Two women, one motorhome, and the open road – what could possibly go wrong?
Serene views, craft beers, seaside cafés, and a warm sense of community are the enduring memories from my Canadian road trip along Highway 101, an area known affectionately as the Sunshine Coast of Canada.
With my friend Sara and I flew into Vancouver, one of my favourite cities in the world. Having spent a day exploring, we caught a taxi to the Cruise Canada RV rental centre, feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement. A 10 feet wide, 12 feet high and 25 feet long recreational vehicle (or motorhome, as we call them here in the UK) was to be our home for the next couple of weeks. Having never experienced anything remotely like this before, there seemed an overwhelming amount to remember. Water connection. Electrical hook up. When to turn off the propane. Water pump. Sewage hose. Holding tank valves. Black water. Grey water. And what on Earth is a shoreline?
The Cruise Canada team, however, soon put us at our ease, and before we knew it we were off on a great adventure that would take us along the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia and around Vancouver Island, before a second team would continue the journey across Canada. Four teams in all would journey from the west coast, via the Rockies, to Calgary, and then on to Toronto before ending the #exploreCanada road trip in Montreal on the east coast.
Gibsons – fish ‘n’ chips, delicious beer and the bare necessities
We found our first campsite, Gibsons RV Resort, easily and parked up. Hooking up to the water and electricity took no time at all. In fact, everything seemed a lot easier and more straightforward than we had expected.
We were so nervous about driving the RV and finding the site, that we had not stopped for even the most basic of groceries along the way. There was no onsite store, so that first evening we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out, and walked into the quaint town of Gibsons.
Gibsons RV Resort was surrounded by tall pines, with a stunning backdrop of snow-capped mountains. We’d been warned, however, not to go through the woods, as at this time of year Black Bears were about. We were told that they are seen fairly regularly in the campsite itself (yikes!). From advice I’d been given on a previous trip to bear country, I knew that the best thing to do was to make a lot of noise, so as not take any bears by surprise. As we walked along the tree-lined road, we sang our way through every bear related song we could think of, from The Bare Necessities to Winnie the Pooh. We had just left the woodland behind and were passing a few houses when we were both taken by surprise by our first wildlife encounter. An elegant deer by the side of the road, completely unperturbed by our presence. Even in rural England, deers are rarely seen, other than a fleeting glimpse if you are lucky, so the chance to quietly watch this doe was a real treat.
We’d been recommended Sita‘s, an Italian restaurant full of character in Upper Gibsons. We soon got chatting to the friendly owner, Dino. The food was great, but, better still, I was introduced to Persephone – not the Greek goddess, but a smooth pint of local beer.
Most conveniently, the Persephone brewery was an easy walk from our campsite and a flight of their craft beers is not to be missed.
Another must is a walk around Gibsons Landing, and lunch at Molly’s Reach. This charming café, well known for its tasty beer battered fish ‘n’ chips, was a focal point in Canada’s longest running soap, The Beachcombers. Another, Persephone, the boat that regularly featured in the series, can also been seen here.
With so much on its doorstep, Gibsons RV Resort is in a fabulous location, and I would have loved to have stayed a few more days here.
Powell River – a great farmer’s market, more delicious beer, and a sea breeze
From Gibsons we drove along the coast to our second campsite, Seabreeze Resort. We parked up in a little wood, which we had all to ourselves. Behind this was the friendly owner’s house and a number of charming wooden cottages, all with a view of the sea. There are a couple of horses which you can ride and some wonderful walks nearby. Best of all though was the beach. On our first evening we sat on some driftwood, drank a bottle of cider that I’d brought back from the brewery at Gibsons, and enjoyed the view in the golden late afternoon light. The next morning I couldn’t resist a swim, despite the water being chilly – just me and the geese.
The weekend farmers’ market in nearby Powell River was great to wander around. We listened to some live music and chatted to the stall holders. The bumbleberry pie I bought there was delicious with a dollop of vanilla ice cream. I had no idea what a bumbleberry was, but the baker explained that it simply meant mixed berries, in this case, all from her garden.
In the historic district of Powell River we found Townsite Brewing, where I sampled another excellent beer flight, while Sara, the designated driver, enjoyed a glass of Raincoast Kombucha’s Ferrytale Rose. We’d been recommended The Shinglemill Pub & Bistro overlooking Powell Lake, so, leaving the RV parked by the road near the brewery, we walked to the lake and enjoyed a great meal while gazing across the water as the sun sank low in the sky.
above: The view from The Shinglemill of Powell Lake, below: the drive to Lund and the view from Lund across the water to the snow-capped mountains of Vancouver Island
Before we left Powell River we both wanted to visit Lund, on the northern end of Highway 101, reputedly the northern most point on the Pan-American Highway (although many in Alaska would dispute this). Either way, it’s a quaint little village and our breakfast at Nancy’s Bakery was superb.
And if you are wondering what went wrong…
…well, nothing really. We couldn’t find any printed road maps but using my iPad to navigate was easy. We took the occasional wrong turn but soon figured it out. I did forget to turn the water off once before detaching the water pipe and had an unexpected cold shower, but all in all, it was remarkably easy going. The RV life is a fabulous way to explore Canada – enjoying the outdoors by day and sharing a beer or two round the campfire by night.
We were very sad to leave the Sunshine Coast. I really did love Seabreeze Resort. They get a lot of repeat visitors, which comes as no surprise. While there were no shops or restaurants within walking distance, it’s not far to drive to Powell River. Normally I like these facilities close at hand, but the solitude of the woodland and the proximity to water, together with the charm of our friendly host, Elaine, made Seabreeze a winner for me.
Everyone we met on the Sunshine Coast couldn’t have been more welcoming and we loved the strong sense of community there. It was almost like stepping back in time to a simpler world, where strangers say hello (and everyone knew everybody else’s business). Despite our sadness in leaving, we were looking forward to the next stage in our journey as we caught the ferry at Powell River, and headed for Vancouver Island. As yet we’d not seen any Black Bears, but that was soon to change.
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