With 180-kilometres of coastline, the Sunshine Coast has no shortage of beaches to explore. You’ll find everything from sandy, tropical-esque beaches to rocky, windswept seasides. Pet- and kid-friendly stretches keep family vacations stress-free, while intimate beach nooks offer solitude for leisure seekers looking to zen out. And the Sunshine Coast’s freshwater lakes, with their shallower shores, are ideal for younger or nervous swimmers.
To help you dig your toes in, here are 10 of the Sunshine Coast’s finest stretches of sand.
Bonniebrook Beach, Gibsons
Bonniebrook is a hive of activity. Along Ocean Esplanade, which runs parallel to the shoreline, you’ll find more walkers and cyclists than cars. Paragliders and kite surfers can be seen on windy days circling above the water. Stand-up paddlers take to its shores when conditions are flat and calm and SUP their way from end to end. At the end of Ocean Beach Esplanade (towards Roberts Creek) is the start of one of the Southern Sunshine Coast’s most scenic and sandy stretches. Here, dogs roam free (the beach is off-leash) and, at low tide, you can walk as far as Roberts Creek.
Davis Bay, Sechelt
Davis Bay makes a strong case for the most popular beach on the Southern Sunshine Coast. It’s expansive, so there’s plenty of towel space and its west-facing location means it’s one of the best places to take in the sunset. (On clear days, you can see as far as Vancouver Island—and if you manage to stay until sun down, you’ll often spot the glittering lights of Nanaimo, Chemainus, and Duncan in the distance.)
When the tide is out you can fly your kite, play in the waves, skimboard, build sandcastles, peer into tidal pools or simply soak up the rays. Kids and fishermen flock to the Davis Bay pier—on one end you can drop traps for crab and on the other jump off into the water below. For beachside snackers, there’s plenty of food available nearby. Grab fish n’ chips, sandwiches, and ice cream from the shops across the street, or a coveted patio spot at the Wobbly Canoe for happy hour. Washrooms, ample parking, and picnic tables make spending the day here easy.
Porpoise Bay, Sechelt
Porpoise Bay in West Sechelt is another popular spot. Thanks to its location on the Sechelt Inlet, the waters at this popular beachfront spot tend to be calmer for swimming and paddling. The views are also incredible with a backdrop of second-growth forests and towering mountain peaks. Kids will love the grassy play areas (also great for picnicking and grilling) and floatplane spotting—both Harbour Air and Sunshine Coast Air make their base in the inlet. There are plenty of amenities, from ample parking to public washrooms, and if you prefer to stay for a few days, two campgrounds are located nearby: a provincial park, located on the inlet side, and a private campground just down the road.
Katherine Lake, Pender Harbour
With one of the largest stretches of sand on the Sunshine Coast, it’s no wonder Katherine Lake is a popular swimming destination. The beach here gently and gradually slopes into the water offering significant shallow space for safe splishing and splashing. Confident swimmers will find two floating docks positioned further out in the lake. The lake itself is small and doesn’t allow for motorized crafts so you won’t have to contend with boats or seadoos. Don’t want to leave? There’s an adjoining campground with washroom and shower facilities, along with picnic facilities.
Coopers Green, Halfmoon Bay
This smaller regional park is tucked away in Halfmoon Bay, just off Redroofs Road, and offers a little bit of everything. You’ll find a grassy area with picnic tables and washrooms. The beach volleyball courts see plenty of play in summer, and when not busy, also double as a sandbox for younger kids. At low tide, the rock beach reveals clams, crabs, and shells. The shallow water is ideal for snorkelling—bring your goggles and cruise around the small island located just offshore looking for small marine life clinging to its rock. When you’re ready for a beach break, wander up the road to Halfmoon Bay General Store where snacks and refreshments can be purchased.
Buccaneer Bay, Thormanby Island
Buccaneer Bay will lure you with its fine, white sand and warm, tropical-blue waters. This beach paradise is located on a sandy spit on the southern tip of North Thormanby Island (a quick water taxi or boat ride from Secret Cove) and is where leisure seekers, sand worshippers, and throngs of beach goers converge. Here you can walk miles of pristine shoreline, take dips in the tranquil warm waters, or picnic while observing an array of birds and the local flora. Though busy in summer, it’s possible to find quieter sections of the beach. When the tide is low, walk to South Thormanby and check out the predominantly rocky bluffs of neighbouring Simson Provincial Park.
Ruby Lake, Madeira Park
Another freshwater gem, Ruby is a massive lake that offers plenty of room to play. There’s a boat launch that will set you up for waterskiing, tubing or simply cruising on its turquoise-hued waters. Across the road is Ruby Lake Resort which rents kayaks and SUPS if you prefer to earn your turns. (The resort also has an excellent Italian restaurant that’s open seasonally for when hunger strikes.) But, if it’s a proper beach you’re after, rest assured that Ruby Lake has got you covered. Located on Ruby Lake, Dan Bosch Regional Park, just off HIghway 101 past the resort, has a nice, wide sandy beach and swimming area, perfect for families and sunbathers. Make sure to pack lunch; there are picnic tables and if you need a post-snack stretch, a leisurely 0.8-kilometre trail winds around the perimeter of Ruby Lake. You’ll find ample parking, but be warned—on hot days, Ruby can get busy and lots fill up fast.
Gillies Bay, Texada
For families, skimboarders, and sand sculptors, Gillies Bay is paradise. The vast intertidal zone here makes for an endless sandy playground at low tide and a shallow, warm swimming area at high tide. It’s no surprise this beach is home to the annual Texada Island Sandcastle Weekend. Thanks to its location on Texada Island, a short ferry from Powell River, Gillies Bay doesn’t see as much traffic as some of the beaches located on the Southern Sunshine Coast. Spend a few days exploring the area and Texada’s quiet and unassuming charm. For campers, Shelter Point Regional Park is situated just south of Gillies Bay, providing easy access to its sandy shores.
Willingdon Beach, Powell River
Willingdon Beach is a popular family-friendly spot and for good reason. Parents will appreciate the convenient location—the beach is located right in Powell River, just five minutes from the downtown core—and the kid-friendly amenities. There’s a splash park for little ones who are too young to venture into the ocean’s waves and a concession stand with all the summer staples (burgers, fries, ice cream). A playground offers a break from the beach while a large, treed grassy area is ideal for seeking out shade when the day’s rays get too hot. The park is popular for events and a bandshell frequently hosts live music throughout the summer. A nearby campground offers a few coveted spots just mere steps from the beach.
South Beach, Savary Island
With the warmest ocean waters north of Mexico (thanks to a mild southern tide) and a ring of gleaming white sand beaches, it’s no wonder Savary is affectionately called the “Hawaii of the North”. You’ll find beaches all over the island, but the most popular is South Beach. This expansive beach extends for kilometres in length, and at low tide, recedes to reveal even more sandy shoreline. Driftwood, washed up on shore, has been creatively adapted for makeshift shelters so you can escape the heat of the sun (there are no trees along this beach, just grassy bluffs). Skimboarders, kayakers, and stand-up paddle boarders are often seen drifting up and down the coast in the ebbing and flowing tide. Savary Island is accessed by water taxi or boat from Lund. You’ll want to bring plenty of supplies with you, including water, snacks, and food—there is a seasonally-operated general store and pub, and a campground, but otherwise there are no other amenities available.