The South Coast
The adventures along the Sunshine Coast continue... if you missed the last couple of posts, I tell you how to get to this area in the post about Robert's Creek. To shamelessly self-quote: "Travellers along the Sunshine Coast highway will enjoy discovering great communities, stunning natural vistas, and a laid-back vibe. If you're looking for a quiet cottage, healing wellness resort, campsite, marina or luxurious beach accommodations; if you enjoy biking, boating, fishing, SCUBA diving, artisan communities, or beach life; the Sunshine Coast has it all yet feels a million miles away from the urban bustle."
The Sunshine Coast is divided geographically by the Jervis Inlet. The major towns on the South Coast are Gibsons and Sechelt, with Powell River on the North Coast. Between these are many small towns and communities to explore for a hour or to linger longer. Most are located on the west coast of the peninsula with few communities in the remote areas hugging Sechelt Inlet to the east of the highway. Today's post will highlight just a few places along the South Coast.
The highway generally follows the coastline to the Sunshine Coast Trailhead at the northern tip of the North Coast and includes a 50-minute ferry ride between Earl's Cove and Saltery Bay that leads into Powell River and beyond. The South Coast portion is about 80 km.
The entire highway is only 139 km long but it will not be a speedy journey. On both coasts, the road is winding and has many sharp turns. It's crucial to pay attention to the speed signs advising slower speeds. Logging trucks lumber through the turns and chug slowly up steep hills as impatient drivers line up behind them waiting for the next passing lane. It is very common to see deer and the occasional bear crossing the road so be alert! note: Ferry fees are collected at Horseshoe Bay and Saltery Bay. One fare covers both ferries. If you stay on the South Coast and return via the Langdale ferry, your return voyage is included.
Upon arriving at the Langdale Ferry Terminal, it's a 10-minute drive north along the Sunshine Coast Highway to the town of Gibsons (see last week's post), There is also public bus service and taxis (you may have to call for one) available. Robert's Creek is about half-way between Gibsons and Sechelt. Davis Bay A popular beachfront holiday spot about 5 minutes south of Sechelt is Davis Bay. The long pebbled beach with a walking path and a large fishing pier which attracts families, swimmers, windsurfers, beachcombers and fishers. There are two SCUBA diving sites in the area for experienced divers. Diving instruction is available for those wanting to learn and are planning on lingering in the area
There's guesthouses, hotels, and a few retail shops and restaurants. When the tide is low, a sandy beach offers a great chance to check out little crabs and other marine life or for kids to make a sandcastle. This is also the trailhead for the Chapman Creek Trail, with a hatchery and waterfall. I enjoyed coffee and lunch here several times at Pier 17.
Sechelt Sechelt is about twice the size of Gibsons and sits atop a narrow isthmus between the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) and Sechelt Inlet (aka Inland Sea). This is the seaplane hub for flights from Vancouver and Nanaimo as well as regular air services to Victoria. Sechelt is where more adventurous travellers leave the highway as they seek adventures along the Sechelt, Salmon, and Narrows Inlets.
The name comes from an adaptation of the name of the Shishalh people, the traditional inhabitants of the area and a modern self-governing Indigenous community. The first Europeans arrived in the mid-a800s when Catholic priests established a mission. By the 1880s Sechelt was a logging and fishing town. Today the main industries are tourism and the deep sea terminal and ship loader located in Sechelt Bay.
The main retail area is along Cowrie Street. On summer Saturdays, the street hosts a large farm and artisan market. Retailers along the street pull their goods out along the sidewalks.
The beach is pebbles rather than the stones more common along this coast and the waters are warm. There is a well-used public wharf for swimming and fishing.
The paved garden walkway along the beach is well-shaded and includes many benches to sit and admire the view during the day. This is a prime location to enjoy some spectacular sunsets.
Egmont & the Skookumchuck Narrows Just before arriving at the Earl's Cove Ferry Terminal is the turn-off to Egmont, a small village located in Sechelt Inlet. The area has hundreds of islands and little coves and bays to explore and is a top destination for kayakers and wild water seekers of all kinds. For those without their own equipment (or confidence), there are several boat operators who offer a variety of tours. To see the Skookumchuck Narrows from land, visitors can hike in through the Skookumchuck Provincial Park.
This fun word comes from the Chinook language and means "strong water'. The ocean inlet narrows here, creating strong currents and powerful rapids. Kayakers and wild water seekers of all kinds find adventures riding the tides and waves.
Twice a day, as the tide turns, the water changes directions causing even stronger water flow. On the incoming flood tide, the rapids create a standing wave. On the ebb tide, the water eddies and whirlpools swirl. The only time boats are allowed to enter this passage is the very short time between tides when the water calm. To time your visit to see the tide of your choice, consult a tide chart.
For those who wish to walk into the Provincial Park, the trail begins across the street from the Egmont Museum (free parking) and goes through a residential area. In this first section, there is a bakery where you can grab a coffee, pastry, and bottled water, if you've forgotten your water bottle.
Once in the old-growth forest of the Provincial Park, the 8km in-and-out trail is rated as easy-moderate. The trail includes some interpretive signs that explain the history and the ecosystem in the park.
Midway along the trail is beautiful and unspoiled Brown Lake. Photographers and bird nerds may want to seriously consider bringing a big telephoto lens.
There are two different viewing areas. A sign where the trail splits between Roland Point and North Point. Roland Point is the best spot for watching the flood (high) tide from a higher vantage point. There is an outhouse close to the junction on the left side of the Roland Point trail.
The left fork is a short, easy path to North Point. This higher elevation viewpoint makes it best for viewing the whirlpools on an ebb tide. If you're lucky, one of the two benches will be free or just sit right on the flat rock. In the Narrows are some forested islands. On the opposite shore is a gravel mine. There is a safety fence along the cliff edge but watch young children and pets carefully.
Roland Point is a rougher path that leads right down to the water before crossing a creek and moving back up a cliff. Along this path, you'll find tide pools full of starfish and anemones.
After returning back down trail and returning to BC Hwy 101, Earl's Cove is a short distance down the road. This ferry route is the "main road" to the North Coast and includes absolutely stunning scenery.
There are other communities well-worth exploring along this route, including Halfmoon Bay, Secret Cove, and Pender Harbour. There are hundreds of trails, waterways, and beaches. Whether you looking for an outdoor adventurer or a restorative vacation, you are sure to find exactly what you are looking for on the South Coast of British Columbia's Sunshine Coast.
Thanks for meandering with me! Do you have some recommendations for the South Coast? Is there a topic you'd like me to cover? Share your ideas, thoughts, and questions in the comments. Send the link to a friend! Become a member to be notified of new content, get access to our member's only forum, and a monthly newsletter.