The Upper Deck Cafe – fine dining in a floating restaurant in Secret Cove

You can’t get any closer to waterside-dining at the Upper Deck Cafe because you’re actually floating on it.  Located in Secret Cove Marina in Halfmoon Bay, they have a well deserved reputation among boaters, many of whom plan their trips around a scheduled overnight mooring in order to sample their fare.

Secret Cove is just a short 25-minute drive from Coracle Cove and we regularly recommend this small intimate restaurant to our guests who are looking for a special dining experience. They were recently reviewed in Flare Magazine’s “Five most romantic little getaways in the world.”

This seasonal restaurant, open from May to September, has been managed for the past few years by a family who alternate their seasons between Secret Cove and Melaque in Mexico where they operate their own restaurant during the winter season. Mother is the genius in the kitchen while her affable son most capably manages the floor.

They offer a limited menu with a fresh sheet for daily specials which allows them to extend a variety of choices over their short season.  The tantalizing choices will definitely keep you focussed as you struggle to narrow down your selection. My wife is a self-admitted scallop junky and when we were last here she ordered the sambuca-orange scallops with wild rice and barley.

Fortunately, scallops were on the menu again, this time prepared in a ginger, basil, coconut sauce. Cooking delicate scallops demands impeccable timing to keep them moist and to maintain their briny flavours. They were cooked perfectly and accompanied with julienned pepper, red onion and zucchini sticks, together with Thai curry rice cakes that were just spicy enough to add a counter balancing zing to the palate.

Upper Deck in Secret Cove

We were on our way home from a Skookumchuk hike where we had watched a group of crazy kayakers surfing in a 15+ knot tidal current. Normally I’m a bit of a carnivore, as evidenced from this image from my previous review: a coffee-crusted tenderloin. It was tender, with a bit of spicy heat and the coffee crust and balsamic reduction a lovely counterpoint.

It was late into the evening, however, so I wanted something a little lighter.  The Proscuitto wrapped halibut came with a  lemon-caper beurre blanc sauce that was absolutely succulent. Like the scallops, the halibut was cooked perfectly, moist throughout with fresh ocean flavours. As you can see the serving was most generous, coming with a side of mixed greens and a wonderful mushroom risotto, with lovely, little oyster mushrooms.

Upper Deck in Secret Cove

The food was marvellous, the service efficient and friendly, and the bill quite reasonable – $90 including a generous pouring of wine for each, plus tip. In addition to this fine dining experience we were entertained by boats of all sizes passing by our outside table on the upper deck. Dessert wasn’t necessary, but the colourful sunset was a wonderful finish.

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

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #14 – Skookumchuk Rapids

The Skookumchuk Rapids could easily be considered the Eighth Wonder of the World.  Twice a day, over 200 billion gallons of water flow through the narrow and constricted opening of the Skookumchuk Narrows, creating a tidal current that is rated as one of the world’s fastest and most dangerous.

Skookumchuk

Experienced boaters will carefully consult their tide tables, often checking a second and even third source, before entering the Narrows. They are waiting for “slack tide,” that precise moment when the tidal flow changes direction, from flood to ebb and the current subsides. However, it’s those extreme currents which can sometimes approach 16 knots,  that attract a daredevil group of white water kayakers, .

Skookumchuk Rapids

During a Flood Tide, the water flows through Skookumchuk Narrows at a far greater volume than the narrow and constricted opening can handle. As the waters back up they create a series of standing waves and it’s these waves, that attract the kayakers, who attempt to surf in their small vulnerable craft. (check out this YouTube video)

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It’s an incredible experience to witness the raw power of Nature and this is what makes the Skookumchuk such a great experience.  At the end of your hike there are two viewing areas to choose from. If it’s a flood tide you’ll want to carry on to Roland Point, while if the tide is ebbing, North Point is the preferred site to see the large whirl pools.

Ebb Tide occurs when the tide is flowing out of Sechelt Inlet and that’s when the large whirlpools are created. They’re strong enough to suck down a large log and send it popping into the air as it frees itself from the swirling vortex. It was an ebb tide that was responsible for the tragic accident that took the lives of two Auxiliary Coast Guard members in 2012, as they attempted to travel through the waters during a practice session.

You need to time your hike to see the tidal surge at its strongest and you can use this tide table link to determine the best time for this.  The hike itself takes about 40-50 minutes along a wide and well maintained trail, that is easy for most abilities. If you arrive early you can watch the current building up.

Skookumchuk Rapids

From early June to mid-September, the little bakery is open at the trail head where you can pick up panninis or sticky buns to munch on while you’re watching the show.  Once you arrive, take your seat and watch the Skookum Lady strut her stuff.

We hope you enjoyed this. If you’d like to learn more about other Sunshine Coast attractions and our award winning Vacation Rental follow this link http://www.coraclecove.com

 

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – Watching a Great Blue Heron catch its dinner

We had an interesting visitor at Coracle Cove last night. It was the end of a hot, sunny day and the tide was low, providing a shallow basin of water at the shoreline.  I was wandering down to our dock to take in the sunset when I noticed this beautiful bird standing patiently in the water.  I moved quietly into our little studio where I could watch undetected through a small window.

Great Blue Heron  at Coracle Cove

Great Blue Heron are actually regular visitors to Coracle Cove, but they don’t often stay put for as long as this one did.  But then, this beautiful blue feathered bird was quite focussed on catching its next meal and didn’t seem to notice the close attention that I was paying to it at all.

Great Blue Heron at Coracle Cove

Heron are carnivores and their long legs, neck and pointed bills are particularly well suited for foraging in the water. A further modification in their vertebra lets them draw their neck back into an S-shape. Standing completely motionless, they patiently wait for small fish to move into striking range, and then shoot their head and bill forward with lightning speed to spear their unwary prey.

Great Blue Heron at Coracle Cove

Unfortunately, these heron are themselves, caught in the middle of the food chain. They must be ever vigilant and on the lookout for the sharp-eyed and swift-flighted eagle. As our eagle population has increased, the ungainly flight pattern of the heron is seriously outmatched, and our heron population is now noticeably declining.  Can anything be done, or have we already interferred too much with Mother Nature?

Great Blue Heron at Coracle Cove

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast #13 – Kinnikinnick’s newest trail

 

Kinnikinnick Park

A new multi-purpose trail  project was officially opened at Kinnikinnick Park last week. Brown Sugar with 1.8 km of twists and turns was completed over the course of 5 years by successive classes from Capilano University’s Mountain Bike Operations Program.

Brown Sugar Trail at Kinnikinick Park

Kinnikinick is already one of my favourite walking areas so it seemed like a good excuse for a Saturday afternoon hike. One of the hallmarks of this trail system is excellent signage with approximate distances allowing you to choose just how far you want to walk that day.

Kinnikinnik Park

The student expertise that went into the building of Brown Sugar was evident with a few of these raised bridges for those wanting more of a technical challenge. This new trail also had banked corners for an easy ride, graded areas to keep the trail from washing away, and strategically placed obstacles to keep you from wandering off  the trail.  But the trail wasn’t built just for mountain bikers and I had it completely to myself as I explored on foot.

Eagles Nest Trail in Kinnikinnick

With a few stops for photography, it took me about a half-hour to explore this new addition and I followed Eagles Nest for my return route. This trail is aptly named as I could hear a pair of eagles overhead calling back and forth to each other.  At other times along the trail I could also hear the occasional tapping of woodpeckers and a healthy chorus of frogs.

Kinnickinnick Park

When the trails were first created a decade or more ago, they worked hard to leave the park in a very natural state and I think they succeeded. Today you can see the forest slowly reclaiming its territory. Fallen logs have taken on a verdant green coating with  small shoots of new vegetative growth poking through the moss.

Kinnikinnick ParkTall conifers, 10 feet or more in circumference, stretch upwards toward the sky, while the massive stumps of  trees from a bygone past stand silently, allowing us to imagine what this forest once was.

Kinnickinnick Park

As I walked through the park, passing over conveniently placed footbridges, the  sun shone through the trees, dappling the trail with patches of light and everything was as it should be. Life is good on the Sunshine Coast.

foot bridge - Kinnickinnick Park

A hearty thank you to the students of Capilano University’s Mountain biking Operations Program and to the original stewards of Kinnikinnick Park for creating such a wonderful set of trails. We are indeed very fortunate to live in such a beautiful place as the Sunshine Coast.

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

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast- #12 – the totem poles of the shíshálh

The shíshálh people have lived on the Sunshine Coast for several millennia benefiting from the rich resources of the sea and the rain-forest. Their wealth was enhanced through strategic marriages which fostered peace, goodwill and trade .  At the time of European contact their population exceeded 25,000.

Sechelt Village  c.1920

Unfortunately that relationship would prove to be costly as disease and misguided government policies brought this once proud nation to its knees. More recently the shíshálh have re-gained their economic independence and moved forward to rebuild their Nation. Their totems tell us a story of freedom and re-birth.

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In a tremendous cultural renaissance, almost 30 totems have been carved in the last thirty years. While contemporary, they are impressive indications of the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the shíshálh.

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Our tour begins at the Sechelt Indian Band Hall which is located behind McDonald’s. Leave your car in the parking lot and walk around to the front of the hall.

It is here that the talking totems begin their story…

On the water side of the Hall, a circle of smaller totems, carved by Jamie Jeffries surrounds a large granite bolder with a plaque describing the history of shíshálh Nation. While only four of the original seven remain, three of these are faceless and represent the loss of identity under the Federal Indian Act.

totems - hall commemorative

On October 9, 1986 the federal government passed legislation removing the shíshálhs from the oppressive Indian Act. They became the first in Canada to achieve a self-government status enabling them to exert more control over their economic development . The provincial government would follow 20 months later with legislation creating the Sechelt Indian District Government.

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Two larger totems stand to the side of the plaque, each celebrating the passage of this historic legislation by the respective parliamentary body. A second set of totems stand at the front of the hall honouring the elders of the community for their patience and wisdom.

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Sunset Totems

Follow the road leading toward the ocean and turn left, walking along the seawall until you find five totems majestically looking out to the Salish Sea. The  shíshálh territory was vast and these totems represent the four main clans of the nation. The ts ´únay were in Jervis Inlet at Deserted Bay and the xénichen at nearby Queen’s Reach. The téwánkw occupied the waters of Sechelt Inlet and the sxixus ranged from Pender Harbour to Roberts Creek. The fifth totem, in the middle, marks the amalgamation of these four clans in 1925 to form the modern day Sechelt Nation.

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Leaving the waterfront, walk up Chelphi Avenue until you come to the highway and then turn left, until you reach the traffic light where you can cross the highway. Within just two decades of achieving self-government, the shíshálh Nation had created the Tsain-Ko Village Shopping Centre, the crown jewel of their economic development.  To celebrate this achievement five more totems were erected in 2007.

totems -tsain ko double eagle

The eagle on the top is the Spiritual Bird that watches over all of the communities. Below is the Welcoming figure, holding its arms out in greeting and welcoming people of other nations to the Sechelt Community

tony paul eagle

This Thunderbird is the spiritual guardian of the Sechelt Nation and was carved by band member Tony Paul in 2007.

Three more totems are currently being carved to commemorate the opening of the new wing of the hospital which sits on traditional grounds. The land for the hospital was  generously donated to the community by the shíshálh Nation several decades ago.

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Follow the sidewalk on the north side of the highway and just in front of the hospital you will find artist Andrew U’magalis Puglas and his team at work, skillfully carving to bring out figures of a noble woman, a double headed sea serpent and a great golden eagle from the eight-metre cedar pole.

Cross back over to the other side of the  highway, making one final stop at the House of héwhíwus complex. The tems swiya museum welcomes you to a journey encompassing the shíshálh land, history and culture. Stop by the tsain-ko gift shop and take home a reminder of your visit to Sechelt.

With special thanks to Susan Blockberger, Lenora Joe, Fran Nahanee, Bradley Hunt, Jamie Jeffries, Lori Dixon, Kerry Mahlman, Tony Paul and Candace Campo for helping to compile this information.

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

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – what are these birds trying to tell us?

The weather’s been crazy lately – freezing temperatures, wild wind storms… oh, and did I mention the rain? Will will it ever end?  Well, there’s a few signals out there, that better weather may be on the horizon.  Nature is pretty good at reading and sending out its own signals. It’s had a lot of practice.  We’re surrounded by quite a few of nature’s creatures at Coracle Cove and when we slow down long enough to watch and listen, we pick up on those signals.

Barrow's Goldeneye at Coracle Cove

Birds migrate over great distances in search of a steady source of food. They have an amazing ability to know just when to start moving on to greener pastures. Like these Goldeneyes who showed up  a couple of weeks ago. There’s just a small flock of maybe a dozen or so, and they like to feed on the mussels under our dock.  They usually hang around for a month before heading further north to begin their breeding cycle.

Surf Scoter at Coracle Cove

This Surf Scoter showed up a couple of days ago. It was a new sighting for me and it wasn’t until I got the binoculars on its colourful beak that I was able to verify its ID.

Hooded Merganzer at Coracle Cove

Mergansers are relatively common throughout our winter months, easily identified by their crested head. My favourite, however, is this Hooded Merganser with a large white crest which he fluffs out to attract a mate. Hooded Mergansers are a sure sign of the approach of Spring and breeding season.

Eagle at Coracle Cove

Although not a migratory bird, Eagles also travel in search of food and salmon is at the top of their shopping list. Our resident family of Eagles return each year after feasting elsewhere on spawning salmon. Their call is easily identifiable and we first started hearing it a few weeks ago. This year’s family seems to be made up of at least one or two adolescents who still have their brown head feathers and this handsome fellow who is the dominant Partiarch of the family.

Oystercatcher at Mission Point

Oystercatchers search along the shoreline for small mollusks and use their long bills to pry the shells open. Like the others in this blog, they return to our area at this time of the year and when I heard that they had arrived I immediately set out with my camera to take some pictures.

Birds are like old friends who have left our lives and then return. In this case, we’re doubly happy to see them because we know that the warmer days of Spring are not too far away.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #10 – Cliff Gilker Park & following the water down to the Salish Sea

Cliff Gilker Park  is zealously protected by a passionate community and with good reason.  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 down to the Salish Sea.

Cliff Gilker Waterfall

Along the way the creek bed drops suddenly in elevation forming four  waterfalls. There are several viewing platforms and comfortable benches allowing one the opportunity to sit and contemplate the beauty of this endless cycle of Nature.

I took the Red trail today, a short 2 km loop which follows along the east side of the creek. The trails are well signed with a map at each intersection. Between stops for pictures and a leisurely pace it took just under an hour. It seemed like I had the park completely to myself as I saw only two other people.

I did have other companions, however, and could hear several species of feathered friends singing their songs of courtship and territory. The ripe salmon berries were a bright orange contrast to the verdant moss covered branches hanging above the misty waterfalls.

The water continued to flow, sometimes quickly, plunging over the rocks, at other times slowly, gathering in pools, but always propelled by the force of gravity. Leaving the park I took a short 5-minute drive to the mouth of Roberts Creek to see the water finally return to the ocean, where it will begin once again the cycle which will bring it back to the highlands behind the creek.

 

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #9 – Sechelt’s Street Murals

We drive or walk by them every day without thinking,  yet there is an interesting story behind each of the many pieces of art found on the streets of Sechelt. I had the good fortune to take part in a recent tour of downtown Sechelt, led by our Arts Coordinator, Siobhan Smith, and came away with a deeper sense of pride in my community.

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These hydro boxes are a good example and a perfect place to begin. As part of the Sechelt Downtown revitalization plan, in 2008 the District of Sechelt commissioned artist Jan Poynter to decorate the unsightly, graffiti splattered hydro boxes.

The chosen theme was “Driftwood” and each of the three boxes depicts different phases of driftwood on the Sunshine Coast. The smallest of the three, located in front of The Dock on Cowrie Street, is titled Sandpiper Shadows and has a random texture of sandy greys and browns over all.

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Further down the road, on Wharf Street is a larger box featuring the typical rounded “seastone” shoreline, with heavy stumps and driftwood jumbled along below the dark edge of the forest. The pale native beach grass and evergreen salal makes an appearance along with the ever present gulls, crows, an oystercatcher and even a shy black bear peering from the darkness.

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In addition to Sechelt, there are now several painted boxes in other communities, including Gibsons, West Vancouver and the Village of Queen Charlotte.

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Here’s another example of creating art on a “canvas” that is sometimes the subject of an angry can of spray paint. This mural is one of many by artist, Dean Schutz and can be found on Teredo Street at Inlet Avenue. The Sea Wall was jointly funded by the District of Sechelt and Dean Schutz, and was painted during the 2004 Sechelt Family Arts Festival.

Gone Fishing, another very interesting trompe l’oeil painting by Schutz can be found on the wall of the Sechelt Insurance building at the intersectiion of Highway 101 and Wharf and has fooled many a passerby into thinking they may actually be able to rent a room inside.

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Catch of the Day was painted by Gordon Halloran in 1997 and can be found on the Bank of Montreal building at the east end of Cowrie Street. Halloran is another Sunshine Coast artist with a huge international reputation, making his Olympic debut with a new art form, Paintings Below Zero at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, and later at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver when he created Ice Gate, a glacial wall 100′ long by 14′ high.

Catch of the Day, a 1997 Downtown Revitalization project was based upon an old  photograph found in the community archives. Taken in 1912, it shows Captain Patrick O’Kelly standing with members of the Sechelt First Nation on the Sechelt wharf in Trail Bay – all holding their catch of salmon. This particular photograph had been  commissioned by Sechelt pioneer entrepreneur Herbert Whitaker to be displayed at Canada House in England to attract tourists to the Sunshine Coast.

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Here’s another example of a creative use of wall space that might otherwise become an  target of unsightly graffiti, and in this case it was created by a trio of graffiti artists, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

After viewing Catch of the Day, walk down the alley behind the Bank of Montreal building, about a hundred metres, and you’ll find this impressive wrap-around mural on two sides of the 6 Gill Custom Tattoo building. The mural took about six days to finish and was  done with acrylic spray paint by artists Jordi Ruiz, Nicole Steward and Severino Estevez.

Special thanks again to Siobhan Smith for her research and providing the information that gives meaning to the many pieces of street art in downtown Sechelt. If you’d like to read the first part in this series of Walking Tours of Public Art in Sechelt, follow this link

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Walking holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #8 – Sechelt’s Outdoor Sculptures

Tucked in between the Sechelt Library and the Visitor Information Centre, you’ll find a significant collection of public art. Recently, I had an opportunity to learn more about this  collection in a tour of the District of Sechelt Sculpture Garden, led by Siobhan Smith, Sechelt’s Art Coordinator and George Pratt, one of the artists.

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Summer Time was commissioned by the District of Sechelt and created by local resident George Pratt in 2009. Pratt’s work is widely collected in North America by private individuals, corporations and his giant jade carving, The Emporer’s Sunrise, was a striking focal point at the Canadian Pavillion during the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

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A sundial was Pratt’s initial idea when proposing Summer Time and he provided a most informative explanation of the workings and challenges of a functioning timepiece which connects the earth and the sun. At our latitude, however, the sun’s rays will stike the sundial for only part of the year… hence, the granite bear on the opposite side, asleep and hibernating, waiting for the sun’s rays to return.

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A Place of Infinite Beauty, Between Two Waters was carved by Michel Beauvais, another  resident of the Sunshine Coast.  Named by the Shishalh, the original inhabitants of the region, the word Sechelt means “land between two waters” and it was from our scenic region that Beauvais drew his inspiration. The polished finish which glistens in the sun is like the ocean waters, while the locally-sourced greenish serpentine stone colours are reminiscent of our Coastal forests.

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Time in its Flight was created by an artist, with deep historical roots to the Sunshine Coast. Anna Hanson’s inspiration comes from her grandfather, the late Dudley Carter who is famous for his monumental wood sculptures, two of which are in Sechelt. Like her grandfather, her material of choice is cedar, as are her tools – an axe, adze and chisel.

Time in its flight reflects the nature, environment and history of the Sunshine Coast. The large copper shield shape is akin to those used in potlatch ceremonies and combines two mediums, traditional western red cedar and contemporary aluminum.

The lower portion portrays simple pictographs, while above are waves and salmon forms in a traditional Coast Salish style. Atop are a fishing boat, sailboat and birds in flight with a stylized bird, perhaps a raven, reaching toward the sky.

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Across the street from the Library stands a lone totem pole, collectively carved under the leadership of Bradley Hunt. Hunt moved from his ancestral home in Bella Bella to  Sechelt in 1978 where he taught at our local elementary school. He was a much-respected teacher and carved the totem pole in 1985 together with his students and other Shishalh Band members.

This intricately carved totem has two main figures, the eagle and the human. The eagle is a highly significant symbol to the Shishalh people, while the human figure represents the teacher. In the body of this human is a smaller human representing the children. The traditional wealth symbol, the copper appears on this smaller figure – in this case the wealth of knowledge.

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Just up the street from the school is the Rockwood Centre, home to the very popular, annual Festival of the Written Arts and Sanctuary, by Dudley Carter greets visitors at the entrance to the gardens. Carter first came to the Sunshine Coast in 1927 and when the Great Depression took away his livelihood he turned to art. For the next 60 years he enjoyed a highly prolific and profitable career as a monumental wood sculptor.

As described by his grand daughter, Anna Hansen, Sanctuary speaks to the sacredness of the forest, nature and the environment. Condor, king of the skies is perched on top, while stylized plant forms boldly work their way up the central redwood column. A gentle, nurturing forest maiden stands lightly recessed, protected and enveloped by a concave redwood slab.

Special thanks to Siobhan Smith, Sechelt Arts Coordinator for the use of her notes which were invaluable in preparing this post, and more importantly for her leadership in enhancing and promoting public art in the District of Sechelt. Special thanks also to Tom Pinfold for many of the images in this post.

Follow this link to return to Coracle Cove.

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A fine dinner in a very fine location on the Sunshine Coast

The Blue Heron Restaurant is a wonderful small country inn on the Sunshine Coast and is located just a short drive from Coracle Cove. It has been operated by a husband and wife team for almost twenty years. Manuel is an award winning chef who escaped from the hectic restaurant scene in Toronto to return, with his wife Gail, to her hometown on the Sunshine Coast.

The Blue Heron

The portions at the Blue Heron are always generous so sharing is a good strategy. The plate below is actually my half of the Digby Scallops wrapped in Proscuitto and it was the perfect starter for what I knew would be an evening of sampling many interesting dishes.

BLUE HERON APPETIZER

The restaurant is intimate, seating perhaps 25-30 and features a warm cedar post and beam interior with expansive west-facing views of Sechelt Inlet. We were able to enjoy this lovely sunset with a glass of wine. The menu offers a limited selection of decent wines, however,  you can bring your own and pay a $20 corkage fee.

ocean view from Blue Heron

Several of my guests have previously ordered the Seafood Trio and I thought I’d give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed.   This entree comes with a choice of soup or salad. I chose the latter and was served a small caesar, carefully dressed. Next came four perfectly cooked prawns, a fresh salmon filet, and smoked black cod with tarragon sauce. Entrees are served with a side plate of steamed vegetables.

Seafood Trio at Blue Heron

My wife loves scallops and doubled up with her entree, Digby Scallops and Prawns, also served with the tarragon sauce.  Scallops are best when they’re just seared and while this can be a problem in a busy kitchen with getting them to the table, the chef and servers teamed up to nail it perfectly.

Prawns & Digbey Scallops at Blue Heron

Sheila is also a great fan of creme caramel and this demanding dish is frequently on her wish list, both at home and when we are dining out. Tonight’s dish, unfortunately, didn’t quite measure up to my own creations, so I guess I’ve still got a job.

Creme Caramel at Blue Heron

The raspberry tart that I ordered, however, was over the top. The fresh, tangy raspberry filling was just the right contrast after my seafood trio, and a perfect ending to this fine dinner.

Raspberry Tart at Blue Heron

All in all, this was a very fine meal and a wonderful treat for ourselves after a couple of very busy weeks. We’re so lucky to have this little gem, just a short ten-minute drive away.

Follow this link to return to Coracle Cove Waterfront Suite www.coraclecove.com

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