British Columbia’s coast is renowned for wilderness, island archipelagos, deep fjords carving into mountains and, amid all of this, welcoming communities and marina resorts. But you don’t have to block out several weeks to reach all of this natural wonder and welcoming hospitality.
The Sunshine Coast is a microcosm of the greater Coast, easily accessible from where most people live and moor their boats. Within days, you can be alone in an anchorage, watching waterfalls cascade down the steep sides of a fjord, exploring marine park archipelagos. Proximity makes the Sunshine Coast the perfect Spring or Fall destination.
Beginning at Gibsons, only 15 nautical miles from Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast extends to Desolation Sound. Along the way, every type of boating experience one associates with the vast BC coast can be found. Set aside a week, ten days, or two weeks and do it all. The best way to plan your voyage is to visit ahoybc.com and view the six-minute Sunshine Coast boating travel video which gives you a visual of the route. There is also a Sunshine Coast Showcase, with map directories of marine services, water activities and cultural stops, a list of best anchorages and a food and beverage guide. Here are some of the highlights.
If you are looking for sociability and amenities before you brave the wilds, moor at Plumper Cove Marine Park and tender over to Gibsons Harbour for a meal at Smitty’s Oyster House and a stroll along Gibsons Landing. The next sheltered anchorage is Smuggler’s Cove, about 20 NM from Gibsons. If you want this idyllic anchorage to yourself, go in the Spring or Fall. Secret Cove and Pender Harbour offer full service marinas with plenty of amenities. After that, your wilderness options begin. Another memorable stop is the Thormanby Islands, where you can lie on a beach that has the open Salish Sea on one side and protected Buccaneer Bay on the other.
Jervis Inlet compares to any of the more northerly fjords for length and majesty. Vancouver Bay, Blind Bay and the Harmony Islands are three secluded anchorages near its mouth where you feel like you are in remote seas. You will likely need to fuel up at the Backeddy Resort near the mouth of Sechelt Inlet. Don’t be in hurry. Have a meal at the pub and spend a last night in a stable bed in one of their geodesic domes. From there you can brave Skookumchuk Narrows, with tidal currents that surpass the infamous tight passages of the northern coast. Use caution. Traverse during slack tide and your reward is narrow fjords surrounded by mountains with very little boating company in Sechelt Inlet.
Or head up Jervis Inlet to one of BC’s most fabled destinations. Five thousand-foot-high walls and towering Chatterbox Falls make Princes Louisa Inlet a place no one visits without being affected to their core. To give perspective, you are only three leisurely days out from Vancouver, if he had the throttle open, in a setting that rivals any on the Coast.
It is certain you will need to re-fuel and re-supply after your trek into Jervis Inlet. Powell River has every amenity and service you might need. We recommend stopping over at Beach Garden Resort and Marina, unless you want to explore Powell River, in which case berth at the downtown Westview Harbour Authority. Lund is one of the classic little BC coastal communities that exists only because of boating. Some excellent dining options and fuel can be found. You might wish to re-supply and then anchor in Copeland Islands Marine Park where you are likely to find solitude, except for a robust seal population.
After Lund there is nothing but wilderness, dotted with hospitable outposts, for hundreds of miles. Around the top of the Malaspina Peninsula lies another of BC’s fabled boating destinations, Desolation Sound. In the height of summer, the warm-water crannies in the Sound can be occupied by hundreds of boats. But all around, less travelled waters beckon. You are in the Discovery Island archipelago with Cortes and West Redonda Islands within sight. Take a turn around them. Refuge Cove Resort and Gorge Harbour Marina have everything you need to re-supply.
But here is the real gem. Take the Okeover Arm passage and find yourself in Coast-class natural beauty with most of the boat traffic partying it up behind you. There are side arms off the main Arm with anchorages enough to delight for several days. And then experience the quintessential BC coast wild, but civilized, experience. Down near the end of Okeover Arm is little Okeover Harbour Authority where you can tie up, walk up the hill and dine at one of the best restaurants in British Columbia, the Laughing Oyster. You’ve earned it.