The 180-kilometre Sunshine Coast is made up of two coasts: a north and a south, connected by a fifty-minute ferry that links Earls Cove to Saltery Bay. The long, winding stretch of Highway 101 that links it all together is best tackled over a week when you can explore the Coast’s vibrant coastal communities, venture on the water or into the forest, and detour to serene and spectacular islands.
Here’s a five- seven-day summer road trip itinerary, starting in Gibsons and ending in Lund.
Day 1: Gibsons
From Langdale Ferry Terminal, head along Marine Way into Lower Gibsons — home of the famous Molly’s Reach sign, numerous restaurants, shops, cafes, a brewery, marina and more. The drive is a picturesque introduction to your Sunshine Coast getaway, and telling of the type of coastal scenery that lies ahead. Get yourself acquainted and take stock of the type of meals you’ll want over the next two days: Southern-style BBQ from Smoke on the Water BBQ Shack? Baja-style tacos from Lunitas Mexican Eatery? Wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizza from Buono Osteria? Or briny oysters from Smitty’s Oyster House? You’ll also find elegant cocktails, hearty Greek food, fresh sushi, coffee and more, all within a few short blocks.
Spend some time poking into galleries, shops and the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives before heading for happy hour at nearby Gibsons Tapworks or Persephone Brewing or the 101 Brewhouse & Distillery in Upper Gibsons. If it’s cider you’re craving, you’ll find two: Sunday Cider or the newly-opened Banditry Cider. A nice meal, followed by sunset at Bonniebrook is a great way to cap off your first day.
Images: (left) Molly’s Reach in Gibsons by Shayd Johnson; (right) Gibsons breakwater by Shayd Johnson
Day 2: Gambier and Keats islands
Start your morning with an invigorating walk up Soames Hill Park for scenic views of Gibsons and the outlying islands beyond that. This is one of the best vantage points to take in the town of Gibsons. The other? From the water. Rent a kayak from Alpha Adventures and follow the Keats Island Paddle Route to circumnavigate nearby Keats Island, a small mostly seasonally-inhabited island, 40-minutes by paddle from Gibsons harbour. Make sure to bring a picnic (you can also grab sandwiches to go in town) and pause at Plumper Cove Marine Provincial Park where you can swim, lounge, eat, rest and look across to the Soames and the hike you tackled this morning.
If conditions are safe, and you’re experienced, you can make your way to Gambier Island, or instead of paddling, opt to visit this neighbouring island in the middle of Howe Sound on foot via BC Ferries. On your return to Gibsons, wander the Seawalk, a short waterfront path that stretches from Armours Beach to the public marina, then make your way up Gibsons Way to Drift Cafe & Bistro where you can dine on fresh, seasonally-inspired meals and sip a glass of wine on the spectacular patio overlooking the sprawling town and harbour below.
Images: (left) Gambier Island by @wildoutdoorsclub; (right) Kayaking Keats Island by @art_by_di
Day 3: Sechelt, Roberts Creek & Davis Bay
Located within short proximity to each other, the communities of Roberts Creek, Davis Bay and Sechelt all offer spectacular shoreline access, pebble beaches warmed by the sun, good eats, and trails to explore, whether that’s by foot, road bike or mountain bike. Adrenaline junkies will want to head to tackle the downhill trails of Mt. Elphinstone, where after a day of riding (and uphill climbing), you can easily make your way to the Roberts Creek pier for a post-bike dip and a burger from The Gumboot Restaurant. Bike rentals are available in Sechelt from Off The Edge Adventure Sports. Davis Bay is a popular swimming spot, with a long, sandy spit and rocky beach, and arguably one of the best spots on the lower Sunshine Coast for watching the sunset. Here, take a midday respite at either The Wobbly Canoe or Porch Restaurant.
In Sechelt, take your pick between a guided kayak tour of the Sechelt Inlet with Pedals and Paddles, or in view of the water by mountain bike at Coast Gravity Park, where 16 shuttle-accessed trails, all with rider-designed berms, step-ups and drops await. Or you can opt to take things sky-high with a floatplane tour with Sunshine Coast Air, including the Flights to Flights Ale and Air tour that pairs the Coast’s craft breweries with an aerial tour for an epic afternoon of brews and views. Back in town, Sechelt’s growing — and delicious — culinary scene awaits, with mouthwatering eats and drinks at El Segundo, TwentyTwo Taphouse, Batch 44 Brewery, Brickers Cider, and more. For a post-dinner treat, head to e.b.’s Ice Cream, located along Sechelt’s waterfront path, and watch as locals take their last dips of the day from the beach below.
Images: (left) Batch 44 Brewery in Sechelt by Shayd Johnson; (right) Davis Bay causeway by Shayd Johnson
Day 4: Halfmoon Bay, Pender Harbour and Egmont
Head north to Pender Harbour via Halfmoon Bay. Make sure to detour onto Redrooffs Road for a more scenic route. This drive follows the shoreline, where between houses, you can glimpse arbutus trees reaching into the horizon, boats bobbing in the distance, and eagles looking for their next meal. Get snacks for the road and trail at the Halfmoon Bay General Store before heading into Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park for a short stroll. Secret Cove is the launching point for day (or overnight) trips to Thormanby Island, a slice of white-sand beach paradise. Pender Harbour’s sheltered inlets and waterways, plus numerous lakes (there are more than 10) are great for exploring by kayak, or you can book a guided slo-cat tour and experience the coastal scenery from the comfort of a pontoon boat. Pender Harbour also offers access to superb fishing; OTB Charters offer guided salmon excursions to help you hook your next big one.
Egmont is home to two popular destinations: Skookumchuck Rapids, a twice-daily tidal flow that creates powerful rapids that funnel through a narrow inlet at nearly 30-kilometres an hour, and Skookumchuck Bakery, a bakery set in a wood cabin located at the start of the trailhead to the rapids. Egmont is also the launching point to see the epic Princess Louisa Inlet, a soaring fjord situated just north of the community, via guided boat and cruise with Sunshine Coast Tours. Back on land, head to West Coast Wilderness Lodge’s 5,000-square-foot patio, which overlooks the water, and is arguably the best on the entire Sunshine Coast.
Images: (left) Buccaneer Bay on Thormanby Island by @wardy.dk; (right) Smuggler Cover Marine Provincial Park by Brayden Hall
Day 5: Powell River
The ferry ride from Earl’s Cove in Egmont to Saltery Bay, just outside of the Powell River, is as stunning as it is quick. The trip will go by fast so make sure to be on the lookout for pods of dolphins or whales en route. Powell River is home to as many artists as there are adventure seekers. For those who lean towards the former, take a self-guided art and historic crawl throughout the town, and pop into galleries and shops in Townsite Market. Up the street, admire the facade of the Patricia Theatre, once Canada’s longest running and continuously operated movie theatre. The theatre is mere steps from another of the town’s cultural institutions: Townsite Brewing. Grab a flight of beers to sample on the sidewalk patio. The Farmer’s Market is well worth a visit to stock up on goodies, peruse locally made items, and listen to live music.
Hungry? Restaurants abound here, nearly all with epic ocean views of the Malaspina Strait, including Coastal Cookery, Costa Del Sol and Seasider Wine & Bistro. The aforementioned restaurants are also great for carb loading before strenuous exercises, and if it’s big adventure you want, Powell River has it. The stunning and oft-overlooked Eldred Valley is where serious rock climbers come to scale granite walls while the 180-kilometre hut-to-hut Sunshine Coast Trail has topped the list of hikers for years. The Powell Forest Canoe Route is a 57-kilometre, 8 lake, 5 portage journey that takes five days to complete, although you can head to just one of the lakes for a quick taste of the route. For two-wheeled fun, you’ll find plenty of trails to explore, or head to one (or as many) of the 32 freshwater lakes that surround this coastal city for paddleboarding, swimming, and lakeside lounging.
Images: (left) Costa del Sol restaurant by Shayd Johnson; (right) Tin Hat hut on the Sunshine Coast Trail by @deeehabs
Day 6: Lund, Savary Island & Desolation Sound
Onwards to Lund and the official end (or start) or ‘Mile 0’ of Highway 101. Lund is perhaps most well-known as the gateway to Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park, a boater’s paradise featuring more than 60 km of shoreline, several islands, numerous small bays and snug coves. Before you spend a week (off-grid ideally) reconnecting with nature and yourself, take some time to walk around Lunds’s waterfront; you’ll find a few shops and galleries to visit, plus restaurants all within a short stroll of one another. Nancy’s Bakery is well-deserving of its reputation as the best cinnamon buns on the Sunshine Coast; try the blackberry in August when the berries are perfectly ripe and bursting with flavour. The Boardwalk Restaurant offers excellent fish ‘n’ chips and a view while The Laughing Oyster features fine dining with exceptional views of stunning Okeover Inlet. For pub staples with a side of scenery, head to the Back Eatery at the Lund Resort at Klah ah men.
Now you’re ready to tackle — whether by boat or kayak — Desolation Sound. Guided kayak tours, including Footprint Kayak and Hike Explorations, Powell River Sea Kayak and Terracentric Adventures, will make sure you are well-equipped for a sea expedition and bring you to the best bays, coves, and beaches within the park. Don’t have enough time for a week-long journey? Take the water taxi or ferry to Savary Island, doable within a day, where you can lounge on the best tropical-looking beaches in British Columbia, then cool off in the refreshing yet tepid shallow waters.
Images: (left) Desolation Sound by Chris Thorton; (right) The blackberry cinnamon bun at Nancy’s Bakery by @eckertleckert
Travelling this route? Share your experiences with #SunshineCoastBC.
Find other road trips and routes to tackle this summer.