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British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast

June 6, 2013

Smuggler Cove Panorama

With the arrival of spring and a short visit from my dad on schedule, I decided to tackle one of the best short vacation destinations near Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast!

The Sunshine Coast, although being on the mainland, is only accessible by a 40 minute ferry ride. The ferries leave regularly from Horseshoe Bay (West Vancouver). Attractions are quite spread out along the coast, so a car is definitely recommended.

The area is divided into two segments: The Lower Sunshine Coast, which effectively begins with the City of Gibsons (former home of the television show The Beachcombers) and ends at the ferry terminal of Earls Cove, with the town of Sechelt in between. The Upper Sunshine Coast, which ranges from Saltery Bay to Lund, contains the City of Powell River. To get to the Upper Coast, an additional ferry ride (from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay) is required. My dad and I stuck to the Lower Coast and fairly arbitrarily decided to stay in the Madeira Park area. We were very happy with the location. It was sparsely populated, but still had a grocery store, a liquor store, two breakfast places, and a pizza place (which is all you need really).

The Sunshine Coast is probably best known for outdoorsy activities. Though there is logging in the area, the lack of a connecting road to the rest of the mainland has preserved much of the wilderness and maintains a relaxed attitude. There is not, however, significantly more sunshine than Vancouver, which makes me think it was named the SUNSHINE Coast purely as a tourism ploy. It being spring, we were treated to partly cloudy weather with occasional outbreaks of actual sunshine (so we got some use out of the rental Fiat 500c’s convertible top).

There is a famous backcountry hiking trail on the Upper Coast called the Sunshine Coast Trail, which has always been on my to do list. However, given time limits for our trip we were limited to day hiking, golfing, and kayaking. We tried to get out on a fishing tour, but everyone we contacted was either out of town or spot prawn fishing. I’m sure during peak season this wouldn’t be a problem.

Due to an intense business trip, I didn’t really do a lot of research on what there was to do in the area. For the most part we found hikes nearish to where we were staying based on information we got from the hotel. As hiking is a big draw to the area, once you get to the trailhead, information about the trails is clearly posted and most trails are clearly marked.

The Trails

Skookumchuck Narrows – A 4km trail leads to two viewing points of one of the fastest tidal rapids in the WORLD. The hike starts near the small town of Egmont and is one of the more popular hikes on the coast. The trail itself is quite nice and would make a decent trail run.

Homesite Creek Loop – The trailhead can be a little difficult to find, but two trails leave from a small roadside parking lot. We took the 2km southern loop which gave us a beautiful view of Homesite Falls. There are also caves in the area, but we couldn’t find them.

Smuggler Cove – A couple kilometers of trail lead you to a beautiful, secluded cove that has genuinely been used by smugglers throughout the ages (including smuggling booze into the US during prohibition, you’re welcome Americans). There was also a nice campground along the trail.

Francis Point – Another shortish trail that ends at a lighthouse with views of Vancouver Island. The park here is pretty new, and the trails are a bit more rugged.

Cliff Gilker Park – Contains a few different shorter loop trails with beautiful waterfalls. We chose this park as it is next to the Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club and we had to wait for a tee time (due to an actual sunny day).

Sunshine Coast Mosaic

Golf Courses

Pender Harbour Golf Club – A 9 hole golf course in the Pender Harbour/Madeira Park area. One of the more interesting courses I’ve ever played. The terrain is rugged, one of the holes had such a steep hill the cart path required switchbacks. Lots of fun! Golf carts STRONGLY recommended.

Pender Harbour Golf Course

Sunshine Coast Golf and Country Club – A more traditional 18 hole golf course between Gibsons and Sechelt. We chose to play 9 holes, but due to the layout of the course got to play 11. Tee times recommended especially if the sun is shining. This one is walkable 🙂

Kayaking

There are many kayaking tours in the area, but we opted to rent kayaks from our resort, which was conveniently located on Pender Harbour. If you’ve never been kayaking before, this probably isn’t the way to go. Even with handy maps given to us by the resort, it could be tricky to figure out exactly where you were in the harbour. I brought along my GPS watch and have posted the route below.

Kayak Route - Pender Harbour

So spring may not be the typical time to visit the Sunshine Coast in terms of weather, but given that it is the shoulder season and much less crowded than summer, it might just be one of the best times to go.

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