If you access Powell River by car, it’s a long, slow journey up the Sunshine Coast. You can drive north from Vancouver, catch a one-hour ferry, drive for an hour, catch another one-hour ferry and drive 30 more minutes to reach the heart of town. You can also drive up from Vancouver Island and take the hour-and-a-half ferry from Comox to Powell River. Either way, it’s a big effort that makes a weekend trip feel like a lot of work.
Or you can fly. Harbour Air and Pacific Coastal Airlines both offer daily flights from Vancouver, getting you to your vacation in a no-sweat half-hour. Then the only question is: what will you do when you get there?
1. Outdoor adventure
The Sunshine Coast is both gorgeous and sparsely populated, making it an outdoor adventurer’s dream. Connect with Terra Centric Adventures for guided hikes, tours and rentals. Lund Water Taxi and Sunshine Coast Shuttle offer transportation to trailheads and other services.
- Hike: The Sunshine Coast Trail is Canada’s only hut-to-hut hiking trail, and the only free one. Stretching 180km from Sarah Point in Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay, the trail connects some of the regions last remaining stands of old growth forest with mountain peaks, ocean and lakes. Walk the entire trail from north to south, or take advantage of the many vehicle access points and dip in for a day hike. Start planning at sunshinecoast-trail.com.
- Paddle: The Powell Forest Canoe Route connects eight lakes on an ‘almost circle’ route that includes five portages and takes roughly five days. Tackle the entire route, or enjoy a day or weekend paddle on this beautiful chain of lakes that’s serene without being extremely remote.
- Ride: The Powell River Cycling Association builds and maintains an amazing trail system on the traditional lands of the Tla’amin Nation. Learn more at bikepowellriver.ca and explore maps on the Trailforks app.
- Climb: The remote Eldred Valley offers giant granite walls that rival Squamish and Yosemite for outdoor adventurers. When it’s raining, the Powell River Climbing Co-op operates a member-owned, non-profit, co-operative indoor climbing gym in the Townsite Market featuring bouldering and top-roping.
- Dive: As Salish Sea Dive says, “Being in Powell River and not diving is like being in Disneyland and not going on the rides!” Mermaid Cove is perfect for all skill levels, with a spellbinding Emerald Princess statue underwater. The Hulks are a series of concrete ships serving as a breakwater for the historic Townsite, and there’s plenty more to explore.
2. Arts and festivals
- Powell River Film Festival: Just before spring has sprung, locals gather in the historic Patricia Theatre for the Powell River Film Festival. You’ll find a carefully curated list of Oscar-contenders, culturally relevant documentaries and locally made films, plus a selection of shorts. The festival happens annually at the beginning of March.
- Gallery hopping: Start at the qathet Art Centre and then make your way to Townsite Market where you’ll find artists and artisans at work. You’ll also notice fine artists prominently featured in many local restaurants — some are internationally renowned and some are lesser-known, but all are supported by the community. The qathet region Studio Tour takes place every year in late August.
- Music Festivals: Every June an 80-piece symphony assembles by the sea, featuring world-renowned guest artists and top international music students. During the PRISMA Festival, enjoy daily classical music performances and masterclasses, plus the family-friendly PRISMA on the Beach celebration. In early April you’ll find the Townsite Jazz Festival in various historic venues, and on Labour Day weekend you can check out the Sunshine Music Festival for folk music from around the world at Palm Beach Park.
3. Recharge on the Powell Riviera
- Retreat: Powell River boasts a wide range of boutique accommodation and vacation rentals. Escape your daily routine at Beyond Bliss Spa & Suites, offering luxurious one-bedroom suites with ocean views, full kitchens, jetted tubs and private balconies. Downstairs, rejuvenate at the spa with massage, manicures and a variety of facial treatments. For a different kind of escape, visit the Old Courthouse Inn where you can sleep in the sheriff’s former office and enjoy complimentary breakfast at Edie Rae’s Café.
- Refuel: Fine dining isn’t just for city folk — you’ll find exquisite cocktails, craft beer and flavourful cuisine in abundance. Sip a Powell Riviera cocktail (a Mai Tai with Havana Club white and dark rum, orange and almond plus fresh lime) at Coastal Cookery while enjoying the explosion of fresh flavours in the Ahi Tuna Stack. Taste a flight at bustling Townsite Brewery (which also makes deliciously drinkable non-alcoholic kombucha), and snack on gluten-free, free-range chicken from That Chicken Place next door.
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