As we drive down Highway 101, along the Sunshine Coast of Canada, the sun is indeed shining brightly in a clear blue sky. Foxgloves line the lush green roadside. Through the pine trees I catch glimpses of the shimmering sea. There's something so exhilarating about driving along unknown roads in a beautiful part of the world wondering what stunning view or picturesque town may be just around the next bend.
Settling in to RV life
We'd picked up our RV (motorhome), from Cruise Canada on the outskirts of Vancouver and rather nervously set off towards the ferry crossing that would take us to Gibsons and our first campsite. The coast here is riddled with inlets and islands with a number of ferries linking up the highway, connecting one community with another. Neither of us had any prior experience of driving what was to us a huge vehicle. There seemed an overwhelming amount of things to remember when it came to the practicalities of road tripping in an RV. Yet everything fell into place surprisingly easily. While Sara drove, my navigational skills proved reliable (in the main) and we were soon dab hands at emptying both the gray (from the shower and sink) and black (don't ask) water. Hooking and unhooking the water and electrics at the campsites soon became second nature. And Sara took to driving Persephone, as our RV was to soon be named, like a Canadian Goose to water.
Our first campsite, Gibsons RV Resort, was surrounded by swathes of tall pines, just a short walk from town. We were warned not to go via the woods as black bears abound. That evening, as we wandered into Gibsons, we sang every bear themed tune we could think of - if the bears hear you coming they'll keep out of your way, or so I was told while bear-watching in the Great Bear Rainforest, a little further north along the British Columbian coast. We hadn't gone far when we spotted a deer by the roadside, seemingly oblivious to our presence but no doubt keeping a keen eye on our every move; a magical moment, just one of many wildlife encounters yet to come.
We'd been recommended a number of restaurants in the town including Sita's Spag & Suds where we were made very welcome by Dino, the cheerful chef and owner. We also discovered Persephone beer. I was delighted to learn that the brewery was just a short walk from our campsite. The next day off I trotted, loudly singing 'The Bare Necessities' and enjoyed the first of a number of beer tasting flights that I'd sample throughout our road trip (and I was even more thankful to Sara, for being happy to drive).
Our next campsite, Seabreeze Resort by Lang Bay, was a shady little wood less than a minute's walk away from a stunning beach. It was perfect. As the sun went down we sipped a refreshing local cider sitting on a sun bleached log that the tide had brought in, and soaked up the view.
The following day a short drive brought us to Powell River for a guided tour of the Townsite Brewery in the historic old town. While I worked my way through a number of excellent mini glasses of their Belgian style beers, Sara enjoyed the local 0% alcohol Raincoast Kombucha's Ferrytale Rose, a delicious anti-oxidant rich elixir made from green rooibos, cherries and rose petals.
Drinks supped we stretched our legs with a walk to Powell Lake and the highly recommended Shinglemill Pub and Bistro. Overlooking the tranquil waters, a table on their decking was the perfect spot to sip a cocktail and tuck into a cooked-to-perfection steak dinner as the sun grew lower in the sky.
Top of our list of things to do before we left the Sunshine Coast was a visit to Lund at the northern most point of Highway 101, claimed to be the northern end of the Pan American Highway (although some in Alaska might dispute this).
We had heard good things about Nancy's Bakery, famed for their blackberry cinnamon buns. Buns aside we opted for an excellent hearty breakfast, eaten in the sunshine, surrounded by miniature palm trees and with a view of the quaint harbour.
Frustratingly there was only just time for a little exploring before we had to leave; we needed to head back south in time to catch the Powell River Farmer's Market.
Powell River Farmer's Market
Wandering around the market's produce and craft stalls, we chatted to Jolly Roger, who made the most beautiful wood carvings, as well as to the daughter of our host at Seabreeze, who was selling her natural handmade soaps and beauty products. On the open mic stage a lady belted out country tunes with gusto, as friends met up for their weekly gossip. We settled down to people watch and listen to the music, while sipping an iced coffee. I couldn't resist buying a homemade bumbleberry pie to take back to Persephone, even though I had no idea what bumbleberries actually were. As the baker herself explained, they were in fact a mix of berries, all found in her garden. The memory makes my mouth water.
Before we left Seabreeze I made sure to make time for a swim in the cool water of the Salish Sea. Though refreshingly bracing, it was glorious to have this spot all to myself; just me and a flock of Canadian Geese bobbing on the water in the sunshine
There's a wonderful sense of community along the Sunshine Coast and wherever we went we were soon chatting to locals with a feeling that they were happy to share their enchanted secret corner of the globe with us. It's a region that is easy to feel at home in, a place seemingly unscathed by modern life. We were sad to leave but the black bears and gray whales of Clayoquot Sound were calling as we boarded the ferry to Vancouver Island.