The Getaway
Things to Do on the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia

Canada's Sunshine Coast is an underrated travel destination and a true gem for anyone in the know. Its unique blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and cultural richness will leave you inspired, and you're guaranteed enviable pictures in novel locations. Towns like Gibsons feel worlds away from bustling Vancouver but require a mere 40-minute ferry ride to get to. After just one visit, the region's pristine scenery and poetic disposition may take up permanent real estate in your heart and mind.

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01 Ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay

Riding the ferry from Horseshoe Bay, B.C., Canada

BC Ferries whisks vehicles and pedestrians between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Langdale on the Sechelt Peninsula of the Sunshine Coast. The ride takes 40 minutes and is as scenic as they come, with a pleasant transition from city to coast. There are around eight departures a day from early morning to late at night, but the service has mixed reviews related to cancellations, staff shortages, and other issues. The ferry is mostly reliable though, or there would be a furor, so if you're interested in a relaxing ride on the water with stunning views, explore this option.

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02 Gibsons Landing exploration

This small, charming coastal community should be high on your Sunshine Coast itinerary. It served as the setting of the TV series "The Beachcombers," but even if you're not a fan of the show who's hell-bent on visiting Molly's Reach restaurant and snapping pics of Persephone the tug boat, there's a fair bit to see and do here. Parts of the Zac Efron movie "Charlie St. Cloud" were filmed at Gibsons Landing, a village with brilliant weather and some of the best-tasting municipal water in the world. After checking out the picturesque marina and local shops, head to the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre and Gibson's Public Market.

03 Outdoor activities in Roberts Creek

A mossy forest in the Health Trail at Roberts Creek, Sunshine Coast, BC Canada

Since the 1960s, Roberts Creek has been a hub for creative types with home studios. But the area has loads to offer outdoor enthusiasts, too, including hiking at Cliff Gilker Regional Park with its wooden bridges, waterfalls, and woodland trails. If you enjoy stand-up paddleboarding, Roberts Creek Beach is a nice little spot to SUP. Golfers will appreciate the country clubs here, and anglers can keep the chinook salmon they catch at Chapman Creek, although this could change, so it's worth reading up on the latest regulations. Highway 101 and the Roberts Creek Bike Loop also give cyclists something to shout about. Plus, no visit to Roberts Creek is complete without getting up close and personal with the annually updated community mandala near the pier.

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04 Sechelt's natural attractions

Driftwood and old boats on Davis Bay Beach. Sechelt, Sunshine Coast, British Columbia, Canada

Visit the tranquil Davis Bay Beach for a seaside escape. It's clean and well-maintained, the water is crystal clear for snorkeling, and you'll also have a fab time wind and kite surfing, dog walking, or fishing. The beach is quite rocky, but there's an area of golden sand where you can swim in water that's not too cold. Lather on the sunblock and build sandcastles, or discover the cute critters that low tide unveils on the sandbars.

Shade, picnic tables, BBQ areas, and washrooms round out the facilities. Then there's Sechelt Inlet Marine Park for excellent kayaking in protected waters, and the Sechelt Farmers' & Artisans' Market for when you're hungry. The food trucks, baked treats, fresh-cut flowers, artisanal goodies, and live music make the market a Saturday highlight.

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05 Hiking on the Sunshine Coast

Soames Hill park in Sunshine Coast, BC. The view on the 2 couple sitting and resting on the hill with the aerial view on Gibsons surrounded by forest / woods and ocean. Klara_Steffkova / Shutterstock.com

If you're looking for fantastic hiking paths, the Sunshine Coast doesn't disappoint. Just 1.6 miles from the Langdale Ferry Terminal, you'll find Soames Hill, aka Knob Hill, and some panoramic views of the mountains, nearby islands, and Gibsons Harbor. Bears appear here now and again, so practice bear care while walking through the second-growth forest. Smuggler Cove in Halfmoon Bay is a hidden gem—this fun and simple hike cuts across varying landscapes. You'll encounter a swampy boardwalk and beaver dams. Don't skimp on the insect repellent.

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06 Arts and culture

The Sunshine Coast has a vibrant arts scene and a creative spirit fed in part by outstanding natural beauty. During the annual weekend-long Sunshine Coast Art Crawl, dozens of venues and more than 200 makers celebrate their craft and welcome the public with open arms. Make a road trip of it as you explore participating studios and galleries between Langdale and Earl's Cove. You won't be able to see it all, so curate your own Art Crawl tour for a satisfying and inspiring experience. If you're in town at any other point in the year, the Coast Cultural Alliance's Purple Banner Tour is a self-guided journey through notable artsy destinations. Catch a concert at High Beam Dreams while you're in town.

07 Culinary experiences

In addition to art tours, foodies can indulge in gourmet tours that accommodate dietary restrictions and alcohol swaps. Gourmand in Gibsons offers one such experience to support food businesses during the off-season. Eat your way through the best courses from award-winning chefs and selected local restaurants. Bruinwood Estate Distillery and Smitty's Oyster House are just two establishments currently part of the tour. Going at it alone? Check out El Segundo in Sechelt for fusion flavors and a retro aesthetic, Lagoon Restaurant in Madeira Park for fine dining and a memorable bouillabaisse, or Costa del Sol in Powell River for affordable and delicious Latin American dishes.

08 Wildlife watching

Birds snow geese flock migrate

You can book a marine wildlife adventure while visiting the Sunshine Coast. But you'll get bonus sightings too—while you're aboard a ferry or watching the sunset on a coastal beach or hike, you might catch sight of a magnificent pod of orcas or find large sea lions basking on the rocks. The Pacific Northwest is Free Willy territory, after all. Birdwatchers have many protected wildlife habitats to survey for whiskey jacks, great blue herons, and other amazing winged creatures. During the fall bird migration, birders are lured by the Pacific Flyway. October brings the snow geese to Westham Island, and raptors are abundant.

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09 Water sports

Whether you like sheltered bays for a quick workout, thrilling guided sea excursions and whitewater adventures, or overnight kayaking tours, you'll find it all in this part of the Great White North. Canadians love their water sports, and they're keen to share this passion with newbies and experienced out-of-towners alike. Discover saltwater fjords and freshwater lakes, explore offshore islands, and make a splash. Powell Forest Canoe Route is an iconic favorite among multi-day paddlers, and Desolation Sound would fit right into a rower's bucket list.

10 Beach days

Water babies have many sandy shores and pebble beaches to savor. Porpoise Bay in Sechelt is nice and calm. Grassy play areas are great for kids, and you can spot floatplanes while you're chilling. Cooper's Green in Halfmoon Bay is shallow enough for underwater expeditions and has beach volleyball courts too. Gillies Bay in Texada is ideal for families—sand sculptors show off their talents (especially during the annual Sandcastle Weekend contest), and the waters are warm.

11 Mountain biking trails

If you're into the mountain biking scene, numerous trails and bike parks cater to all skill levels. Go to the Southern Sunshine Coast for Sprockids Bike Park and the newer riding zone, Wilson's Creek, or head to the Northern Sunshine Coast for the Duck Lake Network. Coast Gravity Park in Sechelt has lots of fans.

12 Spa and wellness

Let's get one thing straight. Whether you visit a spa or not, you will leave the Sunshine Coast blissed out. But the spa certainly adds to the revitalizing rainforest and ocean experience. Leave the city behind and temporarily swat away your worries in a hot tub. The Spa at Painted Boat has marina views, all the hydrotherapy amenities you could want, and certified therapists for reiki, reflexology, and pampering massages. The Spa Garden here is lush and inviting. You might also choose to attend a yoga wellness retreat at Four Winds Beach House, where the wilderness setting is chef's kiss.

13 Local markets and shopping

February 16, 2022. View of Downtown Sechelt. Sechelt is a popular destination for outdoor activities near Vancouver on the Sunshine Coast

Like slow farm-to-table food, the products in many of the boutiques here are high-quality and handmade. Sustainable fashion, ultra-mod homeware, vintage treasure chests, and more—that's what you can look forward to when it's retail therapy time on the Sunshine Coast. You're sure to find something you like at Downtown Sechelt, Powell River's Townsite Market, and Madier Park's Village, not to mention the weekly markets that pop up. Bookmark Eco Freako for green goods, Boutique in the Creek for gardening, and Great Balls of Wool for all your knitting needs.

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14 Seasonal events

We've touched on some regional annual events, but there are more, including seasonal polar bear swims and the qathet International Film Festival. In spring, the Townsite Jazz Festival adds some sax appeal, and the April Tools Wooden Boat Challenge crowns the resourceful. The Lund Seafood Festival is anything but blue, and the Run the Rock Marathon puts legs to the test in August.

15 Accommodation options

From RV campgrounds and Indigenous-owned resorts to cozy B&Bs and waterfront hotels, you'll be able to bed down wherever your heart pleases, provided you book timeously. The Tuwanek Hotel and Spa has direct beach access and an upscale feel. The Painted Boat Resort Spa and Marina is perfect for a luxurious romantic getaway.

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