Sunshine Coast Bike Tour, Sechelt to Pender Harbour

By Jane Mountain | April 29, 2015

The sound of fat raindrops splatting against the tent was my alarm this morning. After a fitful night – during which I was too hot, then too cold, and then unable to sleep until I got up to pee – I managed to sleep in until 9am. I briefly pondered lying in the tent until the rain stopped, but aware that this could mean lying there for days, I got up and damply packed up.

Good Advice, Kindly Given

Not far from the campground, I came upon a road construction site. Just as I passed out of the construction zone, the female worker holding the stop sign yelled (in a rather snarky tone) “Use the bike lane!”.

I looked over to the narrow shoulder of the road. The surface was mostly puddle and where there wasn’t puddle, there were copious pinecones, small piles of loose gravel, and cracked potholes. The local government has obviously decided to stencil a few bikes in the gutters around town and call them bike lanes.

For cyclists, this type of slapdash attempt at bike friendliness is worse than having no bike lanes at all. Non-cyclists don’t understand that it’s dangerous to ride next to traffic on such surfaces, since the likelihood that you’ll be thrown off your bike into said traffic is much higher. It also gives drivers carte blanche to not move over or slow down when passing a bike on the side of the road.

None of this occurred to the sign-holding woman, of course. My fellow coastal BCers are nice enough, but they do like to tell you what to do (at least when you’re on a bike).

This little incident set the tone for the morning and though I tried not to let it bother me, I was seething for more than a few kilometres. I let my dismal mood go on unchecked until the sun burned away the morning rain clouds and started to dry me out.

Half-hearted Welcome

Though I had barely left the campsite by 10:30am, I decided to stop for an early lunch in Halfmoon Bay, mostly because there were several aggressively placed signs for the Halfmoon Bay Cafe along the highway, and I wanted to taste their pizza, sandwiches, and soup.

Sadly, not a single one of these items was vegetarian, so I settled for a middling samosa and a very good scone with a giant cup of coffee to wash it all down.

So far, I have not found folks on the Sunshine Coast to be very welcoming or friendly. My current theory on the matter is that I, as an early tourist along the coast, am a harbinger of the overcrowded, obnoxious summer to come.

Or maybe people don’t like to have a bedraggled, slightly smelly wanderer in their tidy establishments.

The ride from Sechelt to Madeira Park was not inspiring: long stretches of highway lined by trees injudiciously placed to block the spectacular views just a few hundred metres away; lots of gravel trucks and service vehicles passing way too close without slowing down; lots and lots of hills.

The roads here, like in most coastal regions, seem to be designed for minimum fuel efficiency. They are always either going up or down; there is no such thing as “flat”. My gears, my legs, and my patience were all getting a workout today.

Narrow Minded

Madeira Park is a slightly bigger blip off of the highway than Halfmoon Bay. It boasts a grocery store, a cafe, and a pretty little park. Boat tours of the harbour are also available.

I was hoping to discover a way to cross to Pender Harbour, which is directly across a watery narrows from Madeira Park, less than a kilometre as the crow flies.

But, with the narrows (which at their narrowest are less than 100m across) in the way, and the town lacking any kind of water taxi or ferry, the only way there was to ride 17 hilly kilometres around to the other side. Tomorrow I’ll have to backtrack about 10 of those.

The stunning beauty of the lakes, inlets, and islands on the route almost made up for the extra effort.

Sunshine Coast Bike Tour Pender Harbour

Cyclist’s tip: There is a campground at Katherine Lake, which is about 5km off the highway along Garden Bay Road, which would make the ideal stopping point. It wasn’t open for the season yet, or I would have camped there.

Tonight, though the thermometer is supposed to plummet near freezing (yikes!), I am doing the closest thing to hotel camping that’s available in Canada.

Garden Bay Lake on the way to Pender Harbour.

Garden Bay Lake on the way to Pender Harbour.

The cabin rental / resort / motel / RV park / campground / glamping / marina at Pender Harbour Resort (not to be confused with Pender Harbour Hotel or Pender Harbour Marina) is a one-stop shop for your varied accommodation needs.

The Pender Harbour Resort. Rent a cabin overlooking this!

The Pender Harbour Resort. Rent a cabin overlooking this!

The man who runs the resort is the only person I encountered today who actually seemed pleased to see a tourist and he encouraged me to take advantage of the gas fireplace in the resort’s guest lounge. So that is where I am, curled up in an armchair in front of the fireplace using WiFi that is faster than at home.

Later tonight, I may end up here again if I can’t get warm in my slightly inadequate sleeping bag.  

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