Kayaking on Sechelt Inlet

Pedals & Paddles celebrated their 21st season on the Sunshine Coast with an Open House this weekend at their fabulous new location on Lamb Bay, just 5-minutes away from Coracle Cove. This is a perfect location to put in a kayak with its protected bay and several nearby islets to explore.

Owner, Laurie Reid is delighted with her new location, situated at the base of Mt. Richardson, saying it has allowed her “to put the pedals back into Pedals & Paddles” as the 78 acre site is riddled with a network of old logging roads just waiting to be explored. Her staff are just in the process of finishing a one-hour green level loop for novice riders and in preparation they’ve added mountain bikes to their line of rentals.

Pedals & Paddles offer rentals for kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddle boards and the latter has become an extremely popular water sport on the protected waters of Sechelt Inlet. They also offer a number of guided tours, both in the morning and evening, as well as once a month under a full moon.

The staff is extremely professional offering personal instruction for new comers to the sport. They provide all of the regulated safety equipment and take the extra time to ensure that you are properly prepared before you set off. The protected waters of Sechelt Inlet are appropriate for beginners, yet also enjoyed by experts for its easy access and spectacular scenery.

Imagine going from city to wilderness in just 2 hours. Sechelt Inlet offers abundant opportunities for viewing wildlife on the water, land and in the air. In the short time I was there I saw eagles soaring in the sky and seals bobbing their heads at the water’s surface. A few weeks ago, while in my own boat I saw a black bear at the shoreline and have been hearing recent reports again this year of dolphins frolicking in the water nearby.

Pedals & Paddles is just a five minute drive from Coracle Cove making it a great option for our guests looking for some outdoor adventure, and whether you’re just a newbie wanting to try something new or a seasoned expert, there’s a variety of choices to meet your needs.

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Hummingbirds at Coracle Cove

As a novice birder, I’ve approached this new-found interest with enthusiasm, and one of the great things that I’ve learned about birding is that it has a season. Migratory birds set off from distant points south, and arrive here on a schedule that has been in place for eons. The arrival of the Rufous Hummingbird is a much anticipated event among local birders here on the Sunshine Coast.

Hummingbirds are of course, are extremely hungry after their migration, which could have been up to 9,000 kilometres long. They’ll stay for most of the summer, providing us with lots of entertaining moments and opportunities for taking pictures like these. It’s one more reason why you should bring your camera when you come to stay at Coracle Cove.

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Spring Birding at Coracle Cove – Part 2

Spring is here and as you can see from this image, we’re having a little trouble keeping our bird feeders filled here at Coracle Cove.

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spotted towhee at feeder

I took this photo from the outside deck off the suite and caught this Spotted Towhee in the act. He’s a bit bigger than most of the others and has a real preference for these black oil sunflower seeds.

Song Sparrow belting it out

We have a large variety of LBJ’s (little brown jobs) mostly from the Sparrow family. This male Song Sparrow has one of the most beautiful mating songs which they sing upon arrival in the Spring to establish territory and attract a mate.

White-crowned sparrow

I think this White-crowned Sparrow is a particularly handsome chap with his black and white stripes, and he’s a pretty good singer as well.

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This is another of those LBJ’s that are sometimes difficult to identify. It looks like a sparrow but the yellow wing and tail feathers ID it as a Pine Siskin, one of the flock of Siskins in the opening image of this blog.

All of these images were taken just a few feet away from our feeders so be sure you bring your camera when you come to Coracle Cove.

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72 hours on the Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is BC’s best kept secret, with endless stretches of craggy coastline, winding trails through verdant green forests, and a laid back vibe that compels you to slow down. Newcomers often joke about this slow pace, but we embrace it, calling it coastal time, as it allows us to discover the beauty that greets us at every turn.

But how do you unlock this secret Pandora’s Box on coastal time when all you’ve got is precious little time? Here’s a fail-proof plan to make the most of your Sunshine Coast visit in 72 hours or less.

DAY 1

1. Get an early start to the day/ 11:30 am 

Take an early ferry – there’s less traffic in the morning and you’ve just gained a few extra hours for your getaway. Once you’ve boarded the ferry, head up to the outside deck. You’ll get some great pictures like this as the ferry winds its way between several small islands.

2. Lunch & Exploring Old Gibsons Harbour/ 12.30

Break away from the pack of cars as you drive off the ferry, make the first left turn and follow this quiet country road for a few minutes until you reach Lower Gibsons. Originally a fishing settlement, this area still holds some of that maritime charm. Molly’s Reach was the main set in The Beachcombers, one of Canada’s longest running television series. Follow the stairs down to the waterfront where you’ll find Smitty’s Oyster House, and grab a seat at this long communal plank table, located mere feet from the glistening brine.  The decidedly seafood menu offers crab cakes, clam chowder, and of course, a variety of oysters, both raw on the half-shell, and cooked for those less adventuresome.

smitty's outside plank table

After lunch, explore the docks and if you’re lucky you may be able to buy some fresh seafood directly from one of the boats. Walk back up the stairs and head down Molly’s Lane where you’ll find an eclectic collection of shops. Salty Sailor Designs has an interesting collection of art made from salvaged driftwood, including these lovely Christmas trees.  IMG_7885

Walk back up to Gower Point Road and you’ll find Sunshine Coast Olive Oil, a gourmet food store specializing in single-estate and infused extra virgin olive oils. Across the street is the Landing Gallery, which represents many of the Coast’s finest artists.  Greta Guzek is one of my favourites and you’ll see some of her art in your suite at Coracle Cove.

3. Pick up Supplies for Tonight’s Dinner/ 3;00

Tonight’s dinner suggestion is a simple barbecue dinner, so if you haven’t already, you’ll need to pick up some dinner ingredients.  Claytons Heritage Market in Sechelt has everything you need – a nice steak plus some Henry Reid lettuce greens for a fresh, crisp salad … nothing too complicated. The LCB store is behind Claytons and has a great choice of wines and a knowledgeable staff. Now, hop in your car, Coracle Cove Waterfront Suite is your next stop.

4. Dinner on the patio/ 6:00

After you’ve settled in, pour yourself a glass of wine, fire up the barbecue and give your steak some love and attention.   Your private waterside patio table has an exclusive reservation and dinner will be served whenever you decide. After dinner, wander down to our dock and settle into one of these comfy red chairs. Close your eyes and listen… you’re shifting down into coastal time. www.coraclecove.com

Day 2 

5. Breakfast and Walking Tour of Sechelt/ 10:00

The Basted Baker is located on Cowrie Street and has a really creative menu which is also updated constantly… a variety of Bennies served on a lovely soft biscuit, a tempting selection of decadent treats to sweeten the palette, and a latte that is the absolute best, hands-down.

After breakfast, it’s time for some exercise.  Head up Cowrie and turn left at Trail.  Fresh from the Coast is a great little store featuring locally made artwork by over 150 artisans. Talewind Books is few doors away. They’ve  been selling books for almost 30 years and are one of the last of the independent bookstores. Check out their extensive collection of books about all things Coastal BC

Continue walking along Wharf,  toward the ocean until you reach the seawall, another favourite of mine – I walk the seawall at least twice a week, throughout the year.  Turn left and halfway along the seawall is the grand Tori Gate. Walk out to the end of  the pier, where you’ll find an interesting set of pictures depicting how the shoreline looked back in the early pioneer days. IMG_5935

The seawall continues to meander through the Sechelt Indian Band Lands, where you’ll often see fishing nets hanging up to be repaired. At the end of the seawall, five majestic totems stare resolutely out to the ocean.  These totems were carved in the mid 1980’s to honour each of the four tribes of the shishálh Nation, plus a fifth, to celebrate their achievement of self-government status, one of the first Indian Bands in Canada to do so.

6. Lunch in Halfmoon Bay/ 12:30

It’s time to explore more of the Sunshine Coast, so hop into your car and head up the highway. We’ll stop for lunch on the way. Turn left at the second Redrooffs Road, and follow the signs to the Halfmoon Bay General Store. Next door you’ll find the Upper Crust Bakery with a good selection of Paninis and baked sweets. Between these two you can put together a pretty good picnic lunch. Walk down to the end of this little one-lane road to the Government Wharf for the best “restaurant” view you can imagine.

7. Escaping through Smuggler Cove/ 1:30

Head back up the highway, continuing north for just a few minutes, watching for the turnoff to Smuggler Cove.  The first half of this well maintained trail system is joined together with a series of boardwalks traversing over and around small ponds, created by a busy family of beavers. Later the trail opens to  sweeping views of Welcome Passage and Thormanby Island, before looping around to Smuggler Cove, so named for its colourful history. Nowadays, however,  you’ll see only sailboats instead of sleek rumrunners of the Roaring Twenties.Smugglers1

8. Dinner at the Lighthouse/ 6:00

The Lighthouse is all about enjoying one of the most amazing views on the Sunshine Coast. It’s casual dining, on an expansive outside deck, where you can watch all of the action – speedy water taxis racing to and from the dock, float planes landing, and pleasure boats heading off to another adventure.  Anything from the menu with seafood is recommended –  Warm Seafood Salad, Baha Fish Tacos, Seafood Curry Hotpot, and of course their Fish & Chips… or if you’re feeling more carnivorous, try the Braised Lamb Shank or the legendary Pile Driver.

Day 3

9. Breakfast at the Bakery – if you haven’t already had breakfast, pop into The Bakery in Sechelt for quick service, great coffee and a good selection of baked breakfast goodies. Extra Tip: pick up a few goodies as a treat after your hike into the Skookumchuck.

10. The Eighth Wonder of the World & More/ 10:00 – all day

The Skookumchuk Rapids could very easily be considered the Eighth Wonder of the Natural World.  Twice a day, close to a trillion litres of water flow through the constricted opening of the Skookumchuk Narrows, creating one of the world’s fastest tidal currents. skookumchuck3

Ebb tides create huge whirlpools, strong enough to suck down a large log and send it popping into the air as it frees itself from the swirling vortex. North Point is your best viewing site. On a Flood tide, the water flows in far too fast for the narrow, constricted, opening, creating a powerful standing wave which kayakers love to surf. The best viewing site for flood tides is  Roland Point.skookumchuk kayaker

So now it’s time for some math… you need to time your Skookumchuck experience so that you arrive just before the tidal surge is at its strongest – ebb or flood. Use this link to determine the best time for today, then calculate – it’s a one-hour drive from Sechelt and a 40-50 minute hike from the  parking lot – so it’s a simple matter of working around the Skookumchuck times to fit in the rest of the day’s activities. You’ll be glad you took the time to do so and here are my recommendations for experiencing the rest that Pender Harbour has to offer:

10a. SloCat Tour – located in Madeira Park at the Government Dock they offer a 90-minute tour of the inner harbour, at 11:00, 1:00 & 3:00.  The tour is a good way to get out on to the water and and Captain Paul will entertain you with stories and gossip from both the past and present. Check out this link for more information.SloCat Tour

10b.  Mini Art Crawl – with over a dozen galleries and studios in the Pender Harbour area, representing a wide variety of styles and disciplines, there are lots of options to experience some original art. My favourites: Copper Sky Gallery (Madeira Park); FiberWorks Studio (along the highway, just after Madeira Park); Flying Anvil  Studio (Garden Bay turn-off); Motoko Gallery (Garden Bay)

10c. Lunch at the Garden Bay Pub – another large waterside deck awaits you,  overlooking a marina with all manner of boats coming and going. Home of two summer week-end music festivals, they also feature live music every Sunday.Garden Bay Pub

11. Dinner Options in Sechelt/ 6:00

Sheila & I love to cook so when we go out for dinner the bar is pretty high. Fortunately, there are lots of good options in Sechelt, and rather than giving you a specific recommendation we’ll let you choose the one that matches up with exactly what you feel like eating tonight.  Follow this link for the restaurants that we always return to.

restaurants in the Sechelt area

 

Day 4

12. Breakfast at the GumBoot/ 9:00

It’s your last day on the Sunshine Coast so we’ll reluctantly work our way back to the ferry. The Gumboot Restaurant, is located in The Heart of Roberts Creek and definitely falls into the coastal time category.  Try the Buddda Bowl… you’ll get a large healthy plate, mounded high with steamed greens, shredded raw carrots and beets, baked tofu slices, and brown rice with a rich and flavourful peanut sauce. If you’re into something more traditional, they’ve got that too, but it’s all about staying in coastal time.

13. Exploring Roberts Creek/ 10:00

After breakfast wander down the road toward the ocean where you’ll find a beautiful mandala, a community project, re-painted every year by local Creekers. A few steps further will bring you to the magnificence of the Salish Sea and a beautiful, deserted sandy beach where you can walk, explore tidal pools, and collect an interesting piece of driftwood.Roberts Creek Mandala

14. The Waterfalls of Cliff Gilker Park/ 11:00

Cliff Gilker Park is zealously protected by this passionate community.  Its 56 hectares are joined together with a series of well maintained trails and foot bridges that criss-cross back and forth over Roberts Creek as it funnels its way back to the Salish Sea. In a few spots the creek bed drops suddenly, forming four  waterfalls. Several viewing platforms and comfortable benches will allow you the opportunity to sit, enjoy some coastal time and contemplate the beauty of this endless cycle of Nature.Cliff Gilker Waterfall

 

15. Langdale Ferry Terminal/ 2:45

If you’re travelling during the summer, make sure that you’ve made a reservation for the ferry well in advance. Knowing that you have a guaranteed place on the sailing of your choice,  you can continue this relaxing journey in coastal time. I hope you’ve had a great Sunshine Coast experience.

Check out this interactive map for all of the places mentioned in this blog and then login to your own Google Maps to upload and use while you’re exploring the Sunshine Coast.

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Summer Days on the Sunshine Coast – a day for relaxing

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When I hear the Vancouver traffic report on the radio, I often chuckle, thinking how fortunate I am to be on the Sunshine Coast. This morning, as I was enjoying my coffee down on the dock, I thought it might be fun to send out my own traffic report, and this is the picture that I posted to my Facebook account.

As you may have guessed, today’s blog is all about relaxation and taking time for yourself. This is the fifth in my blog series, Unlocking the Secrets of the Sunshine Coast, where I share my best insider tips to help you get the most out of your getaway.

There’s nothing better for relaxing than a Yoga class and my favourite studio is Yoga by the Sea.   The drop-in rate is only $15 for a two-hour class and they’ve got all the gear you need. The instructors always provide a great mix of both mental and physical activity; the classes are small; and you get as much attention and help as you want. So don’t worry about anything – give it a try.Screen Shot 2016-06-17 at 10.12.46 AM

My dinner recommedation for tonight is the Old Boot in Sechelt.  This is an easy and relaxing dining experience – the food is good, the servings plentiful, and the prices reasonable. The menu is just the right size with a selection of pastas, steak, ribs and seafood. After dinner head back to Coracle Cove and down to your favourite waterside seat on our dock. You’ve had a good day, feeding both the body and the mind, so take some time to remind yourself of how much you have to be happy about.

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Birding at Sechelt Marsh

 

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The Sechelt Marsh is a great place to stretch your legs with its winding trail around a small pond. The pond is fed by both fresh and tidal water, offering a rich habitat, and an abundance of ducks, mostly Mallards together with other common species. IMG_4850

There is a small island in the middle of the pond offering protection to new arrivals, and many rarer ducks have appeared including this Canvasback.

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Springtime is wonderful for seeing new young life, paddling closely by the mother, with the male species nearby keeping a close watch for any danger.IMG_8076IMG_9314

The winding loop passes through trees and bushes surrounding the Marsh and can be good for a wide variety of passerines at any season, including Black-capped Chickadees, and White-throated Sparrows.IMG_3751

I always enjoy making several loops around the Marsh, both for the exercise as well as the opportunity to see something I may have missed.

Sechelt Marsh is located north of the town centre on Wharf Road, at Porpoise Bay. More information about birding on the Sunshine Coast can be found at http://www.sunshinecoastnature.com/

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Escaping through Smuggler Cove

If you are looking to get away for the weekend or wanting a short side trip from Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast is a beautiful destination and Smuggler Cove, with its pristine beauty and colourful history makes for a great escape.

Shortly after leaving the parking area you’ll reach the first of several wooden walkways that cross over flooded areas and skirt around small ponds. If you’re lucky you might see beavers busily building the dams which have caused this flooding.

The 1.3 km trail winds through a diverse rain forest habitat with several twisting Arbutus reaching above the canopy, and continues with outlooks onto the cove itself, as well as Welcome Passage and Georgia Strait beyond. In the near distance you can see several islands, including North and South Thormanby and Texada.

During the summer months the cove is often full of anchored sailboats and other pleasure craft. You’ll see large boats navigating carefully through the narrow entrance to the cove, hugging the far shoreline to avoid several rocks lying just below the surface.

The cove has a colourful history dating back to the late 1880’s when it was first used to smuggle Chinese labourers into the United States to work on the expanding network of railways. The head tax required to enter the country was prohibitively expensive forcing them to resort to other means.

Later, American Prohibition, spawned a burgeoning industry for many Canadian boat operators, attempting to make ends meet during the Depression. Small, fast boats would load up with illicit liquor from stills on nearby Texada Island, to meet up with their American counterparts in international waters, 12 miles offshore. Each side of the sale would hold a torn dollar bill, to match up as proof of purchase.

Getting There:  Head north from Sechelt along the highway for approximately 10 minutes  and watch for the well-marked sign to Smuggler Cove. Turn left and follow this winding road until you reach a small parking area, where the trail begins.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – # 5 – The Sechelt Seawall

IMG_5365The seawall in front of Sechelt is one of my favourite walks and I visit it throughout the year. I captured this winter sunrise a few years ago and love its intense colours.

However, the real attraction of the Sechelt Seawall for me is the opportunity to get in a very pleasant half-hour’s exercise with an interesting and incredibly scenic walk. My walk usually starts at Snickett Park with its beautiful large-rock outcroppings and views of the Trail Islands.  There are a few heritage cottages at this end of the seawall built almost a century ago when Sechelt was a stopping point for the old Union Steamships that travelled along the coast.

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Halfway along the seawall is the grand Tori Gate, built in 2002 by the Timber Framers Guild of North America as a gift to the community. The Tori Gate serves as an entrance to the Sechelt Pier which provides a great vantage point to look back at Sechelt. There’s an interesting set of pictures depicting how the shoreline looked during the Union Steamship days, and includes a historical description of the various buildings. IMG_5935

The seawall continues along through the Sechelt Indian Band Lands, where you’ll often see fishing nets hanging up to be repaired. The real treat can be found at the end of the seawall, five majestic totems staring resolutely out to the ocean.  These totems were carved in the mid 1980’s to honour each of the four tribes which came together to form the shishálh Nation, and the fifth to celebrate their achievement of self-government status, one of the first Indian Bands in Canada to do so. The shishálh have carved over 25 totems over the past few decades and these five are fine examples of this beautiful west coast art. the totems of Sechelt

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Coracle Cove – hot tub offers more than a great view

A recent Trip Advisor review for Coracle Cove was headlined “Best view from a hot tub in BC!”  We’ll let you look at the accompanying picture and you can judge for yourself, but as you read this blog, we hope that you’ll learn that there’s more to a good hot tub than a great view.

We brought our hot tub in by a barge and used a crane to set it up on our waterside deck, just a few feet from the briny ocean.  There is an incredible view throughout the day and well into the night – a variety of work boats, sail boats, motor boats and kayaks pass by during the day; the water changes from flat calm in the early morning to gentle ripples as the first sun strikes the water; lights from the distant shore twinkle across the water as the evening sky darkens.

We know that our hot tub is an important part of the Coracle Cove experience and we take extra steps to ensure that the water is professionally managed to ensure that it is a completely pleasant experience.

Typically, hot tubs are treated with a mix of harsh chemicals which can irritate sensitive skin. Instead, we use an enzyme based spa conditioner which is an environmentally friendly, non-toxic, non-allergenic compound. Each week, we have a water sample computer analyzed to ensure that it is sanitary and properly balanced.

We want our guests to have a completely enjoyable experience at Coracle Cove and we understand that a hot tub should offer much more than a great view.

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The Birding signs of Spring on the Sunshine Coast

We’re hearing lots of old familiar sounds these days, more signs of Spring. This Song Sparrow is one of the earliest singers and also one of my favourites. He has a beautiful song, with several bright notes followed by a sequence of warbles and trills . Listen to this recording – you may recognize it as one you’ve been hearing recently.

In nearby Sargeant Bay, the red-wing Blackbirds have been singing for a couple of months. It’s the males who sing in the birding world,  to both announce territory and attract their mate. The blackbird not only has a distinctive song but also flashes its brightly coloured shoulder markings while issuing its territorial call.  Red-wing Blackbirds can be found in marshy areas, often perched upon the furry seed heads of long cattails. 

 

The woodpecker family doesn’t sing but that doesn’t stop the males from drawing attention to themselves as they seek their mating partner. Instead they use their beaks to drum on trees and snags in the early Spring to announce their presence.

The most obvious is the drumming of the Northern Flicker with its impressive red slash across its cheeks. This common species inhabits our gardens at Coracle Cove and has discovered that drumming on chimneys and metal flashing produces a louder sound.

While homeowners ofter worry that these birds are drilling into the wood of their houses, this isn’t the case, but rather an ageless courting ritual that does no damage.  One way to get a closer view of these colourful and interesting birds is to hang a feeder filled with a suet mixture, as we’ve done here. Be sure to have your camera ready.

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