PENDER HARBOUR: VENICE OF THE NORTH
The Pender Harbour area is a complex maze of islands, coves, lakes and reefs that can cause directional confusion even among the residents . Pender Harbour is a federally vested harbour as outlined in the Harbours Regulation Act.
The Harbour penetrates over three miles inland, and its complexity of inlets and other dents gives it a total of 103 miles of shoreline. Until very recently, most travel was on the waterways rather than the twisting roads, giving the area its name of the "Venice of the North." The term Pender Harbour refers to a scattered community of settlements - Madeira Park, Beaver Island, Garden Bay, Irvines Landing - centred around the waters of Pender Harbour itself. To the north are Earl's Cove, Egmont, Skookumchuck Narrows and the waterways up Jervis Inlet.
Highway 101 is the main artery running the length of the Sunshine Coast, from Port Mellon to Earl's Cove. Along the route, it heads in every direction on the compass at some point, winding and twisting as it follows the contours of the shoreline. It's confusing even to long time residents. For the purposes of this tour, the designation north refers to the general northwest trend of the Highway up the Coast, and south means more or less. Those who suffer from motion sickness may wish to do the driving or take half a gravol beforehand if heading to the outer edges of Francis Peninsula or Garden Bay.
The biggest event in Pender Harbour is the Annual May Day celebration, held the Victoria Day Weekend every year. There is a parade, aerial fly-over, many games and activities for children, craft and product displays, live music, outdoor barbecue and more. This event draws large crowds every year from all over the Coast, Powell River and the Lower Mainland. Other annual events are the annual Jazz Festival in September, the Mushroom Festival held every October, summer sailing regatta, fall fair, and several cultural festivals and art crawls.
Pender's communities are quite separated when accessed by road, and very close together by water! The first community you will reach is Francis Peninsula. This is a windy road with different views at every turn. You'll pass agricultural land, more coves and harbours than you can count, and where you'll find the Francis Peninsula Marine Park. This is also where the annual world-class Attack of Danger Bay Longboarding Races are held - a high-adrenaline sport for both athletes and spectators!
Madeira Park is home to the main grocery stores, liquor outlet, government wharf, video rentals, cafes and offices of the Pender area. This is where many of the cultural events are presented and where most of the Pender fishing fleet departs from.
Mount Daniel and Oyster Bay are the next visible locations along Hwy 101. Mt. Daniel is of deep significance to the Shishalh people (Sechelt Indian Band) and their culture, and looms over the entrance to Oyster Bay, an immense tidal basin that almost dries completely on falling tides. Kleindale is also back in this reach and is another good growing area for agriculture and is also home to the majority of the Roosevelt Elk on the Coast.
Garden Bay is accessed via the left turn at the PetroCanada station, and leads out to beautiful lakes - Katherine, Garden Bay, Hotel, Mixal - before ending at the oceanfront inside of Hospital Bay, which is named for the Sunshine Coast's first hospital. The old Garden Bay Hotel is still a hopping place with a busy marina, and a a number of yacht club outposts nearby. Drive further and you're out into Irvine's Landing, Lees Bay, and Daniel Point - where the Pender Hill hike is accessed.
Sakinaw Lake is the largest lake on the Sechelt Peninsula and also the most interesting! Once connected to the ocean through its western end, it is separated into two layers: the top 100 ft is freshwater, while the remaining 350 are saltwater. Because all of the freshwater stays in the upper layer it is one of the warmest lakes in British Columbia, a little known fact. It often reaches into the high 70s/low 80s in August! Ancient shellfish middens have been found along the lake and there is a pictograph along one of the rocky outcrops along the western side.
HOW TO GET TO PENDER HARBOUR
Stay on the highway right through Sechelt and continue north about 10 km to Redrooffs Road (the original highway). A left turn here will take you winding through the Redrooffs residential area and along the shoreline of Sargeant Bay, around Reception Point to the waters of Halfmoon Bay. Eventually you'll wind up back on Highway 101 at the north end of the Redrooffs area. (Continue north along the highway to get to Secret Cove and Wood Bay.)
Or, if you're coming from Powell River, take the ferry from Saltery Bay to Earls Cove at the north end of the Sunshine Coast. Drive south along Highway 101 for a reverse tour, ending at the southern reach of Redrooffs Road.
PENDER HARBOUR FACTS
POPULATION of Sechelt (29.5% of the total Sunshine Coast)
Approximate 9.9% increase (national average is 5.9)
Percentage of people over 65: 28.4% (ntl av 11.6)
Percentage of working age adults: 60%
Percentage of children: 11.6% (0-14)
Number of families: 2830 (up 12% from 2006)
Housing: 80.6% single detached house, .8% semi-detached house, 5.6% row house, 8.8% apartment, 2.3 moveable dwelling, remainder 'other'.
School District #46
494 S. Fletcher, Gibsons
IMPORTANT PENDER NUMBERS
Fire Department (non-emergency):
Pender Harbour Wharfinger
Pender Harbour Health Centre
5066 Francis Peninsula Road,
Pender Harbour (Box 308) V0N 2H0
5638 Inlet Avenue
St. Mary's Hospital
Sunshine Coast Highway
GEOGRAPHY AT A GLANCE
Pender Harbour is such an eclectic mix of old-timer cottages and retirees who have lived here all their lives to weekenders or summering residets with monster homes out on Daniel Point and everything in between. Life moves more slowly in Pender, one of the main reasons people give for living here. Most cars are driven by locals most of the year, everyone is known by their boat, and 'running across the harbour' is exactly what it sounds like, making a grocery run a completely different experience. There are a growing number of artists in the Pender Area as well so watch for Purple Banners denoting a studio open for browsing.
A bit hard to find but worth the search is one of the few tiny patches of virgin Douglas fir left in the province. Stop at the information sign by Haslam Creek, 3 km south of Pender Harbour on Highway 101. Walk 300 metres to the north and climb down the roadbank towards the ocean. Trees of this stunning magnitude once covered the entire west coast.
Mount Daniel was once a sacred site of the shishalh Native peoples. The hike to the top is steep but not too difficult, and the view of the Harbour and Garden Bay, Katherine and Mixal Lakes is incredible. You can find traces of "moon rings," circles of stones marking the place of young shishalh girls' puberty rituals. Access the trail from Garden Bay Road.