CYCLE TRIP TO THE SUNSHINE COAST
Photo by Flickr Contributor Incommunicado, Creative Commons License
Routes: for the most part, hwy. 101 with a few scenic routes parallelling the hwy.
Terrain: hilly, esp. off the highway
Road Conditions: very good in some places, poor in others. You will want to avoid travelling in peak periods (8:30-9:00 am, 5 - 6pm evenings) on some of the tighter sections. A good rule is to pull out and take a break when ferry traffic goes by every two hours. It only takes about 15 mins. for it to thin out and the ride is much nicer when you're not being crowded.
Once you get into Vancouver if you come by train, there are several routes for getting to Horseshoe Bay by bicycle. The most picturesque, and an excellent ride, is to head for Stanley Park. The best route from the train station on Main & Terminal is to turn right out of the terminal, go up main for about 1-2 blocks and take the Georgia Viaduct through into downtown. On a Sunday it is a beautiful ride, not as much traffic in the downtown core. You just keep heading west and you'll eventually get to Stanley Park.
If you've got time, go for a circuit through the eastern half of the park - it's one of Vancouver's jewels and we are world-renowned for it - and then it's time for a trip across the Lion's Gate Bridge, a turn of the century bridge built by rich landowners from the British Properties in North and West Vancouver so they could have easy access to their villas and luxury homes from downtown Vancouver. From there just follow the signs to the ferry terminal. Take the Langdale/Sunshine Coast ferry and you're here!
As far as the coast goes, once you get off the ferry be sure to turn left on to Hwy 101 instead of taking the bypass up the hill. The lower route is much more picturesque and takes you into Gibsons Landing, the historic area of Gibsons. While you're there stop in at the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives at the corner of Winn and Gower Point Road.
GREAT STOPS: Gibsons Landing - The Black Bean Cafe & Roasting Company. In a funky little building at the foot of Jack's Lane. Gibsons Landing Public Art Gallery & Molly's Lane, and the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives at Gower Point Road & Winn Road.
From there, if you're looking for the scenic route, stay on Gower Point Road and head out around the Bluff... Gospel Rock overlooks the entrance to Gibsons Harbour and the view is a must-see from the arbutus grove at the point.
From there you can either head up Pratt Road to the main hwy. (Spin Cycles is at the top of Pratt), or continue along Gower Point to Bonniebrook Beach (great camping, beach, but you'll have to backtrack to Sixth > King > right at stop > left on Veteran's to get out).
The highway is a fairly good ride for the most part, but for better riding (less traffic, more trees and views) you should take the left about 1 mile out of Gibsons to take the Lower Road through Roberts Creek. It's beautiful, going past the Scouts camp and a few lovely gardens along the way.
There's a great country store, delicious restaurant with organic food (Gumboot Restaurant) and fabulous cafe (The Gumboot Cafe) and some good gift shopping in the heart of Roberts Creek, and there you will have to make another choice for route: up Roberts Creek Road to the Highway, or down along Beach Road to Flume... I recommend again the lower route, esp. as there is a beautiful little provincial park with picnic benches and beach at the junction of Beach & Flume. The only drawback to this route is that you miss gorgeous Cliff Gilker Park on the upper highway, but you can hit it on the way back.
After loitering at the park, head up Flume to the highway again, where you'll rejoin Real Life on the 101. On the right hand side of the street there is a raised bike/walking path that will take you all the way into Wilson Creek (and you can stop at another Provincial Park - Roberts Creek P.P. at the top of what we call Rat Portage Hill - you can't miss it).
Up Field Road from the highway in Wilson Creek is the airport and the fish hatchery run by the Sunshine Coast Salmonid Enhancement Society. The Wilson Creek Plaza has a scrumptious cafe (The Strait Cafe) with excellent locally roasted fairtrade and organic coffee and the most delicious desserts to justify all your riding.
About a half mile from there you'll come out of the trees to the wide open Davis Bay Beach. This is one of the Coast's best swimming beaches, with beautiful sandy stretches at low tide, a shower head for cleaning off the salt, often a food truck, and is across the street from another great coffee bar/sandwich/gelato store, Pier 17. There's a government dock and you can watch as people try their luck for salmon, paddle canoes or kayaks or just plain laze around the beach.
The tough news: You'll have a steep, long climb out of Davis Bay through Selma Park heading for Sechelt Village, so make sure you're watered and rested. The good news: This winding and challenging series of hills has just had recent highway upgrades completed (May 2012) and there is a solid shoulder now for bikes, making it a much better ride. Stop at the Tems Swiya Museum and the Tsain-ko Gift Shop for insight into the deep cultural history of the Shishalh (Sechelt) People.
At the lights in Sechelt, you can turn right to tour Porpoise Bay or head out to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park and Tuwanek along the eastern side of Sechelt Inlet. (There are great riding trails in the Tuwanek area; check with Pedals & Paddles at Lamb Bay for information.
Otherwise, you can go straight through the lights through the back end of town past Hackett Park (beautiful) or turn right to head for the downtown core with its restaurants, boutiques and bakeries. One block to the south is Teredo Street, and you can access the beach and Ocean Beach Esplanade for a great rest stop and incredible view.
A MUST STOP - In Sechelt, if you stay to the right along Wharf Road, just before the corner is Off the Edge Biking and Outdoor Gear. Be sure to tell them Bigpacific.com sent you!
Once out of Sechelt, stay on the main road heading for Earl's Cove. From there it's gentle hills until you reach the turnoff for Redrooffs and Halfmoon Bay. If you take that turn off you will pass Sargeant Bay Provincial Park and Cooper's Green Park in Halfmoon Bay (beautiful little park) and Halfmoon Bay's stretch of road has been recently upgraded for a good bike path on the water side of the road that makes for a beautiful ride. If you stay on the highway you'll have one long hill up to Trout Lake and a long lazy plateau ride. Then you'll be flying down the other side to the other entrance to Halfmoon Bay. There's a great gallery and country store just in from the hwy. if you're ready for a sightseeing stop.
Out of Halfmoon Bay you're pretty much limited to the highway from there on. About 1 half mile past the HB turnoff there is a sign on the left for Smuggler's Cove - that is one beautiful hike and there's some rough camping spots midway into the hike. You should be able to get your road bikes out that far without having to walk them much. Don't leave them at the entrance to the park however - it's a bad spot for theft as it is quite out of the way.
There's a great stretch of road from there up past Secret Cove towards Pender Harbour - nice new asphalt and lots of room for quite a bit but hilly. Once you get closer to Pender you'll have to pay more attention to the road as it gets quite tight and curvy so you have to keep an eye out for drivers that might not be paying attention. It would be best to stay off this stretch completely in heavy traffic periods. It's also a hilly stretch.
PENDER, RUBY LAKE & EGMONT
The first Pender Harbour turnoff goes out to Francis Peninsula, which is a great ride, if a little tight in places. Farther on the Madeira Park turnoff goes down into a town centre with government dock, shopping, cafe and bank.
Approx. 2 miles past Madeira Park the turnoff for Garden Bay leads to several beautiful lakes, a regional park (Katherine Lake Park) and Garden Bay Provincial Park. If you're looking for a cold drink, a great view and some excellent food try the Garden Bay Hotel and Pub or the Crossroads Grill on Highway 101. Garden Bay can be VERY tight in corners so be on the alert for cars and motorcycles - sometimes they drift over the centre line (what line? the centre of the roadway) taking corners.
Past that cutoff you'll have a long rolling stretch with more room except for one tight hairpin turn at Kleindale, then another hilly stretch along the gorgeous Ruby Lake. From there it's a fairly short stretch to Egmont (turnoff to the right) and a great hike out to see the famous Skookumchuck Rapids or take an excursion with Sunshine Coast Tours to see them from the water, or to visit the incredible Princess Louisa Inlet.
Now you're at the end of the lower Sunshine Coast, and my next question to you is: are you heading to Powell River to tour the upper Sunshine Coast, or coming back from whence you came?
Hope this information is helpful You should also call the local Visitor Info Centre in Sechelt at 1-877-885-1036 and they can send you out a map or two and some other tourism information.
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