With the goal of unplugging and getting our hygge on, the Brit and I went on a Sunshine Coast road trip this past Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend. While it was odd not having a turkey dinner, we had the best time exploring the area and being with each other. I was doing an Instagram takeover for Townsite Brewing, so unplugging was a bit of a challenge, but the other half of the goal was very successful! We had a cozy place to stay, good food, and got out into the trees.
We spent most of the weekend on the North Coast in Powell River – a town I don’t think I’d been to since I was a kid. If ever. And you know what? It’s a really fantastic place. Research combined with some fruitful suggestions from locals (both in person and via Instagram – thank you!!) gave us an amazing and budget-friendly road trip away from the city.
Getting There – Two options:
Surf & Turf – It takes two BC Ferry crossings and some scenic driving to get to Powell River from Horseshoe Bay (Vancouver), or one crossing and some driving from Comox (Vancouver Island’s east coast). It’s a pretty journey, regardless of weather, and schedules can be found here. For the first ferry crossing from Vancouver and to come back to the mainland it is HIGHLY recommended that you make a car reservation at least a couple weeks in advance for both ways. We ended up having to get up fantastically early to catch the first ferry of the day as we couldn’t make a reservation one week out.
#GetThrifty – BC Ferries occasionally offers discounts at certain times of year and times of day, so be sure to check that out to save some pennies!
Wings – Flying is a pretty swish way to get there, but swish is expensive. Particularly since you’d need to rent a car to get yourself anywhere on the Coast when you landed.
Where to Stay:
Airbnb – This is my favourite source for accommodation, and the one I find the most economical and convenient. There’s always the most unique kinds of places, and you an make your own food. We stayed in the cutest cottage that reminded me of the Weasley House in Harry Potter. It was right on Marine Avenue (the main drag), right across from some great restaurants I’ll talk about in a second, and a short walk to the beach and a great trail. There are many Airbnb’s listed for the area so you can choose one that suits your taste!
Willingdon Beach Campsite (4845 Marine Ave., Powell River) – If camping strikes your fancy, this is a year-round campsite that has great reviews and is right by the beach and all the amenities of town. If you’re keen on keeping up with your gym time, there’s also an outdoor gym type area.
The Old Courthouse Inn (6243 Walnut St., Powell River) – This hotel is in the historical Townsite area of Powell River, and is apparently quite nice (and perhaps a bit haunted!) We didn’t have a chance to check it out, but one of my colleagues gave it a big thumbs up and it has great reviews on TripAdvisor. It’s a two-second walk to the brewery and the nearby restaurants and 5-10 minute drive into town. The price point is also very good.
There are other bed and breakfasts and hotels in the area and you can check out their reviews and prices here at TripAdvisor.
There are some restaurant gems in this town! I always love being pleasantly surprised by the food scene in any place, and Powell River did not disappoint! Cheap and cheerful, quality food options.
Costa de Sol (4578 Marine Ave, Powell River)
This was a recommendation from so many people on Instagram. If you’d told me I would find authentic Mexican and Latin food in Powell River, I wouldn’t have believed you. But Costa del Sol made a flavourful impression on me. We had a late lunch there after we checked in to our little Airbnb cottage as it was just down the block. The tacos and their respective fillings were fresh and on point! Make sure you have a Premium Traditional Margarita, as it is quite good. (Allergy Alert: This drink contains egg whites for some froth, so if you’re allergic to eggs, be sure to ask them to modify the drink for you.)
Little Hut Curry (4623 Marine Ave, Powell River)
Also a nice surprise and down the block from our Airbnb was Little Hut Curry. Michelle at Townsite recommended this cute little Indian restaurant to us and I’m so glad she did! With 4:30-8:30pm hours and fabulous butter chicken, the menu is very concise and all the meals come with naan, rice and veg, a salad, and The Brit’s favourite: papadoms. They have a five-star rating on TripAdvisor, which I look forward to contributing to again, when we go back to have a sit-down meal.
#GetThrifty – You can get two takeout meals for $30, all in. *mic drop*
Tree Frog Bistro (4603 Marine Ave, Powell River)
The Tree Frog was right across from our Airbnb, so we couldn’t not go. I am all about brunch, and they have a good one with perfectly poached eggs on their hash. They also make their own tangy ketchup. I was in heaven. It was the perfect way to fuel up for our wander along the Willingdon Beach Trail. They also have cheap but quality mimosas. Vitamin C and bubbly – all you need, right?
Magpie’s Diner (6762 Cranberry St, Powell River)
Of all the places that were recommended to me, this diner had the most recommendations. And there’s no wonder why because it’s awesome. Huge portions of freshly made comfort food, good price point, and though everyone needs to experience a greasy spoon diner, this is a high-ceilinged airy space with books everywhere and bright walls. This is where you want to fuel up either before or after a hike at Valentine Mountain (see below).
STRETCH YOUR LEGS
Valentine Mountain – This hike was recommended to me on Instagram in tandem with the many recommendations for Magpie’s Diner. (Where you should go either before or after this lovely hike!) The trail itself is easy, but then you’ll hit the stairs. Stairs and I have a love-hate relationship, no matter how much hiking I do. But I do them. And it’s always worth it for the view. Like this one:
Willingdon Beach Trail – Willingdon Beach Trail is located, obviously, at Willingdon Beach, which runs parallel to Marine Avenue and the beach itself. It’s an easy trail that starts at the campsite and finishes in the historic Townsite area (about an hour’s walk). It used to be a logging railway from when Powell River used to be a booming industry town, and its history is represented by all the old machines peppered along the trail. These machines are also home to brave little squirrels who like to come out and say hello and sniff your shoes.
Make sure you jump off the path when you get to Second Beach. It’s a lovely spot for photos and you can add to the Jenga like structures of the stone cairns
The trail is very informative and interactive and has a beautiful variety of trees. Once you get out of the trees you’ll see ‘The Hulks’ – the concrete ships. (They are a bit eery looking, but you know you’re almost at the historic Townsite area when you get to them.)
Townsite Heritage District – Whether you’re staying at The Old Courthouse Inn, driving in from town, or coming through from the Willingdon Beach Trail, you should explore the Townsite area. It is the only National Historic Site in Western Canada and there is quite an impressive history attached to it. I wish we had stayed an extra day so we could do a proper walking tour and check out some restaurants.
On the list for next time: Visiting the Powell River Museum and seeing a movie at the 100+ year old Patricia Theatre (where John Barrymore once visited! Also, it’s the oldest operating theatre in Canada!)
QUENCH YOUR THIRST
Townsite Brewing (5824 Ash Ave., Powell River) – Located in the Townsite Heritage District and housed in the old Townsite Building (a beautiful brick structure that used to be, among other things, the post office in the town’s historic heyday), Townsite Brewing is a must visit. There is a free tour on Saturdays at 3pm, and the tasting room is perfect for a #pintandaflight (obviously) and a locally baked soft pretzel.
My favourite of the craft beer selections on tap was the Perfect Storm Stout (both the original and barrel aged!), and the Brit’s was the Tinhat IPA. It’s a fantastic community gathering spot, and you will feel like a local the second you walk in. Especially when you order dinner for pick-up or delivery from one of the nearby restaurants. (We ordered from Mckinney’s – thumbs up!) Check out my guest post on Townsite’s blog about the tasting room being the perfect place to get your hygge on!
Side Note: Townsite Brewing is also a member of ÉCONOMUSÉE, which promotes BC artisans in rural communities by showcasing their workshops virtually and through English and French educational tools and signage at the physical workshops. It’s a neat initiative.
GO THE EXTRA MILE
About a 30-minute drive north of Powell River proper is a little seaside village called Lund, named by its founders after a town in Sweden. If it wasn’t Mile Zero of Highway 101 (and the gateway to Desolation Sound and everything northward), you would blink and miss it and its 300 full-time residents. But you shouldn’t miss it. It’s adorable and from what we saw, a great place to hike, boat, kayak, and just plain relax. The hotel and restaurant have been around since the 1880’s, and there is a great bakery called Nancy’s that has excellent cookies.
On the list for next time: My old boss lives in Lund now, and he owns a piece of land that he has developed into a mini resort called Finn Bay Farm. We took a quick spin through through the property and it looks like the perfect getaway with its yurts and cabins.
The Sunshine Coast is a prime example of why my province is called Beautiful or Supernatural British Columbia. No filters needed!
If you’re looking for a scenic weekend getaway that won’t reach too deeply into your wallet, Powell River is a destination that appeals to both outdoorsy and city slicker types. For more information on Powell River and the North Coast, visit http://powellriver.info/ and/or https://sunshinecoastcanada.com/explore/north-coast/powell-river/.
This is why the license plates say Beautiful British Columbia, and I realized just how much I would miss it.
~Michael J. Fox