I used to travel to far-flung destinations at every chance I got, but then the pandemic hit and I was forced to sit still in my hometown of Vancouver. With international travel curbed for over a year, I had to find other ways to satisfy my wanderlust. I began researching staycations and stumbled upon the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia.
Stretching 112 miles from Howe Sound to Desolation Sound, this slice of natural paradise is a short ferry ride from Vancouver but feels a world away with secluded beaches, old-growth forests and artsy oceanside villages. I spent three days on the Sunshine Coast (it was glorious) and compiled the ultimate itinerary to inspire you to take the same trip.
Day 1: Gibsons and Roberts Creek
From West Vancouver, board a ferry at Horseshoe Bay and enjoy a 40-minute journey admiring a dazzling backdrop of coastal mountains. After docking, drive 10 minutes to the charming community of Gibsons. Gibsons Landing is where much of the action happens, with the Gibsons Public Market, Sunshine Coast Museum and numerous art galleries lining the harbor. Peruse the shops and have fresh seafood for lunch at Smitty’s Oyster House or Molly’s Reach Restaurant.
Just a 15-minute drive away is Cliff Gilker Park in Roberts Creek. Spend the afternoon hiking easy trails, which lead to waterfalls and Douglas ir trees. What’s great about this woodland park is that it’s covered by a canopy, so you can hike rain or shine. You can also visit nearby Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park, home to one of the highest peaks in the lower Sunshine Coast. If you’re up for it, trek the 7.6-mile Summit Trail for views all the way to Vancouver on a clear day.
Head back to Gibsons and finish your day by discovering the town’s vibrant craft brewery scene. You can indulge in West Coast brews and great pub food at Tapworks, Persephone Brewing Company or The 101 Brewhouse and Distillery. When it’s time for bed, check out several RV parks in and around Gibsons.
Day 2: Sechelt and Halfmoon Bay
Rise and shine with award-winning craft coffee at Beachcomber and then make your way to Sechelt, located 14 miles away on the banks of the Sechelt Inlet. Outdoorsy folks will want to go to the Hidden Groves, a network of trails weaving through ancient rainforests. Nearby Porpoise Bay Provincial Park also offers hiking and canoeing. In town, you’ll find loads of shops, boutiques and galleries to browse. If you’re visiting during the weekend, make sure to stop by the Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market for everything from baked goods to First Nation art. Round out your visit with a seaside stroll along Davis Bay.
Continue up the coast to Halfmoon Bay and park your car at Smuggler’s Cove Marine Provincial Park. Legend has it this area was used to smuggle bootleg liquor into the United States during the prohibition era. Today, it’s an outdoor lover’s paradise with loads of rock faces, sand flats and coastal forest to explore. Halfmoon Bay also has a few beach access areas, such as Welcome Beach and Coopers Green, so lay your towel out and take a dip when the sun’s out.
Halfmoon Bay and neighboring Secret Cove offer all sorts of luxury accommodations ranging from log house cabins to resorts. You’ll find several RV parks in the area.
Day 3: Pender Harbor and Egmont
Hop back in the RV and drive 28 miles north to Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park in Egmont. Twice a day, powerful rapids change the tide and reverse the flow of saltwater, causing a massive difference in water levels between one side of the rapids and the other. Watch this natural spectacle unfold and keep an eye out for thrill-seeking kayakers paddling through whirlpools. Afterward, have a bite to eat at the Skookumchuck Bakery and learn about the area at the Egmont Heritage Center. Both are located near the park entrance.
Conclude your Sunshine Coast adventure in Pender Harbour. The best way to experience this coastal town is from the water, so take a boat tour with SloCat Harbour Tours or head out on a salmon fishing expedition. You can also hike up Pender Hill for sweeping views and enjoy the sunset from Madeira Park.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. Enjoy one last meal at popular Pender Hill restaurants like the Lagoon Restaurant and Aquí Es México. Afterward, drive back to Langdale and catch the ferry back to Vancouver. Capilano River RV Park and Burnaby Cariboo R.V. Park put guests close to all that the city has to offer.
Bonus: Powell River and Lund
Not ready to go home yet? Take a ferry from Earl’s Cove to Saltry Bay and spend an extra day exploring the Sunshine Coast’s northern side. In Powell River, wander through the historic Townsite and look for landmarks like the Patricia Theatre, Townsite Brewing and the Powell River Historical Museum. Lund acts as the gateway to Desolation Sound, BC’s largest marine park, offering swimming, diving and fishing opportunities.
To cross into Canada from the United States, American tourists must be fully vaccinated for at least two weeks. Vaccinated tourists must test negative for COVID-19 before traveling (via PCR test), carry hard copies of their vaccination records and upload their documents to the ArriveCAN app or website.