We spotted him long after he’d spotted us, perched high above in a Douglas fir. He let us admire him for a minute before taking off – stretching wings to full span as a female flew out of the trees to join him. Taking a pause from paddling we watched as they performed their spring time dance around each other. It was another one of those magical moments on the Sunshine Coast – what keeps us coming back.
It’s become a tradition among a few of our friends to hop on the short ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale at the first sign of camping season. At roughly 40 minutes the trip is just long enough to go above deck, marvel at the Coastal Mountain range, watch for whales and maybe even grab a bite to eat- then before you know it, you’re there! With so many options awaiting you…
This time we headed for Smuggler Cove, a Marine Provincial Park in Halfmoon Bay. The history here has long held my imagination, my own Great-Grandpa having lost his life at sea in a rum run to the US during the prohibition, Smuggler Cove his last known location. Before his time a smuggler of a different kind used the cove, the locally infamous “King of the Smugglers”, Larry Kelly. Armed with a grudge against the American government and a declaration to never make an honest living again he began smuggling Chinese workers out of a job after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway to the US. One can only assume safe passage was not guaranteed.
The things the trees must have witnessed over their centuries! As you make the 15 minute walk to the campsites they just might tell you their secrets. The trail is mostly flat with boardwalks to guide you over the wetland where you can see evidence of beavers’ landscaping. The 5 campsites are across from the first beach, down a little path in the forest. There are no facilities aside from a pit toilet so be prepared to pack out what you pack in and store food (and toiletries) in your car or bring supplies to rig up a bear cache. One of the best parts about camping at the cove is it’s tucked away from light pollution so you can watch the bioluminescence spark up in the water at night as you skip rocks across the surface.
If this style of camping is a little rustic for you there is also the nearby Porpoise Bay campground with plenty of forest and beach access alike.
Fresh Baked Goods
Is there some kind of rule that small towns have to have charming and delicious bakeries? Because if there is, the communities on the Sunshine Coast are definitely following it. On a friends recommendation we checked out the most recent addition to the lot, the Basted Baker. Between the group of us we sampled a solid portion of the menu and weren’t disappointed by any of it. The best part? They’re on the main strip of the Saturday Farmers’ Market so you can pop in mid-browse to refuel.
Hiking in the Rain
One of the beauties of the Sunshine Coast is you never know what the weather will be around the next bend, if you keep going chances are you’ll eventually find a sunny beach. But on the days where there is no escaping the rain, the forest is the perfect place to head. Under the protective cover of the rainforest canopy the waterfalls are flowing and all is lush and green.
With that in mind we took off to explore the Homesite Creek area. A small sign on the highway identifies the entrance but you have to keep heading up the dirt road to reach any trail heads. We took our chances on the trail with a handpainted sign marked ‘Cave Trail/Waterfalls’. Maintained by Homesite Creek Falls Campground, we found the trail in great condition even in the off-season, I do recommend waterproof hiking shoes if it’s been raining as there’s some small flooded areas you’ll have to cross. The trail is full of ferns sprouting out of every nook and cranny with old-growth Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar trees mixed amongst the second growth forest. We found the mentioned limestone cave underneath a large tree’s root system and while it looked big enough to explore we decided it was probably best left for dry season. The further we went the louder the still-hidden falls became until finally revealing themselves at the end of the trial. Low but impressive, they’ve carved out a serene pool nestled amongst the trees. Hiking further up we found swimming holes that would make a perfect for escape from summer heat.
Trail completed, we headed back to Smuggler Cove to keep on hiking. The views on the loop go from tranquil to rugged as you cross sides of the park. With the sun trying to breakthrough we were even treated to a rainbow arching over the cove on our way back to make dinner.
Capping it all off with a Canoe
We’d originally planned to bring over our own kayaks (tip- reserve an overheight spot on the ferry if you’re doing so) but after a change in vehicle plans we decided to rent canoes from Pedals and Paddles on the last day of the trip. Still in off-season, Pedals and Paddles are on a call to book basis but were easy to find and very accommodating. You can set off right from the beach at their base, no need for a roof rack. After having a look at the maps we decided to head for a protected islet called The Aquarium. We cut across the glassy surface under the gaze of Mount Richardson enjoying the scenery and break in the rain. Once in the islet the water was clear and shallow enough to spot all kinds of sea life. We watched sea cucumbers lumber across the ocean floor, moon jellies float on by and colorful ochre and bat starfish cling to the rocks. We were told just past The Aquarium you can go ashore to walk up to a waterfall, but we decided to leave it for next time. On the way out we paused to watch the eagle display and then buckled down to get through the now rough waters. We were welcome back to shore by an entourage of seals, one of which was particularly interested in our friends dog Moose – something about the matching whiskers. Moose didn’t really know what to make of the furless sea dog but thankfully decided against jumping out to join it in the water.
Pre-ferry Pit Stop
What would a trip to the Sunshine Coast be without a visit to Persephone? We stopped in for a quick pint and pizza before heading to the ferry terminal. The social atmosphere makes it the perfect place to hear local live music, recap your favourite parts of the trip and trade stories.
On the ferry ride home we thought about all the places we’ve yet to explore and started making plans for next time. We’ll see you again soon Sunshine Coast!