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Sunshine Coast Info (moved from General Discussions)


Jul 12, 2020
Cultus Lake
(admin - this thread has been moved from General Discussions as a bunch of site info is being included that would be of use for others contemplating traversing the Sunshine Coast area - admin)

Hi, Folks. I'm planning to paddle from Cortez Island south to Vancouver starting September 9. First time for me in this area. I'll be checking out Desolation and the Copeland Islands and visiting some friends along the way.
A couple of questions
1. Curmes Island: Best choice of campsite?
2. Copeland : Best choice of campsite?
3. Powell River: has anyone camped in Willingdon Park (downtown Powell)? I'm wondering if I should expect security issues if I leave my campsite. Any other recommended campsites in this area?
4. I am visiting friends who live on the coast 23'ish k's north of Sechelt. After that, I'm visiting friends on Keates about 50 km away. There don't appear to be any campsites that split this day up, especially from Sechelt south. Does anyone know where I could pitch my tent near Sechelt? I'm even considering pulling up to the Driftwood Motel that is on the beach in downtown Sechelt.
4. Any other intel, must sees, safety tips would be appreciated. I've included a screen shot of my route.
Sunshine Route.jpg
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My opinions (only):

1) West Curme
2) Middle Copeland
3) Willingdon: well managed. I wouldn't worry, but obviously you'll take wallet/phone with you when you go into town.
4) That stretch is the tough part of the trip. Both times I've done that coast, I've pushed through in one long day from Keats to Thormanby. You could try some commando camping north of Robert's Creek, and @mick_allen has an idea of a possible site just south of Sechelt, but otherwise you might just want to resign yourself to a long push.

That is an absolutely wonderful trip you have planned. In terms of worries, I view the crossing of Vancouver Harbour and then the crossing to Bowen as the sections I take the most care due to ship traffic. If the tide is ebbing at Ambleside and the wind is from the west, the harbour crossing can be very sporting.

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One more tip: Hardy Island is marginal camping and worse landing. I would stay at the sublime site on Cape Cockburn, right by Henry Roberts' old cabin.
Another option. though not ideal, for Sechelt, is to portage thru the town of Sechelt (1.5km) and paddle up Sechelt inlet to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park campground. (I believe kayakers can camp in the cycling tent area).
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Another option. though not ideal, for Sechelt, is to portage thru the town of Sechelt (1.5km) and paddle up Sechelt inlet to Porpoise Bay Provincial Park campground. (I believe kayakers can camp in the cycling tent area).
I done that, but only one way: I came in on the Sechelt side and paddled out through Skookumchuck. It’s a bit of work to do it one-way; doing it both ways in order to break up the Sunshine Coast section would be way too much effort IMHO.

At the rebirth of the BC marine trails, I reluctantly took up the most difficult mantle [compared to the other, already chosen, more interesting regions] of finding sites in the overall region of your upcoming journey. And as you have found out and as Andrew has indicated, yours is a difficult path - mainly because of multiple nearby populated areas, easy [unwanted] access, high prices, jealous neighbours, and in many locations a dearth of usable undeveloped public land.

However there are surprising glimmers of possibilities, but they are not evenly spaced, they don’t all have good beaches or protected landings and as you might expect, hammock use opens up probably 30% more available locations – maybe more.

So some specific comments.

  • 1) There’s lots of possibilities in Desolation Snd and the adjacent North Sunshine Coast down to the Copelands. Andrew’s comments are on the mark.
  • 2) It’s too late for this time, but I wonder if pushing south rather than detouring to Curme would give you some easier site spacing adjacent to the difficult sections later on.
  • 3) If you want to go a little southerly of the posted Copeland sites, just on the mainland opposite the southern Copelands are a few sites. Or if you get further, there’s quite a few on the mainland just to the East of Savary.
  • 4) If you don’t like the commercialization of Willington campground, I expect that one could stealth camp 7km north at the Gibson Ck Launch region.

  • 5) Going south from Gibsons Ck [or Willington] there’s another few possibilities: “NSSCst S2-Powell TreeHangs” – a strip with a steep upland that will be only good for hammockers, and “NSSCst S3-Stillwtr Strip” which is a strip beach site with a nice estuary on the W side and a few t.o. beach sites and a few sites upland in trees.
  • 6) Just noting that there’s a couple of not so great sites on the NE edge of Scotch Fir Pt and some enchanting ones in the little islets on the N side of Hardy Is.
  • 7) Hardy Is: on the S side there’s Musket Is – a great site, use the landing on the E side. And to the S of Hardy are a complementary set of enchanting islets that are all usable as well. Options anyway.
  • 8) Just N of Cockburn there’s a couple of usable islets: Strawberry and CockburnIt1&2 - 'CockburnIt2' is the biggest and best, but for sure the huge Cockburn site is one not to miss. The only snag is if there’s Southerly weather – there’s a rock outcropping by the old homestead that you might be able to get a little wave action shelter on either side plus there's a miniscule sheltered area immediately to the W side of the loader outcropping if necessary when landing or leaving.
  • 9) Oh yeah, if you like a less populated shoreline, there are a bunch of sites down Texada Island, but those’ll require a crossing to and from of course and maybe another thread. Parallel to this, and if you had time, one could always veer into Jervis Inlet and head down the more sheltered Sechelt Inlet and portage out at the bottom thru Sechelt city - quite a few have done that. That deviation should be another thread too as there are quite a few additional Sechelt Inlet sites.

Anyway, getting late will continue down the coast tomorrow.
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So going back and adding detail plus continuing down until the South Sunshine Coast

  • 1) Zooming in on the Copeland islands, you can see some mainland sites near the southerly Copelands. I’m not sure of the situation of some of the southerly Copeland sites I’ve shown in addition to the shown deleted sites, but I expect you can at least stop there as large boats tie up all the time and they obviously have to intrude on the shore with heavy ties. A quick check doesn't show a problem. Anyway, Copeland area:

  • 2) Next are the sites mentioned immediately E of Savary:

  • 3) And continuing, here is the Gibsons Beach Launch mentioned. Final set up late in the trees and leave early probably would hardly cause a stir. Public land:

Gibson's Bch overview with arrows showing potential use:

Next are the ‘Tree Hang’ sites just south of Powell River:

and TreeHang overview - might just squeeze in a tent somewhere at the beach top, but hammocks for sure:

and after that the StillwaterStrip site - plus you can see a couple of usable semi-ok sites on the E side of ScotchFirPt :
3e-NSSCst S3-StillwtrStripb.jpg

and overview, multiple single or double sites possible:
3f-NSSCst S3-StillwtrStrip.jpg

  • 4) Jumping down to the Hardy area you can see those little Hardy islets to the N and the Blind Bay islets to the S – they’re probably too far off your line, but the Musket Is site might make sense – kind of picturesque.

  • 5) And then down to the Cockburn area. You can see the islets just to the N, but if the weather is ok, any of the Cockburn loooong beaches will accommodate all you want. Even a green throne on the rhs of the 1st beach. Other sites in the area shown as well:

  • 6) And lastly in this post is the lower Nelson Island area – some absolutely spectacular sites. The first is the Quarry Bay site. Two landings shown, try for the westerly; bit of a hike up and over but the reward is a king of the world site where you command the view. Next is NelsS-FearneyW2a – a small site with a tiny harbour that offers all direction protection on a wonderful little peninsula with low open views similar to Quarry. Next is FearneyW1b which is a large site, fairly good landing but W exposed, slightly raised on rock ledges and much space in the trees – a great site too. And if you can handle rough rock ledge landing, the rock ledges of FearneyW0 will be worth the difficulty. And to top it all off, if the weather is ok, Hodgson Islets actually will work as a small site.

and here's the little NelsS-FearneyW2a site mentioned. Enter from the far lhs and at higher water level you get a tiny little harbour. The little site itself is just a delight:


protected 'harbour' from the east:

It's a small site, but one of the site areas:

And the next part is South Sunshine Coast.
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I wouldn't recommend mick's "treehang" site. I've only paddled along there once and don't remember anything remotely like a camp site. There is an "interesting" sight there though; the steep banks in one area are the old PR dump, rusted remains of appliances, cars, and other junk protruding from the dirt all the way from the water up to the top of the bank... apparently they just backed up to the cliff and dumped everything over into the water.
I guess TreeHanger is more of a ‘sight’ than a site, oh well . . . but to a ‘hanger’ it only takes 2 trees you know . . .

So after Hodgson-Fearney we get to the [upper] South Sunshine Coast to Sechelt. And as before there’s a lot of rest-stops [usually Road-End-Right-Of-Ways] but not many sites:

But searching and searching, a couple are to be found on the way. There are a few marginal candidates just below the PenderHrbr-FrancisPt area with a great one at Harness Island:

Harness from NW, note protected ldg from all directions:

Harness Is on the ground:

But between there and all the sites at Thormanby there’s only a couple of marginal islet yet public sites - that are immediately offshore from private homes. I can imagine that bear spray might be worthwhile to have along – just to read the labels of course.

But arriving at Thormanby - there’s lots of choice so take your pick:

But below Thormanby it’s very difficult to find much, but there is a small, well protected UREP at the mouth of Wilson Ck that can be used:

Wilson from the W [edited: sorry I meant the other W, you know: east!]

Wilson Ck from the N on the ground:

And just E of Wilson Ck there is a small, fairly unrecognized public land area that is loosely called Beach Park [shown on the rhs above on the map showing Wilson Ck]. It has a tiny frontage that you can see where a few boats are stored, and just upland there is a small undeveloped area that could be a potential short-term site:

Beach Ave Park on the ground:

Next possibility is that Secret Beach is a public strip with the developed upland way up slope and so has a few unobservable locations that might be used if necessary:

And on the way to Jericho, although you have a private stop, others might think of using Apodaca on Bowen that is finally now being developed as a water access only camp location [yay!].

So anyway, that’s an overview – but it does omit switching over to Sechelt Inlet [with lots of sites] and down to Sechelt OR does omit coming down either side of Texada Island which both have quite a few sites along the way.

So even though your route does have difficulties, there are now quite a few possibilities. I hope it all works out for you and have fun: there’s lots of good stuff out there actually.
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So in post #7 in section 2), I show a map of some food influenced sites just East of Savary Island - names generated from the 'Dinner Rock' Recreation Site [lots of info on the BC Marine trail map for that site]. Zooming into my posted map, you can see the few additional sites locations with a little more clarity:

NSC9-DinnerPt looks like a fairly easy and interesting spot, however it is overlooked by an adjacent private area. [But remember there is private land everywhere here on this coastline]. Oh yeah, most beaches in Canada up to the high water line are public, therefore the property line shown below across the beach is not real - and is only there to indicate a seeming division:
2-NSC 9-DinnerPt.jpg

But the real reason to look at this section of coast is the amazing commercial Emmonds Beach Farm and Camping RV site that Phillip accidentally stayed at a 'few' years ago and that I had forgotten to mention previously. This fully serviced site will accept a tent or so but much much more importantly it has the ONLY beer dispensing machine in modern history!

read here all about it:

and below Powell River just to the west of the 'Stillwater Strip' is a breakwatered off small public area at the outlet of Kelly Creek that might be an emergency haven from weather in any direction, here's it's location:

and an overview. There's some flat areas by that little rectangular lagoon with dock that could be used for a bivy or whatever if caught outside in conditions. The seaside beach on the right is known as Mahoods Beach. All pics are at low water:
5-NSC S8-KellyEstuary.jpg
Thanks SWriverstone! I hope it's useful.

Expanding on the Hardy Is-Nelson Is outer area, I mentioned one cool group of little islets just north of Hardy Island that could be part of a Sunshine Coast route. The sites are all small, but here’s a few overview shots and one amalgamation generally giving their character. [remember, all the sites mentioned are on public land except Emmonds RV pk]. The map first:


Overview from the South:
1b-HardyN It deS.jpg

Details on the NE Islet. The landing is fairly easy rock shelving, and the tiny islet has a surprising number of single site locations. Just a joy in the sun.

And just below Hardy Island in Blind Bay, there is another group of interesting little islets [Clio and Marr are private] that have a few small sites sprinkled around. Map first:

Overview from NE:

View of a rock shelf landing and an immediate tiny site, with others just upland - Routh It:

Notice the Musket Island sites on the map – That’s a public rec site and there’s info and photos on the BC marine trails site and gov’t parks site as well. Basic site outline shown above and there’s a little darkish bay to the immediate NE that’s an easy landing if main site is too popular, etc.

And a Musket site to the W:

Just north of the impending Cockburn Area, is another little islet, NelsW-CockburnIt2, worth taking a look at. It has medium difficult rock shelf landings on the south, northwest, north, and a cobble but fairly even ramp ending in rock ‘steps’ to the east so one of them is likely be ok for access. The islet is large enough for a fair number of single site areas and there are trees for shade. I quite like it. Map location again:

View from the north:
3b-NelsW-CockburnIt1 N.jpg

From the southwest:
3c-NelsW-CockburnIt1 S.jpg

The cobble ramp on the east side:
3d-NelsW-CockburnIt1 E.JPG

And then . . . and then: the massive Cockburn Site just 1 ½ nautical miles to the south to be covered in the next post:
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Looking at the map, the Cockburn site consists of 3 long, south exposed beaches. The west beach is roughly related to the old Roberts Homesite behind a little rock outcropping toward the west edge. And the centre beach and eastern beaches are centred around a huge prehistoric conveyor ‘loader’. In addition, just a little to the SE are a few more small sites if this well used area is too occupied for your taste: the west beach does get a fair amount of use.
In the area map in the previous post you can see large E-W transmission lines going thru the cape - the land was owned by a Crown Agency: BC Hydro. Subsequently BC Hydro has subdivided the property leaving the Homestead portion on 2 subdivided lots that obviously are a bargaining chip to the regional district with the crown land of the west beach. The upshot is that these will be amalgamated in the future for a large regional park. The adjacent centre and east beaches are also in a little bit of flux as the status has changed a little bit but basicly it's crown or what I call 'unassigned' land. For example the whole area on the rhs is essentially the same status including those 3 lower sites to the SE.

The immediate main take-away is huge wide sandy/gravel beaches, much usable upland, south exposure with minimal protection and pleasant, sunny, simple location.

Roberts Homestead:
So it really makes sense to start with Harry Robert’s Homestead site on the extreme W end. There is a small beach that gives a little less exposure than the other larger ones: it’s orientation is slightly more to the west. The homestead is on a large flat grassy area that is posted no camping but would be a fine spot in emergency or shoulder seasons. The character of the interior is quite charming.

On the ground:

Homestead interior:

West Beach:
On approaching the West expansive [and most used] beach, the most practical location is toward the east end as that 'upland' is where a pit toilet is located. And along the grassy, treed area just above the beach are lots of potential site locations on the way to visiting the homestead. You can see a lower grassy area just to the right [north] that likely gets a little wet in some weather situations.

eastish end:

sites just above beach:

site on the way to the Homestead:

Centre Beach:
The next 2 long beaches are oriented on each side of the loader: the long central beach immediately west of the Loader has upland and t.o. beach site potential all along. Most don’t stop here as the west beach is more picturesque, but really this is a fine area too. And to top this beach off, a bonus little attractive beach at the far west end with 1 or 2 sites that just need a little brushing out.

Zooming on the easterly side of the Centre Bch:

And the bonus beach on the lhs. [Because of the way the ‘property line’ is laid out, it makes more sense to include this little beach with the Centre Beach despite it being closer to the West Bch]

Note the West Beach and Centre Beach are quite exposed to the south so landing in weather will be an issue.

The Loader [situated between the centre beach and the far eastern beach]:
The most obvious feature along this landscape is the abandoned great long hulking conveyor dinosaur emerging directly out of its mineshaft lair immediately upland.
The loader:

it’s lair – take care, who knows what else is lurking around here. . . :

However despite its ominous presence, some partial landing protection is presented immediately beside the grassy riprapped promontory the loader stands on - as well as to the w of the little adjacent bay:

And if you like industrial sculpture and the aesthetic tension between decaying steel and landscape, how about some excellent site potential immediately adjacent to the beast:

East Beach:
And on the east side there’s another long beach, but the better landing is closer toward the loader. Here’s a couple of shots from either side:
from west:

from east:

And then some great upland site areas for one to relax in if all the other beaches are taken!

several sites immediately south:
Ok, getting back to reality on the Sunshine Coast, immediately south of Cockburn are a few very modest sites. The first, NelsSW-Sweetwater, has 2 tiny beaches separated by a flat rocky area, is S facing, has 1-2 t.o. beach sites and with brushing, 1-2 sites immediately upland. Plus there’s some seasonal water as a bonus. Another called NelsSW-GreenbeltPtS has some significant potential upland but more investigation needed.

Sweetwtr eastside landing:


GreenbeltPtS from the water:

Anyway, halfway there with the detail, more to come.
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Maybe a shorter post as there’s a few more great sites on the west coast of Nelson Island. The map again for orientation:

Quarry BayN
Just 1.6nmi [3km] south of Cockburn is another spectacular site: NelsSW-QuarryBayN. The landing is a little rough: use ldg2 rather than the one in the little bay to the east – but rough landings are to be expected on this coastline.

south from the water:

the 2 landings:

But the payoff is when you hike up a little bit: lots of small flat areas and the views are ‘King of the World’. The photos I have just don’t do it justice.

another QuarryN site photo:

and NelsS-FearneyW2a, already covered - is just to the south. [Post #7 above has been recently updated with a couple more site photos.]

And just around the corner from NelsS-FearneyW2a is NelsS-FearneyW1b - another great, large site though slightly less spectacular. The small bay landing is rocky, but after clambering up a few meters to the rock bluff there are sites on the bluff, in the adjacent trees and in the forest behind.

the approach from the west, land in the rocky bay to the rhs. Looks like a nice little grassy area for tents, huh?


All these sites are south and west facing and will be a joy to spend evening time in. There are some cool pathways along the NW bluff face as well.

and a final mood shot:

Hodgson Islands
And what the heck, a little paddle outwards and you come to the windswept, lonely Hodgson Islands. There’s not much there, but if the weather’s ok, there’s a tombolo landing and a few spots on the main islet.
Looking back at NelsS-FearneyW1b on the upper rhs:

Looking toward Pender Harbour on the rhs:

And the tombolo landing with a site or 2 to the south :

And now we start down the site sparse South Sunshine Coast. But only 4 nmi [8km] away, the next good stop is Harness Island [that has already been covered above in post#9]. As mentioned it’s a fine location with a protected landing and multiple sites in trees.

And beyond that about about 2.5 nmi [4.5 km] are the marginal 'Quartet IsletS' and the 'WoodBay Islets' which also have been covered.
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Het, Everyone. I returned on Sunday from a most excellent paddle. 245 kms paddled over 10 days. I didn't have time to review all the awesome contributions but THANK YOU.I'm still processing photos and videos. I'll attach a sampler.
Summary - 80% great conditions. 20% challenging condition - Keats to downtown Vancouver, against the tide, against the wind and with lots of turbulence from the south end of Bowen until about 2km from the Planetarium.
Highlights - lots of whales: Humpbacks and Orcas, beautiful stretches of coastline. Great visits with friends in Pender Harbour, Sechelt and Keats, only a few moments of rain. More to come
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One more tip: Hardy Island is marginal camping and worse landing. I would stay at the sublime site on Cape Cockburn, right by Henry Roberts' old cabin.
True Story. Hardy ISLAND should not even be listed. All it had was a sign and a bench. Nowhere to land, no level sites. TERRIBLE!
Cape Cockburn was stunning and had it all!