Road trip: Canada's best-kept secret, the Sunshine Coast
I first discovered the Sunshine Coast of Canada in 2010, when a friend who lives in Vancouver recommended it as a less congested take on Vancouver Island, which is home to Victoria, the capital of the province, and many incredible seaside communities.
Canadians know all about the Coast, but most folks we’ve encountered in California and elsewhere have no idea what we’re talking about.
So let's change that!
The Sunshine Coast is part of the Canadian mainland, through two inlets, south and north, which are only accessible by boat or (sea) plane.
We're talking green green land (thanks to all that rain when the sun isn’t shining) spectacular sunsets, hikes, ferries, seaplanes, those super-friendly Canadians and the one and only Skoomumchuck Narrows! (More on them in a minute!)
And what a photographic paradise!
I brought along several cameras--the iPhone 13 Pro, the crazy Insta360 X2, GoPro Hero 10, DJI Mavic Air 2S and Sony A7IV with a 16-35mm lens. My microphones are the tiny Rode Wireless Go II, which I love.
For my PhotowalksTV travel series, I like to use the same mobile gear most viewers own--i.e. smartphone and action cams. The quality is really good, and when you're running and gunning and traveling all over, it's so much easier to reach for a mobile phone than to be lugging tons of heavy gear.
Plus, I prefer showing viewers what's possible with mobile photography, and how they don't need any fancy gear to achieve the same results as I get.
Most of the Sunshine Coast episode was filmed on the iPhone, with the exception of the drone shots, the driving footage on a GoPro and the walk and talk stuff on the Insta360.
This camera is new to me and a real eye-opener. In fact, I can't imagine ever doing another episode of PhotowalksTV without it.
The camera has two lenses (360!) and films the front and back at the same time. So if I'm walking down the street, it's picking up what I see in front of me--plus a shot of me walking along. When editing, on the Insta360 computer or mobile app, I get to choose which shot I want--or use both!
For a solo creator, this is a godsend.
And the "disappearing" selfie stick is amazing. You photograph with the camera on the stick, and then Insta360 erases it from the shot. As in below.
The Sunshine Coast!
Logistics: Fly to Seattle (a short two hours from the Canadian border) or Vancouver, rent a car and head to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, (an hour's drive from the border) which will take you on a short 40 minute hop to Langdale. The city of Gibsons, the first major stop on your tour, is a few miles up the road.
Important to note: check the ferry crossing times as they don't leave that often. If you miss the boat, you'll sit in the car awaiting the next one for a good one to two hours. Reservations are accepted, but they cost an additional $15.
Gibsons is home to about 10,000 people, a wonderful marina, a cute small town, and multiple cool photo spots. As I point out in the video, they include Gospel Rock and Soames Hill for scenic overviews, the marina itself and the myriad, secluded beaches that look across the water to Vancouver Island. Where to stay? We love the Caprice Bed and Breakfast, which overlooks the water and has an eagle nest in one of its trees. Book early, as rooms go fast. Where to eat: the Black Bean Cafe is a great local hangout, and there are Chinese and Mexican restaurants in town with waterfront views. Gibsons was once home to a popular Canadian TV show, the Beachcombers, where much of the action took place at the Molly's Reach restaurant.
Roberts Creek: A funky tiny town by the sea best known for two things: a community mandala art project that, and a wonderful pier with great BC views.
Davis Bay: A traditional coastline that stretches along the main routes going in and out of Sechelt features a long wooden fishing pier that looks akin to the types you might find in Hawaii, jutting out from the shoreline. This is a popular destination to beach comb, windsurf, fish or swim.
Sechelt: the largest city on the south side of the Sunshine Coast, with over 10,000 residents. Here you’ll find larger stores, a cute hometown, another great pier that gives the feel of being directly over the water, and a wonderful ice creamery named EBs.
Skookumchuck Narrows: Just a few kilometers up the road is the Shoockumchuck, one of the main attractions of a Sunshine Coast visit. Simply put: here’s where twice a day the tide changes and reverses directions. Besides onlookers and photographers like us, it also attracts extreme kayakers who enjoy keeping up with the currents. (The meaning of Skookumchuck, by the way, is fast water in the native language.) Be sure to check the tide table charts before you come. They’re posted all over town, and at visitor centers. You'll want to time your visit accordingly, but know that the tide action will start up 30 minutes before the advertised time, and continue 30 minutes on the other side as well. To get to the rapids, you’ll take an hour hike down to the water, and one highlight of the walk is this great bakery in the woods, just at the foot of the hike, which specializes in cinnamon buns, coffee and other baked goods.
Past Powell River, about 30 minutes up the road, is the last stop, Lund. Route 101 ends here. If you want to continue up the coast of BC to Alaska, you'll need to get there by boat or plane.
There's not much in Lund, beyond a historic hotel that never re-opened after COVID, and a parking lot for folks boarding a water taxi across the way to remote Savary Island.