaster Beach
Just five minutes from Langdale ferry terminal is the coastal community of Gibsons, famous for Molly’s Reach restaurant, as seen in the vintage TV series, The Beachcombers. It has a small town feel but plenty to offer and a good selection of coffee shops, restaurants, breweries/cideries and shopping.
Buy your local fresh fish right off the boat at Gibsons Marina, or check out Smitty’s Oyster House for a fun and lively, fresh seafood dinner, right on the water.
And when the temperature heats up, indulge yourself at Mike’s Place, where you will find a wicked selection of ice-creams (including coconut milk option for the dairy free!). Gibsons is split into two parts, Lower and Upper Gibsons and are joined by steep hills (think San Francisco) and offer great views and great hikes. Check out Soames Hill Park (lots of steps) and Mt Elphinstone Park for great photo ops.
For beach lovers, don’t miss the opportunity to walk Chaster Beach, it is one of the longest beaches on the Sunshine Coast, and located near Gibsons. It can be challenging to find a parking spot, but definitely worth the effort especially early evening, when lots of people gather around beach fires, but the beach is so big it never looks full.
Robert’s Creek is a small village known for its community drawn Mandala, its beautiful beach, regular live music and Yoga. Forest bathers might be surprised to learn that the Sunshine Coast also offers plenty of opportunity to stroll through old growth forests and Cliff Gilker Park in Robert’s Creek, should not be missed.
The iconic Gumboot Cafe and Restaurant offers local fresh food and if you like fish & chips, don’t miss the chance to enjoy the freshest catch of the day at Sharky’s Fish Locker take-out. It’s hugely popular so place your order early.
Summers on the Sunshine Coast are usually hot and the sunsets are spectacular and some of the best sunsets can be found at Davis Bay, known for its sandy beach and right alongside the highway. There’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous views across to Vancouver Island and often a whale sighting. If you can find a table at the Wobbly Canoe, order their ling cod bites, (you won’t want to share) and enjoy dinner with a front row, sunset view.
Sechelt means land between two waters is also a stunning place to watch the sunset, especially on Porpoise Bay. The calm waters of the Sechelt Inlet, make it a great place to kayak or paddle board and fishing for fresh crab is popular here too, although you will need a license.
Occasionally, we experience the joy of sighting whales and porpoises here also. Sechelt is the largest community on the Lower Sunshine Coast and the city centre is mostly flat, making it easy to get about on foot or by cycle. There are plenty of restaurants, shopping and local art and the Botanical Garden in west Sechelt is worth a visit anytime of the year, and has some Indigenous art.
The local farmers market is popular in summer and often has live music. Hikers will enjoy the heritage forest and mossy landscape of hidden grove and mountain bikers can get their thrills at Coast Gravity Park. Blue Ocean Golf Course is an easy to walk golf course, available to the public and has beautiful views.
Half Moon Bay and Secret Cove
At Half Moon Bay you can hiking or take your kayaks to Sergeant Bay Provincial Park. Close by is Secret Cove where you can hop on a water taxi to Thormaby Island and enjoy bathing in the warm, tranquil waters and relaxing on the soft, white sand.
Pender Harbour and Madeira Park
Pender Harbour and Madeira Park are small, adjacent communities with big views.
For superb accommodation in a stunning location, book one of the spacious villas at Painted Boat Resort & Spa and enjoy the views over Pender Harbour. Savour the fabulous, coastal cuisine at the resort’s Lagoon Restaurant and spend some time relaxing in their Spa, voted the number one spa on the Sunshine Coast. If you have time for a short hike, take the steep path up Pender Hill in Garden Bay or accept the bigger challenge of Mt. Daniel and enjoy the amazing, panoramic views over Pender Harbour and the Malaspina Strait. For a less strenuous hike, choose Francis Peninsula Recreational Park, and walk along the rocky coastline with fabulous views.
Egmont is the last community, driving north on the Lower Sunshine Coast. Nearby is Earls Cove where you can take a boat tour of the Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls—truly some of the best views in British Columbia.
At Egmont, enjoy an easy/moderate 4-kilometre hike to Skoomkumchuck Narrows, where you can see the tidal waters of Sechelt and Jervis Inlets merge together. Check out the tidal charts online and plan your visit for the high tide, it’s quite a show and you might get lucky and see some local kayakers riding the rapids. Food options are limited in this area but this is where less is more. For excellent pub food, check out Backeddy pub, a few minutes from Skoomkumchuck trailhead, the scallop ceviche is amazing! Or make your way up to the West Coast Wilderness Lodge for an incredible fine dining experience and a view that will take your breath away!
Linda Vellis Cunningham
Linda is a beach-loving professional photographer & yoga instructor, with a passion for adventure travel and living her best life on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.
View her adventures on Instagram: @yogiphotographer.