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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Follow this link to return to www.coraclecove.com