Vancouver, British Columbia is notorious for its gray, rainy days—but a short (and scenic) 40 minute ferry ride away, there exists a place with seemingly endless bright sunshine.
The Sunshine Coast certainly lives up to its name: with mild winters, warm summers, and more sunny days a year than Hawaii, it’s easy to understand the region’s appeal. And we haven’t even gotten into the old-growth forests, charming seaside towns, blissful beaches, and secluded settlements.
It would be impossible to list everything there is to do on the Sunshine Coast– that would require a novel-length guide– but the following should offer just enough information to whet your palate.
Hop on the Sunshine Coast Highway
The Sunshine Coast Highway begins at one ferry terminal, the one in Langdale, which connects to Vancouver, and ends at another, connecting to Powell River.
Between the two ports, the highway will have you winding through towns, alongside the Pacific Ocean, and among towering trees. Quite simply, it’s the makings of the perfect road trip, one that allows ample flexibility: you can drive the entire highway (return) in a single day, or you could spend entire days exploring the many stops along the way. Convertible optional—but definitely encouraged.
The first sizable town you’ll come across on the Sunshine Coast is Gibsons, a coastal community with a population just south of 5,000. You could easily spend an entire afternoon combing the beach, exploring the piers and observing the wildlife, but you’ll want to set some time aside to experience the thriving arts and culture scene.
Galleries dot the historic waterfront area, making it easy to hop between artists and exhibits while exploring the town on foot. The annual Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival in June is just one of the many music festivals and events that the town hosts, with intimate shows taking place in outdoor squares, in quaint cafes, and everywhere in between.
There are plenty of beautiful hikes throughout British Columbia, but the Sunshine Coast is appealing in particular: it offers an incredible variety of trails in a relatively concentrated area. This means that total beginners can access the mystical old-growths forests, while hiking aficionados can be challenged and rewarded with outstanding views.
Calling All Mountain Bikers
Mountain bikers, take note: there are endless trails for you, too. The region is immensely popular for mountain bikers: from Spockids Mountain Bike Park to single track trails through the forests to epic climbs and speedy descents, it’s not tough to understand the appeal.
Explore the Coast
You can’t truly experience the Sunshine Coast without getting out on the water. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get your feet wet (literally). Whether you prefer to self-propel on a kayak or canoe, or you’re happy to sit back and take in a cruise or sail, there’s a perfect watercraft option for you.
Fishermen won’t need much convincing to get out on the water: the Davis Bay area is prime for saltwater fishing. You’re likely to come across coho salmon throughout the summer months, and the autumn will bring you pink, sockeye and chum salmon.
Wine and Dine
Foodies will feel right at home on the Sunshine Coast, where the small town cafes are as worthy destinations as the many upscale restaurants.
The SweetWater Bistro in Gibsons, for instance, focuses on simple, fresh ingredients, served up alongside gorgeous ocean views. Or, if you make it to the end of the Sunshine Coast Highway, reward yourself with the infamous piping hot cinnamon buns from Nancy’s Baker in Lund.
Best yet, do a little exploring on your own—you never know what deli or ice cream shop you might stumble upon.
Sit Back and Relax
Spas are wonderful—and there are plenty of them on the Sunshine Coast—but you’ll find that the best way to relax is playing fetch with your dog on a beach, or taking in the beauty of a provincial park. It just so happens that there are parks and beaches aplenty on the Sunshine Coast.
Beach lovers will want to soak up the sun at Bonniebrook Beach in Gibsons, though if you prefer sandy beaches, you might want to check out the beaches in Davis Bay. The beach in Porpoise Bay Provincial Park offers calm waters and is perfect for families with kids.
This is truly but a taste of what’s available on the Sunshine Coast, which offers the perfect contrast to bustling city life, yet is so easily accessible. Anyone planning on visiting Vancouver should aim to spend at least a couple of days on the Sunshine Coast– you might very well find yourself extending your stay!