|Floating garden on Gibsons Wharf|
GIBSONS, British Columbia - Sitting on the deck of the Black Bean cafe, I take a sip of my London Fog, a warm brew of English breakfast tea, vanilla and steamed milk. Breathing in the salt air, I close my eyes, and picture myself in a seaside village somewhere in rural England.
No need to bother with the expense and hassle of a transatlantic flight. A 40-minute ferry ride across British Columbia's Howe Sound brings visitors to Gibsons, gateway to the 50-mile-long Sunshine Coast. Part of the mainland, but without roads in or out, access is by water or seaplane, leaving travelers with the feeling of landing on a remote island surrounded by forest and mountains.
No time to do the whole coast? The first of a series of blink-or-you'll-miss-it hamlets along a coastal highway skirting the Strait of Georgia, historic Gibsons Landing, or Lower Gibsons as the locals call it, makes an easy day trip for anyone traveling between Vancouver and Whistler.
Park the car at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, walk on the ferry for Langdale, then hop a BC Transit shuttle for the two-and-a-half-mlle ride to a waterside village with a rich maritime heritage and lively culinary scene.
Here's how to make the most of a day:
|Coffee on the deck of the Black Bean Cafe|
10 a.m. Starbucks Not
Get your bearings over breakfast at the Black Bean Cafe and Roasting Company, 467 Marine Dr., across from a working harbor filled with kayakers, sailboats and fishing boats. Fuel up on locally-roasted coffee, English tea, mango-coconut muffins and panini breakfast sandwiches before beginning your stroll along Gibsons Landing, the waterfront area homesteaded by ex-British naval officer George Gibson in 1886.
10:30. History lesson
Fishing, logging and agriculture supported early pioneers, but it was the popular Canadian television show "The Beachcombers'' that put modern-day Gibsons on the map. The series was the longest running ever made for English-language Canadian television, airing from 1972 to 1990. Twenty-four years later, it still generates fans who make pilgrimages to former set locations. Among them is Molly's Reach, a cafe with a bright yellow facade and red umbrellas built in 1926 as a grocery store, and a logging tug called the Persephone, preserved as a museum piece in a park in the center of town.
Visit the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives, 716 Winn Rd., to view a small display of Beachcomber relics and learn about early village life. Among the archives focused on the area's First Peoples (Squamish Nation), maritime and logging industries is a 1923 "teachers contract,'' laying out 13 rules for women including prohibitions on getting married, wearing bright colors and loitering at downtown ice cream parlors.
Noon: Waterfront walk
Take a stroll on the sea walk skirting Gibsons Harbor. Keep an eye out for boats selling fresh seafood. Peak inside a privately-owned three-unit house boat that's been turned into a floating garden, and log a bucket-list wish on a community "Before I Die'' chalkboard wall. Stop at Smitty’s Oyster House, 643 School Road Wharf, and join the locals at the large plank table outside for a sampling of fresh oysters, then walk back into town to browse through the Gibsons Public Art Gallery, 431 Marine Dr. and Daffadowndilly, 426 Marine Dr., offering work by local artists in a 1928 apartment building that once housed loggers and fishermen.
|Add your own bucket-list wish|
1:45 Taste of the Landing
If it's Saturday, book a food-focused walking tour with Catch Our Drift, a local company run by Gibsons residents Sheila and Mark Cameron. Other times, it's easy enough to go grazing on your own, sampling everything from olive oil to ice cream at locally-owned cafes and food shops along Marine Driver and Gower Point Road.
"Taste of the Landing'' tours start on the wharf where the smell of smoke mixes with the salt air at Smoke on the Water, an American-style BBQ shack. Owner Chris Van Nus bathes his brisket in dark beer and espresso, pairing it with a jalapeno-infused "watermelonade" and a side of corn flan.
Other treats include a sampling of gourmet olive oils from Peru, Australia and Chile at the Sunshine Coast Olive Oil Company, 287 Gower Pt. Rd. and Greek-style calamari at Leo's Tapas & Grill, 274 Gower Pt. England meets South Africa at the 1902 Tea House, 453 Marine Dr. where South African native Su-Mari Hill and her British husband, Tim, sell more than 100 loose teas; make their own kombucha, a refreshing fermented tea drink; and stock jars of colorful penny candies (think fizzy cola bottles and jelly babies) Tim Hill remembers from his childhood.
4:30 p.m. Farm-fresh beer
Take a taxi two miles out of town to Upper Gibsons, and find the Persephone Brewing Company,1053 Stewart Rd., an 11-acre farm-based brewery that grows its own hops and sources its barley from B.C. farmers.
|Tasting room at the Persephone Brewing beer farm|
High-back upholstered chairs, old sofas and a long wooden bar decorate a tasting room inside a barn where visitors can sample craft beers with names such as Killer Pilsner and Wee Heavy. Sip by the glass or flight, then pick up a growler of your favorite before heading back to the ferry dock.
If you go:
Ferry information: BC Ferries connect Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island to the Sunshine Coast. Crossing time between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Langdale on the Sunshine Coast is 40 minutes. Find schedules and fares at www.bcferries.com/schedules/mainland.
Transit information: The Sunshine Coast Transit System runs regular bus service to Gibsons and other towns along the coast.
Taste of the Landing tours: Tours available on Saturdays from 1:45 p.m.-4:15 p.m. Cost is $30 for adults and $15 for children ages 3-12. Wheelchair and stroller accessible. Call 604-740-2179 to book.
Tourism information: Contact the Town of Gibsons, or stop by the Gibsons Visitors Centre, 417 Marine Drive. For information of visiting other towns along the Sunshine Coast, contact Tourism British Columbia.