The world’s longest highway, the Pan-American (also named Highway 101 in parts of the United States and Canada), stretches 9,312 miles (15020 km) from Castro on Chile’s south coast to Lund on BC’s Sunshine Coast.
The 87-mile (139-km) stretch of Highway 101 between Langdale and Lund outperforms its size. Dozens of parks with biking, hiking, and ski trails; canoe and kayak routes; beaches; and coastal viewpoints are easily reached from the highway.
Campsites along or near Highway 101 are plentiful, and you won’t have any difficulty in finding a place to pitch your tent or park your RV, except in July and August and on long weekends from May to September.
The Sunshine Coast lives up to its name. With an annual total of between 1,400 and 2,400 hours of sunshine – that’s an average of 4 to 6 hours per day, depending on where the measurements are taken – bright days outnumber gloomy ones by a wide margin. The Sunshine Coast benefits from a rain shadow cast by the Vancouver Island mountains, which catch most of the moisture coming in off the Pacific Ocean. In winter, clouds regroup in the Coast Mountains to the east of the Sunshine Coast and provide sufficient precipitation in the form of snow to coat trails for cross-country skiing. The remainder of the year it falls as rain, British Columbia’s liquid sunshine, which nourishes the temperate rain forest.
The Sunshine Coast is split into two portions on either side of Jervis Inlet. Roughly speaking, the southern half between the ferry slips at Langdale and Earls Cove occupies the Sechelt Peninsula, while the northern half between the ferry slip at Saltery Bay and Lund sits on the Malaspina Peninsula. The coastline is deeply indented by the Pacific Ocean at Howe Sound, Jervis Inlet, and Desolation Sound. Jervis and Desolation are of such fjordic proportions that they attract a steady stream of marine traffic throughout the summer months, when brilliant sun shines on the countless cataracts that cascade down the sheer-sided slopes. Come moodier months, the clouds become ensnared in the snaggle-toothed peaks, making you feel just as pleased to stick to the sunnier coastline.
See the best of the area on a driving Circle Tour. Head north out of Vancouver for a scenic circle tour of the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island Circle Tour. Board a B.C. Ferries vessel at Powell River that will take you across the waters of the Strait of Georgia to Comox, on Vancouver Island’s east coast. Travel south to Victoria and return to Vancouver by ferry from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen. Circle Tours in British Columbia.
Location: The Sunshine Coast is accessible from the rest of the Lower Mainland only by boat or airplane. Travellers aboard BC Ferries leave Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver for a 9.5-mile (15.5-km), 45-minute ride to Langdale on the Sechelt Peninsula. Highway 101 links Langdale with Earls Cove, 50 miles (80 km) north. Another ferry crosses Jervis Inlet to Saltery Bay, a 60-minute ride. Highway 101 makes the second leg of this journey 37 miles (59 km) north to Lund. BC Ferries also connects Powell River on the Malaspina Peninsula with Comox on the east side of central Vancouver Island.
- BC Ferry Route: Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver to Langdale, Sunshine Coast
- BC Ferry Route: Earls Cove, Sechelt Peninsula to Saltery Bay, Malaspina Peninsula
A note about travel times: One of the most enjoyable aspects of visiting the northern Sunshine Coast in the off-season from September to May – particularly if you travel midweek – is being able to catch the ferry both from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale, and then from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, without experiencing interminable lineups. You’ll still have to allow six hours to reach the Malaspina Peninsula from Horseshoe Bay, but you can do it without hurrying, enjoying the travel time just as much as the play time once you arrive. If you can’t travel midweek to avoid lines, at least leave Vancouver early Friday afternoon or late Saturday morning and return early on Monday. Those travelling up the entire coast or returning via Vancouver Island should ask at the Horseshoe Bay terminal about special fares (which can save you up to 30 percent) for the Circle Tours (four ferry rides).
The following towns are located on or near Highway 101 (south to north):
- Roberts Creek
- Halfmoon Bay
- Secret Cove
- Madeira Park
- Pender Harbour
- Irvines Landing
- Garden Bay
- Earls Cove
- Saltery Bay
- Lang Bay
- Savary Island
- Desolation Sound