British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is only 40 minutes by ferry from Vancouver, but it feels worlds apart. The quiet coastline is dotted with cute towns, beautiful beaches, gorgeous hiking trails, and lots of great boutiques and cafes. In this post, I’ve got a big list of all the best things to do on the Sunshine Coast, BC.
Over the years, I’ve made numerous trips to the Sunshine Coast to go hiking, camping, and snowshoeing. And I actually lived in Gibsons for five months in 2020/21. So I’ve got lots of locals insider info including where to stay, what to eat, and what to see on the Sunshine Coast.
Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission with no extra cost to you. Thanks -Taryn
Sunshine Coast Basics
Where is the Sunshine Coast?
British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast is a short ferry ride from Vancouver. Although you have to take a boat to get there, it’s not on an island (and locals will get a bit cranky if you suggest it is.) The Sunshine Coast is on the mainland, but it doesn’t have a road connection to the highway system since there are several huge fjords in the way.
The Sunshine Coast region stretches along the side of the Strait of Georgia and is bounded by Howe Sound in the south and Desolation Sound in the north. Jervis Inlet splits the coast in the middle – there’s a small ferry to make the connection between the two parts of the coast.
The towns of Sechelt and Gibsons are on the South Sunshine Coast, along with the villages of Roberts Creek, Halfmoon Bay, and Pender Harbour. You’ll find the town of Powell River on the North Sunshine Coast along with several small hamlets.
Pro tip: There is also a very famous region called the Sunshine Coast in the Australian state of Queensland. Be careful when googling things about the Sunshine Coast, BC to make sure you aren’t getting results for Australia!
Sunshine Coast, BC Map
I made a custom google map for you that includes everything I mention in this post. Enjoy! This map of the Sunshine Coast is all you’ll need for your trip.
How to Get to the Sunshine Coast
There are two main ways to get to the Sunshine Coast: ferry or fly. Several companies offer scheduled floatplane service to Sechelt and Powell River from Vancouver and Victoria.
But the most common way to get to the Sunshine Coast is to take a ferry. From Vancouver, it’s a quick 45-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal to Langdale on the South Sunshine Coast. From Vancouver Island, the ferry from Comox to Powell River takes 1.5 hours.
You can walk on to the ferry as a foot passenger or take your car. If you’re going by car, I recommend making a reservation with BC Ferries as it can get booked up, especially on summer weekends.
How to get around on the Sunshine Coast
Highway 101 stretches from the south end of the Sunshine Coast at the Langdale Ferry terminal all the way to Lund past Powell River. It’s the main thoroughfare for the region.
Getting Around By Car
The easiest way to get around the Sunshine Coast is with a car. That will give you the freedom to set your own schedule and travel a bit off the beaten path.
Getting Around By Bus
A car-free trip to the Sunshine Coast is fairly easy, but will take some planning. You can take public transit to the ferry terminals in Comox or Horseshoe Bay, then walk on to the ferry. Once you are on the Sunshine Coast, BC Transit has bus service from Langdale to Halfmoon Bay and in the Powell River area.
To get between the south and north sections of the Sunshine Coast including to and from the Earl’s Cove and Saltery Bay ferry terminals, you can take the Sunshine Coast Connector Bus. It runs in the summer only.
Getting Around by Bike
Bike touring on the Sunshine Coast is very popular. I have several friends who have done bike tours in the area, either as an out-and-back trip from Vancouver or on a loop route that includes both the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island.
If you choose to see the Sunshine Coast by bike, be prepared for rolling hills and narrow shoulders. There are bike shops in Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Sechelt, and Powell River if you need a mechanic.
Sunshine Coast Weather
The Sunshine Coast has a similar climate to Vancouver with average summer temperatures between 11 and 24C. May through August are the driest months. Although it is often gorgeously sunny here, it also rains frequently, especially in the spring, fall, and winter. Pack a rain jacket just in case.
The area around Gibsons and Roberts Creek is the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation. Shishalh Nation territory stretches from Roberts Creek to Saltery Bay. The North Sunshine Coast is the traditional territory of the Tla’amin Nation.
Indigenous people have lived on the Sunshine Coast since time immemorial and continue to live here today. Visit the tems swiya Museum in Sechelt to learn about indigenous history and culture. Be respectful of indigenous land as you travel through their territory.
Things to do in Gibsons
Gibsons is a cute town just a few minutes from the Langdale Ferry terminal. The town is split into two parts: Upper Gibsons is along the highway. Lower Gibsons, also known as Gibsons Landing, is down the hill on the ocean. Here are the best things to do in Gibsons.
Explore Gibsons Landing
Gibson’s Landing is tucked against the shoreline down the hill from the highway. Take a walk along the long pier to enjoy views of nearby Keats Island and the mountains of Howe Sound. Or stroll along the waterfront walkway to Armours Beach in the north or the Gibsons Marina in the south.
Wander along Marine Drive, Molly’s Lane, and Gower Point Road to discover lots of cute shops. Try the olive oil at Sunshine Coast Olive Oil or browse the racks at Starlet Vintage. Don’t miss the Gibsons Public Market a few blocks south. Vendors there sell amazing cheese, meat, bread, chocolate, veggies, and more.
Of all the small towns in the region, I think Gibsons is the cutest (and not just because I used to live there!) Exploring Gibsons Landing is one of my top picks for things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
Enjoy Beachcomber’s Nostalgia
The Beachcombers was a Canadian TV show about life in a gritty but quaint coastal town near Vancouver that ran for 18 years on CBC Television. (You can find some old episodes on Youtube.) It was set and filmed in Gibsons, so the residents are pretty proud of it. See how many Beachcomber’s legacy sights you can see around Gibsons.
Grab a meal at Molly’s Reach, the famous cafe from the show. Take a photo with the Persephone, the boat that the lead character Nick drives. It’s parked on Gower Point Road. (Persephone Brewery is named after the boat!) Grab a coffee at Beachcomber Coffee Company – it’s named after the show.
Or take a stroll around town to spot some Beachcombers-themed street names: Relic’s Lane, Adonidas Lane, Beachcomber Lane, Jesse’s Lane, Molly’s Lane, Gerussi Lane, and Persephone Lane.
Drink Craft Beer, Cider and Spirits
The craft beer and cider scene is thriving in Gibsons.
Visit Persephone Brewing near the ferry terminal to experience their farm to keg brewery – they grow their own barley as well as lots of fruits and veggies too.
I love Gibsons Tapworks in Lower Gibsons for their incredible patio, but my husband thinks they have the best beer in town. He likes the One Sailing Wait IPA best.
In Upper Gibsons, The 101 Brewhouse + Distillery has craft beers and a small restaurant. They are also the Sunshine Coast’s first craft distillery, making small-batch gin and vodka.
If beer isn’t your thing, Sunday Cider can help you out. They make small batch craft cider at their cider house in the forest just north of town. Their classic Sunday Sesh Cider is great.
And if you’re craving spirits, head to Bruinwood Estate Distillery. They’re a little bit north of town on the way to Roberts Creek. Visit their tasting room to sample their more adventurous spirits including Earl Grey Gin, Creme de Cassis, Spirited Horchata, and Akvavit.
Visit an Art Gallery or Studio
Gibsons (and the Sunshine Coast in general) is a haven for artists. A great place to start is the Gibsons Public Art Gallery in Lower Gibsons. They have new exhibitions monthly and a great gift shop.
The Kube in Upper Gibsons is also worth a visit. It’s a combination gallery/boutique that features work from Sunshine Coast artists as well as from other parts of Canada.
You can find listings for tons more artists in Gibsons and throughout the Sunshine Coast through the Purple Banner Art Map. (Note: Many artist studios require appointments.)
Best Beaches in Gibsons
Tiny Armours Beach in Lower Gibsons is a great place for a swim. There’s a cordoned-off swimming area for safety, grassy areas, and picnic tables up the banks.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of town, head to Georgia Beach. It’s in a residential neighbourhood on the bluff in Lower Gibsons. It has a small pebble beach and a bit of grass. Be careful of the current here.
I think Bonniebrook Beach north of town is the best beach in Gibsons. It has sections of sand and sections of pebbles, but it’s over 2km long so there is lots of space to spread out. It’s also a great place to go for a walk. However, parking is limited so arrive early and respect private property. (Tip: the best sand is near the end of Ocean Beach Esplanade.)
Best Hiking Trails in Gibsons
After living in Gibsons for five months, I’ve hiked most of the trails nearby. Langdale Falls is a nice hike through the forest to a waterfall. But my favourite is Soames Hill for its incredible views. I think it’s the best outdoorsy thing to do in Gibsons.
For more nearby trails, see my guide to the best hikes on the Sunshine Coast.
Where to Eat in Gibsons
If you want something light, coffee and a doughnut at Beachcomber Coffee Company is my go-to. For quick sandwiches, Black Bean Cafe is great. For a sit-down meal, I recommend Molly’s Reach, Lunitas Mexican Eatery, Smitty’s Oyster House, and Sushi Bar Nagomi.
Where to Stay in Gibsons
Bonniebrook Lodge: A historic lodge right near the beach. The fabulous Chaster’s restaurant is on-site. Check prices.
Gibsons Harbour Retreat Apartment: Fully equipped 2 bedroom apartment with a hot tub and patio in the heart of Gibsons Landing. Check prices.
Things to do in Roberts Creek
Roberts Creek is a little hamlet alongside a creek near the ocean. It’s a tiny place but has a relaxed, hippy atmosphere. Read on for my picks for the best things to do in Roberts Creek.
Visit the Pier and Mandala
The heart of Roberts Creek is the old pier. Before the ferry and roads were built, this pier was the only link to the outside world. Today’s it is no longer used for boats and makes a great place to walk.
Don’t miss the Roberts Creek Mandala next to the pier parking lot. Each July the community comes together to create a massive art project by painting a new mandala. Local artist Robert Marion dreams up a new design and creates the outline, then anyone who stops by can fill in a section. The mandala is one of the most unique things to see on the Sunshine Coast.
Explore the Shops
Roberts Creek may be tiny, but it has a cluster of adorable boutiques. Exploring the shops is my pick for the best thing to do in Roberts Creek. There’s a well-stocked health food store, a cute garden boutique, a yoga studio, and a bike store. For a real feel of what Roberts Creek is really about, head to Eco-Freako for eco-friendly products and local art.
Hit the Farmers’ Markets
Roberts Creek hosts two farmers’ markets every Wednesday afternoon, year-round. The food-only Farm Gate Market in the Masonic Hall near the highway is “beyond organic” – they are local, ethical, and free from GMOs, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, and synthetic fertilizers. Next door you’ll find the Roberts Creek Community Farm Market at the Roberts Creek Community Hall. They have lots of food as well as crafts.
See the Waterfalls in Cliff Gilker Park
This small forested park near the highway is home to a network of trails and was one of my regular haunts when I lived on the Sunshine Coast. Two creeks wind through the trees, creating lots of cascades and waterfalls. Use my Cliff Gilker Park hiking guide to take an easy 1-hour walk through the park.
For more nearby trails, see my guide to the best hikes on the Sunshine Coast.
Where to Eat in Roberts Creek
The Gumboot Cafe is an iconic part of Roberts Creek. They’ve been dishing up healthy soups, pizzas, and salads for over 20 years. They have beer and coffee too.
For a less casual (but still authentically Roberts Creek) experience, head next door to the Gumboot Restaurant. They have an amazing patio and a varied menu that includes burgers, salads, Buddha bowls, and Roberts Creek originals like Curried Perogies.
Where to Stay in Roberts Creek
Shades of Jade Inn & Spa: A serene forest retreat with a spa on-site. It’s a short walk to the beach too. Check prices.
Up the Creek Backpacker’s Lodge: Located right in Robert’s Creek, this funky hostel has dorms, private rooms, and a shared kitchen. Check prices.
Roberts Creek Provincial Park Campground: This 21-site campground is centrally located and is a 15 minute walk to the beach. No reservations. More info.
Things to do in Sechelt
Sechelt is the biggest city on the Sunshine Coast, but it’s still a pretty laid-back place. The town sits on a narrow strip of land that separates Sechelt Inlet from the Strait of Georgia. The name Sechelt comes from shishalh, the name of the local Indigeneous people.
Explore Downtown Sechelt
Sechelt has a small downtown along Cowrie Street, just one block from the Sunshine Coast Highway. There are lots of cute little shops. Get coffee and a snack at The Basted Baker, then go for a stroll. Don’t miss Fresh from the Coast on Trail Ave – they have great local art and gifts. If you’re visiting on a Saturday, be sure to check out the Farmers Market.
Stroll Along the Sechelt Waterfront
There’s a lovely oceanfront pathway in Sechelt. It starts at Friendship Park off Wharf Avenue and finishes less than a kilometre later at Snickett Park. Stop to enjoy the view from a bench or walk out to the end of the pier. It’s one of the prettiest walks on the Sunshine Coast and my choice for the best thing to do in Sechelt.
The calm waters of Sechelt Inlet are a great place to go for a paddle. Rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard from Halfmoon Kayaks on Anchor Road. You’ll launch directly into Porpoise Bay and can paddle along the quiet coastline.
Hit the Beach at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park
One of the best beaches on the Sunshine Coast is at Porpoise Bay Provincial Park just north of Sechelt. It faces Sechelt Inlet, which has very calm water and has a sandy bottom – much nicer than the pebble beaches found elsewhere. The park has lots of picnic areas, a playground, and a popular campground. A swim at Porpoise Bay is a must-do on my list of the best things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
Drink Craft Beer and Cider
Bricker Cider Company has a cute tasting room next to their orchard up the hill in West Sechelt. Their Brickers Original cider is dry and delicious, but don’t forget to try some of their unique flavours like Earl Grey or root beer!
I didn’t have time to visit Batch 44 Brewery and Kitchen in downtown Sechelt, but they are the first craft brewery in town and I’ve heard their beers are great.
Walk Along Davis Bay Beach
This stretch of coastline is one of my favourite places to walk on the Sunshine Coast. There’s a one-kilometre-long pathway beside the ocean and a pier that’s a great place to fish for crabs or watch the sunset. Head across the street to soak up the sun on the patio at the Wobbly Canoe or Gourmet Girl.
Learn about Indigenous Culture
Visit the shíshálh Nation’s tems swiya Museum to learn about local Indigenous culture. Unfortunately, the museum was closed due to the pandemic when I lived on the Sunshine Coast, so I haven’t been yet. But I’m eager to visit as it has lots of historical artefacts including 3500-year-old mortuary stones.
Go Skiing or Snowshoeing
If you’re visiting Sechelt in the winter, you can’t miss cross country skiing or snowshoeing at Dakota Ridge. It’s a community-run ski hill and snowshoe trail network in the mountains above town. I had a season pass when I lived on the Sunshine Coast and went up nearly every weekend.
Read my guide to skiing and snowshoeing at Dakota Ridge to learn more.
Best Hikes in Sechelt
There are several fun short hikes near Sechelt. My favourites are the easy walk to Burnett Falls or a meander through the old-growth trees at Hidden Groves.
For more nearby trails, see my guide to the best hikes on the Sunshine Coast.
Where to Eat in Sechelt
For baked goods, my go-to is The Bakery on Wharf Ave downtown. Strait Coffee in Wilson Creek (near Canadian Tire) has coffee, fabulous sandwiches, and the best cheesecake on the Sunshine Coast. For burgers and comfort food The Wobbly Canoe in Davis Bay is good. If you’re looking for something more upscale, eat at Shift Kitchen and Bar.
Where to Stay in Sechelt
Tranquility Bay Waterfront Inn: Located on quiet Sechelt Inlet north of town, this gorgeous resort has a spa, a hot tub, BBQs, and a private beach. Check prices.
Davis Bay Bed & Breakfast: This charming B&B is right across from the beach in Davis Bay. Reviewers say the breakfast is great. Check prices.
Porpoise Bay Provincial Park Campground: With over 80 campsites steps from a sandy beach, this is the best place to camp on the Sunshine Cost. Make advance reservations.
Things to do in Halfmoon Bay
Halfmoon Bay is a small seaside residential area just north of Sechelt. It’s a great place to hike, relax by the ocean, or just chill out at a cute cabin. Secret Cove a few minutes north is another picturesque spot. Here are the best things to do in Halfmoon Bay.
Best Beaches in Halfmoon Bay
Sargeant Bay Provincial Park has a great gravel beach in a sheltered bay. The lagoon behind the beach is a great place to watch for wildlife, especially birds.
Cooper’s Green Park is a beautiful oceanfront park with a grassy lawn and a pebble beach. It’s a great place for a swim on a hot day. If you rented a kayak in Sechelt, the boat ramp here makes a good launching point.
Best Hikes in Halfmoon Bay
Halfmoon Bay is my go-to spot for hiking on the Sunshine Coast. The huge trail system in Sargeant Bay Provincial Park and Welcome Woods in between Highway 101 and Redroofs Road has seemingly limitless loop hike possibilities. A good destination to get you started is Triangle Lake.
The hike to Smuggler’s Cove is one of the most popular hikes on the Sunshine Coast, and I’d argue it is one of the most scenic too. It’s a short walk to several beautiful coastal viewpoints. A visit to Smuggler’s Cove is definitely the best thing to do in Halfmoon Bay.
For more hikes in Halfmoon Bay, see my guide to the best hikes on the Sunshine Coast.
Where to Eat in Halfmoon Bay
Food options are pretty limited in Halfmoon Bay. The Halfmoon Bay General Store is currently working on a cafe to open in summer 2021. Welcome Woods Market also has a little deli. There are also two food options in nearby Secret Cove: Upper Deck Cafe at the Secret Cove Marina and the in-house restaurant at the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort.
Where to Stay in Halfmoon Bay
Nestledown B&B: This cute bed and breakfast is a short walk from Sargeant Bay Provincial Park. It has a kitchenette and a hot tub too. Check prices.
Rockwater Secret Cove Resort: I actually got engaged at this dreamy waterfront resort. Splurge on the tent cabins – they’re worth it. Check prices.
Things to do in Pender Harbour and Egmont
Pender Harbour is a loose collection of small communities (including Garden Bay and Madeira Park) spread around small bays and peninsulas. The village of Egmont is a few minutes north on the shores of Sechelt Inlet. It’s a sleepy area, perfect for chilling out and spending time in nature. These are my picks for the best things to do in Pender Harbour and Egmont.
The hike to the tidal rapids and whirlpools at Skookumchuck Narrows in Egmont is one of the most popular things to do on the Sunshine Coast. Be sure to time your visit to coincide with the tide change. Use my hiking guide to Skookumchuck Narrows to plan your trip.
Explore the Lakes
The area around Pender Harbour is home to lots of gorgeous lakes where you can go for a swim. Garden Bay Lake, Mixal Lake, and Hotel Lake are all located on the north side of Pender Harbour. You’ll find little Katherine Lake here too. Don’t miss it as it has the warmest water around.
Head a little further north along Highway 101 to Sakinaw Lake and Ruby Lake. They are both great places to launch a boat. (Ruby Lake has kayak and SUP rentals.) You can also go for a swim at the sandy beach at Dan Bosch Park on Ruby Lake.
The quiet waters of Pender Harbour are perfect for kayaking. There are so many islands and little coves to explore. Rent kayaks at Alpha Adventures. (Many resorts have kayak rentals too.)
Best Hikes in Pender Harbour and Egmont
The hikes in Pender Harbour and Egmont have some of the best views on the Sunshine Coast. Of course Skookumchuck Narrows is a classic, but there are lots more to choose from. Pender Hill has my favourite viewpoint, but nearby Mount Daniel is great too. I also love the oceanfront walk at Francis Point Provincial Park. Get details on all of these hikes in my guide to the best hikes on the Sunshine Coast.
Where to Eat In Pender Harbour and Egmont
Pender Harbour has a few good food options. If you want something a bit more luxe, head to the Lagoon Restaurant at the Painted Boat Resort. For more casual fare, check out Harbour Pizza or Badabing Burgers. In Egmont check out the Skookumchuck Bakery Cafe and the Backeddy Pub.
Where to Stay in Pender Harbour and Egmont
Painted Boat Resort: This beautiful waterfront resort in Pender Harbour has great views, plus an outdoor pool and a spa. Check prices.
Backeddy Resort: Stay in a cute and cozy A-frame cabin or a futurists geodesic dome overlooking Sechelt Inlet in Egmont. Check prices.
Things do in Powell River
Powell River is the main city on the northern Sunshine Coast, but there are also small communities in Saltery Bay, Lang Bay, and Lund. The area is a bit quieter than the southern Sunshine Coast. Read on for the best things to do in Powell River.
Explore the Historic Townsite District
Powell River is split into two parts: the main part of town along Marine Avenue near the ferry terminal and the historic Townsite district a few minutes north. Pick up a map at the visitor centre to take a self-guided tour of the old buildings. Don’t miss the spectacular Patricia Theatre, dating back to 1913 and Townsite Brewing inside the old post office. A visit to the Townsite District is my pick for the best thing to do in Powell River.
The tiny village of Lund at the end of Highway 101 is the northernmost settlement on the Sunshine Coast. Lund is the jumping-off point for kayaking in Desolation Sound or the Copeland Islands, hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail, or trips to nearby Savary Island. But the scenic waterfront is a worthy destination in itself. Don’t miss the legendary bakery.
The Powell River area is a prime destination for paddlers. Nearby Desolation Sound and the Copeland Islands are popular for kayaking. It’s also the starting point for the multi-day Powell Forest Canoe Route that loops through several large lakes behind the town.
Experience Savary Island
Located near Lund, the white sands and warm waters of Savary Island feel more like the Caribbean than coastal BC. The entire island is off-the-grid and has no cars so you’ll need to get around on foot or by bike. Book accommodation well in advance if you plan to stay the night. Get there via water taxi from Lund.
Best Beaches Near Powell River
Willingdon Beach is located right next to downtown Powell River. It’s got a big grassy area and lots of sand, so it’s pretty popular. If you’re looking for a quieter beach, Gibsons Beach north of town or Saltery Bay Provincial Park near the ferry terminal are good options. If you’re rather swim in freshwater, head to Mowat Bay Beach on Powell Lake.
Hike the Sunshine Coast Trail
The most famous hike in the area is the Sunshine Coast Trail. It is 175km long and runs from the ferry terminal in the south, through Powell River, and ends north of Lund. It crosses lots of roads so you can access many different sections. My book, Backpacking in Southwestern British Columbia has info on how to do day hikes or short backpacking trips on the best parts of the trail. If you’re a hiker, hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail is one of the best things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
Where to Eat in Powell River
Powell River has lots of great restaurants. It has a great Belgian-style craft brewery in the heritage part of town called Townsite Brewing. We loved the Mexican food at Costa del Sol. Hikers love the Shingle Mill Pub since the Sunshine Coast Trail goes right past the front door. In Lund, be sure to get a cinnamon bun at Nancy’s Bakery.
Where to Stay in Powell River
Higgin’s Inn: This quiet inn near Lang Bay has apartment-style suites. It’s a short walk to the beach or an easy drive to Powell River. Check prices.
Saltery Bay Provincial Park Campground: Locate near the ferry terminal, this forested campground has 42 sites and a nearby beach. No reservations. More info.
Now you have all the info you need to head to the Sunshine Coast. What is your favourite thing to do on the Sunshine Coast, BC? Tell me in the comments. And as always, send me your questions as I’m happy to help answer them.
More Sunshine Coast info:
- 21 Best Hikes on the Sunshine Coast, BC
- Skookumchuck Narrows Hike on the Sunshine Coast, BC
- How to Snowshoe and Ski at Dakota Ridge on the Sunshine Coast, BC
- Cliff Gilker Park Hike on the Sunshine Coast, BC
- Soames Hill Hike on the Sunshine Coast, BC
- Langdale Falls Hike on the Sunshine Coast, BC
- 20+ Beautiful Weekend Getaways from Vancouver
- Cozy Cabins near Vancouver Perfect for a Weekend Getaway