July 5, 2011
DAY TRIP FROM VANCOUVER – SUNSHINE COAST
However, by Canadian standards, it is true – the coastline northwest of Vancouver receives an “average” of 4 to 6 hours per day. And by British Columbia standards, you know this is a lot. When it rains, the locals call it “liquid sunshine.” So it’s sunny every daytime!
The Sunshine Coast is traversed by an 87-mile stretch of Highway 101 between the ferry terminal of Langdale (start) and the town of Lund (end).
To reach the Sunshine Coast at Langdale you need to board a BC ferry from West Vancouver. There are no roads linking the two places. Please see Getting There below.
The Sunshine Coast is split into Lower and Upper portions on either side of Jervis Inlet. For a carless day trip from Vancouver, one can only do the first two Lower end towns where there is a public bus service: Gibsons and Sechelt. In between the two towns, there is the artists’ hamlet of Roberts Creek, but considering the wait for the next bus, and the small number of unremarkable shops, it is not worth your while.
Also split into two, Lower Gibsons, the quaint harbor village part, is known as the locale for the 80’s top-rated Canadian TV show The Beachcombers. In fact, one of the original sets, Molly’s Reach Restaurant, is still operational.
Stroll along the marina and buy the catch of local fishermen. One of the regulars, the Beldis vessel offers octopus – which the owner Craig Perry (Tel: 604-740-6371) said is best by marinating it overnight in vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil. No need to heat. The acidity cooks the octopus making it tender and tasty. Beldis’ prices are not cheaper than the supermarket.
It is worthwhile to visit the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives at the corner of Gower Point Road and Winn Road ( a 10 minute walk from the information center , Tues – Sat, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm, open on Sundays from July 2 to September 4, admission by donation, Tel; 604-886-8232, www.sunshinecoastmuseum.ca). The museum has a small but magnificent butterfly collection, and local history exhibitions reflective of Northwestern life before the age of the internet. Allow an hour or two to wander around.
Right at the foot of the museum building is Lower Gibsons’ Public Water Tap. Lower Gibsons’ water pumped up from an aquifer was voted the world’s best municipal drinking water in 2005 at the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Contest in West Virginia. If you have your car, lug as much water bottles as you can and fill them up for free! The tap is open 24/7. The award-winning fresh water, untreated and non-chlorinated, can only be sourced in Lower Gibsons and not in Upper Gibsons - where the nondescript shopping centers are. For the rest of the day, skip Upper Gibsons for Sechelt.
Northwest from Gibsons and half-an-hour ride away, Sechelt is disappointingly strip mallish. The public bus can drop you off in front of a small mall. The Visitor Info Centre (Tel: 604-885-1036) is within the same complex. And just two blocks away is the Trail Bay Waterfront beach. On a clear day you can see Vancouver Island across Georgia Strait. The beach is rocky and can be windy. The water is cold even during the summer. Do not expect sand, shady trees or warm water.
Hungry? There is a passable Chinese lunch buffet at Bay View Chinese Restaurant (the view is a gas station) $8.99 for 10 years and older with plenty of ice cream and jello for the kids, 5559 Wharf Road, Tel: 604-885-3288. On Sunday evenings (5 pm – 8 pm), there is a good Chinese dinner buffet across Bay View at Golden City Restaurant ($ 11.95 for age 11 yrs and older, 5550 Wharf Road, Tel: 604-885-2511).
If you wish to spend the night at Sechelt, using it as a base, there is the highly affordable Upper Deck Guesthouse with private rooms good for families ($22 for ages 11 and older, and $10 per child 10 years old and younger - common bathrooms, shared kitchen and lounge). Located on the second floor of a bus depot across a parking lot, it was surprisingly cozy, clean, and quiet. No TVs. Call for reservations at 604-885-5822 or see www.secheltaccommodation.com.
To get to the West Vancouver Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal by public bus, use the web site www.translink.ca.
The regular cost for an adult round trip boat fare for the hour-long scenic trip to Langdale Ferry Terminal at the foot of the Sunshine Coast is $13.45. Technically you are paying only one way because the open return trip is “free”. If you can afford it, buy a BC Ferries Experience Card. The advantage of such a card is it gives you a discount for participating routes. The Langdale fare for a walk-on adult (12 years or older) with the card is $10.45, a savings of $3.00. To know more about this card, fares for cars or bikes and ferry schedule, see www.bcferries.com or call 1-888-223-3779.
Caution: there is considerable ferry vehicular loading on weekends starting on Fridays, so if you’re driving start early.
Once you disembark at Langdale, there is a bus stop where you can board Regional Transit which will take you first to Lower Gibsons. Unfortunately your Vancouver bus pass is not accepted and the cash fare is $2.25 (adult). To save money, especially if you want to see both Gibsons and Sechelt, you can buy a day pass $5.50 at an outlet. The first outlet from the Langdale terminal is ten minutes away - the Village Store at Gibsons. This means you have to pay an initial one-way fare. Perhaps if you tell the driver you will be buying a day pass, you might be spared paying for your first trip.
For route information and schedules day pass outlets, please call Sunshine Coast Transit at Tel: 604-885-6899 or see www.transitbc.com and search for Gibsons or Sechelt.
Note: This article was first published in the Vancouver biweekly Planet Philippines , July 1 - 15, 2011 issue.