You’ve probably heard of the Sunshine Coast of Australia, but did you know we have our own Sunshine Coast in British Columbia? The Sunshine Coast may be a hidden gem to some, but its rugged coastline, lush rainforests, and rich cultural history make it a must-see destination for any traveler.
There are hidden pirate beaches, hiking trails all to yourself, and seaside villages that make this off-the-beaten-path location the perfect family vacation – or romantic getaway.
Today, we’ll be spotlighting the coastal communities from Gibsons to Egmont. But first…
Worth a Stop – Spark Museum of Electrical Invention
Today’s Worth a Stop is the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham, WA.
It’s a perfect museum for families, history buffs, and technology geeks.
The museum is packed – vast – it may be the most extensive collection of the evolution of electricity anywhere, from the first telegraphs to cutting-edge inventions.
But here’s the real zinger – warning, many electricity puns ahead.
The Mega Zapper electrical show, every Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., is where they pull out a bunch of cool electrical equipment and demonstrate it. This is edge-of-your-seat stuff.
Then finally, they bring out the giant Tesla coils, also called the ‘Cage of Doom,’ Whoever is brave enough to get in the cage will have 4.6 million volts of electricity surrounding them.
(BTW, Tesla was a scientist – no relation to the car.)
Today we will take the ferry from the City of Vancouver, BC, to Langdale and tour up the coast from Gibson’s to the Skookumchuck Narrows on the mainland side of the Sechelt Inlet.
Why go to the Sunshine Coast?
First of all, because it’s beautiful.
The region is known for its rugged coastline, which creates hundreds, maybe thousands of little inlets, bays, and swimming holes.
The lush forests offer extensive hiking. You can kayak, fish, swim, and beachcomb all day long.
The water temperature in the Sechelt inlet will warm to the high fifties in summer. That’s downright balmy on the Pacific Coast. Many provincial parks, aka state parks, golf courses, and wildlife experiences, are also available.
The Sunshine Coast is home to many First Nation communities, and you can learn about their culture, history, and art up and down the coast.
Also dotted up the coastline are little towns and villages; from the seaport feel of Gibsons to the artist colony vibe of Roberts Creek, each one has a unique flavor.
And like everywhere in the Pacific Northwest, there’s a growing food scene.
The Sunshine Coast is the home of many farms, miles of rivers, and of course, the ocean. So you’ll find a variety of farm-to-table, seafood, breweries, and winery options in this region.
When is the best time to go to the Sunshine Coast?
Peak season is May through September.
The Sunshine Coast doesn’t exactly get crowded in the summer, but the ferry ride and the two-lane highway can make a smaller crowd feel like a crowd.
Summer is the season of festivals.
We spent three summers in Roberts Creek when our kids attended a music camp. Book your accommodations early if you want to attend one of the many events and festivals. There are not a ton of places to stay on the coast. Many residents get out of town in the summer, and they’ll rent out their homes to a visitor.
We found our rental through the festival organizer, which connected us with a family that rents their house this one week a year. But of course, you can search in the usual places.
Even in July, we took many hikes and kayak excursions and found hidden inlets where we were completely alone.
If you have the flexibility, September is the ideal month in my book.
The weather is still warm, but there will be fewer people off-season.
From October on, it can be quite chilly, and you are in temperate rainforest territory, so that you can expect rain, probably lots of rain.
But if you want to unplug and cuddle up to read and work jigsaw puzzles, you can’t do much better than winter on the Sunshine Coast.
How will you get to the Sunshine Coast?
Unless you have a boat, you’ll be taking a BC ferry.
You’ll go up to Horseshoe Bay, just outside Vancouver. BC. and crossover to Langdale.
It’s a 40-minute ferry ride and part of the fun.
In summer, it’s a good idea to go online and make a reservation for the ferry because it can fill up.
And yes, you will want to take your car across; navigating the Sunshine Coast without a vehicle would be hard.
Sunshine Coast villages
I will take you on a tour up the coast and stop at each village.
First, you’ll get off the ferry in Langdale and head straight into Gibsons.
Gibsons has a great ocean esplanade, which you can walk along. It has some of the best swimming and beaches in the area.
There’s Gibson’s BonnieBrook Beach, which is quite busy. You’ll find kite surfers, stand-up paddle boarders, and paragliders.
BonnieBrook is the sandiest stretch of beach. Many of the beaches on the Sunshine Coast will be rocky or have a lot of driftwood on them.
Also, in Gibsons, you’ll find Gibsons Landing, a little area right on the waterfront with a marina.
Gibsons is home to the Sunshine Coast History Museum, which I highly recommend.
There’s also the Marine Education Center, which is a collect-and-release aquarium.
Sunshine Coast is a haven for artists, with many galleries and studios to visit. You’ll want to pick up a Purple Banner Art map to find studio tours, many of which need to be made by appointment and are off the beaten path.
You can rent a kayak and go kayaking out of the marina in Gibsons.
And Gibsons also has a good visitor’s center to get your trip off on the right foot.
- Bonniebrook Beach
- Gibsons Landing
- Sunshine Coast History Museum
- Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre
- Purple Banner Art map
- Gibsons Visitors Center
Gibsons restaurant recommendations
Some restaurant recommendations in Gibson’s are Smitty’s Oyster House, which serves oysters and other seafood.
Molly’s Reach, which is famous for the show Beachcomber. This was a Canadian TV show that ran for 18 years. The restaurant is the actual building where the show was filmed. They serve breakfast, fish n’ chips, and similar food.
Persephone Brewing, wear the Langdale Ferry, is named after the famous boat in the Beachcomber Show. Persephone is a farm that hosts many events, pairing dinners, workshops, and festivals.
Tapworks is in Lower Gibsons. They serve pub food and beer.
101 Brewhouse and Distillery, also in Gibsons, serves food and offers occasional live music.
Batch 44 Brewery and Kitchen serve pub food.
And finally, Sunday Cider is a cider house and picnic area open seven days a week.
- Smitty’s Oyster House
- Molly’s Reach
- Persephone Brewing
- 101 Brewhouse and Distillery
- Batch 44 Brewery and Kitchen
- Sunday Cider
Traveling up the highway, you’ll come to Roberts Creek.
Roberts Creek has this great pier that you can walk on. The creek meets the ocean, creating an outdoor playground to wade and build forts with all driftwood. My kids love this area.
The pier/beach has a tiny parking area, so you’ll want to arrive early in the day.
Nearby is the Cliff Gilker Park, a rainforest haven of moss, ferns, mushrooms, Douglas fir, and a network of trails. There’s a one-hour loop with many waterfall viewing spots.
Roberts Creek Provincial Park is also nearby.
Roberts Creek is considered the hub of the artistic community. You’ll find studios and art galleries dotted all over. Again, you’ll want to look for the Purple Banner Art map.
Roberts Creek restaurant recommendations
There aren’t many places to eat in Roberts Creek.
There’s the Gumboot Cafe and the Gumboot Restaurant, which are right next to each other.
The cafe serves a light soup, pizza, salads, and coffee menu.
The Gumboot Restaurant has lunch and dinner with a more extensive menu than the cafe. And on the Sunshine Coast, it’s considered a bit fancy.
Davis Bay is the next community you’ll come to.
It has a large beach with enough sand to find a good spot. It’s good for kite flying, playing in the calm water, building sandcastles, and there are sometimes tide pools.
The Davis Bay Pier is nice to walk out on; you can even drop a few crab traps.
Right across the street from the beach, you’ll find a few souvenir shops and usually an ice cream shop.
There are restrooms, a picnic area, and plenty of parking along the highway.
Davis Bay restaurant recommendations
For restaurants, check out the Wobbly Canoe, which serves locally sourced food. It also has a great name.
And there’s Joe’s on the Beach, which serves seafood.
Next up is Sechelt. This is the largest town on this end of the coast.
You’ll find the most shopping, restaurants, and services here.
There’s the Sechelt waterfront, which is great for a walk along the water.
The Sechelt swimming pool has saved many a rainy day for our family.
The facility has a full Olympic pool, family fun pool, water slide, lazy river, and other fun water features. The water is saline filtered.
If you’re in Sechelt in the winter, The Dakota Ridge is nearby for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Sechelt restaurant recommendations
For food, I suggest El Segundo, with its beautiful tropical interior. It’s a fusion restaurant with a very creative extensive menu.
Coastal Crust Pizza is a good ol’ pizza shop. You’ll find unique combos if you’re looking for pizza beyond pepperoni.
Taco Republic has great Mexican food that everyone will recognize – because sometimes you don’t want fusion; you want to keep it simple.
Saffron is a family-owned East Indian restaurant. They have all the Indian goodies.
Shift Kitchen and Bar I would also classify as fusion. Chicken souvlaki is on the menu next to barbecue jackfruit tacos. I love it because it’s creative, and the hamburgers are unique and delicious.
By the way, the cool kids now call hamburgers handhelds – “they have burgers” does not sound fancy. “They have fabulous handhelds” sounds like something special.
And finally, you have the Bricker Cider Company, which has a tasting room, a food hut with a light menu, and a picnic area BOF.
Egmont – Skookumchuck Narrows
Heading north, you’ll come to Egmont and the Skookumchuck Narrows.
Skookumchuck Narrows becomes a natural wonder as the tide changes and massive amounts of water pour through the relatively narrow opening.
You can hike a short four-kilometer trail out to a rocky outcropping and watch this phenomenon high up from an overlook, or you can get right down on the rocks next to the water.
If you’re lucky, daredevil kayakers will be riding the waves, and you can watch.
Also, check out the Egmont Heritage Center, where you’ll find the story of the area’s indigenous peoples, the early pioneers, and the industry that grew up along the coast.
Egmont restaurant recommendations
There aren’t a lot of places to eat at this end of the coast.
You have the Skookumchuck Bakery, which is notable because it’s in a wood cabin.
There’s also the Inlets Restaurant at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge. This is fine dining, as the menu has no prices, so I haven’t been there!
From the town of Langdale to Egmont, it’s approximately a one-and-a-half-hour drive, so you can easily tour this coastline section.
Travel tip of the week
The visitor or tourist center is one of our first stops on any trip.
Not only do they have a wealth of information on local attractions and events, but they also offer free maps, brochures, and often discounts to help you as you plan your trip.
A resident, usually a volunteer, will be available to answer questions and make personal suggestions. They have up-to-date insider knowledge and a local’s perspective of the area.
Visitor centers vary in polish, depending on the location (aka the tourism budget.) In Coeur d’Alene, you’ll find an architectural showplace packed with brochures and professionally trained docents. You may have to hunt for a closet-sized room with limited hours and volunteers in small communities.
And in this day of PDFs and at your fingertip downloads, you’d be surprised how many will ask, “Would you like a copy of our (very non-techy, printed out black and white) list of XYZ?”
And before you know it, you have some secret information unavailable anywhere else. This happened to us in Sechelt. We were given one of those pamphlets for a nearby nature preserve, which made an impromptu scavenger hunt for our kids.
No matter if it’s fancy or humble, the Visitor Center always comes through for us.