British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast feels like a faraway secret. Accessed via ferry from West Vancouver, it has an island-like vibe that makes visitors feel as if they’re a million miles from big-city life. But since the scenic crossing takes just 40 minutes and the lower coast’s main communities—Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Sechelt and Pender Harbour—nestle like peas in a pod along Highway 101, self-directed exploration couldn’t be easier, especially if you’re hungry. From farm-to-table restaurants and fresh-off-the-boat seafood to foodie-focused markets and aromatic neighbourhood bakeries, this sparkling waterfront region is packed with taste-tripping pit stops to discover.
At Smitty’s Oyster House in Gibsons, you’ll find halibut fish fritters and chili lime prawns, but bivalve-lovers pilgrimage here to perch on the wharf-facing patio, gaze at the bobbing boats and slurp through the region’s finest raw or fried oysters, perhaps with a glass of sparkling wine from one of B.C.’s homegrown producers.
Colonizing a pink-sided Gibsons house, this romantic, white-tablecloth charmer fuses regional ingredients with clever continental flourishes. Aim for a richly succulent lamb dish and a summertime table on the deck.
The jaw-dropping waterfront vistas from the patio of Gibsons’ tiny hilltop bistro provide a perfect visual side dish for seasonal and regionally sourced dishes like sturgeon with beet-braised lentils and slow-cooked pork belly. Make sure to sample the hyper-local craft beer menu.
This near-legendary Roberts Creek takeout—snag a scenic picnic spot at the beach—serves the Sunshine Coast’s finest made-to-order fish and chips. Add some crisp, highly addictive batter-fried coconut shrimp to your order.
The beacon-yellow Gibsons diner from TV’s The Beachcombers is a comfy favourite. Snag a marina-view table to enjoy your seafood cake Benny.
Catch up on Roberts Creek gossip over a plate of Gumboot hash—two eggs, avocado, tomato, cheddar and potatoes with multi-grain toast.
Don’t wait for a seat at this Sechelt nook; order breakfast to-go—a house-baked biscuit sandwich layered with juicy smoked salmon.
Beer and Cocktails
This bucolic Gibsons microbrewery, named after The Beachcombers’ iconic tugboat, has a comfy, den-like tasting room, but summer is all about sipping a crisp Persephone Pale Ale at an outdoor table.
Sechelt’s favourite watering hole combines heaping pub grub (try the wild salmon burger) with regional craft beers and views of the floatplanes arriving and departing on the inlet out back.
Even if you’re not staying at Madeira Park’s Painted Boat Resort Spa & Marina, visit its Lagoon Restaurant patio. Order appies and an Orange Blossom cocktail, then take in the waterfront view.
Cafés and Bakeries
Communing over coffee and treats is a popular social activity for Sunshine Coast locals, and everyone here has a favourite hangout.
Roberts Creekers drop into this art-lined café for lattes and oversized cookies.
Sechelters stop for gooey, oven-warm cinnamon buns at downtown’s this downtown bakery.
Feverish fine-chocolate fans buy dainty squares and velvety truffles for everyone they know at Gibsons’ La Petite Souris Chocolate—the lavender caramels are highly recommended.
Located in a heritage building overlooking Gibsons’ harbour and marina, the newly opened Gibsons Public Market is a community hub where you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and seafood, cheese, a bakery, butcher, artisan chocolatier, coffee roaster and florist. Emelle’s Market Bistro is open for breakfast and lunch, and the community kitchen offers specialty classes and events.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Vancouver 77 times a day from 18 Canadian, eight U.S. and three international cities.