Legend has it that when Captain George Vancouver first commandeered his ship into the northern reaches of British Columbia’s Inside passage back in 1792, he decided to name the collection of deep, narrow channels Desolation Sound.
Not that the place is that desolate—if you count tree-studded islands, pods of orcas and humpback whales and mighty grizzlies and bald eagles. But Capt. Vancouver wanted to dissuade the Spanish captains Galiano and Valdez from coming here, suggesting with the name that there was nothing to be found on this remote stretch of the Pacific coast. Well, our captain lied, or at least downplayed the richness of the area. Here are seven modern-day reasons to head to the northern end of the Sunshine Coast.
And yes, desolation—in a good way—is included.
Setting out from Lund with Pacific Coastal Cruises & Tours is tantamount to leaving worries behind. Aboard the 16-person Pacific Bear, you soon cruise into the ridiculously gorgeous watercolours that saturate the Copeland Islands and Desolation Sound Marine Park, before heading into territory that’s off the chart for most visitors to the area (too bad for them). Sip wine in the galley bar or, on sunny days, on deck while scanning the horizon for whales and bald eagles.
Run by the Klahoose First Nation, Klahoose Coastal Adventures collaborates with local businesses (including Pacific Coastal Cruises) to bring guests on the first grizzly-bear viewing experience on the Sunshine Coast. The six-hour adventure, which launched in 2018, whisks you by boat and van to the Klite River in far-flung Toba Inlet, where grizzlies gorge on spawning salmon in late summer and fall. What’s more, you’ll get a glimpse of Klahoose traditional knowledge of the area.
The timber frame Homfray Lodge blends wilderness chic and great food to create a warm and welcoming home away from home. You can spend days here reading on the dock or by the fireplace in the living room, or kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding alongside seals and porpoises that might lead you to centuries-old pictoglyphs painted on nearby cliffs. Leave your windows open a crack at night for a chance to hear snoring whales (no, seriously) in the secluded bay outside.
Foster Point, 1-844-504-1391/604-566-8026, homfraylodge.com
As the name suggests, Coastal Cookery makes the most of what the surf—and turf—in the region serve up as ingredients, while also inviting the best of what the rest of the world has to offer. The Westcoast Salmon Burger packs a wild sockeye and ginger patty, while the Fish & Chips Bites have you tucking into local ling cod. For a local bird species, try he Backyard Beer Can Chicken, with Vancouver Island poultry.
4553 Marine Ave., Powell River, 604-485-5568, coastalcookery.com
Canada’s longest – and only free-of-charge – hut-to-hut hiking path, the Sunshine Coast Trail extends 180 kilometres from Saltery Bay at its southern trail head to Sarah Point in the north. Choose to do a day hike on a shorter section of the trail, which takes you high up on ridges overlooking the Pacific Ocean, or plan a week or more to do go the full distance. Hire a guide from Footprint Nature Explorations if you want to enrich your backcountry jaunt with lessons on that area’s history, flora and fauna.
Footprint Nature Explorations 6429 Sutherland Ave., Powell River, 604-414-6884, footprintbc.ca
Sunshine Coast Trail sunshinecoast-trail.com
Not only is Townsite Brewing, in Powell River, the only brewery on the north end of the Sunshine Coast, it’s also the only one in British Columbia with bragging rights to having a Belgian brew master. Cedric Dauchot has won numerous awards for his beers, many of which are named for local attractions or legends, including Zunga, a blond ale whose moniker comes from a rope in Desolation Sound that swimmers swing into the sea from, and Tin Hat, an IPA named for a Sunshine Coast Trail hut. Open every day of the year, the brewery often hosts tastings events and live music acts.
5284 Ash Ave., Powell River, 604-483-2111, townsitebrewing.com
Located in the town of Lund—the gateway to Desolation Sound—the Historic Lund Hotel was built by two Swedes more than 100 years ago. Today, the waterfront property is run by the Tla’amin First Nation on treaty settlement land. While each of the 31 guest rooms have been renovated, book one of the oceanfront suites for original Indigenous art—and the potential to spot whales from your private balcony.
1436 BC Hwy #101, Lund, 1-877-569-3999/604-414-0474, lundhotel.com