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  • Ine Vandenwyngaert

Powell River: the hidden gem of the Sunshine Coast in BC

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

Are you planning a visit to the Sunshine Coast in BC? We explored the Sunshine Coast in the summer of 2019 and totally fell in love. We chose Powell River as a base, as it has so much to offer for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts! This article reveals why you should consider visiting the Sunshine Coast in BC, the top things to do in and around Powell River, and how to get there from the Mainland and Vancouver Island.


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Why you should visit the Sunshine Coast in BC?


The Sunshine Coast in BC is often confused with the Sunshine Coast in Australia: a tropical paradise filled with thousands of palm trees, pristine white-sand beaches, and splendid natural wonders. However, the Canadian Sunshine Coast is slightly different from the Australian one… There are no palm trees, tropical temperatures or azure waters. Yet, that doesn't mean that the Sunshine Coast in BC is less beautiful!


The Sunshine Coast in BC is unique in its own way. Located in the southwest on the mainland, this 180 km (112 miles) stretch of paradise is surrounded by endless mountain peaks, dense forests and pristine lakes. Only accessible by air or ferry service, the Sunshine Coast possesses a laid-back charm while remaining relatively quiet and unexplored by tourists. Even though it is not as tropical as Australia, the Sunshine Coast in BC is known for its mild, sunny and dry weather compared to the rest of Canada. As such, the area attracts outdoorsy visitors who are especially interested in hiking, mountain biking, paddling, boating, strolling around the artsy oceanside villages, or spending time at one of the many secluded beaches.


powell river bc travel poster

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Powell River Vintage Travel Poster

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Why Powell River?


The historic town of Powell River is located along the Northern Sunshine Coast. Dominated by a sprawling paper mill, this town is known for being a logging community. Logging takes place all year long at accessible and more inaccessible areas around Powell River. Luckily it isn’t as bad as it sounds… The logging industry uses sustainable practices where they only log a maximum amount of trees each year so they have enough time to replant them. This also ensures that the surrounding nature of Powell River remains breathtaking! We chose Powell River as a base because it is the most accessible and largest community along the Sunshine Coast in BC. Besides, it has a rich heritage and is known for its dynamic cultural life, beautiful lakes and beaches, and great outdoor recreation - including hiking, camping, kayaking, and scuba diving.


View from Tin Hat Mountain along the Sunshine Coast Trail in BC
View from Tin Hat Mountain along the Sunshine Coast Trail

hotels in powell river


Top Things to Do in and near Powell River


As the Sunshine Coast in BC is relatively isolated, Powell River doesn't receive as many tourists as the southern more populated areas of British Columbia like the area around Whistler or Vancouver. However, this doesn't mean that there isn't much to do... Powell River is the true hidden gem of BC and Canada.


The following activities are ones you can’t miss in and around Powell River:


1. Hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail (partly)


One of the main reasons people visit the Sunshine Coast is to experience Western Canada’s only FREE hut-to-hut hiking trail. The Sunshine Coast Trail is over 180 km long and connected by 13 huts where the traveler can relax and sleep at a first-come, first-serve basis. The trail is relatively quiet, with numerous lakes and scenic mountain viewpoints along the way. The beauty of it all is that you can decide to only do a small part of the trail if you’d like, as it is accessible via multiple logging roads.


We decided to hike one of the most scenic parts of the trail, the part leading up to Tin Hat Mountain. Hiking to the top of the Tin Hat Mountain takes approximately 3 hours as the trail is fairly steep and challenging. Nevertheless, you will be rewarded by a phenomenal 360-view of the surrounding snow-capped mountain peaks, infinite lakes, the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver Island and beyond.


If going for a day hike, allow yourself at least a one-hour break at the top to truly breathe in the natural surroundings and explore the Tin Hat Mountain Hut. The way back is only about 2 hours as it is downhill for the lion’s share.


Tin Hat Mountain is the best hike along the Sunshine Coast Trail in BC
View from the Tin Hat Mountain

Be cautious when driving to the Tin Hat Mountain Trailhead. The roads are not always clearly marked and logging roads may be in poor conditions. The easiest way to access the trail is to follow Highway 101 to Lang Bay and turn left at Dixon Road which merges with Stillwater Main right above Lois Lake Dam. Look out for signs that mark Tin Hat or Lewis Lake. There are multiple access points, which are indicated with the parking lot on the map. The parking lots may be challenging to find as they are not official but rather a small patch of gravel along the road. We parked on the one right above Lewis Lake, or at least we think we did. There was one other car parked there, and we found a sign with Sunshine Coast Trail on it. Read more about the hike to Tin Hat Mountain along the Sunshine Coast Trail here.


How to get to Tin Hat Mountain Trailhead along the Sunshine Coast in BC