Blessed with a beautiful seaside setting and an abundance of sun, clear water and sandy beaches, Powell River is a favoured destination of families and adventure travellers seeking a wide variety of outdoor activities and recreational sites.
Located northwest of Vancouver, Powell River is part of the mainland of British Columbia, separated from the Lower Sunshine Coast by Jervis Inlet, which cuts in from Malaspina Strait.
Proud of its heritage, and now the largest community on the Sunshine Coast, Powell River is known today for its dynamic cultural life, fascinating heritage and Aboriginal tours, quaint Bed and Breakfasts, and great outdoor recreation – including, hiking, camping and kayaking, excellent fishing, and superb scuba diving. Powell River is a popular year-round sea-to-mountain recreation area, with something for everyone.
Miles of hiking trails lead to beautiful lookouts, waterfalls, peaceful lakes, and spectacular alpine hiking. All this in a town that lays claim to the mildest climate in Canada, where the sun shines each year for an average of 1,760 hours.
Location: Powell River is located on Highway 101 on the Sunshine Coast of BC, and can be reached by scheduled air and bus services from Vancouver, and by ferry from the Little River Ferry Terminal in Comox. Powell River can also be reached from Vancouver by catching a ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver to Langdale, driving from Langdale to Earls Cove on Highway 101, and catching another ferry from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay. Powell River is located northwest of Saltery Bay on Highway 101.
View maps of the area
Tour British Columbia’s only National Historic District – 30 commercial structures and 400 homes, built from 1910-1930 as part of the company town site.
Powell River is the ancestral home of the Sliammon First Nation. Sliammon is the site of a native village that has been in continuous habitation for the past two millennia.
Interesting spots for visitors to check out are the Powell River Historic Museum and the Sliammon Fish Hatchery.
The Powell River may be the second shortest river in the world at just 500 metres long, but it connects with a string of lakes – Powell, Goat, Windsor – that characterize much of the inland region.
First Newsprint: Powell River began to flourish in 1908, when logging began in the area. Four years later, the new pulp and paper mill produced the first newsprint in Western Canada.
Valentine Mountain in Powell River requires just a short stair-climb to reach the top and the first of several viewpoints. It’s as if you’re standing in an observatory: as you make your way around the circumference, you see enough landmarks and reference points to bring any map to life. Islands and inlets, mountains and lakes lay spread below you. Picnic tables have been secluded in several places on Valentine’s 260m summit.
The International Choral Kathaumixw is a global gathering of choirs and conductors, featuring international concerts, choral and vocal solo competitions, common song singing, conductors round tables, concert tours, social events, workshops, and seminars. The festival is “a gathering together of different peoples”, held biannually in the picturesque seaside town of Powell River.
The Logger Sports, a highlight of the annual Sea Fair, attracts the best loggers from all over the Pacific Northwest. Events include log rolling, chainsaw carving, axe throwing, and tree-climbing.
Events: During the middle weekend of August, Powell River celebrates the long summer days with the Blackberry Festival, an annual week-long tradition. Check out live music and visual artists during Arts Alive in the Park, at Willingdon Park, enjoy the Festival of Lights fireworks display, sample puppet shows or pie-eating contests during Townsite Day, or chow down at the community BBQ. The Powell River Sea Fair in July is a weekend oceanside extravaganza featuring carnival rides, boat races, Highland dancers, karaoke for kids, juggling and belly dancing shows.
Texada Sandcastle Day: At the end of July, grab your bucket and spade and head to Gilles Bay on Texada Island for Texada Sandcastle Day.
Houseboating: Take a sightseeing cruise or charter a houseboat. The Powell River and Powell Lake area is the jewel of the Sunshine Coast. Here you can cruise one of Canada’s most pristine lakes aboard a private floating resort. Houseboating on Powell Lake
Lakes: Of all the 32 lakes in the Powell River region, Mowat Bay Park on Powell Lake is the beach of choice. The biggest challenge is finding the park, located next to Inland Lake. Powell River’s road grid is such that it takes a turn or two to reach most of the recreation destinations tucked in the slopes of the Coast Mountains that rise gently from the shoreline. Mowat Bay Park is no exception, and is even a little easier to locate than some others. From Hwy 101 in downtown Powell River, follow Duncan Street east to Manson Avenue, then turn north and follow Manson to its junction with Cranberry Street. Turn east on Cranberry, then north on Mowat and follow this to the beach.
Golf: Myrtle Point Golf Club on the shores of Malaspina Strait, five minutes south of Powell River, is surely one of Les Furber’s best design efforts. With a challenging course and spectacular views, the Par 72 layout can be stretched to over 6,900 yards. From the forward tees it comes in at just over 5,500 yards, while the white and blue tees are played at 5,900 and 6,400 yards respectively. Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
Canoeing & Kayaking: Other lakes well worth paddling in this extensive network include Inland Lake and Confederation Lake, which, along with Haslan Lake, comprises a complete watershed with extensive recreation values. Confederation Lake lies north of Inland Lake and can be reached by following Inland Lake Forest Road.
Since it was completed in 1983, the Powell Forest Canoe Route has come to be recognized as one of the more significant paddle routes in the province, right up there with the Bowron Lakes Canoe Route in the Cariboos. The Powell Forest route can be done in small or big bites – portages and streams connect 12 lakes over 80km. The full-on trip requires five to seven days to complete and includes almost 7 miles (11 km) of portages. A shorter 7.75-mile (12.5-km) route takes three days and includes about 3 miles (5 km) of portages. Each lake has its own characteristics: some are deep, others are exposed to strong winds.
Diving: Powell River is deservedly known as one of the premier winter diving locales on the west coast of North America. The clarity of the water and strong currents in Malaspina Strait are the two factors that anchor this claim. More than 100 dive sites attract SCUBA divers from around the world. One of these sites is the breakwater formed by a ring of 10 concrete-hulled Liberty ships that were sunk offshore in 1947 to protect the deep-water harbour in front of the pulp mill. In addition, relics of sailing ships and sunken tugboats provide a refuge for marine life, such as the wolf eels and giant octopi that inhabit the deep offshore waters.
Fishing: Powell River’s year-round salmon fishing provides thrills for anglers of all ages. Charter boats abound, guided by captains experienced in finding the ideal fishing hole. Fishing for cutthroat trout is possible year-round in milder years, as waters in the area rarely experience a freeze in any but the coldest winters. One of the best places to begin is at any of the access points to the Powell Forest Canoe Route. South of Powell River, some of the best ocean fishing is found in the Lang Creek Estuary, about 13.5 miles (22 km) north of Saltery Bay on the west side of Hwy 101. Beach casting is popular here for spring salmon from mid-September through late October. Owing to the shallow water of the creek’s outlet into Malaspina Strait, use lures that don’t sink quickly. If you use a spin rod, try spoons in a variety of colours to match the clarity of the water, with a light line. Salmon here are in the range of 20 to 50 pounds (9 to 23 kg). Farther up the coast near Lund you’ll soon discover why a small, offshore island is named Dinner Rock: ling cod and salmon frequent these waters.
Cycling: A series of roads offering great cycling lead from Hwy 101 at the south end of Powell River through Paradise Valley, a lush agricultural area. As Hwy 101 approaches Myrtle Point, follow Centennial Drive to Padgett Road, which eventually links with Duncan Street. Head west on Duncan to reach Marine Ave (Hwy 101), which parallels Powell River’s inner harbour.
Cyclists heading north of Powell River as Hwy 101 covers the 14 miles (23 km) to Lund will be confronted with one major hill. The highway makes a wide switchback as it climbs above the dam on Powell River. Catch your breath at the dam, from where you get a picturesque view of the boathouses on Powell Lake. Once you reach the Native community of Sliammon, the road levels out for the remainder of the journey. An easygoing, ultrascenic cycling path runs along the Willington Beach Trail. This route was originally a railway bed but has now been converted into a simple network for walking and cycling. The trail begins in the Powell River Municipal Park beside Willington Beach, just north of the central harbour. The wide, limestone pathway that encircles Inland Lake provides an excellent cycle route, with the gentlest of grades. You’ll enjoy it so much you might want to do it twice.
Mountain Biking: The Upper Sunshine Coast area is well documented as having some of the best mountain biking trails in the province, most of which are clearly marked with a white mountain-bike symbol and double bands of various-coloured paints, making the routes a breeze to follow. The riding starts as soon as you get off the ferry at Saltery Bay, with the Elephant Bay Loop, a 30-mile (48-km) ride that will take you all day. Just follow the symbols. Except for a challenging ascent at the beginning, this is not a hard ride, but it is a long one. An area rife with trails is along Duck Lake Road off Highway 101 in southern Powell River. To name all the trails would not do the area justice; to describe them all would take another website (or at least the better part of a site).
A ride of epic proportion – the Bunster Hills Loop – is found about halfway between Powell River and Lund. It starts along Wilde Road on the north side of Hwy 101, is marked by orange paint and white biking symbols, and gains 2,460 feet (750 m) over the first 7.5 miles (12 km), but the views – and the 13.6-mile (22-km) ride down – make the effort worth it. Another extended route is the Malaspina Trail, between Powell River and Lund. One of the more scenic sections of the trail passes through Dinner Rock Forest Service Recreation Site.
Knuckleheads Recreation Area: Tobogganing, snowshoeing and cross country skiing are only a short distance from the major community of Powell River in the Knuckleheads Recreation Area.
Recreation Sites: There are more Forest Service recreation sites concentrated around Powell River than in almost any other similar-sized area in British Columbia, which is a testament to the dozens of lakes surrounding the town. One of the best sites includes Dinner Rock, with a dozen beautifully positioned sites. The entrance to the site is on the west side of Hwy 101, 2.5 miles (4 km) south of Lund. With plenty of firewood, freshwater, and a car top boat launch, this is where you want to be when a full moon lights up Malaspina Strait and shooting stars strafe the night sky.
Along forest roads east of Powell River, you’ll find more good camping at Forest Service sites at Inland Lake, including award-winning cabins designed for people with disabilities. South of Powell River there’s camping at Lois Lake at the start of the Powell Forest Canoe Route, at Khartoum Lake, also on the canoe route, as well as at Nanton Lake and at Dodd Lake, both located on the Welwood Mainline Forest Road.
Hiking: The Sunshine Coast Trail stretches from the Saltery Bay ferry terminal in the south to Sarah Point in the world-famous Desolation Sound in the north. The 180-km trail rivals the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, offering panoramic views and wilderness campsites, while also providing access to developed campgrounds and two B&Bs for those who wish to spoil themselves after trekking through the forest.
More moderate hiking routes include the Lang Creek Trail (easy; 3 miles/5 km return) and Sweetwater Trail (moderate; 4.3 miles/7 km return). To reach the trailheads, turn north off Hwy 101 on the Duck Lake Forest Road, which is about 14 miles (23 km) north of Saltery Bay. The Lang Creek trailhead begins on the right side of the road in about 7 miles (11 km). To reach the Sweetwater Trail, carry on farther to Duck Lake, turn right over the bridge, and continue on for another 2 miles (3.2 km), then turn left and drive a short distance to the trailhead. The loop trail begins here and climbs through an enchanting stand of old-growth western hemlock past MacGregor Falls and returns along an old railbed.
Several hiking trails originate in the lake country north of Powell River. You can walk through old-growth forest as you explore the landscape around Powell, Inland, and Confederation Lakes. The moderate, 7.4-mile (12-km) round-trip hike leads around Mount Mahoney to Confederation Lake and will take the better part of a day to complete. Make the rustic cabin on Confederation Lake your destination, although a rough trail does lead farther on from there to Powell Lake. With the exception of one steep section where a ramp and staircase assist hikers, most of the trail is easily negotiated.
A 2.5-mile (4-km) moderately difficult hiking trail connects the regional park at Haywire Bay on Powell Lake with the west side of Inland Lake. Along the way this up-and-down, forested route passes diminutive Lost Lake. Short lakeside hiking trails also run along the shores of Powell Lake from Mowat Bay Park and Haywire Bay Regional Park. North of Powell River you’ll find a lengthy hiking route along the Marathon-Appleton Trail (moderate; 7.5 miles/12 km return). Some of the values of these routes include fine viewpoints at the Gibraltar and Gentle David lookouts, located off the Marathon Trail, as well as picnic sites at Rieveley’s Pond and Appleton Creek. One of the beauties of this trail system is that you can choose to do all or part of it and still find significant rewards.
Inland Lake is ringed with cottonwoods, which makes it a delightful place to picnic in autumn, when the leaves change from pale green to bright yellow. Picnic tables are located within an easy distance of the parking area. From there a splendidly constructed 8-mile (13-km) trail follows the shoreline. More picnic and bathing sites appear as you walk the trail. All visitors, no matter what their abilities, will feel welcome here. So successful has it been that in 1989 it won a provincial handicap-access design award for Powell River’s Susan Jersak. Inland Lake is tucked into the hillside behind Powell River.
Haywire Bay Regional Park: You’ll also find picnicking and swimming at Haywire Bay Regional Park on Powell Lake near Inland Lake. One of the treats of visiting this beach is swimming the short distance to nearby Honeymoon Island. The turn-off to Haywire Bay Regional Park is from Inland Lake Road south of Inland Lake Park.
Okeover Arm Provincial Park, north of Powell River, is a small campground frequented by paddlers. This park is the choice of those intent on exploring Desolation Sound. Except in the busiest summer months, you’ll probably have your pick of any of the vehicle/tent sites and adjacent walk-in sites in the forest beside Okeover Arm, a long neck of water along the east side of Malaspina Peninsula, 3 miles (5 km) south of Lund. There’s a federal dock and boat ramp here and, unlike in Lund, plenty of parking, should you be heading out for an extended paddle. The park lies 3 miles (5 km) east of Hwy 101 on Malaspina Road.
Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park: Powell River is the gateway to the world-famous Desolation Sound Marine Provincial Park. The pristine waters of Desolation Sound are surrounded by steep evergreen mountains, all teeming with the wildest of wildlife. One of the prime attractions of these waters is their warmth in summer months, which makes them ideal for swimming and snorkeling. The sound possesses a magical magnetism that draws boaters and paddlers from distant shores.
Wildlife: Come fall, many of the streams that feed into Malaspina Strait teem with spawning salmon. Depending on the year and the spawning cycle, Lang Creek Hatchery and Spawning Channels, south of Powell River, will be thick with returning salmon. The best viewing is right next to the well-marked pullout on Hwy 101. As sure as salmon return to spawn in late summer, so too do raptors and bears follow. Although black bears in the Powell River region tend to frequent the backwoods logging roads, osprey and eagles, otters, and pine marten have no fear of approaching the coastline around Sliammon Creek in search of carrion. Occasionally, even a black bear will put in an appearance. One particularly good viewing spot of both predator and prey is near the Sliammon Fish Hatchery, about 3 miles (5 km) north of the Powell River bridge.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on a driving Circle Tour. Head north out of Vancouver for the scenic 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.