ONE WEEK ITINERARY LOCATIONS: Vancouver, BC ➔ Secret Cove, BC ➔ Egmont, BC
Vacation for my husband and I while our daughter was in overnight summer camp. This “summer camp parental vacation” has become a tradition for us. It is such a re-charge for us to have fun as a couple.
The grandeur and scale of the rugged coastline, its abundant marine life and welcoming locals make the Sunshine Coast wildly unique and worth visiting. Once you travel North of West Vancouver, you are enveloped by towering jagged mountain peaks that come straight down to sea level. True magnificence.
Adults looking to unplug, slow down, paddle, hike and dine in an unspoiled, wilderness playground. This itinerary can also be family-friendly with active kids, if you choose different lodging (recommendation listed below) than we did for this trip.
After dropping our daughter off at Camp Orkila for the week, my husband Tim and I headed North to explore the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. Strolling through Stanley Park to dinner sounded like a nice option after a 3-hour drive from Orcas Island so we booked a room at the nearby unassuming, affordable Buchan Hotel, which is nestled in Vancouver’s West End residential neighborhood that is lined with trees and brownstones. After checking into the Buchan, we had a delicious dinner and cocktails in the beautiful, historic Stanley Park Teahouse Restaurant overlooking the bay dotted with moored cargo ships. Afterwards, it was such a treat to stroll along the waterfront pathway, back to the Buchan Hotel. During our next visit, we will likely stay at the Buchan Hotel and eat dinner in the Italian restaurant that is housed in the base of the hotel called Adesso, which was clearly a favorite with the locals we saw dining in the lush garden.
The next morning we ventured North to West Vancouver where we caught the B.C. ferry (advance reservations required) that takes you across Horseshoe Bay, to the Sunshine Coast. Be sure to bring a windbreaker for the deck, where you can take in the breathtaking views as the ferry cruises in and out of fjords and along beautiful rugged coastline. Concessions on the BC ferry are very good. Before you head back to your car, pick up a Sunshine Coast Tourist Guide from the literature kiosk. The maps will come in handy. As of the summer 2016, google maps did not work well in British Columbia.
Once we exited the ferry, our first resort was about an hour and a half drive up the Sunshine Coast, so we decided to make a few stops along the way to enjoy the journey. Our first stop was the bohemian-artistic town of Gibsons. We were ready for a snack, celebratory drink and stroll. Gower Point Road Gibsons runs along the saltwater and is lined with quaint shops, art galleries and cafes. The locals recommend Smitty’s Oyster House for seafood and Smoke on the Water for take-out BBQ.
Secret Cove, BC
From Gibsons, the drive up highway 101 is flanked by towering pines and occasional views of the sea. Sechelt, the biggest town on the Sunshine Coast, is a good place to stop for supplies. We spent most of our nights at the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, a romantic, lovely getaway right on sea with a superbly delicious restaurant featuring locally sourced food and a heated outdoor swimming pool. The resort lodging is made up of small luxurious cabins that feature private decks for lounging, lodge rooms with balconies and luxury yurts set high above the sea on the Cliffside. The yurts are an absolute must if you can afford the splurge. We opted to stay 2 nights in a cabin and 2 nights in a yurt. A beautiful elevated boardwalk takes you right through the middle of the coastal forest to your personal, private yurt (complete with plumbing and electricity), filled with luxury finishes and nice amenities like flashlights for late-night strolls, robes, books and a mini-fridge. Once we moved to our yurt, we ordered room service so that we could eat our meals on the deck overlooking the sea. Another highlight from our stay at the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort was that we rented kayaks one day from the resort and paddled up to Smuggler Cove Marine Park, where we ate our resort-packed lunches and witnessed an abundance of starfish, sea anemone, crabs and eagles.
While lunching in Gibsons on our way onto the Coast, I picked up a postcard for local theater company The Only Animal. It turns out that this Company creates immersive pieces that they call “theatrical adventurism.” We didn’t know what that really meant, but it sounded interesting so we bought tickets online to see their production “Tinkers.” It took place in the middle of the forest and we had to hike to each new scene as a group. The acting, set design and overall experience was one of the most full-sensory experiences we have ever had and we will always check their website for performance dates when travelling to British Columbia.
Sunset Drinks and Dinner in Sechelt
Each day we ventured out of the Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, and on our way back one night we watched the sunset from the patio of the Bucaneers Lighthouse Pub. The food and drinks were good and the view of the sunset over the marina, and forest beyond, was remarkable.
Another day we decided to rent a paddle boat up north. Ruby Lake is a small, calm, lake where you can rent paddle boats, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards from the family-friendly Ruby Lake Resort across the street. This place seems magical as the owner’s seemed to have created the ideal wildlife habitat on the small resort’s grounds and pond. While dining next to a window in their delicious La Trattoria Italiana Restaurant (which also has fish and chips), you can watch beavers, turtles, ducks, birds and bunnies as they wander about their day.
Earl’s Cove / Egmont
There was one night that we could not stay at the Rockwater Resort because of a wedding, so we decided to head further north for one night. We have visited this area twice and each experience was amazing. The first time we stayed at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge, which is a lovely, family-run lodge that offers true luxury on the sea, with its restaurant, view rooms, an incredible and quaint lobby and bar, Jacuzzi and game room. West Coast Wilderness Lodge was booked, so we opted for a room at the family-run Bathgate Resort and Marina. The rooms feature hand-built log furniture, very comfortable beds, kitchenettes and balconies that overlook the pier and remote wilderness.
Princess Louisa Inlet Tour
While we were in the Egmont area, we decided to take a long boat ride up the inlet to the highly acclaimed Princess Louisa Inlet. For wilderness lovers, this is an experience not to be missed! We booked our tour with Sunshine Coast Tours. The boat had inside and outside seating for 10 people and our Captain was very knowledgeable about the area. The grandeur of the jagged granite mountains coming straight into the sea made for an otherworldly experience. After a 2-hour voyage up the Inlet, we arrived at Princess Louisa Inlet, which was truly one of the most beautiful places we have ever been. Eight-thousand foot-high mountain peaks provide a backdrop for North America’s tallest waterfall and a lovely surrounding coastal forest. There is a short hiking trail on shore, with plenty of places to sit for a picnic.
The Sunshine Coast Tours dock out of the BackEddy Marina, which also has a pub with very good food and live music most nights in the evening. The BackEddy Resort also has affordable vintage cabins and fun, geodesic domes for rent. You can rent kayaks here and see bioluminescent algae during low-moon summer nights. About 50 resident seals sun themselves on the jetty during low tide, which also exposes thousands of sea star clinging on the rocky shores of the island situated across from the BeckEddy Marina.
Skookumchuck Hike to the BackEddy Rapids
Before heading back to the Rockwater Resort on Secret Cove, we hiked through Skookumchuck Provincial Park. This could easily be a full-day excursion if a picnic were packed (you can stock up on picnic goods at the Bathgate General Store) to eat at the rapids, which is one of the largest saltwater rapids on the West Coast. At the beginning of the trailhead we stopped at the charming and delicious Skookumchuck Bakery and Café, which primarily has baked goods, breakfast sandwiches, espresso and drinks. Once you get your espresso fix, head along the 4.5 km trail that ends at two lookout spots above the rapids. If you plan your arrival time during a tide change, you might be lucky enough to see an adventurous kayaker or surfer on the rapids. The marine life living off the shelf of this Coast is rich and abundant, making tidepooling a mesmerizing experience.
In closing, the Sunshine Coast is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise and recommended for anyone looking to slow down and relax.
When you are ready to head back across the Bay, give yourself a little bit of time at the ferry landing to walk along the artisan and local food tents that open up late morning.
IF YOU GO
- ABILITY TO UNPLUG RATING: High! The remote locations cannot support cell coverage and the International cell and data rates are outrageous! It will be easier to use all five senses to fully experience your travel companions and adventures.
- Make round trip ferry reservations to cross horseshoe bay in advance.
- Aim to reserve lodging and boat excursion reservations at least 6 months in advance.
- You need a passport or enhanced driver’s license to cross the Canadian border.