The Sunshine Coast, B.C.
Distance from Seattle: 243 miles one-way, 6.5 hours of travel time, including one ferry crossing
Northwest of Vancouver, B.C. stretches the Sunshine Coast Highway, a scenic drive along sheltered bays fringed with fir-scented forests and through offbeat, artsy towns. The entire stretch of rocky outcrops and sandy beaches lies in a rain shadow, and in late summer the water is warm enough for swimming. Pack your passports for this cross-border adventure.
The route: From Seattle, stay on I-5 until you cross the border into Canada and get on BC-1 W. Continue on BC-1 W. to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal and sail to Langdale (reserve at bcferries.com/res). From here, the rest of the road trip is primarily on the Sunshine Coast Highway.
Stops along the way
MILE 61: COA Mexican Eatery (Mount Vernon): This place serves authentic Mexican food starting with crispy chips and fresh salsa the minute you sit down.
MILE 174: Black Bean Cafe (Gibsons): A short distance from the ferry is Gibsons, a quaint seaside town; stop at this café with its sunny patio for great coffee and breakfast sandwiches.
MILE 175: Sunshine Coast Museum (Gibsons): Find a quick history lesson on the way of life for First Peoples on the Salish Sea and the fishing and logging industries that still dominate today. Also of note: an exhibit on "The Beachcombers," a popular Canadian TV show that was filmed in Gibsons (admission by donation).
MILE 191: Porpoise Bay Provincial Park (Sechelt): Set on Sechelt Inlet, this park has a sandy swimming beach for a summer dip. Keep an eye out for the pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins that frequent the fjord.
MILE 194: Lucky’s Smokehouse (Sechelt): This tasty, casual lunch spot features some of the best barbecue on Canada’s west coast: expect tangy, tender ribs slow-cooked to perfection, plus pulled pork and homemade mac ’n’ cheese.
MILE 215: Francis Point Provincial Park (Madeira Park): You’ll pass an old-growth stand of madrona trees (called arbutus trees in Canada) on your hour-long beach walk to a lighthouse and back.
MILE 227: LaVerne’s Grill (Madeira Park): Grub on perfect fish and chips and classic milkshakes served in old-fashioned metal cups.
MILE 246: Rapids at Skookumchuck Narrows (Egmont): As the tide goes in and out, water pours through these “narrows” with a strong current, creating the Sechelt Rapids. Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park has trails and viewing areas.
Where to stay
Bonniebrook Lodge (Gibsons): Set on two wooded acres overlooking the ocean, this century-old inn has child-friendly suites with views.
The Driftwood Inn (Sechelt): Get a seaside room and you’ll see this place is literally a stone’s throw from the water. Rooms are basic but nicely furnished, some with kitchenettes.
*Mile markers are from Seattle, but are approximate and may vary depending on your starting point and exact route.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in 2015 and updated for 2019.