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Winter Activities On British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast

From the artistic community of Gibsons northeast to the harbour village of Lund, mountains meet the sea along the Sunshine Coast, a mainland area uniquely only accessible by ferry, boat or plane. Winters are typically mild and range from 2 to 10ºC (20 to 50°F) during the day. In lower elevations, rains keep the flora and forests lush, while higher areas see snow.

There’s plenty to do both inside and out if you’re RVing here in the winter. Make sure to get out on the water and head up some slopes. You will be rewarded with majestic views and an excellent chance of seeing animals in their natural environment.

Beach walks and beachcombing make for enjoyable outings in the off-season | Sunshine Coast Tourism/Shayd Johnson

Arts, Shops and Spas

This scenic and inspiring region boasts a thriving art community with more artists per capita than any other area in Canada. The Purple Banner Tour is a self-directed studio and gallery tour. Purple flags along the Sunshine Coast Highway and local streets from Langdale to Lund indicate galleries or artists’ studios, many of which are open to the public. (Visitation appointments may be necessary.) Sunshine Coast Art Tours combines visits to some tasting rooms with a majestic flight over Sechelt Inlet. There are also many eclectic shops and boutiques to explore that sell locally produced and handmade items.

Douglas Bevans of Sunshine Coast Art Tours and guests after an enjoyable visit to Motoko’s Fine Art Gallery in Garden Bay | Sunshine Coast Tourism/Shayd Johnson 

The town of Gibsons on the shores of Howe Sound has a collection of fine galleries, clothing and giftware shops and bookstores. Molly’s Lane and Marine Drive are some streets to check out, as are the Gibsons Public Art Gallery and the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives. The Kube has working artist studios, an art gallery and curated retail. 

In Sechelt the Raven’s Cry Theatre shows movies and hosts events and the shíshálh Nation tems swiya Museum has a large collection of artifacts including cedar baskets and ancient stone tools.

For a different experience visit the collection of yurts in Madeira Park at Fibre Works Studio & Gallery, a creative space for art exhibits and workshops. The Sunshine Coast also has funky thrift and vintage shops and there are craft fairs and year-round and seasonal markets, including the Gibsons Public Market, the Roberts Creek Community Farm Market and Powell River’s Townsite Public Market. Sechelt has a winter market in the pre-Christmas season and the Powell River Community Resource Center hosts the Uptown Winter Market.

There are fun and practical general stores, including one at Roberts Creek and Halfmoon Bay. Madeira Park is the main shopping centre for the Pender Harbour region.

Historic Powell River has an educational forestry museum and, in late winter, hosts the Powell River Film Festival in the classic Patricia Theatre, Canada’s oldest continuously running cinema. The townsite has over 400 buildings dating to the original 1910 town plan and, in 1995, was designated as a National Historic District of Canada. Stroll around for yourself or book a heritage walking tour. There’s also the unique opportunity to take in an Indigenous experience, such as the Tla’amin Nation Cultural Tours where you can meet skilled craftspeople and learn about traditional practices.

Enjoying the Spa and Serenity Garden at Painted Boat Resort & Marina in Pender Harbour | Sunshine Coast Tourism/Shayd Johnson

Of course, it’s not the West Coast without some zen spa treatments. A few to visit are Painted Boat Resort Spa in Madeira Park, with its Canadian Wilderness Scrub, Seabreeze Spa in Halfmoon Bay, Shades of Jade in Roberts Creek and Beyond Bliss in Powell River.

Click here for the Sunshine Coast Tourism events calendar.

Coffee Culture, Drinks and Dining

A dedicated coffee culture thrives in the Sunshine Coast. For mojo, pastries, brunch and more check out:

Black Bean Cafe, Beachcomber Coffee Company and Wheatberries Bakery in Gibsons

Gumboot Café, Roberts Creek

Basted Baker and Strait Coffee in Sechelt

Skookumchuck Café and Bakery, amongst the trees in Egmont

Base Camp Coffee, 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters and Bakery, River City Coffee Roasters and Edie Rae’s Café at the Old Courthouse Inn, all in Powell River.

Nancy’s Bakery, Lund (popular for its blackberry cinnamon buns).

Tacos and margaritas at Mexican and Latin influenced Costa del Sol in Powell River | Sunshine Coast Tourism/Shayd Johnson

Drinks and dining options range from sustainable restaurants and bistros to distilleries and taphouses. Here are a few to sample:

Drift Café and Bistro for West Coast French and Molly’s Reach diner in Gibsons; a regular setting in The Beachcombers, a CBC TV series.

Tap Works Brewing Company, The 101 Brewhouse & Distillery, Banditry Cider, Persephone Brewing Company and farm and Sunday Cider, all Gibsons area

Bruinwood Estate Distillery and Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse, Roberts Creek

Persephone Brewing Company in Gibsons Photo: BC Ale Trail
Persephone Brewing Company in Gibsons | BC Ale Trail

The Backeddy Pub in Egmont for Pacific Northwest fare with inlet views

Townsite Brewing for craft beer, Monks on Marine for a steak and Guinness pie and Costa Del Sol for Latin cuisine, all Powell River

The Bricker Cider Company and TwentyTwo Taphouse in Sechelt. Also, El Segundo for Pacific tropical fusion and Jamar Canteen for Lebanese food and cooking demos. For comfort food try the Wobbly Canoe or the Gourmet Girl.

You can always refer to the BC Ale Trail for self-guided itineraries along the Sunshine Coast. Many establishments are dog friendly.

Outdoor Activities and Tours

When visiting the Sunshine Coast in winter you’ll need waterproof gear and to have extra clothing on hand. Plan any hikes—particularly in the off-season—and respect trail rules and any closures.

Wildlife such as elk, deer and coyotes are active year-round and blue herons and bald eagles can be easily spotted. Along the coast you will see seals and even sea lions, and molluscs and sea anemones in tidal pools. Guided wildlife tours are recommended for safety and best viewing. If you’re in Gibsons on a weekend the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre may be of interest.

The winter recreation of Dakota Ridge (max elevation 1,200 m) will have you looking up and out over mountains, islands and inlets | Brayden Hall @braybraywoowoo

Popular hikes and hiking areas include:

Soames Hill Park and “The Knob”, Gibsons, for sea and island views

Iris Griffith Wetlands Park, Baker Beach Park and Mount Daniel/Garden Bay Marine Provincial Park near Madeira Park

Pender Hill Park and beachcombing and birdwatching around Pender Harbour

Cliff Gilker Park, Roberts Creek

Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park and trails around Halfmoon Bay

Suncoaster Trail and Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park near Egmont—witness the spectacular tidal changes of the Sechelt Rapids

Sechelt area: Wakefield Road Beach, Kinnikinnik Park, Porpoise Bay Provincial Park and the lush forest of Hidden Groves

Willingdon Beach Trail, Powell River

Lund and area. Explore nearby marine parks, including Desolation Sound (by boat) and the Sunshine Coast Trail, Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail.

Creek areas and falls to visit in the winter are: Cliff Gilker ParkLangdale FallsHomesite CreekKelly Falls, Eagle Falls, David Lam Falls and Chapman Creek Falls.

Cliff Gilker Park, Roberts Creek | Chris Thorn Photography

Inland from Sechelt, winter recreation fans enjoy the cross-country ski and snowshoe trails at Dakota Ridge. (Alpha Adventures organizes tours here.) The ski trails are well groomed and the snowshoe trails vary in difficulty. Just north are the trails in and around Tetrahedron, a wonderful provincial park for backcountry snowshoeing. Powell River is home to Knuckleheads, a sub-alpine area popular for snowmobiling and snowshoeing.

Tours are a great way to get out and about and experience the Sunshine Coast from a local’s perspective. Sunshine Coast Tours has a boating day trip to Princess Louisa Inlet (where you can see Chatterbox Falls); you can also charter a floatplane to view this hidden gem. Harbour Air Seaplanes offers scenic flights from Sechelt. Winter kayak or go on a boat tour of the Halfmoon Bay or Pender Harbour areas; various companies offer rentals and tours. Also, Sunshine Coast Shuttles out of Powell River drives people to/from the Sunshine Coast Trail and offers some supply services.

If you fish the Sunshine Coast is a dream come true, with its inland lakes and streams, meandering coastline and the Salish Sea. The Powell River area is famous for Chinook salmon and a winter fishing charter is an unforgettable adventure. Companies include OTB Charters (Pender Harbour) and Powell River Sportfishing and Coho Point Fishing Charters. All anglers in BC must obtain separate licences to fish in tidal (salt) water and/or freshwater.

NB: Visitor Information Centres across the Sunshine Coast may have shortened business hours in the winter.

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Sunshine Coast Tourism reminds locals and visitors that they’ re on the traditional territories of the Tla’amin, Klahoose, shíshálh, Skwxwú7mesh, and Homalco Nations”. Its Know Before You Go webpage has details on safe, responsible and respectful travel.

Share your BC travel and camping pictures using hashtag #campinbc #exploreBC #bcnice #sunshinecoastbc

Published: February 2nd, 2022

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Marney Carmichael by Marney Carmichael

Marney Carmichael is a freelance journalist originally from Northern Ontario. She has lived and worked in seven countries and spent many years exploring and snowboarding in BC. She loves walking with her hound dogs and is currently rediscovering Canada with her family.