Museums on the Sunshine Coast are a prime example of the creative and resilient spirit often found in smaller communities. If you're interested in learning about the people, culture, and history of the Sunshine Coast, local museums feature a wide variety of cultural artifacts—some dating back thousands of years—along with stories, photographs, collections, industrial equipment, and so much more. 

 

tems swiya Museum, Sechelt

At the tems swiya Museum in Sechelt, explore the rich heritage of the shíshálh Nation through exhibits and artifacts, including intricately woven cedar baskets, regalia, stone tools, and a 3,500-year-old mortuary stone. Come "face to face" with shíshálh ancestors in a one-of-a-kind interactive exhibit called ‘kw’enusitsht tems stutula, a digital reconstruction of a high status shíshálh family. Archival photos document the story of the shíshálh people through centuries of painful oppression while demonstrations, drumming, and storytelling from current shíshálh members are a testament to the spirit and living history of their people.

Interested in learning more? Wander around Sechelt and you'll discover more evidence of shíshálh culture, including beautifully carved poles and artists who, like their ancestors before them, proudly give form to their heritage.

Stone beads, tems swiya Museum
Stone beads on display at tems swiya Museum, Photo: Annie Wise

qathet Museum & Archives, Powell River

The qathet Museum & Archives pays homage to the people, industries, and cultures that have shaped present-day Powell River and the entire qathet region through a variety of exhibits. Admire the intricate details of woven cedar baskets carved by Tla’amin weavers, and explore the everyday ingenuity of Coast Salish tools, like net weights, mauls, bailers, fish hooks, and more. Fast forward a few centuries, in the form of settler objects from early homesteading families who came to these shores in search of new lives. Learn how butter (and ice cream) were churned, wine pressed, sheep sheared, and seeds planted. Industry soon followed, and the museum details the history of the area's (and Western Canada's) first newsprint paper mill, which remained in operation from 1912 to 2021 when it was shuttered for good.

Throughout the year, the museum hosts a variety of events and programs, including pop-up exhibits, lectures, and workshops. Prefer to check out the museum alongside a knowledgeable guide? There are tours available of the current exhibits and the museum puts on a spooky haunted walk in October. Whether you're a history buff, local resident, or visitor, the qathet Museum & Archives offers a fascinating look into the past and present of this dynamic coastal community.

Please note that the museum is temporarily closed due to a large collection project, but will re-open again soon.
 

Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives, Gibsons

Located in Gibsons, the Sunshine Coast Muesum & Archives is a great place to journey into the Sunshine Coast's past. The museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts and archives covering the many industries and histories of the Sunshine Coast.

Kwekwínmut: Squamish Stone Artifacts is a collaborative exhibit with the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) featuring ancient pieces from the Museum’s collection of stone tools that offer insight into their ways of life. These artifacts originate from various sites, including permanent villages and seasonal camps, and span the Early, Middle, and Late periods of the Northwest Coast archaeological sequence. You’ll also find exhibits showcasing everything from fishing, logging, and marine transport to the characters of CBC’s The Beachcombers, which helped solidify Gibsons in Canadian pop culture. (Don't miss snapping a photo with a life-sized Nick and Relic at the museum!). 

The museum houses over 7,000 (and counting) artifacts, 1,600 archival documents, and 8,000 photographs and negatives, including those of Helen McCall, who documented rural life on the Sunshine Coast during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. You can also read the headlines of the day in the Peninsula Times and Coast News papers, dating back as early as 1931.

Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives
Photo: Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives

Henderson House Living Museum, Powell River

Architecture fans will appreciate one of the first examples of an Arts and Craft-style home at the Henderson House Living Museum. This quaint home was once owned by Powell River's first town doctor, Andrew Henderson, and his family. Built in 1910, it has retained original details characteristic of this style of home, including built-in wood furniture and light fixtures, exposed beams, a fireplace, and porch.

The house itself serves as the office for the Townsite Heritage Society, and includes a number of artifacts and memorabilia from the early 19th-century life in Powell River. Henderson House is the perfect launching pad to explore the rest of Powell River's National Historic Townsite District: the museum offers guided walking tours of the area during the summer season (or you can pick up a map and explore at your own pace using the self-guided route). 
 

Texada Island Museum

Nearly all the items in the Texada Island Museum were donated by local families over the years, resulting in a museum that is uniquely Texada Island. A big focus of the museum is on the island's mining heritage, which played a significant role in shaping its early economy and communities. Visitors can check out a recreated mine shaft, along with old mining artifacts, including logbooks, photos, and tools.

No growing rural economy was complete without a school, and at the museum, you can take a seat in Miss Emily's (the first teacher at the Van Anda School) classroom, which houses rows of desks, schoolbooks, and an old blackboard. There are plenty more examples of island life throughout the years, including goods and trinkets from the general store, marine artifacts, and more. Opening hours are limited, so be sure to plan ahead.

Texada Island Museum
A recreated model of Little Billie Mine at the Texada Island Museum, Photo: Lucia Capretti

Egmont Heritage Centre

Despite its size, Egmont boasts a surprisingly large and diverse museum. The Egmont Heritage Centre, located in a beautiful, curved timber-frame wood structure, holds generations of local artifacts and history. Like the Texada Island Museum, this community-run (and curated) museum depicts all things Egmont, with an emphasis on logging and fishing. 

Outside, you'll see a beautifully carved totem pole created by master carver Arnold Jones, that greets visitors upon arrival. The building itself is a tribute to the area's forestry roots, and old logging equipment and exhibits like a springboard, once used by loggers to scale trees, document the working life of rural foresters. Inside, the museum is chock full of trinkets, from Depression-era glass bottles and seashells to model ships and outboard motors.
 

Bonus Stops

Architecture fans, history buffs, movie-goers, and sightseers can all find something to admire (and celebrate) in Powell River's Historic Townsite District. Located 15 minutes west of downtown Powell River, this charming neighourbood got its start as one of the only professionally planned, single-industry towns dating from the early 20th-century. The original town plan, commissioned by the Powell River Company to accommodate the workers and their families of the area's pulp mill, was purposefully designed in 1910 by urban planners and architects. The town's original grid-iron plan was oriented to the site of the mill, and included plenty of green and park space, Arts and Crafts-style homes, and community facilities—many of which are still standing today, including the Rodmay Hotel and the Patricia Theatre.

While not a museum or historic site per se, the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre highlights the rich aquatic heritage of the Átl'ka7tsem / Howe Sound and Gibsons region. This catch-and-release aquarium showcases 30 different marine life habitats and 70 different species, all collected from local waters, including anemones, sea stars, urchins, and more. Touch tanks allow kids (and curious adults) to safely explore marine life up-close-and-personal. The Átl'ka7tsem / Howe Sound region was declared Canada’s 19th UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, marking it as an area of global significance. The NSMEC is the perfect place to deep dive into the fascinating marine and terrestrial legacy of the area and walk away with a greater understanding and appreciation of the remarkably diverse habitats the area supports.