Where do you go when you have a long weekend & willing babysitters? Some might say “Vegas Baby”, but having done that last year we wanted a more active adventure without having to cross international borders. So we packed the scuba gear in the back of the truck and headed to British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.
A quick 40 minute hop from Horseshoe Bay on BC Ferries brings you to a lush mythical place, nestled just kilometers away from Vancouver where the rain is but a distant memory and the sun always shines. Well, perhaps not always, but the locals we spoke to all vowed that it was definitely sunnier more often on their coast than on the mainland in Vancouver. And I had to get out of the habit of calling Vancouver the mainland while I was there, because the Sunshine Coast, while accessible primarily by ferry (and float plane) is not in fact an island! If you are extremely adventuresome, you could go over kilometers of rough, craggy and narrow logging roads in order to circumvent the ferry. But why?
Getting off the ferry in Langdale and winding our way up the Sunshine Coast highway, I rolled down the window to inhale the fresh ocean air. Smelling the salt and basking in the sunshine, I closed my eyes and felt as if I were somewhere tropical. Although the temperatures are not quite as warm as places farther south, there is nothing else lacking. Lush rainforests? Check! Big blue ocean? Check! Sunshine? Check! Well, for ¾ of the time we were there!
Our first priority was lunch! Freed from the shackles of dining with unadventurous children, we wandered around the beautiful town of Gibsons until something caught our eye; Smitty’s Oyster House down on the marina. We sat right up at the counter watching the owner shuck oysters, enjoying the yellow sunshine gleaming through the sashed windows and the décor of the refurbished marine chandlery building. You must go! We had the best chowder and oysters ever!
Fully charged on seafood, we made our way over to Persephone Brewing Company to taste some local micro brew beer. An 11 acre farm and micro-brewery, Persephone is dedicated to putting out small batches of imaginative, great tasting suds flavored with hops grown onsite using other raw ingredients from BC farmers.
Named both for the daughter of the mythical harvest goddess and the logging boat that made Gibsons famous, Persephone is also a very proud member of the local community. Their small but passionate team is invested in cultivating not only the farm but social awareness as witnessed by their mission to employ people with developmental disabilities.
We walked around their welcoming property, got a close up view of the hops, the brewing process and watched as they canned a fresh batch. Then we got to taste! A flight of 4 beers is a very reasonable $6 and a great way to sample a variety of beers before choosing your favorite. Once you’ve made your difficult choice, there are a few ways to take some of it home with you! While their beer is available in cans, Persephone offers Growlers and Growlettes which are refillable 64 ounce and 1 litre bottles that you purchase ($8 for the Growler, $4 for the Growlette) and have filled with the the beer of your choice for around $12 and $6.50 respectively. Bring the empty bottle back later to have it refilled and you’ve just had zero waste beer! Many small breweries are now refilling growlers from other brewers so it’s a really eco-friendly way to drink beer with no empties recycle!
Persephone has really gone out of their way to make the brewery an inviting and inclusive environment; a large playground outside, pond, and beautiful farm land is inviting and welcoming for children, as is their tasting room. Persephone’s manufacturer’s license allows children on premises, so families are welcome to enjoy music and other community events at Persephone. Tasting room hours are 11-7pm Wednesday thru Saturday and 1-5pm on Sundays and they post information about upcoming events on their Facebook page. We can’t wait to bring our growler back to refill and I am certain our children will love the playground and farm!
Persephone Brewing Company Contact Info:
Address: 1053 Stewart Road, Gibsons, British Columbia
Eating well and enjoying great beer were not our only priorities; we wanted to get into the water while on the coast!
Sea Kayaking is one of the more popular pursuits on the Sunshine Coast. With so much coastline and such unique attractions such as the Skookumchuck Narrows, the view from the water is not to be missed. Kayaking is not only great exercise but it’s an amazing way to take some time to quiet the mind and recharge. Nothing but you and the water can be a beautiful thing!
Halfmoon Sea Kayaks is a friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating outfitter. From rentals, to lessons to guided tours to multi-day adventures they will hook you up with everything you need to have a safe and fun experience! During the high season, between May and September, walk ups are accepted but reservations are recommend. In the winter, October to May, they do not keep a full staff compliment but can accommodate guests through pre-booking. I definitely recommend beating the crowds that visit Sunshine Coast during the summer by taking advantage of great spring weather for a kayak adventure!
Halfmoon Sea Kayaks Contact Info:
Phone: 604-885-2948 or toll free 1-877-885-2948
Scuba diving on the Sunshine Coast was high on our priority list. There are many excellent dive sites up and down the coast that appeal to all levels of ability. To wit, I dive a few times a year while my husband dives at least once a week yet we both enjoyed the waters.
I’ll freely admit I prefer warm water diving. Falling off a boat in a thin wet suit, not much weight, with mariners to help haul you back in, and a margarita at the resort at the end is my idea of a great dive. Diving in the chilly waters of the west coast is definitely more technically challenging and demanding than resort diving. On the other hand, it is rarely crowded and the marine life is quite varied and more abundant than in the tropics.
Unfortunately there are no longer any dive shops open on the coast so if you do need equipment or air you’ll need to bring it with you on the Ferry. This creates its own complications. You need to declare your air tanks, so be sure to arrive early to get your paperwork sorted. The plus side is you’ll get to board and disembark first!
We dove 2 different sites while on the Sunshine Coast, first at Martin Cove which is located at the far end of Francis Peninsula Road by Pender Harbour.Although the path down to the beach is a bit steep, it’s not overwhelming and the entry is in a sheltered bay. Once in the water, you descend along a steep rock wall – very common for the Pacific Northwest. At shallow depth, the wall is covered by sea stars and barnacles, with lots of quillback rockfish, kelp greenling and sea perch. Moving deeper, you encounter anemones, boot sponges and finally cloud sponges as you near 100’. Although we didn’t see a Giant Pacific Octopus (despite my husband’s best efforts to locate one), they are common in these water. We did see several ling cod guarding egg masses, a Red Irish Lord and a relatively uncommon Tiger Rockfish. Most excitingly, my husband did manage to find a Wolf Eel hiding under a rock in about 60’ of water. Martin Cove is an easy dive with lots of life.
The other dive site we chose was Tuwanek Point. Tuwanak is a popular spot that is located at the north terminus of the road from Sechelt that runs along the east side of the Sechelt Inlet. Although a very easy entry, it does require a bit of a surface swim from the beach out to the small rocky island located to the right of the entry. The descent is into a kelp forest, full of sea peach and sea stars, eventually changing into a boulder slope which drops off into the inky depths. While visibility in the west coast waters can be as much as 100 feet on a perfect day, we had a reasonable 30-40’ of visibility on this dive. We were treated to countless anemones, white tunicates and sea stars coating the boulder slope, as well as rockfish and ling cod. Although my husband has seen octopi on this dive before (including one that was probably 8’ in size), it was not to be this time but we were placated with the discovery of another wolf eel!
For more information on Scuba Diving on the Sunshine Coast, you can contact either Ocean Quest in Burnaby or The Edge in North Vancouver. The shop owners and staff are all knowledgeable about diving on the west coast and love to talk diving!
Adventure was definitely the name of the game on this couples getaway and as we made our way home at the end of our weekend, we already making plans to return to the Sunshine!
You might be wondering where we stayed on the Sunshine Coast? Read all about them here: 3 Dazzling Resorts on BC’s Sunshine Coast!
We’d like to say a special thank you to Sunshine Coast Tourism for arranging our visit at Persephone and Halfmoon Sea Kayakas. For more information on all the fabulous things to discover on the Sunshine Coast, visit Sunshine Coast Tourism’s website. Whether you’re looking for amazing places to stay, unique dining experiences or fun and adventure, they’ve got it all!