Sunshine Coast BC
The Sunshine Coast was our list, but wasn't exactly planned.
Once we caught up on sleep and recovered from the unanticipated road trip to Cali, we headed north and returned to BC. We planned on driving straight through, but apparently weren't fully rested and stopped for the night at a casino, and got a few hours of craps in before crashing in the van. In the morning we made our way to VANcity and setup our urban boondocking home-base once again with just enough time to reserve a court on the beach for some twos volleyball followed by a happy hour wth friends.
Turns out almost all of our friends had plans to get out of town for the weekend, so we wondered for just a moment why we had been in such a hurry to return, then decided to take the opportunity to do some exploring ourselves. It was supposed to be a rainy/stormy weekend in vancouver, so we chose to drive to the sunshine coast (which is said to live up to it’s name most of the year).
This strip of coast is technically still the mainland, but is impossible to reach without a ferry (or floatplane) ride from Vancouver. We pulled into the ferry station, had a few conversations about the number of trips/ferry rides we tried to make back in the day (but missed due to mechanical trouble) and left shore headed for lands unknown. I'll go ahead and apologize now for an extremely photo-heavy post.
We have long heard about how beautiful this section of coast is, but almost immediately after disembarking the ferry you fall in love with the amazing coastline and terrain. We didn't get far on the other side before stopping for some “famous fish and chips” next to the water and then continued north.
We kept wandering north enjoying the view and once again marveling at the beauty of BC until we reached Sechelt, where we pulled over to camp for the night. We checked out a few campgrounds around the bay and had a drink in the local marina/pub and almost decided to grab another and simply crash in the parking lot…but the pull of a campfire was too strong for us so we loaded up and headed back to the closest campground where we made dinner (seared ahi bowls on the campstove), embraced the fire and crashed for the night.
The following day we meandered up the coast and hopped the second ferry to the upper sunshine coast. This wasn't exactly in the plan even after we decided on this weekend, but i had seen an image of a small cabin on the sunshine coast trail and we were determined to see if it was possible to achieve even in our relatively short weekend.
I had found some rough directions online, so we turned off the main road and started uphill on rough logging roads looking in vain for signs to match the directions i had copied last time we were online. We had just about given up and were turning around when a logger happened by, informed us we were now headed the wrong way on a one way road and offered to lead us up the tracks as close as possible to the cabin. What perfect timing.
Pulled out of the way for a few giant log-filled semis, and our new friend eventually pointed up a steep and unmaintained road the he said likely hadn't been used for a few years but used to go within 45 minutes or so of the cabin. Jen’s not a fan of offload driving, so we switched seats and dropped down into 4wheel drive.
I cant tell you how much I'm loving this vehicle and the ability to go absolutely anywhere… the bus never would have made it to where we parted ways with the logger guide, and there are at least two points in the next ascent where I'm convinced we would have stalled out or slipped backwards and started rolling back down the hill (nicaragua style). Not only did the sprinter make it up each turn and over every obstacle…it was a fun drive rather than a stress filled, white knuckled endeavor.
Once at the top we packed whatever gear we had (which really meant flip flops and boat shoes, the rest of our food/water and as many layers as we had and as we could fit into our volleyball net bag) and started out on foot. We are woefully unequipped for backpacking…but figured a 45 minute hike couldn't be that bad. Little did we know that 45 minutes was straight up. As we started drip sweating and struggling with the trail we started to notice the van now distant in the background beneath us and were ascending rapidly to the summit of what is apparently the tallest peak in the region.
Just as we thought we couldn't make it without stopping we saw the peak of the metal roof and were elated to rise out of the forest into the subalpine meadow that houses the Tin Hat Hut. This hut is one of about a dozen huts/cabins built along the 180km sunshine cost trail and we couldn't help but feel like we had cheated for skipping all but a few miles of that to stay at the hut (but so worth it).
We dropped our bags, changed into a layer of dry clothes and poured a well deserved happy hour drink. We then walked around shooting photos and taking in the majestic and epic views in every direction. We just couldn't get enough and this temporary tiny house on the hill made our entire trip (even though it would have been amazing without it).
A couple of ladies hiked in about 6 miles from the opposite direction and spent the night there as well. In the morning clouds had settled into the valley blocking much of the views but as we headed out onto the trail an almost impossibly bright and well formed double rainbow appeared pointing back to the hillside and van beneath us. Amazing, especially on pride weekend!!
Following our night in the tin hat hut we hiked back out in questionable weather that held out just long enough for us to reach the van. We drove in the rain north until the end of the road and then slowly meandered our way back south and grabbed the ferry back to the southern sunshine coast. Despite the irony the sunshine coast was now nothing but gray and rainy. We were fine driving and sleeping in our “steel tent” but figured a cold rainy day might be the perfect time to experience one of the sunshine coast’s most heralded spas.
We ducked into the “Painted Boat” resort and took advantage of their spa garden which allowed us to warm up our core with a waterfall hot tub, sauna cave and saltwater dipping pool…all set into an ideal rainforest type setting very fitting of the terrain we’ve been driving for the past couple days. We spent to better part of the day warming up and enjoying the environment before hitting the road again. The place was perfect…there’s no way we stop in here again without trying the massages as well.
We camped at Garden Bay for the night…a secluded bay that could have only been made better if we had stumbled over it from a sailboat (or maybe without the torrential downpour). We grabbed a fish and chips from the pub and watched some west coast blues before finally crashing in the van and awoke to the view looking out over the marina and sailboats dreaming about our future life at sea.
Our drive home was relaxed and slow and other than a 4plus hour wait on the ferry…we have nothing negative to say about the sunshine coast. Luckily, part of the beauty of being in your home at all times is that even a 4+ hour wait means making a few friends, a bloody mary from the van bar and a bit of a nap before the ferry arrives to make sure you're well rested for friends back home.
Can’t wait to return to the sunshine coast next time we need to escape a few dreary days in the city! This setup of being in the city when our friends are available, and heading out to explore for days/weeks at a time is working out perfectly. There’s just SO much of BC to see!