Sunshine Coast Road Trip – Where to stay, eat and explore in Powell River

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.

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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.

LOGISTICS

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!

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Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal

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!

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Our Airbnb cottage couldn’t have been any cozier!

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.

FUEL UP

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.)

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Tacos at Costa del Sol

Little Hut Curry (4623 Marine AvePowell 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.

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#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?

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Brunch at The Tree Frog

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).

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On the list for next time: The Modern Peasant and Coastal Cookery.

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:

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Worth the stair climb!

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.)

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On the list for next time: Inland Lake Provincial Park as part of the Sunshine Coast Trail.

GET HISTORIC

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.

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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

 

Last hike of the summer – Dog Mountain

Hello and happy autumn! Along with Mother Nature’s changing colour palette, the weather in Vancouver has become a bit cooler and the rain we are known for has been making a few appearances. So it’s a good thing the Brit and I got one last summer hike in this past Saturday; this time at Dog Mountain at Mount Seymour Provincial Park. The weather was beautiful and as much as I am not a morning person (especially not on the weekends), the scenery was absolutely worth getting up early for. If it’s a clear day, make sure you stop to take a photo of Mount Baker!

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Mount Baker through the Brit’s fancy DSLR lens

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Here’s the thing about hiking in the summer: the earlier you get your step on, the less crowded it is, and the temperature in the morning is much more pleasant (if a bit brisk!) for a hike. You also get to spend the rest of your day on the amazing endorphin high of your accomplishment. We weren’t the earliest on the trail by any means, but there were maybe 10-12 people at the top when we got there at 10:30. And when we got to the bottom, we still had the entire day ahead of us, including the all-important refuel brunch. We went to Tour de Feast, this cute little French Bistro on Mountain Highway. Highly recommend!


Dog Mountain is a pretty hike that is generally done June through October. At one hour each way, it’s a great option if you don’t have all day. It’s rated easy by VancouverTrails.com, but don’t go in thinking you’re going to sprint up. They rightly highlight it as on the more challenging end of the easy scale due to the trail path being heavily peppered with tree roots that can present a tripping or slipping hazard. So watch your step!

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You will trek by First Lake at about the halfway point and it’s absolutely worth stopping to take a couple photos.

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First Lake

And then you’ll get to the top and see this:

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I’m a bit biased, but I’m pretty sure I live in the most beautiful place in the world. I mean really.

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You’ll also see many furry friends on the trail; most of the dog variety as, very appropriately, dogs are welcome (on-leash). There were also some adorable little squirrels along the trail and at the top, but as the Brit was reminded by his photos (below), they are FAST! They also make this surprisingly loud and high-pitched rebel yell sound. (Think “Aye, aye, aye, aye, aye!) It’s quite funny.

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Dog Mountain trail is located in Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver. The entrance to the park is located on Mount Seymour Road just north of Mount Seymour Parkway in North Vancouver. As with all hikes, wear appropriate clothes and footwear, make sure you bring water and snacks, and if it’s sunny, wear a hat and sunscreen!

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Did you get your last hike of the summer in the books? Where did you go?

(A big shout out to my guy, the Brit, for taking some pictures of me for this post and for lending me his Mount Baker and squirrel photos. Mwah! Check out his Flickr account; he takes a pretty picture, does my guy.)

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

~ Aristotle ~

Vancouver Island Road Trip – Pause and Explore

When on a road trip, it’s all well and good to enjoy the scenery from inside the car – especially when it’s raining! – but, (aside from when nature calls) I feel that breaks are important, a) to get you out of the car to stretch your legs (Your hip flexors will thank you!), b) to actually enjoy a meal, and c) to pause and explore your surroundings. While you’re working on a) and c), you’ll also get your steps in – bonus!

Here is a little guide of places to stop and enjoy when making your way up and down the east coast of Vancouver Island

GET RANDOM:

The World’s Largest Hockey Stick and Puck (Duncan, BC) – Canada is known for having many notable ‘largests’, including the largest UFO landing pad (naturally), and the largest artificial perogy. But, nothing says ‘Canada’ like having the world’s largest hockey stick and puck.

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EAT UP:

Roost Farm Centre (North Saanich, BC) – This is how much I loved this place. I’m talking about it, again. Skip the ferry food and make this your first food stop on the Island.

York Street Diner (Duncan, BC) – This place was a nice surprise for brunch, and they, rather refreshingly, have no website or social media presence. If I’m correct, the owners are British and have travelled a lot. There’s a sight British influence on the menu, and they have giraffe statues and all kinds of stuff around the restaurant.  Most importantly, they make an excellent poached egg.

Smoke ‘N Water (Nanoose Bay, BC) – This lovely place is tucked away in the Pacific Shores Resort and looks over the water. The Just Right breakfast is aptly named, and the staff is very friendly.

Bread & Honey Food Co. (Parksville, BC) – I will pull from their motto and say Bread & Honey is fresh, local, and sustainable. This cosy spot is small town meets a bit of hipster, without the irony. The food is on point and not too expensive, which makes this a popular breakfast spot. Be sure to make a reservation.

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Tan’s Kitchen (Parksville, BC) – Another surprise. I live in Vancouver and grew up in Richmond.  These are places known in Canada for having great Chinese restaurants. I never thought that I would have eaten some of the best wonton soup I’ve ever had (outside of Asia) in Parksville, BC. But I did. The Brit was all about finding an all you can eat, and this did not disappoint.

Get Thrifty: Order the all you can eat. Great value for your money.

40 Knots Vineyard and Estate Winery (Comox Valley, BC) – Though not a restaurant, I’m adding this to the list. 40 Knots is a family run, Green Tourism Gold certified vineyard and winery. They have a beautiful tasting room and because of the rain, we got a private tasting session with Brenda, one of the owners. You can tell she knows her stuff, and she was a warm and welcoming host. On a random note, try the pickled grapes. They are amazing.

Get Thrifty: 40 Knots does free tastings. (Yes!) Their wine club is also free to join with two reasonably priced options for a 6 or 12 bottle shipment, twice a year. If you are at the tasting room, the per bottle prices might seem a bit dear, but this is me enabling to buy the 2014 Levé Du Soleil Rosé sparkling wine because it is worth the splurge (both for the excellent taste and to support the message behind BC artwork of the label).

GET YOUR STEP ON:

Get Thrifty: These are all FREE (even the parking).

Duncan Totem Tour Walk (Duncan, BC) – Duncan is known for it’s totem poles and as a hub for the Cowichan Valley’s First Nations art. The city created this walk to celebrate their heritage and beautiful craftsmanship of the poles. The Brit really enjoys First Nations art, so this was right up his alley. Follow the yellow footsteps to each pole and mark them off on your list.

Neck Point Park (Nanaimo, BC) and Pipers Lagoon Park (Nanaimo, BC) – Nanaimo is known for having beautiful parks, and these two are no exception. They are each about a 30-45 min walk around with exceptional views.

Cathedral Grove (Port Alberni, BC) – Truly my favourite spot on the Island, Cathedral Grove is located in MacMillan Provincial Park and lives up to its name. Home to giant trees that are up to 800 years old, you feel sheltered and humbled as you walk around this beautiful ecosystem. If you want your ‘hug a tree’ photo, this is the place to do it. When you hug that tree, breathe with it. I’m serious. Take the moment. It will be the cherry on top for your walk around the trails. Set aside at least 30 minutes to enjoy this beautiful piece of land.

Seal Bay Nature Park (Comox Valley, BC) – If you come through this park on a non-rainy day, you might get to see some deer or beavers. Definitely some birds. If you see a black bear, hopefully, it will be from far away. This was a really nice little hike, with a well laid out trail.

Qualicum Beach (Qualicum Beach, BC) – If you want to take a beat and enjoy the view, here’s your spot. With 3 kilometres of beach to walk, this historic beach has delightfully warm water in the summer, which makes it excellent for swimming. When the tide is out, you can walk out across the sand flats for about 1000 metres, which in my opinion, is pretty darn cool.

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The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.

~ Gilbert K. Chesterton ~

Thankful Birthday Weekend – Part 2

It’s raining outside. Yup, it’s raining, it’s cold, and it’s officially autumn (or the less elegant sounding “fall”) in Vancouver. I sound a bit whiny about the weather because up until Tuesday, it was sunny and warm; and up until today, there was no need for a super warm coat and a pair of my Hunter boots. That being said, the cold, damp weather has made me even more thankful for the fabulous weather we had, especially over the Thanksgiving long weekend.

After an evening of birthday fun and turkey goodness, we slept in and woke up to a fridge full of leftovers. A LOT. (First world problems.)

I did a workout video and off we went for our second turkey dinner being hosted by Sean’s parents. We picked my mom up on the way and I was mesmerized by all the beautiful red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees in her neighbourhood. There is nothing like a sunny fall day.

Dinner at Chez Hardcastle was delicious, as always, and I remembered to take a picture of my plate, unlike the night before. Sean’s parent’s recently moved into a condo and that involved furniture shopping – they now have the most beautiful dining room table that looks like it’s a slab of marble. It was the perfect canvas for dinner.

As the fridge was already full at home, the leftovers were declined. I don’t know that we could have fit a toothpick in the fridge up until a couple days ago.

On holiday Monday, we worked off our turkey dinners with a hike up to First Peak at Mount Seymour. Sean’s friend, Geoff, joined us, and I discovered that he has also bought the Five Finger shoes that Sean has. They look a bit odd but the more I see them, the more I want a pair… But I digress.

My Merrill trail runners flanked by my Five Finger shoe companions

Geoff was not able to make my birthday dinner as he was working – he is a pilot. I was telling him about the dinner and was corrected by Sean when I said it was the first time that we had made Thanksgiving dinner. I was reminded that we made a January turkey dinner during the cleanse last year. (Oh yeah… The cleanse. That was a great dinner considering we had to be very creative…)

Anyhow, it was a beautiful day for a hike with more of the beautiful autumn colour palette, and even the appearance of a black bear(!). I actually got a bit of a tan. In October. But now it’s raining and my skin is counting down to the beginning of November when I am oceanside in Mexico.

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There’s a black bear eating berries in those bushes. We accidentally interrupted his meal, but he didn’t mind. Phew!