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14 Unique Things to Do on the Sunshine Coast, BC

Northwest of Vancouver, British Columbia’s coastline becomes almost impossibly rugged, characterised by glacier carved inlets that sometimes stretch for hundreds of kilometres. The two sections of coastline closest to Vancouver are known as the Sunshine Coast.

JR on top of mountain, above the clouds surrounded by other peaks
Summiting Tin Hat Mountain on the Sunshine Coast Trail

Offering breathtaking views of Vancouver Island and the Salish Sea, the Sunshine Coast shoreline is lined by vibrant coastal communities and backdropped by mossy temperate rainforest and the coastal mountain range. Quite frankly, it’s gorgeous. 

Colorful carved totem poles on the Sunshine Coast
shíshálh totem poles in Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is one of our favourite destinations in British Columbia, particularly for outdoor recreation.

In this post, I’ll share 14 of the most unique things to do on the Sunshine Coast, based on our own experiences.

Calm coastal inlet with rocky shoreline on the Sunshine Coast, specifically Desolation Sound
Desolation Sound, Sunshine Coast

We’ve visited half a dozen times over the few years, so you can be assured we have tried and tested plenty of activities in the area.

Last updated September 2023. We were supported on our first trip to the Sunshine Coast in 2019 by Sunshine Coast Tourism and BC Ferries.

Looking up at huge Douglas Fir trees on the Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast has strands of old growth forest

The Sunshine Coast: BC’s most well hidden gem?

Hiding almost in plain sight, the Sunshine Coast may well be BC’s most well hidden gem.

With a relaxed, friendly small-town vibe, the Sunshine Coast feels like a world apart from the busy cityscape of Vancouver, despite being just a short ferry away. It’s quiet too, being just off the main tourist route through BC. 

views from the tent copeland islands desolation sound
View from the tent in Desolation Sound

Even with the close proximity to Vancouver, I find many visitors and even resident British Columbians are not very familiar with the Sunshine Coast. To me, that is definitely a mistake as this area has SO much to offer in any season.

The Sunshine Coast is located on the traditional territory of traditional territories of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, shíshálh, Tla’amin, Klahoose, and Homalco Nations.

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may make a small percentage at no extra cost to you.

Colourful fish signposts in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast
Colourful signage in Gibsons, Sunshine Coast

Unique things to do on the Sunshine Coast, BC

As much as I’d prefer to keep this wonderful region all to myself, I believe it deserves far more attention than it receives.

To prove its underrated nature, read on to discover 14 unique things to do on the Sunshine Coast, BC. These also happen to be my favourite activities in the area!

With that in mind, you can’t really go wrong by choosing two or three to do on your Sunshine Coast adventure. If you have the time, pick four or five and leave the others for a return trip!

With one exception, all of these suggestions can be done from spring to autumn. Indeed, many can even be done all year round! 

Sechelt beach Sunshine Coast
Sechelt beach on the Sunshine Coast

Visiting Princess Louisa Inlet

Remember those glacial carved inlets I mentioned earlier? Princess Louisa Inlet is a magnificent 6km long fjord located northwest of Egmont. It is also known as swiwelát by the shíshálh Nation.

Without a doubt, Princess Louisa Inlet is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in Canada or anywhere in the world.

Incredibly steep carved walls of granite rise up to 2000m out of the calm water in this narrow fjord, providing breathtaking views as well as a sheltered anchorage.

Waterfall cascading down fjord walls in Princess Louisa inlet
One of the many waterfalls in Princess Louisa Inlet

The huge Chatterbox Falls, at the very end of the inlet, thunders with power while dozens of smaller waterfalls cascade down the adjacent sheer rock walls on rainy days. 

Princess Louisa Inlet is most easily accessed via a guided boat tour. Our five hour trip with Sunshine Coast Tours was on the rainiest day you could ever imagine, but it turned out to be the best weather we could have hoped for.

Rain, as it turns out, makes fjords look even better. We also had the chance to see humpback whales before we even stepped on the boat. 

Misty mountains and huge waterfall in Princess Louisa Inlet, Sunshine Coast
Chatterbox Falls, Princess Louisa Inlet, Sunshine Coast

Taking in the views at Soames Hill

For a rewarding hike, make the time to hike Soames Hill (also known as ‘Knob Hill’) near Gibsons. More of a stair climber than a true nature hike, the journey to the 240m high summit provides a bit of a workout.

It is absolutely worth it though, as you’ll earn stunning panoramas of Gibsons and surrounding islands (Keats, Bowen, Vancouver et al) at the top. 

Why do I consider this hike to be unique? To put it simply, it’s short, quick and has an awesome effort to reward ratio. While it is true that there are plenty of other uphill hiking opportunities on the Sunshine Coast, Soames Hill is particularly special for the ease of access and oustanding payoff.

There are a number of different access points to reach Soames Hill, but I’d recommend using the entry on Bridgeman Road (about 4km north of Gibsons).

From this trailhead, it’s about 45 minutes to the top. There are stairs (400+ of them!) and some steep sections. The trail is well marked and dogs are allowed on leash. 

Tasting locally made beer and cider

There’s a huge array of craft breweries and cideries in British Columbia and the Sunshine Coast is no exception to this rule.

What is a little different though is the emphasis on community supported, small batch production using farm fresh ingredients where possible. There’s nothing ordinary about the craft beer made in this part of the world. 

There are currently four breweries and one cidery on the Sunshine Coast. Each has something special to offer, but we loved Persephone’s sustainability ethos (they have an on-site farm!), relaxed beer garden and huge choice of beers (the cider is also fab).

Over at Tapworks, we were won over by the scenic elevated patio and experimental style. If you like stouts, you have to go here. It was their first beer and you can tell it’s been perfected! 

Six tasting sizes of cider on table at Bricker Cider Company garden
Cider tasting at the Bricker Cider Company near Sechelt

We were already big fans of the dry style offerings from the Bricker Cider Company but their seasonal releases just keep us coming back. The Brickers taproom, not far from Sechelt, has a lovely garden and rotating food trucks. 

Townsite Brewing in Powell River has a huge range of beers, thoughtfully crafted by Belgian born brew master Cédric.

Housed in the former Federal Building (circa 1939), the brewery itself is as distinguished as the beer. Check out the impressive architecture in the cosy taproom over a flight. Or two.

Close up of Townsite Brewing taps in front of shelves with glasses

Hiking to Smugglers Cove

For an easy coastal hike with an unusual history, head to the Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park near Halfmoon Bay (lower Sunshine Coast). The trail begins in the forest but quickly reaches the coastline with views of pretty Smuggler Cove

With a round trip distance of around 4km, the Smuggler Cove hike takes around 1.5-2 hours to do. There are a number of other beautiful viewpoints, including one rocky outcrop with fantastic vistas of the Salish Sea.

Along the way, there are interpretive signs to explain the history of the area. Yep, smuggling did happen here, in a few different ways.

The cove was used as a launching point to smuggle Chinese labourers (who had worked on the Canadian Pacific Railway) into the USA. American alcohol smugglers also utilised the cove during Prohibition in the 1920’s. 

Watching the tidal rapids at Skookumchuck Narrows

Twice daily, the Sunshine Coast is witness to an incredible display of the ocean’s power.

As the tide changes in the Skookumchuck Narrows near Egmont, the water rushes through at 30km/h and creates huge waves and whirlpools. It’s an awesome sight, especially when kayakers come out to play in the rapids. 

The Skookumchuck (‘strong water’ in Chinook Jargon) tidal rapids are accessed via a straighforward 4km trail (8km return) through the temperate rainforest. The path is flat for the most part, with the occasional tree root and rock.

Close to the end of the trail, the path splits – Roland Point is best for the big waves seen during flood tides, and North Point for the whirlpools seen during ebb tides. 

Watching the Skookumchuck rapids is definitely one of the most unique things to do on the Sunshine Coast, BC. But you must time it right!

The best viewing times change every day according to the tides and can be found here. There is a 20-30 minute window either side of the best viewing times to see the rapids at capacity. 

For a real one of a kind experience, take a scenic seaplane flight from Sechelt and see the rapids from above!

A kayaker paddles against huge waves in an ocean inlet - one of the most unique things to do on the Sunshine Coast
Huge waves at the Skookumchuck Narrows, Sunshine Coast

Taking in a one of a kind sunset 

Having travelled around much of British Columbia over the last seven or so years, the Sunshine Coast remains one of my favourite spots for watching sunsets.

Yes, it’s true, you can see sunsets in many places across BC but watching the sun disappear behind Vancouver Island and the Salish Sea offers a unique kind of magic. 

There are plenty of great places to take in a sunset on the Sunshine Coast. 

Some of my top choices include Bonniebrook beach (Gibsons), Roberts Creek Pier, Davis Bay, Roberts Creek Pier, Halfmoon Bay and Dinner Rock (near Lund).

Another wonderful sunset spot is Tin Hat Mountain on the Sunshine Coast Trail, as mentioned below. You can’t get a more ‘top of the world’ feeling than watching the sun go down from Tin Hat Mountain! 

A golden sunset from Dinner Rock, Sunshine Coast
Sunset at Dinner Rock near Lund

Hiking the hut-to-hut Sunshine Coast Trail

The Sunshine Coast Trail is a 180km hiking route from Sarah Point to Saltery Bay (upper Sunshine Coast), taking in old growth temperate rainforest, mountain and lake vistas as well as coastal shore. 

There are 16 shelters located regularly along the route, making the Sunshine Coast Trail Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hike. If that wasn’t unique enough, the Sunshine Coast Trail is also completely free to hike! 

JR is hiking through a forest with sun streaming through the trees
Hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail

Not being located in a provincial or national park, the Sunshine Coast Trail is intersected with both local and working logging roads.

This offers the chance to hike individual sections without having to commit to the full 180km. There is a shuttle bus operation to help with one-way transport. 

We’ve hiked the entire Sunshine Coast Trail, with my favourite sections being Confederation Lake to Walt Hill via Tin Hat Mountain (mid section), Sarah Point to Rieveley Pond (first section) and Fairview Bay to Saltery Bay (very last section).

Looking up at two storey Manzanita Hut on the Sunshine Coast Trail
Manzanita Hut

Driving to the end of Highway 101

It may be a surprising to learn that the tiny coastal community of Lund, north of Powell River, signifies the end (or start, for that matter) of one of the most iconic highways in the world.

Lund is ‘Mile 0’ of Highway 101 (also known as the Pacific Coastal Route), a road that stretches 15,202km to Quellon in Chile. 

As a destination, Lund may seem unassuming at first. But this ‘end of the road’ fishing village is wonderfully quaint and well worth a wander.

As well as having the Sunshine Coast’s first full service Indigenous resort, there’s a fantastic bakery, waterside restaurant, ice cream parlor and wool sweater shop. Lund is also the jumping off point for Savary Island and Desolation Sound. 

Mile 0 marker for Highway 101 in Lund
Mile 0 on Highway 101 in Lund, Sunshine Coast

Staying overnight in a converted courthouse

For a more unusual stay on the Sunshine Coast, step back time at the Old Courthouse Inn in Townsite, Powell River. This 1939 Tudor style building once hosted Townsite’s court, jail and police station.

Each of the 7 en-suite B&B rooms has been lovingly renovated and individually themed. The halls display interesting antiques and photos of days gone by. 

If you can, combine a night or two at the Old Courthouse Inn with a couple of beers at Townsite Brewing and then a film at the Patricia Theatre (mentioned below). Both are only a two minute walk away! 

Breakfast is included with every overnight stay and is served at Edie Rae’s Cafe downstairs.

Named after the owner’s mother, vintage portraits of Edie adorn the walls of this cosy, inviting space. A boring hotel breakfast buffet this is not, with traditional cooked options as well as a choice of eggs benedicts. 

Tudor style courthouse in Townsite, Powell River
The Old Courthouse Inn, Townsite

Paddling the Powell Forest Canoe Route

The Powell Forest Canoe Route provides an an exciting beyond the beaten path multi-day paddling adventure.

Including 63km of interconnected lakes and portages, the Powell Forest Canoe Route is definitely one of the most unique things to do on the Sunshine Coast, BC. 

Despite being adjacent to many active logging roads, the Powell Forest Canoe Circuit offers a surprisingly remote and tranquil wilderness experience.

After setting out from Lois Lake, we didn’t see a soul for the next five days as we portaged and paddled ourselves around eight lakes. 

Whether the Powell Forest is truly wilderness or not, we found plenty of beauty while on the lake and traversing the portages.

Mountains peeking out of the clouds, bald eagles circling, huge frogs hopping along portage paths and more. And it is surrounded by amazingly lush temperate rainforest. 

Looking out to Windsor Lake Powell Forest Canoe Circuit
Finishing a portage on the Powell Forest Canoe Circuit

Visiting beautiful Savary Island

One of the most unique things to do on the Sunshine Coast has to be a visit to Savary Island. This little piece of paradise is located just offshore from Lund is looks more Caribbean than British Columbian. The gleaming white sand beaches of this cute, crescent shaped island are lapped by warm, turquoise waters. 

Populated but not busy, Savary Island is the perfect place for a relaxing holiday on the BC coast. The island is only 7.5km by 1.5km so it is easy to check out a few different beaches by foot or bike. And, as you may have guessed, the sunsets are fabulous! 

There is no vehicle ferry to Savary Island, so park your car at Lund and embrace the break! There are regularly scheduled water taxis making the 15 minute crossing to the island. 

Watching a film at a 100+ year old movie theatre

Watching a film may not be the most unique things to do on the Sunshine Coast but Patricia Theatre in Townsite, Powell River, is something a little special. For the Patricia is the oldest continuously operating theatre company in British Columbia. 

Built in 1913, a trip to the Patricia offers a heritage experience in addition to entertainment. It began in a tent before moving to its current structure in 1928. The walls are decorated with modest painted peacock murals that hint of a more refined era. 

As well as showing big blockbusters and independent films, the Patricia Theatre continues its role as a social hub by hosting performances and community events. ‘On the Verge,’ a climbing film showcasing the local crags was featured during our two week visit to the Powell River area. 

Theatre building with Canadian flag in Townsite
The 100 year old Patricia Theatre in Townsite, Sunshine Coast

Kayaking Desolation Sound

Just beyond the northern tip of the Sunshine Coast, Desolation Sound is a paddler’s paradise with calm warm water, abundant wildlife, epic scenery and large choice in campsites.

In my opinion, Desolation Sound is the most accessible and approachable (and obviously beautiful!) multi-day kayaking area on the BC coast. 

The largest marine park in British Columbia, Desolation Sound features protected bays, towering rock bluffs and idyllic islands, backdropped by spectacular fjords and snow capped mountains.

If you’re short on time, consider a short trip to the Copeland Islands. Located a very short paddle north of Lund, these small islands have numerous campsites with incredible panoramas of Vancouver Island.

If the weather isn’t looking great or we are feeling a little lazy, the Copelands makes for a wonderful quick getaway. 

Not an experience kayaker? No problem. There are a number of local adventure tour operators offering guided day and multi-day trips to Desolation Sound.

Back view of Gemma in orange kayak on calm ocean looking out to views of islands and snow capped mountains in Desolation Sound, British Columbia
Paddling Desolation Sound

Camp by the ocean or lake for low cost or even free!

The upper Sunshine Coast has an abundance of free or low cost campgrounds to enjoy. Needless to say, if you’re travelling on a budget, this is a great place to be!

Saltery Bay Provincial Park is a longtime favourite, with generous campsites only a short walk from the water. The beach is rocky, but the sunsets are fabulous. If you can’t secure a reservation, use BC Parks’ new notification feature to check for cancellations.

Lois Lake is one of the most easily accessible free Recreation Site campgrounds in the area. If you have a tent, head to the north side to discover a couple of secluded walk-in sites. The views of the lake are fantastic!

Inland Lake is a large provincial campground located just northwest of Powell River. Availability is consistently good. The highlight of this campground is the accessible, family friendly 13km loop route around the lake.

The Powell Forest Canoe Route (mentioned above) features a host of free paddle-in campgrounds for canoeists. The Sunshine Coast Trail offers the same for hikers, with both hut and campsite options. Desolation Sound has 50+ low cost ($10/night) spots spread across half a dozen areas for paddlers.

Looking through the trees into walk-in tent site at Lois Lake Recreation Site, with lake visible on left. A picnic table sits in the middle
Free tent walk-in site at Lois Lake Recreation Site

How to get to the Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast extends 177km along the British Columbia coast from Howe Sound in the south to Desolation Sound in the north.

Though part of the mainland, the nature of the rugged coastline means that the Sunshine Coast is separated from Vancouver by a huge inlet. 

If you’re anything like me, you will agree that road trip involving a ferry ride automatically qualifies it for being more exciting. I have some good news – when visiting the Sunshine Coast, you’ll need to take at least one to get there! 

Stony beach with driftwood, view of calm ocean beyond at Roberts Creek
Roberts Creek Provincial Park picnic area beach

Taking the ferry to the Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is separated into two distinct and characterful sections. 

The lower Sunshine Coast includes Gibsons, Sechelt and numerous other coastal communities. It is accessible via a 40 minute ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver. The ferry arrival point is in Langdale, just a ten minute drive east of Gibsons. 

The upper Sunshine Coast is connected to the lower section by a 50 minute ferry from Earls Cove. From the arrival dock of Saltery Bay, it is a straightforward 30 minute drive along the coast to Powell River.

The Sunshine Coast can also be accessed from Vancouver Island, via a 90 minute ferry from Comox to Powell River.

Open ferry with vehicles, heading towards misty mountains on the Sunshine Coast
Taking the Earls Cove to Saltery Bay ferry on the Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast ferry tips

Sailing on BC Ferries is a quintessential part of the Sunshine Coast experience. Crossing the inlets by boat offers spectacular views of the surrounding coastal mountains, a perspective that is difficult to see by car.

With the BC Ferries fare system, you need to pay for each individual passenger (including the driver) plus your vehicle. Return fares are charged from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale and Saltery Bay to Earls Cove so you only physically pay one direction. 

Gemma on the deck of BC Ferries vessel on the Sunshine Coast
The views from the Sunshine Coast BC Ferries vessels can be spectacular

Planning to visit the Sunshine Coast as part of a longer trip through British Columbia? I’d highly recommend utilising the circular ferry route to make the most of your time.

This would include Horseshoe Bay to Langdale, Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, Powell River to Comox and then Nanaimo or Swartz Bay back to Vancouver (Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay). This way you can see the Sunshine Coast AND Vancouver Island.

View from one of BC Ferries routes
A sunnier crossing on the Sunshine Coast with BC Ferries

Here are my tips to make the most of the BC Ferries experience. 

  • While BC Ferries vessels on the Sunshine Coast are reasonably large and can load many cars, the space for oversize vehicles (large trucks, vans, RVs and the one we drive!) is more limited. For this reason, arrive as early as possible to secure a spot
  • Reservations can be made for the Horseshoe Bay to Langdale and Comox to Powell River crossings. Having a booking guarantees a space on a specific sailing, as long as you arrive within 30-60 minutes of the scheduled departure. The cost of a reservation depends on how far you book in advance. I would highly recommend reserving a spot
  • Take a walk! Ferry crossings offer a good opportunity to stretch your legs while on a road trip. Get up on deck and check out the views
  • Try and spot some marine wildlife on the ferry. It is not uncommon to see dolphins and whales while on the ferry. The staff will sometimes make announcements if wildlife is spotted

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David Spence

Saturday 17th of February 2024

Hi Gemma I love your blogs etc, thanks a lot. Our son, age 20, is off to Alaska this summer, on a maiden trip, but firstly wants to spend 3 weeks on Vancouver Island and The Sunshine Coast. He is camping ( no car ) - can you recommend a couple of some campsites on The Sunshine Coast where it is quieter? David & Jacqui Dorset, England.


Sunday 18th of February 2024

Hi David,

You're welcome! The most northern Sunshine Coast (Powell River area) is the quietest section. Most campsites are located away from the highway, however, so without a vehicle, it would be difficult to reach them (unless he is planning to hike the Sunshine Coast Trail?) Inland Lake is one good example of a quieter campground in that area.

One of the most accessible Sunshine Coast Trail campsites is located at Fairview Bay. It's a 5km hike from the Saltery Bay Ferry Terminal.


Wednesday 29th of March 2023

we are going to Sechelt the beginning of April. I know it will be rainy. Wondering is there any cold water scuba diving shops you would recommend? How about restaurants and food shopping. We will have young children with us and adutls of various ages.


Wednesday 29th of March 2023

Hi Myrna,

Although we both dive, we haven't tried cold water diving yet, so I don't have any dive shop recommendations sorry! It's something I would like to do though, so I hope you have a great time. We usually pick up groceries at the Sechelt Independent store. Check out Butcher Dave's Meat Market if you eat meat. For pub style food, we really like Batch 44 Brewery (families are welcome).

susan salyer

Thursday 1st of September 2022

We live in Bellingham, Wa and have a car trip planned next week after Labor Day in the states. We are spending almost a week resting and hiking on Salt Island and then have planned 3 day in Victoria. Our neighbor suggested going to the Sunshine Coast after Victoria. Do you recommend a hotel or a B&B in the area?

Love you write ups about different parts of Canada. We feel so lucky to have moved so close to such a beautiful country, although Washington is no slouch!


Friday 2nd of September 2022

Hi Susan,

Nice to hear from you. Great to hear that you're looking to visit the beautiful Sunshine Coast! From Victoria, I would drive north to Comox (3.5 hours), take the ferry to Powell River and then drive down the Sunshine Coast, returning to Bellingham via Horseshoe Bay. That makes the most sense to me. If you're looking to relax, book one of the many oceanfront cottages. We like the Courthouse Inn in Townsite (mentioned in the post) as well as the Lund Resort. Haven't been, but would love to stay at the Rock Water Secret Cove Resort. I hope you have a wonderful trip!


Tuesday 30th of August 2022

Hello Gemma and Jean, I just wanna say thank you for sharing this. It's very helpful in so many ways. We are planning to go to Sunshine Coast and I'm glad I saw your page. Enjoy and safe travels,always.



Wednesday 31st of August 2022

Thanks so much Jessa! Have a great trip :)


Sunday 30th of January 2022

We have planned a trip to sunshine coast in March. 14-25.We know we will face some weather. Have you been this time of year? Any suggestions


Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

Hi Stephanie,

We've been in April a couple of times before, though not March. Expect and dress for rain. If there is sunshine, it's a bonus! Most hiking trails will be muddy. Some seasonal places won't be open yet.