I just can’t figure out why British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast isn’t better known to tourists.
It’s blessed with natural beauty in the form of rugged beaches and lush rainforest, the towns are charming, the people are super friendly and welcoming, there is so much to do, and it is within day tripping distance from Vancouver.
It just doesn’t make sense.
The Sunshine Coast BC comprises a string of towns on a secluded stretch of coastline that is carved out with secluded bays and inlets. Sandwiched between the Strait of Georgia and the formidable Coast mountains, the Sunshine Coast can only be reached by sea plane or ferry from Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
Despite being so close to the big city, the Sunshine Coast BC retains a very laid-back vibe which has attracted a lot of disillusioned city dwellers craving the simple life to move there. Can’t say I blame them.
I first visited the Sunshine Coast BC in 2010 when I was travelling through the US and Canada for nine weeks. I had just said goodbye to Trav on Vancouver Island and had a couple of days before I was meeting up with my Dad in Seattle.
I had heard a bit about the Sunshine Coast from when we lived in Vancouver in 2009 and as we had never made it there, I thought it would be the perfect place to spend a couple of days.
Turns out it was. I ended up falling for the Sunshine Coast, and hard.
In my short two day visit I explored the small community of Roberts Creek by bike and experienced the local CreekDaze festival, I hiked in local Provincial Parks, and wandered the seaside town of Gibsons. I loved it all. Two days was simply not enough. I have been plotting a return ever since.
It wasn’t in my plans to re-visit the Sunshine Coast BC on this trip but I had found myself trying to fit it into my already packed schedule. But it didn’t seem possible until my plan to do a Help Exchange in Alaska fell through. Suddenly I had two weeks to play with until I would be starting a newly arranged Help Exchange placement in the Rockies.
I guess destiny stepped in. I was meant to return to the Sunshine Coast BC, and sooner rather than later.
Staying at Up the Creek Backpackers was a big part of why I loved the Sunshine Coast so much the first time around so it was a no-brainer to stay there again. Located in the small community of Roberts Creek, my favourite town on the Sunshine Coast BC, Up the Creek is one of those rare hostels where you instantly feel like you have come home.
Located on a hill above Roberts Creek town centre (if you could call it that), Up the Creek is small and cosy with a large common area, well-equipped guest kitchen and a deck with hammocks for lounging in. It feels a lot more like a well-loved home than a backpackers and therein lies its charm. I was given the exact same bed in the same dorm that I was in five years ago. It gave me major deja-vu. It was great.
Up the Creek attracts a wide range of guests including young families and older travellers, mainly due to the location as people certainly do not come to Roberts Creek to party. During my time there I befriended a blogging couple from Scotland, a French aspiring artist, a middle aged male yoga teacher, a friendly guy from Vancouver and his teenage son and the owner of the hostel himself, Martin.
I think that the best kind of hostels have a diversity of guests. In my opinion it’s a lot more fun when you get the chance to meet people of different ages and backgrounds that are all in different stages of their lives. There is so much you can learn from other people and the more diverse the better.
Nestled in close proximity to the sea and surrounded by the beautiful temperate rainforest that I can’t seem to get enough of, Roberts Creek could well be one of Canada’s most pretty towns.
But it isn’t just pretty, Roberts Creek is home to a vibrant community of ageing hippies, back to landers, young families and travellers that have found their perfect base to settle down. The community spirit is palpable with a notice board outside the General Store crowded with flyers advertising local yoga classes and live music.
This alternative haven is full of charm with it’s attractive red wooden shops including the best restaurant on the coast: The Gumboot. This place serves up some killer meals and the staff are so friendly. There is also a cafe of the same name that does great coffee and baked goods.
I loved that hardly anything had changed in Roberts Creek during my five year gap between visits. It is still quiet and friendly. It is still beautiful and delightfully under-developed. And I have a feeling it will stay that way, especially if the locals have anything to do with it.
On this trip I explored more of the Sunshine Coast BC but my favourite memories were from the time I spent in Roberts Creek. Relaxing in the sunshine on the deck of Up the Creek, browsing and sampling the local products at the small but popular Farmers Market, swimming in the clear waters of the Strait of Georgia at Marlene beach, watching the sunset from the walkable pier.
I was also lucky enough to be in Roberts Creek for a meteorite shower. Usually I only find out about things like this after they have happened but for once I actually had warning and a couple of us ended up getting up at 2.30am to go down to the pier to watch it. We gazed up at the night sky and watched the meteorites in wonder for two hours, seeing an average of one per minute.
Roberts Creek was such a great place to experience it as there is little light pollution. It was pretty special and worth being tired the whole next day for.
This little town really grew on me, even more so this time around. Looking back I realise I hardly took any photos of Roberts Creek and the hostel. I must have been too busy having fun.
Up the Creek has free loaner bikes for guests so I took one for a spin to the nearby blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Davis Bay. The ride itself was along the forested highway, mainly on a daisy lined bike path that parallels the road. There’s nothing like riding a bike through natural surroundings on a sunny summer’s day.
Blessed with a beautiful long rocky beach, Davis Bay is the perfect spot for a swim and to sit with a book. I grabbed some fresh cherries from a local fruit vendor and parked myself on a bench to while away some time in the sun. Lunch was delicious fish tacos from a food truck that was pulled up in front of the beach. It was a simple day out but it was a goodie.
Sechelt is the biggest town on the Sunshine Coast BC, and as I missed it the first time around I made sure to get there this time. The downtown itself was nothing special in my opinion. It lacked the charm of nearby GIbsons and Roberts Creek, although I had an awesome lunch of blue cheese and pear pizza with corn chowder at Ty’s Fine Foods and Bistro.
I browsed the shops before heading down to the beach which ended up being my favourite part of Sechelt. There is a selection of totem poles at the southern end of the beach that are worth checking out.
From Sechelt I walked in the sweltering heat the four kilometres to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park on the edge of Sechelt Inlet. This was probably not my brightest idea. My God it was hot and I didn’t have any water with me. The last section I walked along the quiet coastline, dodging boggy sections along the way.
Swimming at the white sand beach backed by the second-growth forest of the Provincial Park was worth the long, hot walk. Luckily I didn’t have to walk the whole way back, a friendly local took pity on me and gave me a lift back into town.
My last day on the Sunshine Coast was probably my favourite and turned out to be completely different than I had planned. Originally I was going to head back to Gibsons but instead I was invited by fellow backpackers Kevin and his son Matthias to come with them to see the Skookumchuck Narrows rapids.
The Skookumchuck Narrows forms the entrance to Sechelt Inlet and the rapids are created by 200 billion gallons of sea water being forced through the narrows on each tide. It is one of the fastest tidal rapids in the world. And I had never even heard of it.
We drove the hour north to Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park near the small settlement of Egmont, timing it to get there for the incoming tide.
After parking up, it was a 45 minute hike through the quiet of a morning forest to the viewpoint over the rapids. They were certainly impressive with many eddies and whirlpools that could suck a person down in a second if you were unfortunate enough to fall in.
Kayakers are known to ride the rapids but there weren’t any around during the hour we were there. In fact, we were also the only people at the viewpoint for the first twenty minutes until others slowly trickled in.
The West Coast Wilderness Lodge is located nearby and we went in for a peek before leaving Egmont. If I come back to the coast next time with significantly more money, I know where I am staying!
On the way back to Roberts Creek we stopped at the sublime Ruby Lake, one of many lakes that dot the interior of the Sunshine Coast BC making lake swimming a popular summer activity in these parts. If I was only going to see one lake on this trip then I was glad it was Ruby Lake.
With a small white sand beach and super clear water that was just cold enough to be refreshing but warm enough to stay in for ages, Ruby Lake was a great spot to spend a couple of blissful hours.
And then my time on the Sunshine Coast was over, all too soon. I could have stayed for weeks.
This visit re-affirmed my love for the understated charms of the Sunshine Coast BC, an overlooked region that is truly blessed with abundant natural beauty and locals so friendly that you will never want to leave.
I will be back, and sooner rather than later.
Have you been to the Sunshine Coast? Did you love it as much as me?