8 Must-Dos on Your Next Sunshine Coast Vacation

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The Sunshine Coast – a vibrant and scenic destination in southern British Columbia – has a spirit rooted in community with a deep connection to the land and sea. Whether you’re looking to spend your days on the water, on the trails, or connecting with the charming seaside towns along the way, the Sunshine Coast has something for everyone.

These lands have been home to the Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh) Nation and Sechelt (Shíshálh) Nation for millennia, and the rich Indigenous culture is prevalent throughout the region. Sheltered from the open Pacific, it lives up to its name with a mild climate and warm, dry summers reaching some 30 degrees. While part of mainland BC, the region is separated from connecting roads by the rugged Coast Mountains to the northeast, leaving it accessible only by water or air.

The Sunshine Coast is the perfect road trip by the sea. From the moment you step off the ferry (just 40 minutes from West Vancouver), you can feel it – the weight of the city and stresses of the week just drift away as you slip into the coastal pace of life.

At Mosaic Earth, we’re excited to offer a series of self-guided tours designed to help travellers make the most of their vacation in this beautiful part of BC – stress-free.

To get you ready for your next trip, here are just a few of the dream-worthy “must-dos” on the Sunshine Coast:

1 | Adventures by Paddle

All good seaside vacations include some time on the water. Whether you bring your own vessel, rent from one of the many outfitters, or join a guided tour, there is no shortage of paddling adventures here.

A favourite destination is Thormanby Island – a day trip that will transport you to the tropics with its broad sand beaches, warm waters and tidal pools, and colourful marine life. Pack a lunch and spend the day circumnavigating the island, with a stop at the scenic Buccaneer Bay to relax and cool off with a swim. Experienced kayakers can set off on their own, or join a guided tour from Secret Cove Marina.

The sheltered water of the Sechelt Inlet is a great destination for families and paddlers of all ages. The Sechelt Inlets Marine Provincial Park stretches up the coastline and features several water access-only campgrounds with beautiful sandy beaches – a perfect stop for lunch or to pitch your tent for a peaceful night away from it all.

Whether you’re travelling by kayak, SUP, or canoe, keep an eye out for seals bobbing alongside, bald eagles soaring above, black bears meandering the shoreline, and the abundance of small jellyfish floating just below the surface as you glide through the calm waters.

Paddling on the ocean, or the many lakes on the Sunshine Coast, has such a simple beauty – carving through the water at your own pace and being so close to the surface will leave you feeling connected and in awe of nature’s beauty.

2 | Take a Tour to Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls

Join local guides on an incredible full-day boat cruise through scenic inlets to the iconic Chatterbox Falls. As you meander up the Jervis Inlet from Egmont, you’ll marvel at the glacial-carved fjords with their impressive granite walls rising from the ocean to plateaus some 1500 metres above. Along the way, your guide will delight with stories of the fascinating history in this area – from historic homesteads, trade routes, and logging, to First Nations hunting, overwintering grounds, and unique pictographs. Keep your eyes out for mountain goats making their way up the steep cliffs.

At the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet (traditionally named swiwelát), the boat slows as you make your way through the powerful Malibu Rapids, the vessel dancing through the swirling water and into the calm inlet beyond. The final cruise up the inlet to Chatterbox Falls is nothing short of breathtaking – the steep granite walls narrow in, and melting snowpack and fresh rain can create as many as 60 waterfalls flowing down the rock faces. Chatterbox Falls stands at the head of the inlet tumbling 40 metres into the ocean. This is said to be the most beautiful anchorage in the world. You’ll tie up at the dock and head into the park to enjoy lunch by the falls and a stroll around the surrounding Provincial Park.

3 | Get Those Hiking Shoes On

Whether you prefer to get lost in the rainforest, trek to a scenic lookout, or meander along the oceanfront, there is a hiking trail for you here.

For the best bang for your buck, check out Soames Hill in Gibsons, a moderately steep 2.6 km loop reaching an open lookout with incredible views over Keats Island, Howe Sound, and the Strait of Georgia. Experienced hikers can find a challenge with a hike up Mount Elphinstone – climbing over 1000 metres in elevation in the 6 kms to the summit, where the views are well worth it.

Roberts Creek is a great place for lighter hikers looking to get deep into the forest. Each trail here is unique, weaving through dense moss-covered trees, over wooden bridges, and alongside rushing creeks. Start with a scenic loop through Cliff Gilker Park, or head further up Largo Road to join the abundance of mixed-use, well-established trails suitable for hikers and mountain bikers alike.

Looking for a hike by the sea? From Halfmoon Bay, head out to Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park. This light 4 km trail (out and back) brings you through lush greenery past arbutus trees and out to the rocky shoreline, with views of the vibrant waters in the cove leading out to the Strait of Georgia. Don’t forget your binoculars for a close-up of the many shorebirds and other wildlife along this trail.

4 | Treat Yourself to a Scenic Float Plane Tour

There is no better way to take in the full expanse and beauty of the Sunshine Coast than from the air. Local operators offer flights from Sechelt to take you on a scenic adventure – over the many meandering fjords with their steep cliffs and dense forests, to white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, and all the beautiful hidden coves along the way. As you fly over the Strait of Georgia, keep an eye for whales and dolphins. Circling above Sechelt, you’ll take in the unique geology of this small town, resting on a narrow isthmus (or sandbar) that separates the Sechelt Inlet from the Salish Sea.

As the plane makes its way higher over the Coast Mountains, you’ll gaze down with wonder at the snow-capped peaks and expansive glaciers below. Some tours include a stop at one of the vibrant glacial lakes perched in the mountain valleys.

Our local partners on the Coast have designed some fantastic packaged tours to enhance your day in the air. Choose to combine your flight with a brewery tour, guided hike, or Chef’s tasting dinner at the award-winning West Coast Wilderness Lodge.

5 | Immerse in the Arts and Culture Scene

Ready for a day of cultural immersion? Whether you’re looking for arts and music or Indigenous culture and history, you’ll find it here.

With its inspiring natural beauty, it’s no wonder that the Sunshine Coast is home to more artists per capita than any other region in Canada. You can search for artists by your favourite medium – from painting to sculpture, glass to ceramics, photography to digital imagery, woodwork to textiles and jewellery; or keep on the lookout for purple banners as you’re driving, indicating that an artist is at work.

If you’re travelling to the Coast in the fall, don’t miss the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl – a three day signature art event where over 100+ galleries, community hubs, and studio events open up for visitors (stay tuned for October 2021 event dates and details).

Beyond the arts, spend some time learning about the important history and culture of these lands. The Tems Swiya Museum in Sechelt (temporarily closed) is home to an extensive collection of Indigenous cultural artefacts from the Shíshálh (Sechelt) Nation, including many cedar baskets, stone tools, and a 3500 year old mortuary stone. Stop in at the Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives in Gibsons (re-opening July 2nd), a community-driven heritage destination, to learn more about settler culture and the fishing and logging industries in this area.

Our team can connect you with local guides to explore the arts and culture of the Sunshine Coast – from guided art studio tours to Indigenous-led walking and kayaking tours.

6 | Visit Skookumchuk Narrows

Hikers and sightseers alike shouldn’t miss the famous Skookumchuk Narrows rapids. Said to be one of the greatest whitewater wonders of the world, the rapids and occasional standing waves attract extreme kayakers and divers from near and far.

After a light hike from Egmont, you emerge at a lookout perched just above these turbulent whirlpools connecting the Sechelt and Jervis Inlets. Depending on the tide, the difference in water levels between one side of the rapids and the other can be close to 3 metres in height, with 200 billion gallons of water flowing through the narrows and current speeds up to 30 km/hr.

7 | Indulge in West Coast Cuisine and Craft Brews

The best vacations are made complete with savoury, fresh cuisine – especially when paired with a local beer or cider and an ocean view.

The southern Sunshine Coast is home to some of BC’s most distinctive breweries, including Persephone Brewing – a name inspired by The Beachcombers, CBC’s long-running TV show set in Gibsons. Grab a cold beer and get your order in for their famous wood-fired pizza, then take a stroll around the hops farm or pull up a seat on the picnic benches under the sun. Other favourites include Tapworks Brewing Company and the 101 Brewhouse + Distillery in Gibsons, and Batch 44 Brewery and Kitchen in Sechelt.

If you’re looking for fresh seafood, don’t miss Smitty’s Oyster House at the harbour in Gibsons, or the renowned fish and chips from Sharkey’s Fish Locker in Roberts Creek. Lunitas Mexican Eatery is a favourite for tacos and a margarita while watching the boaters come and go, or Buono Osteria if you’re in the mood for Italian. In Sechelt, check out the Lighthouse Pub, a local favourite with a large patio overlooking the Sechelt Inlet. Indulge in the best fine-dining cuisine with a view at the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort in Halfmoon Bay, or the West Coast Wilderness Lodge in Egmont.

8 | Relax By The Beach

No matter where the road takes you on the Sunshine Coast, you’re never far from the beach – a quintessential pastime that can be woven into each day of your vacation. Our favourite time to hang out on the beach? In the early evening, with a cold beverage and a warm fire, watching the sky light up as the sun sets on another day on the coast.

Pair these unique experiences with charming, locally-owned accommodation, and the Sunshine Coast will soon become your favourite road-trip destination.

Easily accessible from Vancouver, our self-drive tours are the perfect mix of creature comfort and rugged wilderness, charming communities and idyllic beaches, and locally guided experiences with free time to explore at your own pace. Let us take care of the planning this summer – you deserve it.

Choose from one of our 5-day tours based on your budget and interests:

Sunshine Coast Explorer

Accommodation includes a Bed & Breakfast and well-appointed safari-style tent.

Coast Explorer Plus

With an added touch of luxury, and a beautiful waterfront guesthouse as the home base.

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Guide

Sarah Hain

Based on Vancouver Island, Sarah holds a BA in International Development and an MA in Sustainable Leisure Management. Sarah is passionate about elevating responsible tourism practices that benefit both visitors and residents alike while protecting the fragile environment of the places we love to explore. Sarah has experience guiding in Central America where she led multi-day trips up volcanoes and through the remote foothills of Guatemala. She has since partnered with several non-profit tourism organizations in Guatemala, Belize, Canada, and the US to provide transformative experiences for travellers and empower local communities.

When not working, you can find her skiing, fishing, caring for her chickens, and volunteering her time to restore and protect salmon habitats.

Photographer & Guide

Josh McGarel

An avid photographer for over twelve years, Josh has gained experience with local and international businesses, world-renowned athletes, and individuals to build professional content and brand presence across a variety of platforms.

He has worked on assignment for an expedition cruise operator as Photographer in Residence along the East Coast of Canada, South Georgia, and Antarctica. Here, Josh connected with his love of travel as he documented daily excursions, wildlife, and life onboard, and shared his knowledge of photography through presentations and workshops for passengers.

Hailing from the United Kingdom, Josh has lived in BC since 2014. He spends his time exploring the area by mountain bike and dreaming up crazy photo projects with friends.
Founder & Lead Guide

Pam McGarel

With a Masters of Science in International Development and Sustainable Tourism, Pam has dedicated her career to harnessing the power of travel to support the wellbeing of our planet and its people. She is an experienced guide, planner and project manager with a knack for logistics.

Prior to launching Mosaic Earth, Pam worked in sustainable tourism consulting where she helped develop a globally-recognized certification program for tourism businesses and destinations.

She has experience in public-private partnerships with a polar expedition cruise operator where she built relationships with world-leading field scientists, conservationists, and educators to facilitate their projects alongside the traveller experience. Pam is a member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Women Travel Leaders, and loves to connect with values-driven tourism professionals.

Originally from Ontario, Pam moved to BC in 2016 seeking outdoor adventure, with favourite activities including hiking, sea kayaking, snowboarding, and road trips around this beautiful province.