Sunshine Coast Day 4 – things to do in Halfmoon Bay

Smuggler Cove is our destination this morning – a half-hour drive up the highway, just past Halfmoon Bay. This morning’s walk should take no more than an hour and will give you a great introduction to the pristine beauty of the Sunshine Coast.

Bring your binoculars, as the first half of this well maintained trail system is joined together with a series of boardwalks traversing over and around small marshy lakes, and offering good birding opportunities. Later the trail opens to  sweeping views of Welcome Passage and Thormanby Islands, and at this time of the year, you’re also likely to see several sailboats moored within the protected confines of the cove itself. Follow this link for more information and pictures.

For lunch, drive back toward Sechelt, but turn right at Redrooffs Road, and then 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 the two stores you can put together a pretty good picnic lunch. Then carry on down to the end of this little one-lane road to the Government Wharf for the best “restaurant” view you can imagine.

After your leisurely lunch, it’s time to hit the road again, but we’re not going too far.  Continue driving along Redrooffs Road for about ten minutes and you’ll find another Sunshine Coast Secret.

Sargeant’s Bay has been a favourite of mine for a long time – a perfect horseshoe-shaped cove with piles of driftwood stacked haphazardly along a pebble beach – and most likely you’ll have the whole area completely to yourself. If you’re interested in birding, this is a rich habitat with over 150 species. Spend as much time as you like here – there are  benches and lots of logs on the beach, so pull up a seat, relax and soak in this pristine setting.

Our dinner recommendation for tonight is Sushi Bar 5517 in Sechelt at that address on Wharf Street. If you are a sushi afficionado you will not be disappointed but they also have a great selection of other Japanese dishes. The menu offers a very broad and creative selection of sushi – one of my favourites is the Alaska roll with salmon, crab and avocado. Be sure to order the Gomaae, a wilted spinache salad with sesame-peanut dressing.

If you’re not into sushi, there are two other restaurants nearby – The Old Boot and Daphne’s. After dinner, it’s time to head back to your favourite waterside deck to watch the stars come out. Keep an eye out for those of the shooting variety.

Follow this link to see more of our suggested itineraries or click here to return to our website.

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Sunshine Coast Day 5 – things to do in Pender Harbour & the Skookumchuk Rapids

This blog continues my series of daily itineraries, in which I unlock the secrets of the Sunshine Coast and share a few of my best insider tips for things to do while visiting the Sunshine Coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 one of the world’s fastest tidal currents.

On a Flood Tide, the water flows in at a far greater rate than the narrow opening can handle, creating a standing wave between the outside and inside waters. Kayakers gather here to surf the wave in their small white-water kayaks. (check out this YouTube video) The best viewing site for this is at Roland Point.

When the tide is flowing out of Sechelt Inlet  (Ebb Tide) large whirlpools are created, strong enough to suck down a large log and send it popping into the air as it frees itself from the swirling vortex. The best viewing site of the Ebb tide whirlpools is at North Point.

You want to time your hike so you arrive when the tidal surge is at its strongest. The hike in takes about 40-50 minutes from the  parking lot (there’s a great little bakery at the trail head) Arrive a little early, take a seat and then watch the Skookum Lady strut her stuff.  Use this tide table link to organize the best viewing time and then it’s a simple matter of working out the rest of the day’s schedule.

Fortunately the Pender Harbour area has lots of interesting diversions to keep us entertained  while waiting for the best tides. Also known as Venice of the North, the area was first settled as a fishing community and water continues to link its small communities. The Slow Cat, provides three daily scheduled tours around the harbour area and Captain Paul will regale you with stories from the past.

There are also over  a dozen galleries and studios in the Pender Harbour area, representing a wide variety of styles and disciplines. Some of my favourites are:

  • Copper Sky Gallery – located in Madeira Park
  • FiberWorks Studio – located along the highway just after Madeira Park
  • Flying Anvil  Studio – at the Garden Bay turn-off
  • Motoko  Gallery – in Garden Bay

Depending on your schedule, you’ll want to stop for either lunch or dinner. The Painted Boat in Madeira Park is a casually elegant restaurant with a distinctly coastal feel and the menu is focused on the freshest of ingredients. Ask to be seated on the deck – the restaurant literally hangs over the water and the view is an extra bonus.

For something a little more casual you can’t beat the Garden Bay Pub with its large waterside deck where you can watch all manner of boats coming and going. Home of two summer music festivals, they also feature live music every Sunday.

So with a little planning and fitting the pieces into a manageable schedule you’ll be able to create a fabulous day – an incredible outdoor experience; interesting galleries to explore; and a great restaurant experience with a view. Your summer getaway just keeps getting better.

Follow this link to see more of our best insider tips or click here to return to our website.

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – Eagles active at Coracle Cove

Our resident family of eagles have been extremely active lately. While their nest is hidden  in the forest, as the day begins to lighten they return to their regular perches along our shoreline to watch for breakfast opportunities, and eagerly call back and forth  to each other.

an eagle visits coracle Cove

Occasionally one of the family will perch in our big fir tree and give us a great close up. It’s a magical moment for our guests and a reminder to always have your camera ready.

Bandit

“Bandit” whom I named last year for the band of adolescent brown feathers over his eyes, will now undoubtedly, have a full head of white feathers. His younger brothers and sisters, however, jostle for landing space as they land in the nearby trees. Toward the end of each day, they can often be seen practicing their flight manoeuvres, chasing each other in the sky and calling out with their distinctive high-pitched whistling.

IMG_5785And sometimes, we’ll get another close-up when one of them perches on the railing leading down to our dock… all the better to catch their next meal.

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We often think of eagles as being at the top of the food chain, but only about one in ten actually survive past age three. We’re very lucky as Bandit has several brothers and sisters  Proud Parents

While all this is going on, the parents are never too far away, and should be very proud of their efforts in raising such a large family and beating the odds that Nature so often extracts.

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Walking Tours on the Sunshine Coast – #7 – A tasting tour of Gibsons

Catch our Drift is a new tour company with a novel approach to helping visitors connect with the Sunshine Coast by providing them with unique local experiences. I went along on the Taste of the Landing Tour  the other day, and while I’ve lived here for almost 40 years, I learned quite a bit about my own community and met some pretty interesting people.

smitty's outside plank table

Our first stop was Smitty’s Oyster House where we had a sampling of fresh raw oysters from Gorge Harbour on Vancouver Island. The large plank table that you see in the image above sits just a few feet from the salty brine and we were encouraged to toss our empty oyster shells over the railing to help seed a new oyster bed. The table has an interesting story. When the restaurant first opened, the municipal council of the day were only prepared to allow a single table for outside seating. I guess you can fight City Hall!

taste leos

After following the boardwalk along the shoreline we cut through a beautifully landscaped park and found ourselves at Leo’s Tapas & Grill where a plate of freshly prepared calamari was waiting. Leo’s also hosts a Seafood Festival in January and a Greek Festival in February. I’ll be marking both of these dates on next year’s calendar.

taste mikes

We left Leo’s and walked a few steps down the street to Mike’s Gelato where we were greeted by an impressive array of 64 varieties of gelato. It was tough narrowing my choices down to our allotted three but with a little help from our affable and engaging server I choose the Chocolate Snickers, Radical Rolo and Twisted Sweet & Salty.

taste black bean

We walked a couple of blocks further to the Black Bean Cafe, a coffee shop that uses only organic, fair trade beans, which they roast themselves. I had a caramel macchiato and sampled some strawberry-rhubarb muffin… what a great combination. They do all of their baking on-site and have a very loyal customer base.

taste daffodilly

We crossed over to the other side of the street and were welcomed inside by the owner of Daffadowndilly, which offers an eclectic collection of work by local artists. The building was built in 1928 as apartments for loggers and fishermen and has a colourful history. When we commented on the slanting floor, the owner shared the story that the building had been partially knocked off its foundations by a runaway truck that had careened down the steep hill some years ago.

taste grammas

This is the impressive view from Gramma’s Pub, our next stop, and another business with an interesting story. The pub was the first licenced marine pub in the province, opening over 40 years ago. A family owned business, it was named after the mother who had a penchant for the cool amber fluid.  We were served a glass of Landing Lager, which is the house brew and made by Russell Brewing specifically for Gramma’s.

taste blackberry

The Black Berry Shop was our next stop and as you can see from the image and guess from the name, they offer a lot of blackberry products. We had a sampling of an interesting  blackberry/garlic jam over cream cheese on a cracker and it was delicious.  There was also blackberry chutney, syrup and vinegar as well as some straight up blackberry jam. The store is a cooperative for over 65 local artists and food producers and offers a wide variety of wonderful products.

taste gypsy cove

Gypsy Cove is right next door and we were able to sample some of their food products as well. We started with a refreshing glass of iced tea made from one of their many specialty fruit teas. They offer over 35 different teas for a variety of tastes and needs, including a good selection of “wellness teas” to help with energy, relaxation or jet lag. We also sampled some of their infusion sea salts with some raw veggies – my two favourites were the Spanish Rosemary and the Salish Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt.

What a great day!! I was able to sample some very tasty food products made right here on the Sunshine Coast and I heard lots of interesting stories. All in all it was a very entertaining day and provided me with some unique experiences that helped this long-time resident connect even further with the community.  You can find more information about Catch Our Drift on their website.

Follow this link to return to our Coracle Cove website.

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Writers’ Festival Tickets go on sale May 29th

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Any festival that’s been happening year after year for over 30 years has obviously found the right formula for success.   The Festival of the Written Arts  has been described as “Canada’s longest running summer gathering of Canadian writers and readers.

This year is the 31st anniversary and another full slate of outstanding Canadian writing talent will be here to talk about their books. If you like reading, then the festival is a great place to hear about new work from your favourite authors, but it’s also a great introduction to others whose names are less familiar and a few about whom you know absolutely nothing.

In fact, in previous years’ festivals some of the new names have often been the best presenters and “in some instances, the hands down biggest hit of the Festival.”

The Festival takes place over a four-day weekend, August 15-19. You can check out the full program at  http://www.writersfestival.ca/  but don’t leave it too long as many of the events often sell out early.

Tickets go on sale by telephone at 8AM on Wednesday, May 29th, and I’ll be ready with  my selections previewed and made, and my telephone on speed dial.

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – 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 that most of the others and has a particular 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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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – Spring Birding at Coracle Cove – Part 1

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 are naturally attracted to feeders and with two freshly filled feeders installed, I had my first visitor today – did I mention that there is a competitiveness among our local birders to announce the first sighting. It wasn’t me, but I was close.

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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Poached Pears for breakfast… or as a decadent dessert

It’s pear season and this is a regular item on our breakfast menu during the Fall and Winter seasons. We also serve this as a dessert when we’re entertaining or if we just feel like a special treat. We’ve had several requests from our guests for the recipe, so here it is.

Start with some fresh pears. They don’t have to be ripe but you don’t want them bruised. If they’re a little on the hard side you’ll just cook them a little longer.  When you cut them it’s nice to leave a bit of the stem  on both sides. Scoop out the core with a melon baller or a small spoon, and clean up the other end where the flower petal was. Cook a few extra to keep on hand for your next craving.

You can use anything for your poaching liquid and once you get the hang of it you can experiment.   I used a bottle of red wine and added a cup of sugar, a couple of tablespoons of mulling spices and another tablespoon of black tea.

The cooking time will vary so let the pears simmer for 10 or 15 minutes and then poke them with a skewer to check. Remove them from the poaching liquid and let them cool. While you’re waiting you can ladle some of the poaching liquid into a cup and enjoy a pleasant hot drink. Save the rest of the liquid for the next time.

At Coracle Cove we serve these with our signature decadent cream – half a cup of both whipping cream and sour cream, a quarter cup of sugar and a few drops of almond extract – whip it all together. We also add a few sprinkles of granola, or in this case, some left over crumble topping with black sesame seeds…yummmm!!

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All that Jazz… and so much more

What do you get when you mix together a hot line-up of cool jazz in an incredible seaside location… why the Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, now in its sixteenth year.

Pender Harbour has been called the “Venice of the North” due to its many little communities connected to each other by boat. The Jazz Festival is an annual event for us, but this year we decided to take our boat to fully experience the flavour of this great weekend.

We tied up at Fisherman’s Resort,  just a short 5-minute walk from the Garden Bay Pub which was offering three jazz concerts that afternoon and evening. The sun was shining as we sat out on the expansive deck, overlooking the marina, while  listening to the bluesy jazz vocals of Ruth McGillivray.

Later that evening Doc Fingers took centre stage, together with a stellar cast of partners in crime, who kept the joint jumping well into the wee hours.

We woke up the next morning to bright sunshine, surrounded by water and boats. The water was as flat as the proverbial pane of glass, producing a surreal set of reflections.

It was another short walk, across a little wooden footbridge to LaVerne’s Grill where we had their rather substantial Boater’s Breakfast. Satiated, we wandered back and found front row seats  just as Anagram was setting up for their morning concert.

Back on our boat, we headed across the harbour to Madeira Park for the afternoon Jazzapalooza, four different groups, each offering one-hour sets and ranging from hot Afro-Cuban Jazz to mellow, straight ahead standards.

Here, Company B Jazz Band was on stage entertaining the appreciative audience with their beautifully harmonized renditions of the Andrews sisters and other songs from the 20′s to  40′s.

We made one more crossing, back to the Garden Bay Pub, to soak up the sunshine while listening to yet another fine group of jazz musicians. Wow… what a weekend. We’ll be back on our boat, heading up to the harbour next year for sure.

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Walking holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #6 – 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.

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

 

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