The Sunshine Coast of British Columbia is one of Canada’s great road trips. This road trip up the rugged and remote stretch of the BC coast is one of Canada’s best kept secrets but I doubt it will be long until road trippers are flocking to this destination.
Located on the mainland of BC, one would think it is an easy drive, but the only way to access the Sunshine Coast is by taking a ferry, helicopter or plane. While we were traveling the sunshine coast, we saw the wealthy land on a helipad in Lund, the gateway to Desolation Sound(more on that later) but we took the more affordable (and scenic) trip north as we hopped aboard the Sunshine Coast Ferry from Horseshoe Bay. Horseshoe Bay is a major ferry hub located just north of Vancouver and the ride to the Sunshine Coast takes about 50 minutes through the scenic Georgian Straight.
The Sunshine Coast in BC
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Sunshine Coast Itinerary Day 1 – Vancouver
Before hitting the Sunshine Coast, make sure to spend at least one night in Vancouver. This beautiful West Coast City is one of the best cities in Canada. It’s a gateway to Alaska with cruise ships leaving port all summer long and it is the jumping of point for people driving the Sea to Sky Highway en route to Whistler. There are plenty of things to do in Vancouver to keep you occupied for several days, but if you only have a short time, we suggest visiting Stanely Park, False Creek, Granville Island and Gas Town.
Where to Stay in Vancouver
The Opus Vancouver is an excellent boutique hotel located in Yaletown that is walking distance to everything. This stylish hotel was named one of the top hotels by Forbes and the top luxury property in BC. We highly recommend it. Plus there are great options for dining and nightlife close by and its just a short walk to the waterfront. Check out rates and availability on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Day 2 – Ferry to Gibsons, BC
It time to board the ferry to the Sunshine Coast! After a stay in Vancouver, we made our way to Horseshoe Bay where we caught the ferry to Langdale. This is a gorgeous trip so make sure you get out on deck to take in the views of the rolling Fjords and coastal mountains. The ferry takes about 50 minutes and is a beautiful trip.
After getting off in an orderly fashion at the terminal, we made our way to Gibsons Landing which is a bustling town set against the backdrop of the incredible Howe Sound. We didn’t know much about Gibsons Landing before our arrival but we were thrilled to find out that it was the setting for the beloved Canadian television show, The Beachcombers.
Beachcombers – Canadian History in Gibsons
Gibsons Landing is proud of its Canadian heritage and in the center of town you’ll find a corner dedicated to the long running series. Their boat The Persephone stand proud just up the street from Molly’s Reach restaurant.
There are so many things to do in Gibsons Landing you’ll want to spend at least a day or two exploring. Here you’ll find many artists shops and restaurants lining the waterfront. It’s worth strolling along the boardwalk for incredible views of the marina where we saw sea lions frolicking in the bay. Make sure to stop at Gibson’s Public Market located 5 km from the Langdale Ferry Terminal to pick up some artisan chocolate, fresh fruit and baked goods for the drive ahead.
Where to Stay in Gibsons
The Bonniebrook Lodge was the perfect place to stay just outside of town. Located directly on The Straight of Georiga, Bonniebrook Lodge is a historic landmark that offers luxury and relaxation. It has been in operation since the early 1900s and when you go for dinner at the magnificent Chasters Restaurant, make sure to check out all of the old photographs. Our room overlooked the water located across from a beautiful beach that was made for watching the sun set. Check rates and availability at TripAdvisor / Booking.com
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Day 3 – Roberts Creek and Sechelt, BC
Day three of our Sunshine Coast road trip takes us through Roberts Creek to Sechelt. Sechelt is only a 30 minute drive from Gibsons but there is so much to do, you’ll want to take your time to do some hiking, paddling and taking in the views.
We stopped at Roberts Creek for breakfast. This is a local favourite where you can grab an organic coffee to take with you for a stroll along the pier. If you are an art lover, you are going to love the art scene here.
Roberts Creek is a great place for paddle boarding or kayaking and the long beach is perfect for a walk. But be sure to have beach or water shoes as the beaches in BC can be rocky. This is truly a gem of the Sunshine Coast and is a beautiful place to do some hiking.
When you go out to the waterfront, keep an eye out for the Native Art Mural at Roberts Creek Mandala. The Sunshine Coast is the territorial land of the Squamish Sechelt, Tla’amin and Klahoose First Nations People and the First Nations culture and heritage are a large part of visiting the Sunshine Coast.
- Fun Fact: Did you know that the Sunshine Coast has more than 700 km of mountain biking trails. If you pack your mountain bike you’ll be able to get on the trails at nearly every stop you make!
Sechelt is one of the largest communities on the Sunshine Coast and you must make sure to take a walk along the sea wall at sunset. Like most of the Sunshine Coast, there are plenty of artists workshops in Sechelt. It is the central hub of the Sunshine Coast making it an easy place to make a base for a couple of days to book boat tours and day trips.
There are plenty of boutiques, galleries and restaurants in Sechelt and it is one of the best places in British Columbia for mountain biking.
If you are spending the night here, there are plenty of places to choose from for dining. The Lighthouse Pub is a popular spot for locals and tourists. Located on Porpoise Bay, it offers beautiful views for sunsets and the marina. If you want to stay downtown, check out Shift Kitchen and Tapas Bar, or Ty’s Fine Foods and Bistro.
The Lighthouse Pub, a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike since 1988. Located at the entrance to Porpoise Bay, the Lighthouse Pub has outstanding views of the natural beauty, sunsets; float planes (as they land and take off), and the marina. Only minutes from Downtown Sechelt, the Pub is handy for lunch and dinner.
Where to Stay in Sechelt
Sechelt is only about 24 minutes from Bonniebrook Lodge (like we did), so you can continue to stay here overnight, or there are many hotels in Sechelt to choose from as well. Or you can check out the Driftwood Inn located on the waterfront just steps away from the beach. Check out Driftwood Inn on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
- Pedals and Paddles is a good place to rent kayaks, take a guided kayaking tour or hop on a zodiac for a boat tour of the coast.
Day 4 – Smugglers Cove to Rockwater Resort
This is a beautiful day so get ready to do some hiking. But before we do some hiking, we stopped at the very picturesque Half Moon Bay.
Half Moon Bay
This may be one of the smaller communities on the Sunshine Coast, but its scenery truly took our breath away. It’s a mecca for kayakers and paddlers, there’s beach access and like all of the communities along the Sunshine Coast there are artists showcasing their talents and places to get on the trail and go mountain biking. Be sure to spend a bit of time exploring the beauty of the coastal rainforest here.
As we move on, its time to explore the star attraction of day four, Smuggler Cove. From the parking lot, a fantastic 4km hike out to the Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park beging. This hidden cove was a sanctuary for illegal mariners and rum runners during prohibition. The hike is beautiful taking you through along a boardwalk over bogs.
During prohibition it was used a safe haven for rumrunners to take whiskey over the border. It is also a place where Chinese railway workers were smuggled out of Canada to find work in the United States. Not only is it a place filled with beauty, there is a lot of history to explore as well.
Where to Stay in Secret Cove
Rockwater Resort is a luxury tented camp that will blow your mind. If you can afford it, spend two nights here to enjoy the secluded natural setting with glaming at its finest. The luxury tents face the ocean complete with stone shower, hot tubs, gas fireplace and king size bed. Once we checked into our room, we didn’t want to leave!
It’s the perfect romantic spa and resort with a 500 meter boarwalk connecting luxury treehouses nestled along the forested path. There is a swimming pool, restaurant and watersports. If you spend two nights here, you can explore the area north of Rockwater Resort along the Sunshine Coast Highway to Pender Harbour. Pender Harbour has a golf course and marina, art galleries and restaurants. See rates and availability on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Day 5 – Salterly Bay Ferry to Powell River
One of the cool things about driving the Sunshine Coast is hopping aboard the ferries to take you from one community to another. As we make our way further north, we caught the Salterly Bay ferry to get to the northern portion of the drive. The scenery is stunning as usual and instead of spending time in the cabin, we took in the views of the treelined coast and blue waters. If you want to grab a bite to save time, there are snack bars where you can get a coffee or grab some lunch.
Getting off the ferry at Salterly Bay, we made our way to Powell River which was once home to the world’s largest paper mill. Make sure to head out of town to explore the National Historic Site “The Old Town of Powell” that was built around the mill. Several historic buildings have been preserved since 1910. The Patricia theatre is the oldest movie theatre in the province and it is still in operation. You can take a walking tour to see the historic sites like the old courthouse, barbershop, houses and churches.
There are so many things to do in Powell River, a day is barely enough. You can choose from mountain biking and paddling rock climbing or simply relaxation. There are plenty of restaurants and shops lining the waterfront making for the perfect escape.
Where to Stay in Powell River
The Beach Gardens Resort and Marina is located on the water at Malaspina Strait in Powell River which is the entrance to Desolation Sound is a top seller for its views. Check reviews, rates and availability on TripAdvisor or Booking.com
Day 6 – Lund
We have reached our final destination on the Sunshine Coast in BC, and it is spectacular. Lund deserves several days if you can swing it. It was here that people flew in directly from Vancouver via helicopter to make the most of their time in Lund. (Lund Resort has a helipad) Located in the north of the sunshine coast, it is most certainly the star attraction of this drive.
While here, you must book a tour to Desolation Sound as it is the most rugged coast in British Columbia and the premier spot for wildlife and seabird viewing including bald eagles. Lund is the jumping off point for Desolation Sound and it is easy to book tours from the Lund Resort at Klah a Men or from Terracentric Coastal Adventures in the Marina. From here you can go out Hernando and Savory Island which are known as the Hawaii of the North thanks to its sandy beach and Major Rock which is home to a colony of sea lions and to see a large colony of sea birds as well. It is easy to book water taxis to the islands. Prices start at $12 per person one way. Check rates and times here.
We booked a hiking tour Terracentric Coastal Adventures who took us on an easy hike to the Hertato Trail that overlooks the Salish Sea. As you can see, you don’t want to rush spending time in Lund. The Lund Water Taxi provides service to Savary Island and surrounding areas year round.
Where to Stay in Lund
The Lund Resort at Klah ah Men is a place that you must stay at when visiting BC’s Sunshine Coast. It is run by the Tla’amin Nation and it is beautiful. With a marina and helipad plus an easy walking trail on the grounds that takes you past the Tia’man Nation welcoming totem and water wheel. They offer all the activities that you need with boat tours offered. See rates and availability at TripAdvisor
The hotel offers excursions, but there is also Terracentric Adventures located right next door that you can book through as well. From the marina at Lund, you can book whale watching and dolphin tours, and it is from here that you can even take a tour to see bears hunting salmon by the river in Desolation Sound when in season. This is also one of the premier whale watching destinations in British Columbia. One of the most fun ways to explore the coast is by zodiac.
Day 7 – Continue on to Vancouver Island on the Sunshine Coast Circle Tour
If you have another week, we suggest taking the ferry over to Vancouver Island to continue the loop around to explore Vancouver Island. Make your way back to Powell River where you’ll take a ferry across the the Strait of Georgia to Comox, BC on Vancouver Island. The Sunshine Coast Circle Tour now makes its way south on Vancouver Island through Nanaimo and then on to Victoria where you can catch a ferry back to Vancouver. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to do this so it was time to turn around.
Day 7 – Head Back To Vancouver
We didn’t continue the loop and instead made our way back to Vancouver from Lund. The trip backtracks through the places we already explored on the Sunshine Coast, so you can leave later in the afternoon to grab the last ferry from Gibson’s Landing. The entire drive from Gibsons to Lund is only 162 km so it can be done in just a few hours.
Taking a Sunshine Coast Road trip will transport you to a rugged and untamed land. It is worlds away from Vancouver and yet, it is just a short distance from the bustling city. If you are looking for a great Canadian road trip, you’ll love driving the Sunshine Coast of BC.
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