What to Do on the Sunshine Coast

Where to stay, what to do and where to eat on one of B.C.’s best-kept secrets

Painted Boat Resort Spa & Marina, photo by Jared Sych

Accessible via a 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast feels worlds away from the city. This 180-kilometre stretch of land is separated from B.C.’s Lower Mainland by the Coast Mountains, and, while it’s not an island, it definitely has an island feel, with quirky cafés, rustic restaurants, an eclectic art scene, quiet beaches and lush forests. Here’s how to enjoy an autumn escape to one of B.C.’s best-kept secrets.

Where to Stay

The Painted Boat Resort Spa & Marina is the perfect home base for exploring the area. This sprawling, all-villa resort, located in the town of Madeira Park in Pender Harbour, dazzles with amazing views and jaw-dropping sunsets. Painted Boat has its own marina, an infinity pool, an onsite restaurant (open seasonally) and the area’s only full service spa. Boat cruises can also be arrange from the resort, Slocat Harbour Tours offers daily, narrated tours that explore the history of Pender Harbour.

What to Do

To get around, rent a car and cruise the Sunshine Coast Highway, stopping along the way to explore charming coastal towns like Gibsons, Egmont and Sechelt, and to make the most of the many outdoor activities on offer, including sea kayaking, biking and hiking. The town of Roberts Creek is a popular area for hiking and walking trails—don’t miss Cliff Gilker Park, which boasts lovely waterfalls, forested trails and bubbling creeks.

To see more of the Sunshine Coast, book a “flightseeing” tour with one of the private floatplane operators in the area. Sechelt’s Sunshine Coast Air offers tours that include trips to the Sechelt Rapids or the picturesque, glacier-fed Phantom Lake. For a real treat, book a Fly N’ Dine package: guests are flown out for a five-course dinner at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge in Egmont.

The area is also home to many artisans creating everything from paintings and prints to sculptures and pottery. This talent is showcased during the annual Sechelt Arts Festival (this year from October 13 to 23), which brings together artists across all genres, including dance and music.

Where to Eat

Tucked away inside Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, the cozy Skookumchuck Bakery & Cafe is a popular spot for hungry hikers, serving up sandwiches, pastries and soups, all of which are made on-site. But it’s the famous cinnamon buns that really keep customers coming back for more.

View more photos of the Sunshine Coast:

Getting there: WestJet flies to Vancouver 62 times a day from 15 Canadian, eight U.S. and four international cities.