The Sunshine Coast is surprisingly close to downtown Vancouver. Just a 40 minute ferry across from Horseshoe Bay and you’re on the Sunshine Coast where everything moves a little slower and there are lakes and provincial parks all over the place.
We spent our Easter weekend exploring the Sunshine Coast and I’m sure we’ll be back for more exploring since it’s so easy to get to from Vancouver.
Another bonus is that it’s not only quicker, but so much cheaper to get there than Vancouver Island. Win win!
If you’re planning a trip there, here’s what to do on the Sunshine Coast in BC.
About BC’s Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast runs for 180km and can be split into two parts. There’s the first part (the Lower Sunshine Coast) from Gibsons (where the ferry from Horseshoe Bay dock) to Earls Cove. This is the section we explored during our three day Easter weekend.
Then there’s the second part from Saltery Bay to Lund. The second half is perhaps even more quiet than the first since it requires a second ferry to get there.
Whilst the Sunshine Coast is part of the BC mainland you can’t drive there and must get a ferry or place. You could easily explore the whole of the Sunshine Coast in a three day weekend, we took things slower so that we could hike and kayak.
What to do on the Sunshine Coast
Hiking & outdoors activities on the Sunshine Coast
There is such much hiking to be done on the Sunshine Coast. Here are some of the best places for outdoors adventures.
Soames Hill is a popular, and relatively easy, hike right near where the ferry drops you off at Gibsons. The hikes starts off pretty flat but then you’ll come across several flights of stairs as you make your final climb up to Soames Hill. Here you’ll be greeted with incredible views of Howe Sound out to Bowen Island, Keats Island and the BC mainland.
Further north on the Sunshine Coast is Pender Hill. This is another relatively short and easy hike. From the summit you’ll be able to see out towards Vancouver Island but the best part of the view is looking down onto Hotel Lake.
Skookumchuck Narrows should be on everyone’s list of things to do on the Sunshine Coast. Twice a day the narrows turn into the perfect spot for kayakers to take on the rapids which sometimes exceed 9ft in height!
The water moves incredibly fast and it’s well worth making the easy, forested 4km out to this spot!
Kayaking on Sakinaw Lake
There’s an abundance of lakes to visit on the Sunshine Coast but one of our favourites ended up being Sakinaw Lake. We pushed our kayaks onto the lake and paddled around before finding a spot for a picnic.
There are many incredible houses along the shore and I imagine the lake gets pretty busy during summer. But, on Easter weekend we only saw two other people out on the lake.
Smugglers Cove Marine Park
Smugglers Cove Marine Park, so called because smugglers used to go through here during Prohibition, is absolutely beautiful.
Aim to get there early so that you have the park mostly to yourself. Walk around the park and take in the beautiful cove’s views and silence.
Swimming at Ruby Lake
Ruby Lake has a small beach area which makes it popular with people wanting to swim in lakes on the Sunshine Coast. It’s also incredibly beautiful at sunset. You’ll see why it’s called Ruby Lake anyway!
Drive slowly along the coast and pull in when you see ‘Beach Access’ signs
When we return to the Sunshine Coast I’m planning to drive slower and pull over at some of the numerous beach access points along the road. I bet there are some fantastic hidden gems!
Willow Point Beach Access
We found this spot when looking for somewhere to camp and ended up walking around this little sandbar. It’s not big by any means but it’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset!
Trail running & waterfall chasing at Cliff Gilker Park
On the last day of our stay I went for a run around Cliff Gilker Park. There are several short and easy trails through the park and so many waterfalls! It’s great fun to explore for an hour or so.
This beach is as you first come into Gibsons from the east. There’s a walkway along side it and it’s a good place to watch boats coming and going.
Mount Elphinstone Provincial Park
Mount Elphinstone is one of the highest peaks (1260m) on the lower Sunshine Coast. You climb up through second growth forest and are then greeted by views once you’re about three quarters of the way to the top. At the summit you can see all the way over to Vancouver on a clear day!
Food and drink on the Sunshine Coast
Gibsons Public Market
Gibsons Public Market is a little off the main road in Gibsons but worth visiting. It’s full of delicious foodie treats and also has an small aquarium on the upper floor too.
Gibsons Tapworks is a microbrewery that sells all kinds of ales and IPAs. They also hold plenty of events during the week to bring the local community together. There are trivia nights, live music evenings and on Tuesdays they’ll refill your growler for just $11!
Strait Coffee roast their own beans and serve them with delicious sandwiches, wraps and more at their cafe. Well worth stopping in for breakfast, lunch or both!
The Wobbly Canoe in Davis Bay
The Wobbly Canoe is a bit of a renowned stop on the lower Sunshine Coast. They serve locally sourced food along with craft beers and they do it well. Pop in for classics and sharing plates.
The Basted Baker in Sechelt
A super popular breakfast and brunch spot, The Basted Baker makes delicious eggs Benedict on biscuits (not the English version of a biscuit!). Get there early to get a seat!
The Bricker Cider Company
If you’re more of a cider lover than a beer lover then head over to The Bricker Cider Company. They make some delicious sounding ciders such as Peaches & Cream and Cherry.
Unfortunately they were closed when we wanted to visit but I’m sure we’ll go there someday soon!
Mad Park Bistro
We stopped here for lunch on our drive back down to Gibsons and loved the relaxed atmosphere of Mad Park Bistro. We had the dragon bowl and the pasta and both were delicious!
Sunset drinks at Lighthouse Marine Pub
There aren’t many places that can beat the view from the terrace of the Lighthouse Marine Pub. It’s the ideal spot to watch the sun setting with a drink!
Persephone Brewing in Gibsons have a great reputation for beer in Vancouver. Their brewing is on a working farm and there’s plenty of space to sit outside with your growler and eat some fresh baked pizza from their pizza oven. Or, if you’re after a tasting flight, sit indoors and play some games with friends.
How to get to the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver
The easiest and cheapest way is to take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay. BC Ferries depart from Horseshoe Bay throughout the day, every day and the crossing takes just 40 minutes.
Book in advance online (especially if you’re planning to visit the Sunshine Coast on a long weekend).
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