After a couple of days of exploring the parks and great restaurants of Vancouver, escape to the Sunshine Coast for its laid-back vibe and accessible outdoor adventures. Despite it's proximity to Vancouver, this stretch of coastline often gets overlooked but those who venture here will no doubt love it—quaint seaside villages with great food and breweries, endless beach trails and hidden coves for kayaking, and an overall artsy vibe unique from the rest of British Columbia.

Highlights

  • Escape to an idyllic stretch of coastline less than two hours from Vancouver
  • Explore over 100 miles of protected coves, inlets, and driftwood-strewn beaches
  • Hike, kayak, and paddle-board at some of the best spots in British Columbia
  • End your days at great local breweries and local sea-to-table restaurants

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vancouver Vancouver
Day 2 Explore Vancouver Vancouver
Day 3 Vancouver to Sechelt (2 h 30 min) Sechelt
Day 4 Explore the Lower Sunshine Coast Sechelt
Day 5 Sechelt to Powell River (3 hours) Powell River
Day 6 Explore around Powell River Powell River
Day 7 Powell River to Egmont (1 h 30 min) Egmont
Day 8 Egmont to Vancouver (3 hours) Vancouver
Day 9 Depart Vancouver  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vancouver

Stanley Park, Deadman's Island, and downtown Vancouver
Stanley Park, Deadman's Island, and downtown Vancouver

Fringed by the Pacific Ocean and backed by the coastal mountains, Vancouver is one of the world's most livable cities with some of North America's best cuisine, rich indigenous heritage, and opportunities for outdoor activities. 

It takes around 30 minutes to get from the airport to downtown. The city center and surrounding neighborhoods are within easy walking or biking distance and all the main attractions are a short distance away. To get your bearings, start with a stroll along the seawall from English Bay to False Creek before wandering the historical, cobbled streets of Gastown and Chinatown

With over 60 different cultures, pick from a variety of international restaurants serving anything from Asian cuisine to seasonal farm-to-table dishes. For dinner, choose from a selection of top-notch eateries—from downtown and the West End to the North Shore and Kitsilano. Keep in mind, Vancouverites love eating out any day of the week so be sure to make a reservation if it's a popular restaurant.

Day 2: Explore Vancouver

Stanley Park's 5.5-mile seawall loop
Stanley Park's 5.5-mile seawall loop

Explore Vancouver's downtown by foot or rental bike or head to farther-away sights by public bus or Skytrain. In the morning, consider renting a bike and riding around the famous Stanley Park Seawall for great views of the North Shore Mountains and the downtown cityscape.

For lunch, there are a number of great restaurants throughout the city but if the weather is nice, head to Granville Island, a hub of art galleries, studios, unique shops, and the vibrant Granville Island Public Market. After lunch, walk or bike the seawall along False Creek around the recently built-up Olympic Village as a result of the Vancouver Olympics. Alternatively, rent a kayak in Granville Island or False Creek to explore by water.

Day 3: Vancouver to Sechelt (2 h 30 min)

Sechelt Beach
Sechelt Beach

Head north toward Horseshoe Bay and catch the ferry to the Sunshine Coast. This 112-mile (180 km) stretch of coastline—from Howe Sound in the south to Desolation Sound in the north—holds countless bays and inlets, driftwood-strewn beaches, lush fir forests, and rugged headlands backed by snowcapped mountains.

After arriving on the Lower Sunshine Coast, stop in Gibsons, a historic fishing village named the world’s most liveable small town by the International Awards for Liveable Communities in 2009. You'll find shops, cafes, and local artisans' galleries overlooking Howe Sound where it's easy to drift away the afternoon. Check out the Gibsons Public Market for a fresh cup of coffee and baked goods or head to the Sunshine Coast Museum to learn about the local history. For great seafood, head to Smitty’s Oyster House overlooking the harbor. Don't forget to also sample the great local craft beer at Tapworks Brewing or Persephone Brewing; both are highlights on British Columbia's popular Ale Trail.

Continuing up the coast, stop in the village of Roberts Creek, where 1930s-era cottages meet an enduring 1960s vibe. Walk along the driftwood-strewn beach at Roberts Creek Provincial Park, or, if you didn't grab lunch in Gibsons, head to the Gumboot Café which serves excellent farm-to-table meals and is just a short walk from the beach. 

Sechelt, the coast’s biggest town, is rich with craft shops and cultural attractions. Check out the Arts Centre which features works by local artists as well as live music and literary events or the Tems Swiya Museum which documents the culture of the shíshálh Nation, who have lived along the coast for thousands of years. For dinner, head to the Lighthouse Pub perched scenically over the Sechelt Inlet for great seafood and local craft beer. 

Driving time (Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay): 30 minutes (12 miles / 12 km)
Ferry time (Horseshoe Bay to Langdale): 40 minutes
Driving time (Langdale to Sechelt): 30 minutes (16 miles / 26 km)

Day 4: Explore the Lower Sunshine Coast

Smuggler Cove, just off the Sunshine Coast
Smuggler Cove, just off the Sunshine Coast

The Lower Sunshine Coast stretches from Gibsons in the south to Egmont in the north and offers a bit of everything—mountains, lakes, and long stretches of coastline to explore. Spend the day in the outdoors, hiking a number of great trails, paddling and relaxing along the coast, or renting a boat and exploring Pender Harbor. In the afternoon and evening, hit up a couple of the great local breweries and restaurants around Gibsons and Sechelt. 

Day 5: Sechelt to Powell River (3 hours)

Pacific coast near Powell River
Pacific coast near Powell River

Follow the coast north to Powell River, which involves a ferry crossing from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay (check departure and wait times in advance). En route, both Sechelt and Egmont are great places to stop and explore or grab a meal. It's a pretty drive, with the highway winding its way along coves and inlets past the beautiful coastline. Remember to drive slowly and stop often to enjoy the views!

At Egmont, Skookumchuck Narrows is a popular stop to witness a whitewater wonder of the world. It's an easy 5-mile (8 km) return hike that leads to a section of the river where, twice a day, the saltwater flow changes directions and creates large waves and whirlpools. Be sure that your timing is right to catch the waves!

If there's time left in the day, follow Highway 101 north to the historic fishing village of Lund on the shores of Desolation Sound where you can head out on a sea kayaking tour or short hike. Don’t miss a stop at Nancy's Bakery for their celebrated blackberry cinnamon buns. Head back to Powell River for a pint of Pow Town Porter at Townsite Brewing before heading out for dinner.

Driving time (Sechelt to Earls Cove): 1 hour (34 miles / 54 km)
Ferry time (Earls Cove to Saltery Bay): 50 minutes
Driving time (Saltery Bay to Powell River): 30 minutes (20 miles / 30 km)

Day 6: Explore around Powell River

Coastline around Powell River
Coastline around Powell River

Spend the day exploring the outdoors around Powell River. Head out on a sea kayaking tour in beautiful Desolation Sound or head to Savary Island, the only sandy island of the Gulf Islands where you can rent a bike and explore on your own. Alternatively, rent a canoe and follow the Powell Forest Canoe Circuit in the south-east. 

There is great hiking, as well, on the 112-mile (180 km) long Sunshine Coast Trail which starts in Lund and passes near Powell River. You can simply do a day hike along the trail or overnight in one of the trail huts. The region is also famous for great Scuba diving, where you can see giant octopus and a variety of marine life.

Day 7: Powell River to Egmont (1 h 30 min)

Coastal inlets along the Sunshine Coast
Coastal inlets along the Sunshine Coast

Head to Saltery Bay for the 50-minute ferry crossing to Earls Cove. From there, it's a short drive to Egmont. Skookumchuck Narrows is a popular stop to witness a whitewater wonder of the world. It's an easy 5-mile (8 km) return hike that leads to a section of the river where, twice a day, the saltwater flow changes directions and creates large waves and whirlpools. Be sure that your timing is right to catch the waves!

Driving time (Powell River to Saltery Bay): 30 minutes (20 miles / 30 km)
Ferry time (Saltery Bay to Earls Cove): 50 minutes
Driving time (Earls Cove to Egmont): 10 minutes (4 miles / 6 km)

Day 8: Egmont to Vancouver (3 hours)

Downtown Vancouver from Stanley Park
Downtown Vancouver from Stanley Park

It's a 40-minute drive to Langdale where you'll catch the ferry to Horseshoe Bay on the mainland. Take your time to enjoy the stops along the way. From Horseshoe Bay, it's only a 30-minute drive to Vancouver. 

Before catching the ferry, consider grabbing lunch in nearby Gibsons, a small town in southern Sunshine Coast. The town has two sections: the original 100-year-old fishing village around the harbor, and a commercial corridor along the highway. Around the harbor, Gower Point Road is a charming strip of seafaring businesses, antique dealers, arty shops, and cafés. Down on the harbor itself is a marina and the pleasant Gibsons Seawalk, a 10-minute scenic meander that’s lighted at night.

Driving time (Egmont to Langdale): 1 hour, 30 minutes (53 miles / 85 km)
Ferry time (Langdale to Horseshoe Bay): 40 minutes
Driving time (Horseshoe Bay to Vancouver): 30 minutes (12 miles / 20 km)

Day 9: Depart Vancouver

Sunset over Vancouver from Kits Beach
Sunset over Vancouver from Kits Beach

Head to The Naam (open 24/7) for an early morning breakfast before making your way to the airport. If you're feeling indulgent, splurge on a seaplane harbor tour to take in the magnificent scenery of the mountain-and-sea-dominated city from a new perspective. Alternatively, enjoy some more time at Stanley Park, paying a visit to Klahowya Village via the Spirit Catcher miniature train to watch cultural performances. Here you can also purchase souvenirs and gifts of traditional First Nations arts and crafts from the Artisan Marketplace and Métis Trading Post.

It usually takes 30 minutes to travel from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport but allow extra time in case of traffic. Best to arrive at least two hours prior to your international departure while allowing extra time to drop off your rental car.