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Soak in the Sunshine Coast Along BC’s Salish Sea Route – Langdale to Egmont

Indigenous cultures, artistic communities, sea-inspired activities, spectacular coastlines and old growth forests make up British Columbia’s Salish Sea Coastal Route. This blog covers the Sunshine Coast part of the drive, from Gibsons area north to Egmont. Watch for part 2 which will cover Saltery Bay to Lund.

Sechelt Waterfront Photo: Province of BC
Sechelt Waterfront Photo | Province of BC

The Sunshine Coast area is only accessible by ferry, boat or plane providing an island feel experience. It has a mild coastal climate with many sunny days however, visitors should be prepared for wet days. (Boaters and hikers, check the weather before heading out.) Rain or shine, there are plenty of things to do in this incredible part of British Columbia. Fill your days exploring beaches, biking, paddling or fishing. Book a land or sea tour, take in a museum or festival, visit an art gallery or relax at a spa. Fuel up at breweries, cideries, distilleries, farmers’ markets and specialty food shops.

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

Getting There

The 40-minute BC Ferry ride to Langdale on the Sechelt Peninsula departs from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver; along the way take in Coast Mountain views and the spectacular Howe Sound. For travellers heading northwest to Powell River and beyond there’s a ferry between Earl’s Cove and Saltery Bay across the Jervis Inlet and on to the Malaspina Peninsula area of the Sunshine Coast. Total kilometres (not including ferry rides) from the Langdale ferry terminal to the village of Lund is approximately 140 km.

BC Ferries’ Vessel Island Sky Approaches Earl’s Cove | Destination BC/Andrew Strain

Langdale

The Sunshine Coast has more artists per area than any other place in Canada, and Langdale is one of the anchor towns of the Purple Banner Tour, a self-directed studio and gallery tour which runs northwest to Powell River. A purple banner on a property indicates an artist at work, and some of them open their studios to the public. Another crafty event is the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl, which takes place from Langdale to the Earls Cove area every October, with over 175 venues taking part!

Hikers and walkers can stroll the beach at Hopkins Landing or Smith Cove Park, which has a great viewpoint toward Gambier Island. Test your quads along Soames Hill Trail between Langdale and Gibsons, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of nearby islands and the Salish Sea. Mountain bikers should check out Sprockids Park and its 14 km of well-kept trails.

Gibsons Public Art Gallery. Carving is “Welh Áynexw tl’a Swa7ámchet” or “Spirit of Our Ancestors”. Artist: Sinàmkin (Jody Broomfield) of the Squamish Nation | Sunshine Coast Tourism/Shayd Johnson

Gibsons

Perched on a hillside with harbour views, the town of Gibsons is a steppingstone to the Sunshine Coast. Coffee shops, boutiques and art galleries are popular with locals and tourists, and the Gibsons Public Market is open year-round. A must while here is Tidepools Aquarium, a collect-and-release aquarium located inside the market.

History buffs will enjoy the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives (recently named one of the best community museums in BC). For more art there’s the Gibsons Public Art Gallery and The Kube, with its working artists’ studios, gallery and curated retail. The Gibsons Landing Jazz Festival is held each June and is a fun way to kickstart the summer.

Painting the Roberts Creek Mandala Photo: Mary Ann Bell
Painting the Roberts Creek Mandala | Mary Ann Bell

Roberts Creek/Davis Bay Area

There are more than a few fun events in and around Roberts Creek and Davis Bay with farmers’ markets in both communities and Davis Bay’s annual sandcastle competition in July. Creek Daze is an August event that celebrates all that is whimsical in the area, with live music, food and craft vendors and games. Be sure to visit the Roberts Creek General Store and the Roberts Creek Mandala artwork on the way to the pier.

East of Roberts Creek is Kitchen Sink Rescue, with its farm animal sanctuary, and the Sunshine Coast Golf & Country Club. Low tide at Roberts Creek Provincial Park means sand bar exploring, sea star spotting and seal watching.

Sechelt Harbour Sunshine Coast
Sechelt Harbour Sunshine Coast

Sechelt

Sechelt is located on a narrow isthmus that separates Sechelt Inlet from the Salish Sea and is surrounded by forests. It’s a magnificent area to kayak or to take a float plane tour for a bird’s-eye view.

Art is in the air each spring in Sechelt with its Festival of the Performing Arts and in August during the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, a gathering of Canadian writers and readers. October sees Oktoberfest followed by the Sechelt Festival of Lights in early December. 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.

Take in the sights and smells of local flora at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden and wander along the long, sandy beaches in Porpoise Bay Provincial Park.

Halfmoon Bay | @glamouraspirit_:

Halfmoon Bay

Northwest of Pender Harbour on the way to Halfmoon Bay is Sargeant Bay Provincial Park and Trout Lake Picnic Area. South of Halfmoon Bay is Coopers Green Park with its beaches and great diving. Hikes can be had at Halfmoon Bay and Coopers Green trailheads.

Pender Harbour

Surrounded by sea inlets, this community is water-centric and full of fun. The end of May means the annual Pender Harbour May Day, and 2025 will be its 80th year! The Pender Harbour Blues Festival in June and August sees the Harbour Chamber Music Festival and the Pender Harbour Wooden Boat Show, a celebration of marine heritage, ​with historical boats, ​land-based displays and kids’ activities. Winter features the very original Pender Harbour Christmas Boat Parade.

Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast | Destination BC/Albert Normandin

Madeira Park, just south of Pender Harbour, is a hub of marine activity. Check out the many paddle sport and fishing rentals in the area.

Earls Cove to Egmont

At the north end of the Sechelt Peninsula, Earls Cove is home to the ferry terminal location for sailings to Saltery Bay. The ferry links the lower and upper areas of the Sunshine Coast.

Experience a scenic 50-minute (16 km) ride up the Agamemnon Channel, around the northeast tip of sparsely populated Nelson Island and into Jervis Inlet. You will think you’re in Norway with views of rugged mountain slopes and fjords. Don’t be fooled, it’s the Coast Mountain Range!

Whitewater Kayaking Skookumchuk Narrows near Egmont | Destination BC/Danielle Hayes

South of Earls Cove is Ruby Lake and the sandy beaches of Dan Bosch Park. Ruby Lake and nearby Sakinaw Lake have great trout fishing in season and are perfect for freshwater activities, including canoeing portages. The lagoon at Ruby Lake is a rewarding spot for waterfowl and wildlife viewing.

East of Highway 101 on the drive up from Pender Harbour is the large provincial park of Spipiyus, renowned as having the oldest closed-canopy temperate rain forest in Canada. Its hiking trails even offer ocean views.

Egmont is a waterfront village on Secret Bay, 7 km east of the BC Ferries terminal. It’s the trailhead for Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, and has modern marinas offering moorage and supplies for yachts and floatplanes. Boat charters are available here, as are a variety of guided tours, including kayaking. Make sure to visit the Egmont Heritage Centre to learn about the Shíshálh peoples and the history of logging and fishing in the community.

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The Sunshine Coast region is home to the traditional and ancestral territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, shíshálh, Tla’amin, Klahoose and Homalco Nations. Visitors are encouraged to learn about how they can engage in cultural exploration.

Read our suggested drive along the Salish Sea Coastal Route or learn about winter activities on the Sunshine Coast.

For places to camp in British Columbia go to the Camping Map.

Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtags #campinbc #explorebc.

Off the Beaten Track: Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park

For those who don’t mind a drive, Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a – a.k.a. Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park – 100 kilometres north of Terrace, in Northern British Columbia, offers a truly wonderful adventure.

Vetter Falls Phantom Fish, Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park | Kim Walker

Not many places can lay claim to being the home of the most recent and most easily accessible volcanic landscape in British Columbia, being the first provincial park to share management between BC Parks and a First Nation, and being home to the first “modern day” treaty in British Columbia – the “Nisga’a Final Agreement” of 2000. Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park is a fantastic destination for those looking to combine history, culture, geology, and outdoor recreation.

The milky green Tseax River | Kim Walker

Our adventure began at the Terrace Visitor Centre where we picked up a copy of the Nisga’a Auto Tour, a map detailing points of cultural and geological importance. One hour later, we arrived at Lava Lake – the southernmost end of the park. The lake offers a nice day-use area with a boat launch, possibilities for swimming, and a fascinating geological history.

Lava Lake was formed approximately 250 years ago when the Tseax River was dammed by a basalt lava flow. Today the river remains, the milky green water flowing underneath the blanket of lava covering the landscape and creating a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t effect in places where the lava rock has collapsed and the river is again visible.

Walking the Crater Creek Trail | Kim Walker

There are several places along the Auto Tour where you can take short walks to scenic spots on the water. The Beaupre Falls trail is only one kilometre return, and offers beautiful views of a cascading waterfall. A little further up the road, the Vetter Creek trail provides a short walk and a fascinating story about “Phantom Fish” – spawning steelhead that have been swept over a waterfall on the Tseax River only to be trapped when the river disappears underneath the lava rock. These “Phantom Fish,” sometimes visible below the falls, reportedly have large heads and elongated, snake-like bodies. Unfortunately, the “Phantom Fish” were all in hiding the day we were there!

Moving away from the water, the Auto Tour highlights some really interesting volcanic landscapes. The Crater Creek trail travels across “A-A” lava, a type of chunky and sharp lava that covers smoother lava called “Pahoehoe” found below. From the pictures, you might be wondering how the Crater Creek trail got its name since there is no water in sight. As it turns out, the original creek is up to 30 meters below your feet, an underground river flowing through passageways in the lava except during extreme floods, when the water comes bubbling to the surface and pushes the jagged “A-A” lava aside creating the gullies through which the trail now meanders.

Tree Mould Trail | Kim Walker

As you walk the trails in Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park one of the most striking things is the almost moon-like landscape. Nowhere is this more evident than Auto Tour stop number eleven – the Tree Mould trail. If you are anything like me, the concept of a “Tree Mould” is completely foreign. Thanks to the interpretive signage provided by BC Parks, I learned how during a volcanic eruption molten lava often surrounds trees and lights them on fire. In cases where the lava hardens quickly, the tree burns away leaving a hollow tube where the tree used to be. In some cases, an imprint of the tree bark is even left behind as a reminder of what used to be there!

Park Entrance at Lava Lake | Kim Walker

Following our Auto Tour, we set up camp for the night at the 16-site Vetter Creek campsite. The site is really nice and surrounded by forest, a different landscape than much of the park visited during the Auto Tour. Right next to the campground is the park’s Visitor Centre, a beautiful building where you can learn more about Nisga’a culture and history, get maps of the area, and purchase souvenirs.

Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park offers a huge range of cultural, geological, and outdoor recreation opportunities and unfortunately we only had a limited time to explore the area. I definitely feel like I “missed out” on some of the park’s unique features and am hoping to get back there sooner rather than later. Next time, I will make a point of signing up for the three kilometre guided hike to the rim of the Tseax crater. I will also spend more time exploring the four Nisga’a communities located near the park boundaries: Gitlakdamix (New Aiyansh), Gitwinksihlkw (Canyon City), Laxalts’ap (Greenville) and the Nisga’a Museum, and Gingolx (Kincolith).

Nisga'a Memorial
Nisga’a Memorial | Kim Walker

Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park may be off the beaten path, but in my opinion it can’t be beat when it comes to combining culture, history, and geology. You will not be disappointed!

For places to camp in British Columbia go to the Camping Map

Share your BC camping photos using hashtag #campinbc

Published: February 12th, 2020

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