A Sustainable Travel Guide to British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast
by Jessie Festa | November, 2012
Artisanal cafes. Ecologically moral businesses. Protected parks. Farm-to-table restaurants. British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast provides a sustainable community and artisanal culinary scene. To experience the best locally-sourced cuisine and eco-friendly activities the area has to offer, here is a sustainable guide to the Sunshine Coast.
To get to the Sunshine Coast, you’ll need to first fly into Vancouver. From there, you can take BC Ferries from the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal to Langdale Ferry Terminal. The crossing time is 40 minutes. Tip: You’ll want to get a seat in the front as the ride is very scenic with mountain, marine and forests views.
#1: Have A Zen Retreat at Shades of Jade
Shades of Jade in Roberts Creek is a zen-minded bed and breakfast located in the cedars of the coastal rainforest. You can meditate near trickling ponds, indulge in an organic locally-sourced seaweed spa treatment or lay in bed and listen to the tranquil music they have playing at all times.
In terms of sustainability, breakfasts are made using organic products as well as locally picked berries and fresh basil grown in the hotel. Geothermal heating and cooling is used to regulate temperature, and LED bulbs are used for lighting. And for those who crave Vitamin Water, Shades of Jade provides fruit-infused, filtered tap water in refillable carafes instead of plastic bottles.
#2: Go Sustainable Glamping at Rock Water Resort
Rock Water Resort is known for being one of the sexiest accommodations on the Sunshine Coast. Although they provide lodges and cabins, the most coveted rooms are the tenthouse suites. These luxury camping rooms come with private verandas, hydrotherapy tubs, rain forest showers, a propane fireplace and heated floors.
While lavish, the property still does it’s part in sustainability. In terms of dining, the restaurant locally-sources food whenever possible, and almost all menu items are homemade. In the spa, treatments incorporate the organic Eminence line.
#3: Relax in a Private Villa at Painted Boat
Painted Boat gives you a chance to experience sustainable luxury in a waterfront villa. An infinity pool, hot tub, fitness facility and well-protected deep water marina are onsite, as well as a luxury spa that incorporates locally-sourced oils into their treatments.
Their walkways are made of 100% recycled tires and plastics from the Fraser Valley, and all furniture wood is locally-sourced. In the restaurant, you’ll taste the local and organic freshness right away, with fish purchased from nearby fisherman, produce from Henry Reed Farm and Green Organics and sturgeon from Target Marine Hatchery. As you’re eating, you can admire paintings on the wall from local artists like Mardi Ahmed and Motoko.
#4: Feel at Home at Arcturus Retreat Bed and Breakfast
Arcturus is a cozy bed and breakfast with beautiful views of the Coast Mountains and delicious homemade breakfasts using locally-sourced, organic ingredients. Rooms range from $150 for a one-bedroom to $250 for the entire top floor of the home with two bedrooms, and breakfast and afternoon tea is included. Produce comes from Henry Reed and Green Room Organics, while healthy artisanal cereal ingredients are added to yogurt, pancakes and other meals from Holy Crap, a local small business.
#1: Black Bean Roasting Company/Sunshine Coast Coffee, Gibsons
Located on Gibson’s Harbor and Howe Sound, owner Lyndsey Hoffman makes her own coffee beans, and all sandwiches, pastries and desserts are created from scratch. For the fruits in her products, like apples, blackberries, plumbs and rubbarb, she locally sources from farms and friend’s backyards.
#2: Wild Bistro, Gibsons
Wild Bistro serves lunch and dinner, and is a great place for drinks, live music and gluten-free options. Fresh sandwiches, salads, wraps, pastas and seafood dishes are made on the premises using locally sourced ingredients.
#3: Gumboot Restaurant, Roberts Creek
At Gumboot Restaurant, majority of the ingredients used are sourced from their onsite gardens, using a “100 feet from soil to plate” philosophy. This is a way of thinking many eateries in the Sunshine Coast use, meaning you try to get ingredients from within 100-miles of where you are. When this is not possible, they turn to local and organic growers to create dishes like buffalo burgers, wild fish, tofu entrees and pasta.
#4: Backeddy Pub and Restaurant, Egmont
At the Backeddy Pub and Restaurant you can enjoy a quick snack or a romantic dinner. While pub food is often considered unhealthy, Backeddy takes a different approach by using locally sourced food prepared from the freshest available seasonal products.
#5: LaVerne’s Grill, Garden Bay
LaVerne’s Grill features authentic espresso, creamy milkshakes and the best fish and chips in town using local fish, prawns and produce as well as herbs from their own garden. The restaurant recycles everything, including their frying oil, and all entrees are made from scratch.
#1: Make Your Own Artisanal Chocolates
When local entrepreneur Amber Stoby came to the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver, she found herself needing a source of income. She decided to take her hobby of chocolate making and see if she could make it into a career. After attending pastry school in Vancouver, completing workshops in France and working with instructors at Vancouver Community College, Amber now runs “Le Petit Souris Chocolate,” a handcrafted chocolate and truffle business that sources organic fruit and nuts from local farmers. You can take a class in her production space making caramels, raspberry bars and other luxury chocolates by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
#2: Tour An Organic Marine Hatchery (And Sample Gourmet Caviar)
Target Marine Hatchery is the creator of Northern Divine Caviar, Canada’s only producer of farmed white sturgeon. Overfishing has led to the collapse of fisheries that once supplied the world’s caviar, and many people see eating the delicacy as taboo. While the sturgeon from the caviar are endangered, Target Marine is trying to create a sustainable operation. The hatchery is fed by Grey Creek from the Tetrahegion Mountains, and the sturgeon are placed in a very non-stressful environment.
Target Marine is recognized as Ocean Wise, and use limited waste. Meat is used in restaurants, liver is used for pâté, gall bladders are used for issing glass in oil paintings and the meat is used for sturgeon soup.
#3: Explore The Farm Belt
In the area near Henry Road and Russell Road is the epicenter of agriculture. Visit organic farms like Green Room Organics, Henry Reed, Suncreek Farm, Backyard Bounty, as well as others nearby like Three Sisters, Shadoblix and Craighaven. You’ll learn about the area’s push toward reconnecting with the land by getting to know where it’s grown and who grows it. Additionally, you’ll realize organically grown fruits and vegetables actually taste better than candy.
#4: Walk The Purple Banner Trail
While the Sunshine Coast’s Green Banner Trail highlights sustainable food businesses, the Purple Banner Trail will connect you with local artists. From Langdale in the lower coast all the way to Lund on the upper coast, artists from various backgrounds hang purple banners outside their studios inviting people inside. Check out art quilts made of recycled fabrics at Gail Hunt, traditional and contemporary crafts from over 150 local artists at Fresh from the Coast and a mixed-media art gallery/organic tea and coffee shop at Copper Sky Gallery & Cafe.
#5: Visit the Sechelt Botanical Garden
A visit to the Sechelt Botanical Garden will allow you to see an array of plant life from the local area and beyond. Situated on 40 acres of an old tree farm, you’ll immerse yourself in myriad types of flora with an emphasis on local plants. See the Quaking Aspen, cloning trees whose leaves flutter gently in the breeze, snack on fresh berries and breath in floral scented air in the “5 Senses Garden.”
The Botanical Garden’s mission is to get people back into nature, instead of focusing on just one garden. Produce from their vegetable garden gets donated to local food banks, and a beekeeper is starting to harvest local honey for fundraisers. It’s open seven days a week, every day of the year.
#6: Go Below The Surface
Many people are unaware that scuba diving is a worthwhile activity on the Sunshine Coast, even in the winter. Depending on who you talk to will dictate where the best diving is, but know it is available throughout the upper and lower coasts of the area. The reason people love diving here is the exceptional visibility, unpolluted water, colorful marine life, opportunities to visit the wreck of the HMCS Chaudiere Artificial Reef Site and availability of dives for all different skill levels.
One exceptionally popular spot is Skookumchuck, which means “strong waters” and gives divers the chance to see Puget Sound king crabs, rock fish, mones and rose stars.
There’s also Tzoonie Narrows, a beginner dive with silvery pile perch, sea lemons, wolf eels and decorated warbonnets. From the Georgia Straight side of the coast, bigger animals like sea lions and octopus can be found.
#7: Hike The Sunshine Coast Trail
While there are many worthwhile hiking trails in the area, The Sunshine Coast Trail in Powell River is especially symbolic. The success of Powell River’s paper mill meant by the 1980s and 90s, the forest population was in danger. This trail was built by a group of outdoor enthusiasts and passionate locals who wanted to protect the remaining trees and get people back in touch with nature. The trail extends 112 miles from Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay, and takes eight to ten days to complete.
#8: Explore Desolation Sound Marine Park
Head to the tiny fishing village of Lund, and you’ll be able to catch a 10-minute water taxi to Desolation Sound Marine Park. The attraction, which has been a protected as a marine park since 1973, features 8,449 hectares of rugged coastline, calm bays, protected inlets and untouched islands. Because not much has changed in over 200 years, exploring the area is much like Captain George Vancouver would have.
#9: Stargaze in Egmont
The remoteness of Egmont makes it perfect for clear stargazing of the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt and the Milky Way. It’s the last village on the Sunshine Coast, so you’ll feel like you’re at the end of the Earth with the stars within your reach.
Egmont is also the gateway to Princess Louisa Marine Provincial Park, often said to be the “most scenic natural anchorage in the world,” home to Chatterbox Falls and the powerful Frell waterfall.
#10: Explore Halfmoon Bay
At Halfmoon Bay you have two excellent eco-friendly options. There’s Sargeant Bay Provincial Park which features open beaches, forested uplands, lagoons and rocky capes. There is also a wetland next to the beach, and the park is excellent for hiking, swimming and fishing as well as bird watching and deer spotting.
Additionally, Smuggler’s Cove Marine Park, which got it’s name as a hotspot for rum smuggling during Prohibition. Camping is popular here, as is kayaking and scuba diving. The goal of both these parks is to legally protect the land while also educating the public about sustainability.
One facet about the Sunshine Coast sustainable travelers love is the plethora of locally-focused festivals going on all year. Some upcoming events to check out include:
Sechelt Arts Festival
The Sechelt Arts Festival will take place from October 11 to 21 and will feature an array of art forms. Public works will adorn the streets, while actors take the main stage at the Raven’s Cry Theatre and the Seaside Centre.
Additionally, free concerts will keep your wallet full, while performance art and art technology workshops can teach you creative skills.
Sunshine Coast Mushroom Festival
On October 19 and 20 in Madeira Park’s Community Hall, attendees can learn everything there is to know about mushrooms of all kinds. There will be a mushroom display table, featured speakers, local produce vendors and cooking demos using organic ingredients.
Sunshine Coast Art Crawl
From October 19 to 21, the third annual Sunshine Coast Art Crawl will take place. Participants will travel from Langdale to Lund to experience the creativity of the coast. The event is free to attend.
For a full list of Sunshine Coast events year road, click here.
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About the Author
Jessie Festa, a New York native, is a world traveler who is always looking for a new adventure. She stays active through dance, hiking, and cycling and loves nothing more than her backpack. Follow her travels around the world and the Big Apple on her blog at jessieonajourney.com and at Epicure & Culture.