The Sunshine Coast is located on the southern coast of British Columbia, Canada, between the entrances to Desolation Sound on the northwest and Howe Sound on the southeast. The rugged mountains bordering these inlets cut it off from direct road connection to the rest of the province, so although part of the British Columbian mainland, it depends on ferry or air transportation.
Welcome to the traditional territories of the Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh), Sechelt (Shíshálh), and Sliammon (Tla’Amin) First Nations. The First Nations people have been on this land since time immemorial. Part of the larger Coast Salish people, they engaged in fishing, hunting, and trade, and were noted for their totem poles, cedar canoes, and unique language. Today, the Coast Salish people continue to contribute culturally and economically to the Sunshine Coast. From artist demonstrations to learning about the ecosystems the First Nations of the Sunshine Coast are ready to share their abundance of history and rich culture.
1800’s - Settlement by Europeans and other non-native peoples began in the 1880s, with fishing and logging being the main occupation of the settlers, along with small scale farming mostly for their own subsistence. The establishment of logging camps in the Powell River area in the 1880s was a precursor to greater economic things.
The naming of "The Sunshine Coast" originated with a pioneer family, the Roberts of Roberts Creek. In 1914, Harry Roberts painted "The Sunshine Belt" name on the side of the freight house on the first wharf built in Roberts Creek, and the name was apparently used to promote Roberts Creek as a summer resort destination. When the Black Ball Ferries started a car ferry service to the coast in 1951 they started using the term "Sunshine Coast" to promote the whole area and the name quickly became popular.
1900’s - Between 1910 and 1912, the pulp and paper mill in Powell River was built on the waterfront by the Brooks, Scanlon and O'Brien Company. By 1930, the mill employed more than 2,000 workers, and had become the largest newsprint mill in the world .The development of the highway, which reached Pender Harbour in the 1930s and the northwest end of the Sechelt Peninsula in the 1950s, brought the settlements closer together, and after car ferry service began in 1951, closer to Vancouver. After this date, the population increased rapidly. Powell River Townsite was designated as a National Historic District of Canada in 1995, one of only seven in Canada. A charming community remarkably intact with over 400 original buildings contained within the borders of the 1910 town plan.
Sunshine Coast Today – With a population close to 50,000 people the Sunshine Coast is a modern hub but has not forgotten its rich heritage. Forestry continues to be has one of the region’s historic economic mainstays, with tourism and the cultural arts gaining ground as emerging sectors, along with fishing, aquaculture, retail and high tech.
Mining is significant as well, with the largest open pit sand and gravel mine operating in Sechelt. Howe Sound Pulp and Paper in Port Mellon, producers of wood-fibre based paper for the past century, is BC’s longest running pulp and paper mill. Local entrepreneurs have captured the attention of Canadian and International markets. Hapi Foods locally produces their popular Holy Crap cereal and SideStix are leaders in durable medical equipment specializing in forearm crutches, just two examples of successful entrepreneurs that call the Sunshine Coast home.
Population: Sunshine Coast region: 48,525. (Source: BC Stats, 2011). Largest communities: Powell River (13,165), Sechelt (9,291), Gibsons (4,437). (Source: BC Stats, 2011)
Economic Drivers: Forestry has been one of the region’s historic economic mainstays, with tourism and the cultural arts gaining ground as emerging sectors, along with fishing, aquaculture, retail and high tech. Mining is significant as well, with the largest open pit sand and gravel mine operating outside of Sechelt. Howe Sound Pulp and Paper in Port Mellon, producers of wood-fibre based paper for the past century, is BC’s longest running pulp and paper mill.
Claims to Fame:
- Home to the highest per capita population of artists, artisans and crafters in Canada.
- Inland Lake Provincial Park’s award-winning 13 km (8 mi) wheelchair accessible lakeside trail.
- The spectacular 180 km (112 mi) Sunshine Coast Trail offering access points all along the way.
- The colourful, creative community of Roberts Creek known as the Gumboot Capital of the World.
- The Powell River Hulks, 10 WWII concrete ships forming the world’s longest floating breakwater.
- Up to 30 km/hr (19 mi/hr) tidal rapids in Skookumchuck Narrows, a world whitewater wonder.
- Mile 0 in Lund of the 15,202 km (9,446 mi) Pacific Coastal Highway 101 ending in Quellon, Chile.
- Canada’s first sunken statue, the 3-m (10-ft) tall bronze Emerald Princess, in Mermaid Cove.
- Magical Chatterbox Falls, one of 60 waterfalls in the beautiful anchorage of Princess Louisa Inlet.
- The Powell Forest Canoe Route, eight lakes and five portages through 20 forest recreational sites.
- National Geographic-endorsed, full-fledged dive centre, Suncoast Diving, in Sechelt or Alpha Dive in Powell River.
- World famous fjords, wildlife and recreation in the boaters’ paradise of Desolation Sound.
- The Patricia Theatre in Powell River, Canada’s oldest continuously operating movie theatre.
Best Beaches: Donkersley Beach, Willingdon Beach and Palm Beach in Powell River, Haywire Bay, Saltery Bay Provincial Park, Sechelt’s Davis Bay, Sechelt seawall, Shelter Point Park Beach on Texada Island and tropical-feeling white sand South Beach on Savary Island. North and South Thormanby Islands (surrounded by beautiful white sand), Welcome Beach in Halfmoon Bay, and Bonniebrook and Secret Beaches in Gibsons.
- Heritage Walks through the Powell River Townsite, named a National Historic District in 1995.
- Wetland tours, exhibits and workshops at the Iris Griffith Interpretive Centre near Ruby Lake.
- Championship play at Myrtle Point Golf Club and the Sunshine Coast Golf & Country Club.
- Hiking around waterfalls and boardwalks on the Duck Lake Trail circuit.
- Mountain biking on the Bunster Hills Trail and the Lyon Lake Loop.
- Guided kayak adventures to Mitlenatch Island to birdwatch and see coastal cactus in bloom.
- Diving amid a sunken WWII destroyer escort in Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park.
- Phenomenal rock climbing on sheer rock cliffs up to 600 m (1,969 ft) in the Eldred Valley.
- Spring snowshoeing in the back bowls of the Knuckleheads and Dakota Ridge.
- The Sechelt First Nations “Talking Trees Walking Tour’’ through Porpoise Bay Provincial Park.
- All-weather boating from the safe anchorage point at Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park.