Soak Up Canada's. Sunshine Coast

Sunday Mirror (London, England), January 25, 2009 | Go to article overview

Soak Up Canada's. Sunshine Coast


Byline: By ANTHONY LAMBERT

THEY were surely tempting fate when they named a stretch of shoreline in Canada the "sunshine coast". This is, after all, a country more associated with snow than sizzling sun.

But the 104 miles of coast north of Vancouver lived up to the name the marketing guys gave it in the 1930s when we followed the trail to Lund.

It doesn't sound far, 104 miles. But this isn't a road you should hurry - and you can't anyway, because there are numerous ferries between the sections of tarmac and no one is going very fast.

The people who live along this coast don't do "hurry". When you stop somewhere locals pause to talk to you and, when they hear you're visiting, suggest places to see or things to do.

We had set off from Vancouver in bumper-to-bumper traf fic across the magnificent Lions' Gate Bridge, built in 1938 with money from the Guinness brewing family.

A few miles west, just off the road to Whistler, is Horseshoe Bay and the terminal for the first of our journeys with British Columbia Ferries, across Howe Sound to Langdale. The ride between the shores of frosted mountains was beautiful. But more than that, it marked an end to the hustle and bustle of the city and an entry into "no rushing" territory.

Rattling off the ferry ramp, we turned west to Gibsons Landing - named after a man from Boston, Lincs, who ran away to sea at 12 to join the Navy. When he left he fetched up in this idyllic sheltered cove and bought some land.

You can learn about his life in the local museum - Canada may have a short history but its communities make the most of it in the regional museums that are such a feature of the country.

Arriving in Gibsons, Canadians of a certain age head for Molly's Reach restaurant because it featured in the country's longest-running soap opera, The Beachcombers, which ended in 1990 after 387 episodes.

Not having followed the soap, we made for Smitty's Oyster House, a converted wharf building which serves fish straight off the boats. Crab cakes cost pounds 8 and almond-encrusted halibut pounds 9.

When we arrived at our B&B, the Jakobs were about to open Bonniebrook Lodge, a restaurant just outside Gibsons, for its first weekend of brunches, and tables were being put out on the terrace overlooking the sea.

We could hear the waves from our room, on which no expense had been spared, with a hot tub in the corner and Egyptian cotton sheets.

After stocking up on coffee and muffins at the Wheatberries Bakery, we walked through pines beside the waterfront, a driftwood-covered beach on one side and pretty flower-filled gardens on the other.

It's impossible to get your head around the geography of the Sunshine Coast without a map. Confusingly, it's built on an isthmus between the Strait of Georgia and the long Sechelt Inlet.

Further along the coast there's a walk through the forest of Smugglers Cove Provincial Marine Park to a rocky promontory overlooking the tiny bay where 19th Century Chinese immigrants were reputedly hidden.

It would be hard to imagine a more romantic hotel than Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, tucked into an isolated, wooded bay a few miles north of Smugglers Cove. Its 13 well-separated "tenthouse" suites are connected by a boardwalk on stilts through arbutus trees and their verandas offer sublime views across the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver Island.

The luxurious suites have heated slate floors, hydrotherapy tubs and private fireplaces. There's a spa and pool and a restaurant staffed by young things who know a thing or two about food and wine. …

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