From amongst the towers lining the traffic-clogged streets of the Lower Mainland, a weekend cycling jaunt to the Sunshine Coast must look like the perfect quick getaway. From downtown, you can throw your bike on a Horseshoe Bay Express bus, then after a scenic 40 minute ride across Howe Sound, you're transported to a rural paradise with “sunshine” in its name.
Although the Coast is nice weather-wise much of the time, a perfect cycling trip isn’t always guaranteed. The Sunshine Coast gets its name from the fact that it sits in a rain shadow of the Coast Mountains on Vancouver Island. It's less wet than Vancouver, but still a temperate rainforest, so make sure to pack rain gear for any cycling journey — no matter how short.
Here are my tips for making your Sunshine Coast weekend cycling trip go smoothly.
Plan Your Route
The first thing you'll want to do is to download the app for the Sunshine Coast Bike Route (available for both iOS and Android). This will show you the best routes, giving you options for both directness and scenery. Next, you'll want to work out how far you plan to cycle when you arrive. From the ferry in Langdale, Gibsons is about a half hour pedal; Roberts Creek will take another half hour beyond that. If you want to make it to Sechelt, you’ll want to allow yourself about two hours from the ferry. Or make your journey a multi-day adventure and bike to Egmont, which sits at the end of the lower Sunshine Coast.
How to Disembark the Ferry with a Bike
On the ferry, cyclists disembark with the pedestrians and ahead of the cars. Most of those cars will be heading up the bypass, which is a short stretch of freeway to Upper Gibsons. You're better off turning left at the first light and taking the scenic Marine Drive into Lower Gibsons. One caveat: if you get ahead of the ferry traffic along Marine, every single car will pass you and there is little in the way of a shoulder. Better to take ten minutes to prepare for the ride. There is a big map for cyclists just before the light.
Navigating Your Route
Six kilometres from the ferry, along Marine Way, you’ll find yourself in Gibsons Landing, also known as Lower Gibsons. Here, you'll spot the Molly’s Reach sign, and find restaurants, coffee shops, an ice cream place and an excellent brew pub where you can refuel with food and a beer. To stock up on supplies, whether that's from a supermarket or bike shop, you'll need to head to Upper Gibsons. The direct route up School Road is gruelling so bypass this; luckily, Gibsons Way meets this same intersection and has a newly installed uphill bike route.
Heading further up the Coast, you'll need to get on Highway 101 at some point, and you will be sharing it with cars and logging trucks going at 80 kilometres an hour or more. There is a shoulder on the highway almost all of the way to Sechelt, but it can get pretty thin at times.
If you have the time, after just two kilometres on the highway from Gibsons, you can dip down to the quiet and scenic Lower Road, which takes you to the village of Roberts Creek. The Creek is a nice spot to call home base for a night or three, with lots of small roads to meander on your bike as well as a beach facing Vancouver Island that seems to go on forever. It's also home to the cyclist-friendly Up the Creek Backpackers Lodge.
From Roberts Creek, you'll need to connect back to Highway 101, which carries you to the small enclave of Davis Bay, then Sechelt and further on to the communities of Halfmoon Bay, Secret Cove, Pender Harbour and then finally Egmont.
Any of these communities will make a great home base to stay for a few nights. Sechelt is especially ideal, given it's central location. From here, you can make day trips up or down the coast. Porpoise Bay Provincial Park, which is located just outside of Sechelt's downtown along the shores of the Sechelt Inlet is only a 15-minute detour.
How to Bus Back to Vancouver
If you are catching transit home from Horseshoe Bay, keep in mind that the buses only take two bikes at a time. As you are departing from the car deck, look about to see if there are other cyclists. If there are, go past the terminal where cyclists normally board the bus. There is another bus stop on Bruce Street where the bus will be waiting for you with empty racks. Rest your legs on the way home knowing how traveling light can pay off in so many ways.
Safe and happy riding! Find other outdoor activities to do on the Sunshine Coast this summer.