We were up and out before sunrise, to catch the first ferry for a long day's exploration of the coast north of Vancouver. The Saturday morning traffic was Visitors come by boat almost non-existent, so we reached the terminal more than half an hour early, but we were still near the middle of the line; eager weekenders and boaters were the early birds.
We parked on the lower car deck and climbed up to the passenger deck, where we watched the loading; one late large truck had too little bottom clearance to get over the ramp. It backed up and waited for the next ferry. The morning chill and the ship's speed made it too cold and windy to stay long outside; just long enough to snap some pictures of the beautiful scenery.
The islands in the Georgia Strait look completely covered with forests, with a few houses clinging to the shore just above high water line; each house has its boat. For many of these people the boat is the only means of access to their homes. The land is hilly, covered with forest right to the gravel beaches.
The Sunshine Coast was named by an entrepreneur at Gibsons Landing, the Skunk cabbage small resort town just past the ferry landing. He wanted to advertise its sunny days and temperate climate, so he painted a big sign saying SUNSHINE BELT. BELT was later changed to COAST to reflect its location on the water, and the 90 miles or so of Highway 101 north of Howe Sound is now known as Sunshine Coast.
We followed the coastline north, past summer homes, camping resorts, and a few businesses. The economy of this stretch is mostly tourism. We drove to Earl's Bay, where the road went right up to the ferry landing and stopped. Soon we boarded the next ferry for Saltery Bay. Our guide book spoke of lots of fishing, boating, and scuba diving in these parts.
From Saltery Bay north, the local economy feels the effect of the giant paper and pulp mill at Powell River. The guidebook says the mill uses more electric power than New York City, but we rather doubt it. Anyhow, the mill has an ingenious floating breakwater to hold the logs waiting to be processed into Harbor for Powell River plant pulp and newsprint. The company bought up old hulks, towed them to Powell River, then ballasted and anchored them to create a big holding pen.
There's a ferry from Powell River to Vancouver Island, which also accounts for some commerce. The town and mill were founded at the same time, 1914, and the old part of town consists of rows of houses of uniform appearance and size, typical of mill towns and company towns everywhere. These houses were well kept up with attractive gardens.
We drove on to the northern end of highway 101. The guide book says this is the Pan-American Highway which goes all the way to Chile -- with a few breaks. We're not sure many people keep track of the actual path of the Pan-American Highway any more. One could make a case for extending the route north from Vancouver inland and then to Alaska.
The northernmost town is Lund. The road ends in the parking lot of the hotel, which is a staging point for boat trips further north -- especially to the Marine Park in Desolation Sound. It was full of pickups and a few cars, evidence that outdoors people were outdoors. All in all, the northern section The sun lit our way home of the Sunshine Coast, from Saltery Bay to Lund, was less populated, less touristy, and more oriented to rustic outdoor activities rather than vacation homes.
We stopped for lunch in a Powell River restaurant called Whooters. Not like its U.S. homonym at all -- this one had the atmosphere of owl art and ferns and tablecloths and ladies luncheons. Indeed, we were told we were lucky to have a table, as all but one were reserved.
It was a little sunnier on the way south, with evidences of spring everywhere. We arrived home about 8:00 -- late for us but glad we had made the trip. The Sunshine Coast is less of a tourist destination than a weekend retreat for city dwellers, but it was full of lovely coastal scenery and made a great drive (and ferry rides). Evidently scuba divers might find this an interesting venue -- Parks Canada has sunk several old ships to create artificial reefs, and even planted the world's only underwater statue -- 10 feet tall, at a depth of 65 feet. We can't tell you what it looks like.