Saturday, September 19, 2015

SUNSHINE COAST: A GETAWAY FROM VANCOUVER


Thirty dollars each way in mid-September will get a vehicle and two retired passengers onto the ferry to the Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver. Little traffic and few tourists make for a quiet, relaxing getaway. Weather can be lovely too.
Neither my husband nor I had been there for decades and with few recommendations to assist, we selected Painted Boat Resort and Spa for our three-night getaway. I remembered the winding and narrow main road though, lined by towering evergreens and few views of the coast because most of the shoreline is privately owned. After 63 kms from Langdale's ferry dock, we arrived at Madeira Park. The resort is about eight years old and built on the steep slopes down to the water. The view was stunning.

The units are cleverly stacked so everyone who stays here has that view overlooking the marina. But nothing had prepared me for the unit we stayed in. (They're all two bedrooms.) I gasped as I walked into the huge open-plan living/dining room with a kitchen to delight the most discerning cook. It was so well-equipped, we enjoyed dinners in every night. The master bedroom and living room have decks and there is a BBQ off the dining area. The master ensuite is also huge with a soaker tub and separate shower. The beds embrace you and we slept like newborns!

Painted Boat overlooks Gerrans Bay and Beaver Island in Pender
Ebb tide at Painted Boat
Pool Lagoon
Harbour. As the tide floods and ebbs, two tiny islands join and separate. Herons fish along the shore; kayakers paddle in and out of the marina. The resort faces west with the promise of sunsets. A major benefit of staying at Madeira Park is a good supermarket and a liquor store, both of which are well-stocked, in a small shopping centre. The other advantage is that exploring by car or boat north of Sechelt means beautiful spots are close by just waiting to be found. Many boat rentals and tour companies are based out of Pender Harbour.
Garden Bay

Beaver Island is linked to Madeira Park by a bridge and has a marine park at its southwest corner. We explored the north coast of Pender Harbour on a glorious sunny day and lingered over a great lunch at Garden Bay Hotel's pub that provides a huge outdoor patio above the bay. This spot is busy with boats big and small, and boat tours run from here up to Chatterbox Falls in Princess Louisa Inlet. Earlier we had stood below the historic Sundowner Inn to take photos of Pool Lagoon and Hospital Bay. The fall colours had begun to make their appearance and softened the more gloomy hue of the evergreens.

Our last full day was overcast but dry and we headed up to Egmont, near the ferry dock that leads up to Powell River. This tiny village is home to two big draws. The first is West Coast Wilderness Lodge, an attractive retreat with all modern comforts. The views from the restaurant and bar are breathtaking. You look towards Jervis and Princess Louisa Inlets with blue mountains as the backdrop. Two islands dot the Skookumchuk Narrows in front of the lodge.






We had the best meal of the getaway here plus glasses of pale ale. The home-made curried coconut, cauliflower soup was fragrant and warming. I chose to have the special — squid steak, grilled to perfection, and resting on a wonderful thick ancho-tomato sauce. My husband tucked into an ahi tuna clubhouse sandwich with tuna confit. It was a good four inches high! There is a huge viewing deck below the resto and a vine-covered patio for dining beside it.

The second draw is the standing wave — a two kilometre hike away. Kayakers and surfers come from around the world to ride it as the tides sluice in and out of the Narrows. We did not do the hike as the tides were wrong. I wish it had been the right time because it is a photographer's dream to take shots of the derring-do!

We will return to stay at the lodge and take advantage of the boat tours and the photography, but will also take a few days at Painted Boat to relax awhile and I will also try out their spa.

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2015. All rights reserved.