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Our Western Canada Road Trip: Sunshine Coast

Although we had plenty of exciting adventures lined up after our time on the Island was done, it was still hard to leave our home base of the last few years.

Despite thinking that we had explored most of it, we still managed to explore some new places within the last few days, squeezed in between saying goodbye to friends and trying to organise ourselves for the next stage of the trip.

We finally dragged ourselves onto the ferry to Powell River almost a week after we had arrived back in the Comox Valley.

The Powell Forest Canoe Circuit

And then it inevitably started to rain. Trying not to take it as an omen, we pushed on and started the Powell Forest Canoe Circuit the day after arriving on the ‘Sunshine’ Coast. The 50km eight lake long circuit was beautiful in parts and rainy in others, though always so very quiet (we saw two people in five days).

Our second canoe circuit, this one was an improvement in quite a few ways from the first. The portages were excellent (lots of canoe rests throughout the 8km total), the camp sites well cared for, and most importantly, we were better prepared.

The huge Powell Lake did, however, catch us out on the last day; we had to battle a headwind and subsequent one metre swell for the final 10km stretch home.

So many lakes Powell Forest Canoe Circuit
Map of the Powell Forest Canoe Circuit
Starting Powell Forest Canoe Circuit Lois Lake
Starting Powell Forest Canoe Circuit, Lois Lake
Paddling Horseshoe Lake
Paddling Horseshoe Lake, Powell Forest Canoe Circuit
Portaging Powell Forest Canoe Circuit
Portaging Powell Forest Canoe Circuit
Canoe with Windsor Lake Powell Forest Circuit
Canoe with Windsor Lake Powell Forest Circuit

Dinner Rock Rec Site

After finishing the circuit, we found our favourite free camp site so far. Dinner Rock Rec Site, just south of Lund, is perched right above the ocean with views of nearby Savary and Cortes Islands and also Vancouver Island across the Strait.

Within ten minutes of arriving we spotted both sea otters and whales just off shore, and later enjoyed dinner in front of a blazing orange sunset. We ended up staying three nights while preparing for our next adventure, and waiting for the weather to turn. We luckily didn’t have to wait long.

Sea Otters at Dinner Rock Rec Site
Whales from dinner rock
Whales from Dinner Rock Rec Site
Sunset views from Dinner Rock on the Sunshine Coast
Sunset views from Dinner Rock on the Sunshine Coast
View from Dinner rock sunset
View from Dinner Rock at sunset

Desolation Sound

Now, I admit I was a little worried about Desolation Sound. We would be at least 20km out at sea with just our canoe, the furthest we would ever have been away on a paddling trip (logging roads were never too far away in the Powell Forest).

It turned out to be our best canoe trip yet. Desolation Sound wasn’t as quiet as the Powell Forest (or as remote as I’d thought, there’s good cell phone signal all over!) but it made up with everything else. If you paddle, you MUST go here.

It was just stunning. We had perfect weather too, which always helps. JR definitely lucked out for his birthday, spending it paddling and snorkelling around such a beautiful place. Ocean paddling is a lot more interesting for the most part than lake canoeing. We ate and drank like kings, as without any portages we could bring as many luxuries as we liked.

A quick exit

The only down side was that we wanted to stay longer but after hearing on our weather radio that gale force winds would be coming in soon, we made the decision to head out while the going was good.

The waves were fighting us hard on the way back, but we soon enough made it back to Okeover Harbour, with plenty of memories and 60km of paddling behind us.

Fishing Malaspina Inlet Desolation Sound
Fishing Malaspina Inlet Desolation Sound
Desolation Sound view canoe paddle
Desolation Sound view from canoe
Desolation Sound view above camp
View from campsite Desolation Sound Curmes Islands
View from campsite Desolation Sound Curmes Islands
Desolation Sound view JR
Desolation Sound view

Unexpected free camping

The rest of the Sunshine Coast flew past after another stop at Dinner Rock as well as Townsite Brewery for a pretty early (11am) tasting. They were pretty generous with their samples, I must say!

After the first ferry to Earl’s Cove, we were back in prime Vancouverite weekend territory and almost had to pay for camping, but the host never returned to the campground that night. Our current record of paying just once in two months still stands!

The rest of the Sunshine Coast

We hiked to see nearby Skookumchuck rapids, which were fast but not as wild as they would have been in high tide.

Jean Robert also explored Homesite Caves (a little too narrow for my liking) before we headed to the pretty seaside town of Gibsons Landing for our last night on the Sunshine Coast.

Finally, after almost two months of travelling, we made it to Vancouver, the long way round. From here, we would head north, all the way to the Arctic.

First, though, we took the opportunity to enjoy big city life and the continuing good weather while we could.

Skookumchuck rapids Sunshine coast
Skookumchuck rapids on the Sunshine coast
Homesite Creek caves
Homesite Creek caves
Sechelt beach Sunshine Coast
Sechelt beach Sunshine Coast
Signs Gibsons Landing
Signs at Gibsons Landing

Weeks 6, 7 and 8 – The Sunshine Coast

Kilometres driven: 784 (3546 total so far)

Kilometres hiked: 20km – 8km round trip to Skookumchuck Rapids being most of it

Lakes paddled: 8 plus Desolation Sound ocean trip

Money spent: $350 over three weeks – slightly over budget, but we did have to pay $52 in transport costs for the Canoe Circuit (taxi then bus to return to starting place) and $25 marina parking for Desolation Sound….and it was JR’s birthday! 

Read next: Della Falls Hike and Paddle, Vancouver Island

Campsites week 6 to 8

Camping sites clockwise from top left – Lois Lake (start of Canoe Circuit), Dinner Rock, Gibsons Landing parking lot, Klein Lake

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Sunday 15th of June 2014

Great read as always Gem. Bringing back great memories although think you guys had a lot more sunshine on your coast than we did :) xx