The Sunshine Coast is a spectacular section of rolling highway hills, charm-filled seaside towns, and some must-see natural highlights. What better way to see it all than from the saddle?
Located just northwest of Vancouver B.C., this region is connected by BC-101 (or the more friendly, Sunshine Coast Highway), which runs mostly two-lanes wide from Langdale in the south, to Lund in the north. Separated from Metro Vancouver by Howe Sound, the Sunshine Coast enjoys a quieter pace of life. That being said, it's quite accessible, just a quick 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay. This makes it a perfect (and popular) cycling destination for locals and out-of-towners who want a scenic coastal ride.
How Far Will You Pedal?
From end-to-end the Sunshine Coast stretches some 160 kilometres, including the ferry ride from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, which lies roughly mid-way. At this distance, there are many options for trip length.
One could day-trip around Gibsons, stopping in at the Friday Farmers' Market, before biking north to poke about Sechelt’s vibrant arts scene.
Those interested in a longer, multi-day cycle tour could spend three to five days journeying from Langdale up to Skookumchuck Narrows (a famous tidal exchange and awesome sight), onward to Powell River and as far as Lund.
The possibilities are only limited by your timeline.
Note: As most road cyclists will know, highways are built to accommodate motor traffic. Cycling facilities vary widely along the Sunshine Coast Highway, from comfortable 1.5 metre shoulders to shoulderless roads north of Madeira Park. Use caution and make yourself visible.
Where To Lay Your Weary Head?
The Sunshine Coast offers cyclists a variety of accommodations for all budgets, with no shortage of charm.
There are campgrounds like Creekside Campground (Sechelt) and Kent’s Beach Campsite (Powell River) which are conveniently located along the highway. Check out Explore's Ultimate Sunshine Coast Camping Guide for 48 places to camp.
If you don’t want to carry your gear and camp, there are numerous welcoming bed and breakfasts where you can rest your weary legs. A complete listing of Sunshine Coast B&B accommodations can be found here.
Refueling: Food and Brews
Good cycle routes connect riders with well-deserved eateries and breweries. Luckily for hungry cyclists, the Sunshine Coast is chock-full of artisan cafes, family-run bakeries and two hyper-local breweries.
Basted Baker- Located in Sechelt, these guys know what they are doing. Sourcing ingredients from local farms, they feature a revolving menu, as well as a biscuit bar that will have you coming back for more.
Emelle’s Madeira Bistro- Emelle’s is a perfect breakfast spot. Nosh on a classic homemade breakfast or stop in and caffeinate. One of their lattes will put some pep in your pedal. Located at the entrance to Madeira Park.
Nancy’s Bakery- A trip to Nancy’s Bakery means that you’ve made it to your destination - Lund! This bakery is a staple for anyone travelling to Lund (or beyond). The reviews are in: if you try their cinnamon buns, you’re not likely to stop at just one. Good thing you can bike it off.
Persephone Brewing- Cycling uphill out of Langdale, Persephone Brewing is situated on the hill's crest, ready to welcome you to the Sunshine Coast with a cold pint. Their craft beers are brewed with hops grown on site. This farmhouse-style brewery is dedicated to local sustainability and is a real community gem.
Townsite Brewing- If you have made it this far you are in for a treat. Townsite, which has been brewing in Powell River since 2012 - has a series of year-round beers on tap and a rotation of seasonals. Snacks created by local makers are an added bonus. Committed to their community, Townsite Brewing supports local non-profit groups through proceeds generated by their growler program. Cheers to that.
See & Do Highlights Along the Way:
(c) Tourism Sunshine Coast
The harbour at Gibsons Landing - You might be raring to start your bike tour, but blowing through Gibsons would be a mistake. A charming harbour, pedestrian-friendly marina, thriving artisan community, boutique shopping and pulled-fresh-from-the-sea dining warrants a stop.
Roberts Creek - Make a scenic rest stop in this cozy community that's peppered with small secluded beaches and blanketed by mature forest. Looking out over the water you may spot whales passing through the Salish Sea.
Davis Bay - If the tide is out in Davis Bay, peel off your socks and stretch your legs on the sand bar. Otherwise, take a seat on some driftwood or perch yourself on the pier to drink in the sea views. A well-earned ice cream cone makes this stop all the sweeter.
Sechelt - With Georgia Straight in the 'front yard' and Sechelt Inlet in the back, you could almost describe blissed-out Sechelt as having island vibes. Cyclists should take a minute - or an hour or day - to soak up this coastal setting that ceaselessly inspires local and Salish artists. A visit to House of Héwhíwus is a great place to start.
Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park and Saltery Bay Provincial Park are two parks located just off the highway.
Madeira Park - An easy place to relax; soak up the gentle hubbub of the Pender Harbour Marina from a picnic table in Seafarer's Millennium Park, trace the boardwalk in Iris Griffith Wetlands, or poke about Madeira Park's charming town centre.
Meander Townsite, Powell River's very own National Historic District. The district's postcard-perfect mock Tudor and Craftsmen-style architecture will have you walking down memory lane. Catch a matinee at the nostalgic Patricia Theatre, which hosts the Powell River Film Festival each February.
Powell River - The most populated city on the Sunshine Coast, use Powell River as a hub for outdoor rec, attend one of its many festivals held throughout the year, and replace lost calories with succulent, tide-to-table West Coast cuisine.
Lund - The perfect place to play the unhurried eco-tourist. Trade your bike for a boat on a fishing charter or sightseeing day trip to nearby Savary Island, Mitlenatch Island Provincial Marine Park, Copeland Islands Marine Provincial Park or Desolation Sound Provincial Marine Park. Underwater, scuba divers will be rewarded with clear visibility and opportunities to spy Giant Pacific Octopus and wolf eels.
Extend your trip - From Lund, it's possible to take a water taxi to Cortez Island and then a BC Ferries connection to Quadra Island and then onward to Vancouver Island.
If You Go:
Here are a few tips for cycling the Sunshine Coast, based on my experience:
- Check the BC Ferries schedule ahead of time. Consider making a reservation if you're planning to go during peak travel periods.
- When crafting your itinerary, allow buffer time so you can actually poke around the places places you will pass through. You'll never regret budgeting time to recover after climbing big hills either.
- Don’t be in a rush to make distances. Be safe, be seen. Yes, it is a quieter highway but it is still highway riding.
- Wear reflective clothing, lights and a helmet.
- Pack appropriately for the weather. Don’t be fooled by the name, the Sunshine Coast does get rain. Toss a slicker in your panniers.
- Mark down - and stop in at - local bike shops along the way. Whether it’s to upgrade gear or get a quick repair, these are the folks to talk to. (Suncoast Cycles in Powell River, Off the Edge Adventure Sports in Sechelt, and Spin Cycles in Gibsons, to name a few.)
- Connect with the Powell River Cycling Association or Sunshine Coast Cycling Club for anything else bike related on the Sunshine Coast. They offer a wealth of knowledge and complete information about current cycling events and initiatives going on in the region.
So make a plan, pack some gear and push off! The Sunshine Coast is waiting to be cycled.
Chris Segers pedaled from Richmond to Powell River and then south down Vancouver Island's east coast. Read about it here: Will Bike for Beer - a 5 Day Coastal Cycling Trip.
New to cycle touring? Chris penned this post for beginners: How to Plan a Multi-Day Bike Trip in British Columbia
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