Looking for things to do on the Sunshine Coast in BC? This post covers our favourite activities on British Columbia’s beautiful coast — from active nature getaways to transformational spa days. These activities will get you closer to nature, immerse you in BC culture, and help make your trip transformational.
- 1. Experience a Digital Detox Wilderness Retreat
- 2. Go Glamping
- 3. Luxuriate on a Spa Weekend
- 4. Indulge in a Little Island Hopping
- 5. Explore the Watery World from a Kayak
- 6. Stretch Your Legs on the Trails
- 7. Swim in a Warm Summer Sea
- 8. Explore Aboriginal Culture
- 9. Center Yourself with Forest Therapy
- 10. Take a Self-Guided Craft Beer Crawl
- 11. Eat Sweet Treats
- Final Thoughts About Visiting the BC Sunshine Coast
With the big ticket attractions of Vancouver, Whistler, and Vancouver Island next door, British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast often gets overlooked by tourists (and locals). But missing out on the Sunshine Coast when you come to BC would be a major error in travel planning!
I have to confess, even though I grew up in and around Vancouver, and spent the better part of my 20s there, I was never really aware of the Sunshine Coast until long after I’d moved away. That seems crazy to me now, considering that the coast is only a 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, just outside Vancouver.
Whether you’re visiting in winter, summer, or somewhere in between, the Sunshine Coast gives you easy access to a slice of all the things that are best about BC — incredible nature, great food, tremendous craft beer, and that famous friendly Canadian welcome!
So, if you want to plan a transformational trip to the Sunshine Coast, get started with our recommendations for the…
11 Transformational Things to do on the Sunshine Coast in BC
You’ll also want to read our posts about transformational things to do in Sechelt, BC, our favourite activities in Gibsons, and the best transformational things to do in Lund. Also, don’t miss our complete travel guide to Canada’s West Coast.
1. Experience a Digital Detox Wilderness Retreat
Before YouTube, X-Box and 24-hour news channels ruled our lives, there were places like Tzoonie Wilderness Resort. Places where you and your family (or your sweetheart) could go and have a great time without any arguments over screen time or which Netflix show to watch next!
This secluded wilderness camp, a 30-kilometre (20-mile) boat ride from Sechelt, will give you a taste of what life must have been like for early European settlers. At Tzoonie, there’s no WiFi, only a little electricity, and no sounds of traffic, construction, or any sign of the industrial world we live in.
There’s not even any cell reception, so it’s the ideal place for a digital detox.
Sure, you might go through digital withdrawal at first. But, after a few hours, nature will start to work its magic and you’ll feel more relaxed than you have in decades. Truly transformational!
There are no pretensions to luxury at Tzoonie.
Accommodations are in prospector’s tents or small cedar cabins (complete with cozy beds) and they ask you to bring your own sleeping bag. Their well-equipped kitchen, where you’ll do your own camp cooking, is open to the elements on three sides.
Plus, the Tzoonie beach is absolutely littered with oysters, and the Tzoonie team will show you how to pick and prepare them for the world’s freshest seafood dinner.
Art and Kelly, the father-son duo who run the place, will welcome you like family. We were immediately drawn in by Art’s encyclopaedic knowledge of all the local characters, the history of Sechelt, and his (somewhat tall?) tales of life at Tzoonie over the past 40 years. Coffee around the campfire each morning was one of the highlights of our stay.
The other highlight?
One evening, we took our sleeping bags down to the beach for sunset. Snuggled up and cozy, we watched as the sun sank away over the mountains and star after star after star popped into view.
We stayed until the sky was fully lit by a million twinkling lights traversing across the night sky. The perfect existential reminder that we are just specks of dust on this planet, here for only a moment while the universe we live in is timeless.
2. Go Glamping
If you’re into the idea of nature — but not so much that you want spiders and mice chewing on your earlobes at night — give glamping on the Sunshine Coast a try. You’ll find a range of yurts, small cabins, safari tents, and other gentle camping experiences up and down the coast.
We loved the geodesic dome we stayed in at Backeddy Resort & Marina in Earl’s Cove. The dome housed a comfy bed that would be at home in a luxe hotel room but we could step straight from our room onto the edge of the inlet, where we watched seals, seagulls, and the occasional helicopter, soar by. There was also a place for us to cook on our little camp stove.
Of course, you don’t have to cook at Backeddy since the Backeddy Pub, serving local brews and excellent Canadian pub food to locals and tourists alike, is just 50 metres away.
Waking up to the view of the spectacular Sechelt inlet twinkling in the morning sun outside our dome was enough to fill my soul with joy and transform my outlook for the entire day.
3. Luxuriate on a Spa Weekend
If you want to mix your nature escape with a little luxury, the Sunshine Coast can provide that, too.
Imagine soaking in a steaming hot tub under towering cedar trees and a blanket of stars. Or, how about swimming your morning laps in an infinity pool on the edge of the sea?
The Sunshine Coast’s range of spas — like Shades of Jade Spa and Painted Boat Resort — offer luxury accommodation in a natural setting, a complete range of spa treatments and packages, and some of the finest dining on the coast.
Self-care is just as important on vacation as it is in day-to-day life, so book a spa experience to transform your body while rejuvenating your soul.
4. Indulge in a Little Island Hopping
If the coastal life isn’t quite laid-back enough for you, there’s plenty of opportunity for island hopping on the Sunshine Coast.
Start in the south, where Gambier and Keats Islands will give you a taste of true Canadian island life. There are BC Ferries services to both islands from Langdale (near Gibsons). These ferries are walk-on or bike-on only, so be prepared to explore the islands under your own steam.
Or, if you prefer, rent a kayak to enjoy the view of the islands from the water. You can also camp at Plumper Cove Marine Provincial Park (only accessible by boat) on Keats or a selection of cottages and B&Bs on Gambier.
At the north end of the Sunshine Coast, you’ll find Savary Island, a moon-shaped sliver of land where Vancouver-ites visit their summer cottages and a handful of locals hold down the fort year-round. To get to Savary, take the water taxi from Lund. Be prepared to explore Savary’s gorgeous white sand beaches and quiet roads by bicycle or scooter, both of which you can rent on the island during summer months. And make sure you go for a swim — the waters around Savary are some of the warmest in North America.
On the central Sunshine Coast, you can visit the biggest of the Gulf Islands, Texada Island. On Texada, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails, 10 lakes where you can kayak, and abundant coastline. If you like birds, bring your binoculars and spend the day cataloguing the hundreds of bird species that visit the island throughout the year.
If you’re travelling by boat, the Sunshine Coast offers endless opportunities to visit boat-only islands, and there are plenty of marine parks where you can anchor or camp.
A few nights in the wilderness will completely change how you see and interact with the world around you.
5. Explore the Watery World from a Kayak
Made up of as many inlets, bays, and islands as there is land, on the Sunshine Coast you just HAVE to get out on the water. There are many ways to do this, from chartering a sailboat to buying a yacht to booking a tour on the Princess Louisa.
However, our favourite way (and the most eco-friendly) is to go kayaking. Kayaking on the Sunshine Coast, you’ll slip through the water silently spotting sea life, from seals to starfish. Kayaking makes you feel a part of the ecosystem, rather than just an observer.
If you’re an experienced kayaker, you can easily rent a kayak and journey on your own, as we did a couple of times on the coast.
But, to be honest, we had more fun and learned much more when we went out as part of a tour!
We went out for a half-day tour on the Okeover Inlet, which is at the very northern end of the coast, and known as the gateway to Desolation Sound.
Our guide Jon, from Footprint BC, was full of knowledge about the inlet, the coast, the flora and fauna, the history and the indigenous culture in the area. It made for a fascinating few hours on the water.
Footprint BC also offers multi-day kayak tours that take you far away from the modern world and immerse you in the extraordinary beauty and wildlife of the northern Sunshine Coast.
We’ve officially added one of these multi-day tours to our bucket list!
6. Stretch Your Legs on the Trails
For hikers and walkers, the Sunshine Coast offers a huge range of hikes and places to eat a packed lunch overlooking incredible vistas.
Arguably the most popular hike on the coast, the trail to Skookumchuk Rapids winds through an enchanted forest filled with moss-covered trees. It’s only about an hour from the trailhead to the rapids, but do NOT hike the trail before stopping at Skookumchuk Bakery (about 50m along the trail from the trailhead) to gain sustenance.
Valentine Mountain in Powell River is another great place for a short hike. It’s only about a kilometre long but it is uphill the whole way, so your legs and lungs will feel it. At the top, you’ll have a 360-degree view — of Powell River, Townsite, and the Coastal Mountains that tower over the Sunshine Coast.
If you’re in Gibsons, there’s a similar hike up Soames Hill (locally known as The Knob) that involves around 40 minutes of climbing almost 500 stairs to get to panoramic views of Gibsons, the local islands, and the mountains.
The ultimate hike on the Sunshine Coast is the Sunshine Coast Trail.
This trail stretches 180 km from Desolation Sound in the north, all the way to Saltery Bay, just south of Powell River. There are 14 camping huts along the route, and you can either tackle the entire trail or pick a leg that’s the right distance for you.
This is true back-country hiking, so you’ll need to be experienced and prepared with all the gear you need to survive in the wilderness!
7. Swim in a Warm Summer Sea
Typically, coastal waters in BC are a little bracing, to put it mildly. I remember jumping into the ocean off Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver and jumping right back out seconds later — but not before my fingers and toes went numb!
But salt water swimming in BC doesn’t have to be like that!
In and around Desolation Sound, ocean water temperatures can rise up to 22 degrees Celcius (72 F) in summer. That’s warmer than many Hungarian mineral baths we’ve experienced!
At Dinner Rock near Lund, I jumped into the water to discover that it was as warm as a summer lake — nothing like the Canadian ocean water I’m used to. There’s nothing like swimming in the realm of seals and otters to make you see the world from a different perspective.
8. Explore Aboriginal Culture
For thousands of years or more, before Europeans came to settle the Sunshine Coast, the First Nations people lived on the land, at one with the abundance provided by the ocean and forests.
While you’re on the Sunshine Coast, learn more about the traditional culture and the (sometimes heartbreaking) history of the Squamish (skwxwú7mesh), Sechelt (shíshálh), and Sliammon (tla’Amin) and Kla’hoose First Nations who live on the land.
Especially in this time of eco-destruction, we can learn so much from this culture that deeply respects nature and understood sustainability long before it became a buzzword.
9. Center Yourself with Forest Therapy
If you’re looking for a chance to truly de-stress and reconnect with your primal self, book a session of Forest Therapy at Iris Griffith Nature Centre near Ruby Lake. This is a chance to slow down and explore the delights of an old growth forest through the sounds, smells, and textures that are unique to this part of Canada.
Also known as forest bathing or Shinrin-yoku, this form of nature therapy was developed in Japan in the 1980s to help busy professionals manage their stressful lives. Though it’s a Japanese technique, forest bathing aligns perfectly with the culture of BC’s indigenous people who have made their home on the Sunshine Coast for thousands of years.
Though it might sound a little airy-fairy to some, our Forest Therapy session with Haida was, literally, down to earth. We moved slowly through the forest, touching, smelling, and even tasting the trees, plants, and earth that make up the forest. By the end, we were calm, relaxed, and enlivened by the power of the forest.
10. Take a Self-Guided Craft Beer Crawl
Can craft beer be transformational? We think so!
If you’re a craft beer fanatic coming to the Sunshine Coast, don’t forget to pack your growler (or several).
You probably already know that BC attracts brewmasters from all over the world. There are almost 200 craft breweries in BC, and all the way from Gibsons to Lund, you can sample some of the finest beers BC has to offer.
Right off the ferry in Gibsons, your first stop should be Persephone Brewing. In nice weather, their gardens (designed by the owners of the flower farm that was previously on the property) is a scenic spot for a flight or a pint. In the fall and winter, head inside the farmhouse to learn about Persephone’s range of beers (and a cider or two).
While we thought their beers were great, we especially love Persephone for their commitment to environmental and social sustainability — it’s a brewery you can feel great about supporting.
At the opposite end of the coast, Powell River’s Townsite Brewing is going from strength to strength. Not only do they have a great selection of beers — from their excellent IPA to the barrel-aged Belgian quad made with wild yeast — but the tasting room is a welcoming neighbourhood hangout.
Just up the hill out of Powell River, you’ll find Wildwood Public House. Though they don’t brew their own beers (yet), at Wildwood, you can sample some of the best beers from the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. Plus, they make amazing wood-fired pizza and excellent poutine!
Halfway between Gibsons and Powell River, you’ll find Bricker Cider on an apple farm outside of Sechelt. Sit inside their welcoming tap-room for a cider flight that runs from traditional dry all the way to dessert-sweet, or grab a jar and head for the picnic area, where you’ll almost always find a local food truck as well.
11. Eat Sweet Treats
Canadians love bakeries! From giant sweet muffins to sugary donuts to delectable cinnamon buns and everything in between, there’s nothing we like more than sitting down for a cup of coffee and a sweet treat.
If you have a sweet tooth, the Sunshine Coast will satisfy it, every single day.
One of the main attractions in Lund is the famous Nancy’s Bakery, which is crowded with day-trippers and hungry boaters all day long. They sell out huge trays of tasty cinnamon buns in a range of flavours (chocolate raspberry, apple, blackberry and more) faster than you can blink.
Nestled in the woods along the Skookumchuk Trail, you’ll find the Skookumchuk Bakery, a mandatory stop along the hike to the famous rapids. They offer their cinnamon buns in large and small sizes but, trust us, you want the large! If there is such a thing as a transformational baked good, these are they!
The Halfmoon Bay Bakery makes a great stop along the road from Sechelt to Pender Harbour. Take the scenic turnoff onto Redrooffs Road to see the old cottages where Canadians still come for their summer vacations.
In Sechelt, visit Cheeky Monkey Cupcake Shop for a huge selection of cupcake flavours, including several vegan options for animal-friendly eaters.
Another excellent place for sweet-toothed travellers is in tiny Robert’s Creek, where the Gumboot Cafe is a neighborhood favourite. Every day in any season, the Gumboot buzzes with the chatter of locals in for their coffee and cake. The dessert case is packed with an array of Instagram-worthy bars and cakes — most of which are vegan!
Final Thoughts About Visiting the BC Sunshine Coast
On the Sunshine Coast, you’ll find a slower pace of life than you do in Vancouver or Victoria. These small communities are friendly and welcoming, while the locals live close to nature, regularly getting out for hikes, boat trips, and barbecues.
If you’re visiting the Sunshine Coast, get ready to take on a slower pace of life yourself. We hope you’ll leave feeling more relaxed, happier, and more connected to nature than ever before.
We hope this list of things to do on the Sunshine Coast in BC helps you take your trip from ordinary to extraordinary. As with all our travel guides, we focus on eco-friendly, mindful, and responsible travel that will not only give you a more transformational travel experience, but bring you closer to yourself, as well! If you have any questions about the Sunshine Coast, feel free to email us or hit us up on Instagram.
♥ Happy transformational travels, Jane & Stephen
We’re not going to lie, it takes a LOT of work to create travel guides like this. But it’s easy to help us out! If you book or buy something using one of our personal links in this post, we’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Of course, we would never recommend anything we didn’t 100% believe in! Huge thanks in advance! –S&J
Share With Your Friends
Get 101 Travel Tips
Get our free ebook, 101 Travel Tips for Mindful Adventurers. It’s packed with our best tips for saving money, planning for travel, booking flights and accommodation, traveling sustainably, and staying on the road for longer! We ask for your email address so we can send you an email about once every month with our latest travel tips, destination advice, and personal stories about life on the road.