British Columbia's Sunshine Coast is a year-round destination blessed by great natural beauty, quaint coastal communities, unlimited outdoor recreation and a vast cultural scene – and all on Vancouver’s doorstep. CT’s Mike Baginski chatted with Sunshine Coast Tourism marketing director Annie Schroeder, who shed some (sun)light on why the region makes a perfect, affordable West Coast getaway for a week, a weekend, or just a day.
WHAT MAKES THE SUNSHINE COAST SO SPECIAL?
The eastern shore of B.C.’s lower mainland is known for natural vistas, old growth forests, and a dramatic 180-kilometre stretch of coastline from Howe Sound to Desolation Sound. Mossy rainforests and trail networks beg to be explored and the rugged coastline offers tidal pools teeming with marine life. Numerous freshwater lakes are ideal for swimming, paddle sports, boating, camping, fishing, or just spending time at the beach, while local islands each have their own personality and often a unique cast of characters.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CLIENT?
The Sunshine Coast has something for everyone – whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or someone who enjoys visiting cafés and shopping for local art. Visitors will get the feel for a laid-back west coast lifestyle without the crowds and reconnect with nature, which is reflected in local cuisine, craft breweries, accommodation, local artisans and businesses, and, of course, the residents. It’s truly a special place.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ACTIVITIES VISITORS CAN DO?
There’s every type of outdoor recreation one could want, from spectacular boating and paddle sports to year-round mountain biking trails that are among the best in B.C., and incredible hiking, including Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail, the Sunshine Coast Trail. Other activities include rock climbing, golfing, diving, fishing, cycling, skiing, snowshoeing and visiting regional and provincial parks sites like Skookumchuck Narrows and the Tetrahedron. Be sure to visit farmer’s markets, dine at the diverse restaurants, browse through museums and art galleries, and check out local festivals and events.
CAN VISITORS EXPERIENCE FIRST NATIONS CULTURE?
The Sunshine Coast is home to the traditional territories of the Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh), Sechelt (Shíshálh), Sliammon (Tla’Amin) and Klahoose First Nations. 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. From artist demonstrations to education about the ecosystems, First Nations residents are ready to share their history and rich culture.
WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO TRAVEL ADVISORS?
A wealth of information can be accessed through Sunshine Coast Tourism and visitor centres in Gibsons, Sechelt, Pender Harbour and Powell River. Visit www. sunshinecoastcanada.com or connect on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
NEED TO KNOW
WHEN TO GO:
The Sunshine Coast is truly a year-round destination with incredible summers, while fall and winter offer up canopied trails for morning walks, tranquil snowshoe and cross-country ski trails, and cozy beachside getaways where visitors can get toasty by a fire and watch the sunset. Visit in April or May for excellent spring season deals.
Proximity to Vancouver is closer than most think – half the distance compared to Vancouver Island – but due to the mountainous terrain, the Coast is only accessible by boat or plane.
The ferry from Vancouver goes to South Coast communities Gibsons, Sechelt, Pender Harbour and Egmont. A 50-minute ferry that connects the south and north coasts is also operated by BC Ferries. Travel is also possible from Comox on Vancouver Island to the northern region.
Clients can take a short, direct flight from YVR to Powell River via Pacific Coastal Airlines and to Sechelt via Harbour Air or Fly! Coastal. From Vancouver Island, both Sunshine Coast Air and Harbour Air operate regular flights from Victoria and Nanaimo to Sechelt.
The Sunshine Coast Connector operates from downtown Vancouver to Powell River via select ferry sailings while BC Transit has regular service between the BC Ferries terminal in Langdale and Halfmoon Bay, including stops in Gibsons, Roberts Creek and Sechelt.
There’s everything from bike-friendly hostels to luxury stays with full-service spas, vacation rental cottages, campgrounds, top-notch bed and breakfasts, and quaint inns. Accommodations are plentiful, but there aren’t any chain hotels.
Highway 101, aka the Sunshine Coast Highway, is the main highway to all communities in the region. BC Transit also provides service on the North Coast.