Day Tripping on the Sunshine Coast
Powell River and Lund
Vancouver Island is separated from the mainland by hundreds of smaller islands, forming a stunning collage of land and sea. The nearby communities on the Sunshine Coast, while actually part of the mainland, seem more in tune with our Island lifestyle and are easier to reach from Vancouver Island than from Vancouver. In fact, Powell River, just a scenic 90-minute ferry ride from Comox, can be seen clearly from our beach chairs—which is why we had to explore, of course!
Although easily tackled as a day trip, we suggest taking your time to explore the area and make it into an overnight escape if you can—or even a full weekend adventure! Aside from the food and drink highlights, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, paddling and fishing and great little side trips like Savary and Texada Islands that will make you glad you planned for the extra day.
The 6:15am ferry from the Little River terminal in Comox will have you sipping your home-brewed coffee in the lineup bright and early. But it also means you’ll arrive just in time for a fresh cup and a snack at Base Camp Coffee or with Nevada and Ryan at 32 Lakes Bakery. They serve freshly baked pastries like the cardamom olive oil cake that I devoured along with fresh roasted coffee from 32 Lakes Coffee Roasters. Well worth the early start!
Mid-Morning Side Trips
Powell River is home to several farms and markets worth visiting, including Terra Nostra Farm, the Rusty Gate Berry Farm and Gathered Farm & Florals. We were happy to munch on some sugar snap peas in the garden with Alexander McNaughton and Mackenzie Alsager at Gathered but hope to visit again later in the year when they’ll be foraging out their back door. You can find a great interactive map on the City of Powell River website that shows all the local farms, markets and producers.
Once you’ve stocked up on local produce, the 20-minute drive to Lund is a relaxing transition from farming to the fishing culture of the region. Stop at Willingdon Beach as you head north to explore the interpretative trail and historical artifacts from back when Powell River was a booming logging town.
We were sad to learn that the Laughing Oyster just south of Lund has closed its doors, but it is still worth the short drive to visit the secluded bay where it sits. Okeover Arm Provincial Park is the ideal spot to enjoy a picnic and a swim.
Lunching in Lund
Lund is the quintessential seaside fishing village, where locals visit over mid-morning coffee at Nancy’s Bakery, boaters load up at the Stockpile Market before heading into the Desolation Sound and tourists relax on the deck of the Resort at Klah ah men. At the very northern tip of the Sunshine Coast, this is mile zero of Canada’s Highway 101.
Klah ah men was a major gathering place for the Tla’amin people along the Salish Sea, and the resort has recently been refurbished to celebrate the area’s history. Be sure to pop into The Gallery, where you will likely find Debra Bevaart casually carving a soapstone sea lion at the front desk while chatting with customers.
A sign on the door of the Boardwalk Restaurant encourages visitors to phone if they are closed, and Roy and Rayanna Blackwell will do their best to serve you. In fact, they’re often called to serve a single table but end up with a deck full of customers before they know it! Built in 1926 as one of five bunkhouses up the Toba Inlet, this cozy seaside bistro has seating for almost 200 patrons.
We were lucky to visit on a sunny (and quiet) day and enjoyed the view—along with an assortment of their most popular dishes. Calamari made with tender Humboldt squid, sweet onions, jalapenos and bell peppers. Seafood chowder chock full of salmon, clams and mussels, house-made pickle fritter and their signature halibut tacos. Served with a Zunga Golden Blonde Ale or a Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout from the local brewery, we could have relaxed on the docks all afternoon.
Beer and Ice Cream
Back in Powell River, our next stop was Townsite Brewing Inc. in the heart of Heritage Townsite, where we were happy to taste a few more of their popular brews and pick up a selection for later. Across the street is the new Townsite Public Market, which, in addition to a fresh produce market, is the new home for Base Camp Coffee, Just Soul Food and Hearth & Grain Heritage Breads.
We were thrilled to learn that Wild Scoop Ice Cream, located just inside the Ecossentials Local Market (which is another must-see shop), makes its ice cream with milk from Morningstar Farm (aka Little Qualicum Cheeseworks) in Parksville. They also offer non-dairy options, all of which we highly recommend!
Dinner on Marine Ave
The dinner options alone will make you want to spend a few nights in Powell River, but you can easily have dinner and jump on the 8:45pm ferry back to Vancouver Island if time is tight. Costa del Sol Latin Cuisine is a brightly painted little Mexican cantina owned and operated by the same team as the Culaccino Italian Kitchen and Coastal Cookery—all wonderful options. And Little Hut Curry is a favourite amongst locals for authentic East Indian cuisine, with creative local dishes such as their wild salmon curry.
The Modern Peasant, owned and operated by Chef John Walls, started as a tiny French bistro but is now expanding into the larger space next door. You can also purchase premade dishes and sauces from his marketplace counter to take home. Originally from Vancouver, Walls has made a name for himself by sourcing local ingredients and creating unexpected culinary experiences. With signature dishes like wild mushroom ragout, boeuf bourguignon and seafood bouillabaisse, this may even be worth missing the ferry for!