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

Winter Activities On British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast for Snowbird RVers

From the artistic community of Gibsons 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, cideries and breweries. Here are a few to sample:

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 Creek, Kelly Falls and  David Lam Falls in Blackwater Creek.

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.

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Powell River, British Columbia, Insulated by Nature

Two ferries from the lower Mainland or one from Vancouver Island to get to Powell River could leave you feeling isolated, but locals prefer to think of it as being insulated from the busy world and high crime.  Powell River, situated on the side of a mountain is wrapped in forest, insulated by nature. With hundreds of lakes behind it and the ocean at its feet, locals have the best of both worlds.

Totem at Viewpoint into Town

Powell River and area population (Lund, Texada, Savary Island) is about 20,000.  There are box stores, independent stores and eateries covering a wide range of tastes. At the south end of Powell River sit by the sea at “Seasider Bistro & Wine Bar” or at the north end closer to Lund enjoy a spectacular view of Okeover Inlet at “Laughing Oyster Restaurant.” It’s open April to October. If you want to enjoy a meal “on” the water “The Boardwalk in Lund” has gluten free cooking while a golden sun sets into the ocean.

Lund is either the beginning or the end of Highway 101 depending on who you ask. It once was a fishing village now a tourist destination for those taking off for Savary Island or other islands. “Historic Lund Hotel” was originally built in 1895, now owned by Tla’amin Nation. It has 31 rooms, a store, restaurant, pub, laundromat, and Tug Uhm Art Gallery. Camp at “Sunlund By-The-Sea Campground & Cabin,” a 5 minute walk to the hotel and “downtown” Lund. Sunlund offers full facilities; pets are welcome, laundromat and showers surrounded by forest. What a setting to wake up in before going to Nancy’s Bakery for one of their famous blackberry cinnamon buns. Fuel up before you leave Powell River. There isn’t a service station in Lund.

Lund Hotel

If you’re ready for a hike try the Sunshine Coast Trail. At 180 km. with 13 huts it’s the longest free hut-to-hut trail in Canada. Pick up part of it at “Inland Lake Provincial Park” with spacious campsites among the trees. It has a 13 km wheelchair accessible trail around the lake. The road to the park is a good gravel road about 20 mins from Powell River. It’s open year-round with free camping from mid-September to mid-May.

Inland Lake Provincial Park
Inland Lake Provincial Park

Is canoeing your desire? The Canoe Route is 57 km long taking you through 8 lakes with portages.

We live in Powell River but our favorite campground is downtown by the ocean. “Willingdon Beach Campground” has 81 sites, some full-service, some beside the beach, others snugged under the trees. An easy walking trail joins it through towering cedar and Douglas fir where pesky squirrels beg for peanuts. At one time it was the rail bed for bringing logs down from the lake to the log dump on the beach. Old logging equipment rests along the trail.  It’s only 5 minutes from Westview Ferry terminal to Texada Island or Vancouver Island.

Willingdon Beach Campground
Willingdon Beach Campground

Historic Powell River Townsite was where it all started. Dr. Israel Wood Powell discovered the area in 1881 and established logging camps but thousands of years before him it was home to Tla’amin First Nations.  A pulp and paper mill was built 1910- 1912 and went on to become the largest newsprint mill in the world. The company built a lovely town based on the English Garden plan. Take a walk around the old homes; tour Dr. Henderson’s home and when you’re tuckered out stop at “Townsite Brewery.” From a 1931 building the “Townsite Market” has grown with individual stores selling produce, unique products from hand-made chocolates to children’s clothes and more. “The Old Courthouse Inn” owners decorated each room in an antique theme and serve delicious meals in the cozy café.  Go to the movies at the Patricia Theatre, the longest running theatre in Canada. In 1995 the federal government proclaimed this area a National Historic District.

Lund Shellfish Festival, Darren Bolton Prawn Fisherman
Lund Shellfish Festival, Darren Bolton Prawn Fisherman

If it’s culture you want, Powell River has it every month of the year. In August they shut down Highway 101/Marine Drive to celebrate the blackberry at the Blackberry Festival. Lund is famous for their Shellfish Festival in May. Every 2 years International Choral Fest Kathaumixw fills the air with music for five days. For a complete list of all that is happening in the area stop by the Powell River Visitor’s Information Centre, 4760 Joyce Ave. They have a gift store and WIFI.

There is just too much to tell in a short period of time. You’ll just have to discover how Powell River is insulated by nature for yourself. Warning: People have been known to come for a visit and 30 years later they are still here.

If this area interests you, check out our drive:
Salish Sea Route

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For Camping and RV parks in the area and elsewhere in BC go to the camping map.

Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc, #explorebc

It’s always a great day to #campinbc

Published: May 23rd, 2019

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