Where is the Sunshine Coast ?
A 40 min ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.
Ah yeah. It’s on the island ?
No it’s not. The Sunshine Coast is a 170km stretch of coastline on the Straight of Georgia along the mainland and the ferry goes to Langdale, which is across the Howe Sound. There is no road – as of yet !
And why is it called the Sunshine Coast ?
Well, according to Environment Canada it does get a lot less rainfall then Vancouver. Of course if you Google Sunshine Coast you might find yourself in Australia and the weather there is fantastic.
We moved here towards the end of the last century when land prizes were affordable and building inspectors friendly and helpful. It was a simpler, kinder and cheaper world or such is my memory, which is not always reliable. We bought the land and then went to the bank to borrow money to build a house. Naïve as we were we assumed that’s what banks do: lend money to build. Wrong ! We could not borrow against raw land and could only get a mortgage once there was a structure with a roof, windows and doors on the property. We borrowed from family, asked friends to help with the build and the local building supply advanced us a three months credit on materials.
That was then and we still live in the house that we built.
For all intents and purposes we live on an island. Our only access is by ferry, which is our nemesis and forever the most talked about subject on the Coast, easily beating out the weather and politics for most popular topic. It’s either late or overloaded, mostly both, and on a summer day or holiday Sunday we have been in line for 4 hours so we try to avoid peak times. It’s also quite pricey. The biggest secret about the ferry is that the return trip is free ! There is no other way to get off the coast so the fare includes the return passage. First timers and newbies always seem surprised by this.
We have everything here from box and liquor stores to a Brewery and several Pubs, restaurants and large grocery stores. The townships have sewers, the regional district dwellers have septic systems. City councillors are part timers and Gibsons’ city hall sits on prime land and has the best view, a bone of contention for a long time. Many feel that the city hall should make room for a hotel/convention centre and should move uptown. Which brings me to the dichotomy of a town split In half. The waterfront, harbour and touristy village by the sea and the commercial town with the malls, banks and gas stations up a steep hill and along the one and only Highway 1 which ends at Lund while the other end is in Patagonia.
The Coast is awash with artists. Musicians, writers, painters, dancers, potters, weavers and others. The festival of the Arts, the Writers Festival, the Art Crawl and Jazz Fest are among many events that celebrate the arts on the coast. What’s the attraction? Certainly real estate is part of it, which is half of Vancouver’s prices; the pristine scenery; the island lure; the surplus of sunshine ? We’re all artists here. Just ask us.
There are some unique places along the Coast. Pender Harbour with it’s many secluded inlets, often lorded over by a mansion replete with docks for boats and seaplanes, is favoured by the rich and even famous. Joni Mitchell has a place here for the past 30 years. Then there is Roberts Creek, once a happy hippy haven; now those hippies are real estate millionaires. Famous for the ‘Creek Daze’ and the communal, yearly painting of the Mandella down on the waterfront. It’s the size of a heli landing pad and every year a different concept is painted by young and old into the large circle and then the event is celebrated with music, dance and a craft fair. The smell of herb can be detected wafting on the breeze, all part of the local atmosphere.
Coasters love the Coast and most of my generation have moved here from elsewhere. The ones that grow up here usually move away but many come back after having figured out that this is the best place on earth to live, at least for half the year. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else during the summer months.
Work is sketchy here and lucky are those who have a job on the Coast and don’t have to commute into the city as about 500 regulars do. Teachers, nurses, government employees of every stripe are in the clover. The same salary as in the city, but a far more convenient life style and a friendly place to raise kids. Neighbours know each other and hardly a day goes by without meeting somebody you know. About 35’000 people call this part of the world home and in the summer month you can ad another few thousand cottagers and holiday makers. It’s holiday country. A place to hike, bike, walk, camp, swim, kayak, boat, sail, ski (yes, the best cross country and snowshoe trails on Dakota Ridge) and relax. That’s why it’s such a great place to retire. Everything you need is here and you don’t have to be a rally driver to manage the traffic.
The Coast is also home to the first autonomous indigenous people. In 1986 the Shíshálh Nation or Sechelt Band, became an independent self governing body. The recently enlarged and renovated St. Mary’s hospital sits on band land.
I live in Granthams Landing, which is between Hopkins Landing and Gibsons Landing. We have a community hall, a private dock which is the best swimming place in the summer and we have the most fantastic views. The ocean, the islands and the Coastal Mountains. The spectacular scenery unfolds like a panoramic movie on the ferry trip over here and never ceases to amaze and enthral. Mind you, most of us coasters have become blasé and cynical about the ferry trip but disregard the cost, the overloads, the tardiness and line-ups and it’s a grand , short journey through a sliver of paradise.