The Sunshine Coast, British Columbia is one of my favourite destinations to travel. From the lush temperate rainforest to the striking shoreline of the Pacific Ocean. In this post, I’m sharing some of my favourite things to do and places to visit. You’ll find cascading waterfalls, rugged coastlines, a scenic mountain peak, and great places to catch the sunset and sunrise.
These recommendations are concentrated around Gibsons and Sechelt, the traditional and unceded territories of the skwxwú7mesh and shíshálh nations. I hope this post inspires you to visit this beautiful area and learn more about its history and ecosystems.
Best Time to Visit the Sunshine Coast
Summers are beautiful and warm on the Sunshine Coast. The warm weather signals tourist season and accommodations can be expensive and book up quickly. But, summer is also when restaurants are open for longer hours, local markets are bustling, and cultural festivals are taking place. You can catch free weekend concerts at Gibsons Landing all summer long.
Winters on the Sunshine Coast are mild and wet with the occasional dusting of snow. Life slows down in the winter. Though the weather is mild, it is too cold to enjoy restaurant patios or play in the ocean waters. But, winter is a great time to hike. The hemlocks and cedars keep the forests a vibrant green and the trails are less crowded.
The spring and fall on the Coast are refreshingly mild by Canadian standards. Be prepared for rain and overcast. But, if you’re willing to brave lousy weather, you’ll be rewarded with torrent waterfalls and salmonberries that line forest trails. One of my favourite things about spring is the lack of mosquitoes.
Best Outdoor Activities on the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia
1235 Stewart Road, Gibsons
12.2km mountain hike
Mount Elphinstone, known as “Mount Elphi” to locals, is a 1232m peak overlooking Howe Sound, the town of Gibsons, and Bowen Island. By mountain standards, Elphi is small which makes it a good option for moderately experienced hikers with no practice climbing peaks. Out-and-back, it’s a 12.2 km hike that will take you around 6 hours to complete. The hike is strenuous, but the trail is easy to follow.
Most of the hike is dense forests until the clearings at the peak. Ferns, cedars, and hemlocks line the trail. You’ll also find an abundance of salmonberries and huckleberries when they are in season. There are a couple of streams to fill up on water, but they aren’t evenly spaced and can dry up. For that reason, I recommend bringing enough water to get you through the whole hike.
Depending on the time of year that you hike, there may or may not be snow at the peak. When there is snow, it may be impossible to reach the top without snowshoes. At the very least, in colder weather, you’ll want to bring microspikes because the loose and wet snow can make things slippery. Trekking poles, hiking boots, and gaiters are also a good idea.
Once you reach the peak, you can have lunch on the helipad overlooking a sea of trees. The view is gorgeous if you can make it up on a day without cloud cover. On the way down, if you find yourself with extra time and energy, take a short detour to visit Langdale Falls.
Mount Elphinstone is accessible without a car if you are coming from Vancouver by ferry. From the Langdale Ferry Terminal walk to the end of Wharf Road. Here you will find a trail that connects to Sprockids Park and the Mount Elphinstone trailhead. This will add an extra 40 minutes of hiking in each direction, so give yourself plenty of time.
1235 Stewart Road, Gibsons
2.6km waterfall hike
Langdale Falls is a stunning 40-foot waterfall surrounded by lush evergreens. The 2.6 km out-and-back trail is easy to follow and will take you around an hour to complete. The trail isn’t strenuous, but does have a bit of an incline. The hike can also be completed as a loop, but it has become so overgrown that it’s best to avoid this route.
Once you reach the falls, there is a rope that can assist you with the descent to the base. Beware of climbing down, it is steep and especially dangerous in snowy or icy conditions. Take comfort in the fact that the view of the falls is better from the top.
Cliff Gilker Park
3110 Sunshine Coast Hwy, Roberts Creek
Cliff Gilker Park is home to a scenic waterfall that is located a few feet from the parking lot. In the warmer months, you’ll find children splashing at the base of the falls and playing in the field and playground. There are picnic tables and washrooms onsite and a wheelchair accessible platform with a view of the main falls.
The park has 7 km of trails that are marked, maintained, and mostly flat. The trails weave through dense forest with the Sunshine Coast’s signature hemlock and cedar trees. As you travel over bridges and boardwalks, you’ll also find trailing blackberry, red huckleberry, and salmonberry. If you follow the red trail, you’ll come across another small waterfall.
This trail is well trafficked, but if you visit early morning or on a weekday it will be a quieter experience. In the heat of summer, the waterfalls and creeks may have limited flow.
639 Bridgeman Rd, Gibsons
Hike with a view
Soames Hill is a popular hike with a view of Gibsons, Keats Island, and Howe Sound. There are two main lookoffs, one at 230m and another at 240m. This 2km hike will take you around 1 hour to complete. The hike is quite strenuous with steep inclines and stairs, but if you’re looking for a view of town without having to climb Mount Elphi, this is perfect!
I suggest hitting the trail in the early morning or late afternoon to catch the sunrise or sunset – just be sure to bring a headlamp.
Catch the Sunrise or Sunset
Davis Bay Beach, Secret Beach Park, Georgia Beach, Bonnie Beach, Pebbles Beach
Paddleboard, picnic, sightsee
The best way to explore the Sunshine Coast’s beautiful beaches is to take a drive on a sunny day and stop by the ones that catch your eye. Davis Bay Beach, Secret Beach Park, Bonnie Beach, Pebbles Beach, and Georgia Beach are all great places to start.
The beaches on the coast are composed of smooth stones with few sandy areas. You’ll find many washed up logs and driftwood, a reminder of the area’s logging history. The Pacific Ocean is quite cold in these parts, but brave the waters (or wear a wetsuit) and you’ll find many nice places to swim and paddleboard. Otherwise, a walk or picnic along the coast at sunrise or sundown is lovely.
Paddle to Plumper Cove Marine Provincial Park on Keats Island
Gower Point Rd, Molly’s Lane, Gibsons
Kayak in the Pacific Ocean
Kayaking on a calm summer’s day is one of the best ways to explore the Coast. You can rent kayaks from Alpha Adventures at the dock in Lower Gibsons. On our last trip, my fiancé and I took a few hours to kayak around Keats Island. You can dock at Plumper Cove Marine Provincial Park and explore their trails by foot. If you are feeling really adventurous, pack your camping gear and stay a night or two.
If you want a more relaxing trip that explores a greater distance, you can book scenic boat tours with Gibsons Harbour Ferry or Sunshine Coast Tours.
Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park
Hike with coastal views, swim, sightsee
Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park has a 4.3 km out-and-back trail that travels along the coast. There are several lookouts along the trail with views of crashing waves and a peaceful turquoise cove. It will take you around an hour to complete this route at a leisurely pace.
This trail is heavily trafficked so expect to see others along the way. It’s an easy trail with the exception of a few technical areas that have you scrambling up rocks. Boardwalks take you over wetlands, but parts of the trail can get muddy. You’ll see plenty of seabirds and purple starfish and, if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a harbour seal, sea lion, or whale.
Towards the end of this trail is a cove. On a clear sunny day, you can find people swimming in this area. Bring your swimsuit and join them, but be careful because you’ll need to travel over some rocks to get to the water. While waters in the cove can be calm, there is no guarantee that they will be. Other areas along the trail are too dangerous to swim safely.
The park’s name is a nod to its history. According to Vancouver Trails, “during the period of prohibition, smugglers would hide from authorities in the cove as they transported alcohol south into the United States.”
Sunshine Coast Trail
If you are feeling extra adventurous, the Sunshine Coast Trail is a 180 km hike that weaves through coastal, forested, and mountainous regions. I’ve never completed it, but it’s on my bucket list. The trail is one of the best ways to explore the Powell River area. You can do the hike in small sections or complete it as a thru-hike. There are 14 cabins along the way and they are free to stay in. To learn more, visit the trail website.
Restaurants, Shops, and Local Events
This guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning some local stores, restaurants, and events around Gibsons and Sechelt. The Coast is home to some amazing breweries and restaurants that make perfect stopping points after a long adventure. Some of them double as music venues in the evenings.
In the summertime, these coastal communities host a number of festivals that celebrate local heritage and Indigenous culture. Check them out and you’ll learn more about local life and history. Many of the events are family friendly and a lot of them are free.
Restaurants and Breweries
Tapworks Brewing Company
Tapworks Brewing Company has great craft beer and one of the best outdoor patios in Gibsons. Their patio overlooks Gibsons Landing with a view of the water and mountains off in the distance. Their burgers are top-notch and so too their IPAs, pale ales, and lagers. Not into beer? They have ciders, kombucha, and craft colas.
Persephone Brewing Company
A hotspot for locals and tourists alike, the Persephone Brewing Company makes delicious brews using local and organic ingredients. You can tour their farm where they grow hops, market vegetables, and fruit. They even have a buzzing apiary. On weekends, check out the live music scene while indulging on great food and award winning beer.
Sushi Bar Nagomi
Sushi Bar Nagomi is one of the best places (if not THE best place) to grab sushi on the Sunshine Coast. They serve authentic Japanese cuisine that you can eat indoors in their Japanese style restaurant or out on their private patio. Try their delicious salmon sashimi and their crunchy spicy tuna roll.
We always grab breakfast at the Gumboot when we are on the Sunshine Coast. Their BELTCH breakfast sandwich never disappoints and can be made on gluten free bread. Roberts Creek Pier is a short 4 minute walk away from the restaurant, so get your order to go and have a picnic at the beach. Alternatively, their outdoor terrace is nice and has shaded seating areas.
The Wobbly Canoe
Catch the sunset at Davis Bay Pier and then head over to the Wobbly Canoe for delicious locally sourced food and signature cocktails. Their Sechelt Sour cocktail is a crowd-pleaser and mimics the beautiful sunset colours at the pier. I recommend their Korea BBQ chicken burger with crispy shoestring fries, but they’re also known for their steak and seafood.
Lunitas Mexican Eatery
Sample your way through Lunita’s agave spirits while feasting on tapas and tacos. Lunitas is perfect for people with dietary restrictions. Their menu has a variety of gluten free, celiac, dairy free and vegan options. They also have a great patio with views of Gibsons Landing.
Beyond Consignment sells quality secondhand outdoor clothing and gear. You can find hiking boots, base layers, jackets, rainwear and paddleboards. They also sell men’s and women’s casual wear. The store owner is an avid outdoorswoman and paddleboarder. She’s super knowledgeable, so hit her up with any of your Sunshine Coast adventure questions.
Reasons to Live Books
Reasons to Live Books is a hip bookstore and record store run by friendly locals. Book and music lovers will appreciate how well curated the store is. Plus, they have sweet merch to bring home to remember your travels!
Syíyaya Days is a multi-day celebration in ch’atlich (Sechelt). This 11-day celebration of Indigenous culture, histories, and ways of knowing kicks off with National Indigenous Peoples Day. There are film screenings, cultural walking tours, live performances, art workshops, a drumming circle, museum tours, storytelling, and other activities.
The Sea Cavalcade is a summer festival in Gibsons. It takes place in July and includes live music, historical walking tours, fireworks, kids activities (bouncy castles, face painting, games, petting zoo), a parade, and cultural events celebrating the town’s diversity. It also includes one of Canada’s top open water swims from Keats Island to Armours Beach as well as SUP and kayak races.
Creek Daze is a community festival taking place in Roberts Creek every August. The festival kicks off with the Higgledy Piggledy Parade where locals dress in costume and take to the street. The rest of the day is celebrated with local food, kids’ activities, and live music.
I hope this post encourages you to visit the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia! This is just a small selection of things to see and do. There are plenty of other beautiful places to visit. I’d love to hear about your favourite places on the Coast or any questions you may have. Hit me up in the comments section!