Whale of a Time at Pender Harbour

Craig and I are living on The Sunshine Coast in Roberts Creek for two months this summer and man we feel lucky! Beaches; lakes and lush parks, there is a reason they call it Beautiful B.C. Not even a fortnight in and my parents have followed us over so we hired a car and headed north to see what natural delights The Sunshine Coast has to offer starting with Pender Harbour.

Team Orrock and our driver, Craig, hired a car from Prime Rental in Sechelt (the big town, you’ll find McDs and Starbucks here) and hit the highway 101 to the north. The Sunshine Coast is so easy to navigate which was helpful for Craig driving on the wrong side of the road. We drove for less than an hour until we reached Madeira Park where our boat tour of Pender Harbour commenced.

The SloCat Boat tour by Slocat Harbour Tours was actually a recommendation by Martin, the manager of Up The Creek (Roberts Creek). He advised us that all of the small areas around Pender Harbour were reachable by wheels (there was no paved road access until the 60s!) but via the waves is an easier and more enjoyable experience.

We met our captain, Mark, at 3pm and set sail with another group of five. The boat was comfortable with padded seats and was equipped with a hand drawn map (Mark putting his Geography degree to use) and binoculars, which we used to spot bald eagles and blue heron but unfortunately not killer whales like the week before.

The beauty of the tour was not only what we could see – the mountains, the animals, fancy boats and plush houses but Mark’s knowledge and charm!

Mark’s tour is not just a geography tour of the harbour but also a historical, cultural and political tour. He told us stories about shipwrecks, pressure for the input of First Nations, the Sechelt Indian Band and the bust and boom of the housing market.

Mark is originally from Vancouver but fell in love with Pender Harbour – the small drinking town with a fishing problem, after he accidentally stumbled across the area (mainly Ruby Lake) on an impromptu cycle trip. His previous resume not only includes a Geography degree but also tours around Whistler and a radio announcer so the transition to captain of the Slocat Tour was logical. It’s easy to see why he made the transition from life in The Big Smoke to the waves of Pender Harbour.

Best trips 2016 according to Travel Bloggers

Who travels full time and gives you the best insights on being a local? Who experiences everything first hand and delivers it with authenticity? Who could tell a story in the most natural way? TRAVEL BLOGGERS. Everywhere I go, I see the most authentic travel bloggers ruling the world, writing and sharing their experiences. I met a handful of them, too, and believe me when I say they are who they are in person or online. I needed not to purchase a guidebook to navigate my travels. These bloggers are my bunch of human Lonely Planet books who definitely helped me in my world wandering.

Excited on what they’re about to say? Here’s the list of best trips 2016 according to these wonderful travel bloggers.

Audrey Bergner-Jeffrey of That Backpacker recommends taking a road trip around Ireland

My suggestion for travel in 2016 would be to hire a car and go on a road trip across Ireland. I went on a one-week girls’ trip this fall and it was one of the highlights of the year. Not only was the Irish countryside beautiful, but the people were incredibly warm and kind. We spent our week visiting castles, stopping in for fish and chips in cute harbour towns, driving down winding roads that took us through the cutest of villages, and generally being blown away by the beauty of the countryside.

Our girls’ road trip was only one week long, but during that time we managed to check out the nightlife in Dublin, visit monastic ruins in Glendalough, drive an incredibly scenic portion of the Wild Atlantic Way, and stare in awe at the Cliffs of Moher before crossing over into Northern Ireland where we saw the Giant’s Causeway, ran across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, and drove through the Dark Hedges. If you’re looking for beautiful landscapes, historic sites, and welcoming locals, you really can’t go wrong with a trip to the Emerald Isle!

The Everest Base Camp Trek is on Lexie Willems’ (Steps2Follow) top recommendation.

After Nepal’s tragic experience with a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in April, 2015, the country and it’s beautiful people have suffered many more losses than their homes, loved ones and their livelihood. Since the earthquake, tourism has been down, way down, in Nepal. Tourism, being one of the most important economies in Nepal, is in drastic need of a pick-me-up to help the local people of Nepal who work in this industry repair their lives. That’s why I recommend my favourite adventure around the world thus far, the Everest Base Camp Trek. Nepal has made a steady effort to improve popular tourist attractions, that being the many mountain treks that the majestic Himalayan terrain affords. The trails are once again open for trekkers and deemed safe for those looking for the ultimate adventure.

Trekking to Everest Base Camp is the most challenging, eye-opening and educational experience you can find yourself in. You will learn to use mind over matter when your muscles are begging you to stop and when your body learns to adjust to low oxygen levels the higher you climb. Don’t let these challenges stop you, the remote landscapes you will see are the most amazing in the world and the unique Buddhist and Sherpa cultures you will be exposed to will leave you a little more wealthy, enriched with knowledge of peace, acceptance and love. Most treks are from 9-14 days.

Two Scots Abroad Gemma and Craig said Canada is a must-see!

Toronto, Niagara Falls, Montreal, Canadian Rockies, Vancouver Island, Vancouver. There is no denying that this intriguing list of destinations make up Canada’s hotspots. However there is a hidden gem tucked away in the West Coast of British Columbia that many Vancourites don’t even know about, the Sunshine Coast. We had the pleasure of spending the summer on the Coast in the quirky yoga loving, vegan priority town, Roberts Creek. Our home town was a gateway to nature and playtime. We swam in lakes, hiked trails, kayaked and paddleboarded all over the Coast. We even did some impromptu whale watching during a chilled out fishing trip too. Skookumchuck Narrows aka Sechelt’s Rapids are a sight to behold! Two to three times per day the waters explode and go wild. If you are lucky, you’ll spot a kamikaze kayaker taking on the challenge! Our favourite hike was at Smugglers Cove, the scenery really is just stunning.

Soames Hill is also not to be missed, don’t be put off by the challenging stairs. If hiking isn’t your thing, then join a boat ride around Pender Harbour, spot the seals and million dollar marina homes. Although the Coast is a Mecca for the healthy conscious, there is a nice balance of dining out, live music, and even a craft beer brewery in Gibsons!

According to Hungry Partier Drew Goldberg, a 3-day trek in Myanmar will change your life.

I had the wonderful opportunity to go on a life-changing trek across Myanmar with a small group of people. It was one of the most eye-opening and raw experiences of my life. The trekking journey was 2 nights, 3 days and about 70 kilometers. We woke up everyday at sunrise, and walked until the sun set. The entire group was about 6 trekkers, a guide, and a chef who prepares incredible local meals.

We walked up hills, down valleys, across train tracks, through gardens, fields and caves. Along the way, we passed through dozens of little villages where I saw many smiling faces and waving hands. In the villages, I walked through schools where kids will come running, screaming and jumping on my leg to say hello. Each night, we slept in a village who welcomed us with open arms.

This 3-day trekking adventure was like stepping in a time machine back 200 years. I got a first-hand experience of what life is like without electricity, the internet, washing machines, and hot water.

Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, is made by hand from natural resources like bamboo and wood. I’m talking about houses, bathrooms,showers, playgrounds, textiles, shirts, chairs, tables, hats, etc.

People ride cows and horses to get around — there are no cars. All foods are locally grown in the gardens and fields. I highly recommend to go on this life-changing experience if you plan to visit Myanmar!

Finally, my personal recommendation will be Uruguay.

The smallest country in South America where the poorest and the most simplest of all the Presidents of the world lives.The country is too small that there are even more cows than its total population. Biking the entire country is possible, too. Beautiful sights like Punta del Este and Punta del Diablo will give you a 5-star vacation feel. Tango your way to Montevideo while getting drunk in mate in parks with the Uruguayans. Just so you know, marijuana is legal but that doesn’t give us the right to be reckless. ? Above all these, the Uruguayan people are the sweetest in all of Latin America. You will find yourself being at home when you are around. However, the cost of living is really high but worth the penny.

Two Times the Fun: Vancouver and The Sunshine Coast

Four Days in Vancouver

In beautiful Vancouver, your senses will be fully engaged as you navigate the West Coast city’s lush natural surroundings, as well as its myriad restaurants, bars, shops and attractions.

Active Start Begin your adventure at Jack Poole Plaza where the 2010 Winter Olympic Games cauldron still stands, then walk—or cycle—to Stanley Park and its nine-km-long seawall.

Classic ’Hoods Explore Vancouver’s historic roots as you tour Gastown’s cobblestone streets and funky shops. Further east is edgy Railtown, with Vancouver Urban Winery and the popular new casual restaurant, Ask for Luigi.

Food Day Savour Vancouver at its indie best on an Off the Eaten Track culinary tour of Main Street. Then wander solo in Kitsilano, where hippie hangouts have given way to terrific restaurants like modern-Thai Maenam and oh-so-French Bistro Pastis.

Shop and See At Canada Place, enjoy FlyOver Canada, a coast-to-coast flight-simulation ride. After, visit Granville Island Public Market, then head to the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology for a great collection of Pacific Northwest Coast First Nations art.

Three Days on The Sunshine Coast

Just northwest of Vancouver, a mere 40-minute ferry ride away, the Sunshine Coast delivers a remarkable shift, from bustling city to forested, coastal bliss.

Start with Gibsons, with its stroll-worthy shopping street, marks one end of the verdant coast you’ll explore over three days. Stop at the town’s “beer farm,” Persephone Brewing Company, to sample its delicious brew. At nearby Roberts Creek, dine at The Gumboot Restaurant, then hike the boardwalk trail to Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park.

Savour the Mid-coast Stay mid-coast in a luxurious cliffside tenthouse at Rockwater Secret Cove Resort. Paddle to neighbouring coves with onsite Halfmoon Sea Kayaks. At Madeira Park, join an entertaining SloCat Harbour Tour around Pender Harbour.

Explore Egmont In Egmont, hike to Skookumchuck Narrows where, twice a day, some 200 billion gallons of tidal water roars through the narrows, creating ferocious whitewater and whirlpools.

Getting There: WestJet flies to Vancouver 60 times a day from 15 Canadian, eight U.S. and three international cities.

Try a Mini-Break on BC's Sunshine Coast

B.C.’s Sunshine Coast lies just a short ferry ride and a 40-minute drive from Vancouver. Here we luxuriated for a few days at Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, an ocean-side resort which offers a variety of accommodations, all with spectacular views. Beneath a rustic moss-covered rooftop, our waterfront cabin’s interior had been charmingly updated. Kicking off our shoes, we relaxed on our private patio, gin and tonic in hand. It was mesmerizing to look out over the rippling waters of the Malaspina Strait and watch the sun slowly descend below the horizon.

On that first afternoon, we strolled along the elevated boardwalk which wove its way amongst arbutus and fir trees to a number of luxurious tent house suites perched high on the rocky cliffs. It was a hot summer day and the swimming pool was beckoning me. But oh no, I’d forgotten my bathing suit! Guests could also choose to rent kayaks or sign up for an open-air spa treatment. Later, seated at a window table in the resort restaurant, we enjoyed a romantic dinner in celebration of a significant birthday.

The next morning we set off to explore Francis Peninsula Marine Park, a few miles south of the small community of Madeira Park. We wandered through the forest and followed the footpath which gently undulated over some rocky terrain and then ran alongside the water. Relaxing on the rocks at trail’s end, we listened to the birds’ twitter, watched the boats ply their way along Malaspina Strait and reveled in the area’s peace and serenity. Another short but steep hike brought us to the top of Pender Hill. Here we had a bird’s eye view of the many bays, coves, inlets, small islands and scattered settlements that comprise Pender Harbour. It was from this lookout that over 100 years ago indigenous Coast Salish sentries would watch for parties of marauding war canoes.

But it was time for a change of pace and a leisurely guided boat tour of Pender Harbour. Mark of Slocat Tours, our guide, explained a little of the area’s history and geography. Once upon time more than 5,000 Coast Salish people lived in longhouses on these shores. However, about a century ago a smallpox epidemic reduced this number by almost 90%. Later the area became an important logging and medical centre. Today, it is a favourite summer retreat and a popular tourist destination.

As we chugged along, Mark told us that more than 60 kilometers of shoreline border the harbour, a distance similar to that from Pender Harbour to Vancouver. Until the 1960s, most travel was on the waterways rather than the twisting roads that link the outlying communities. Consequently, a boat was a necessity to get around and so the designation “Venice of the North” was coined. The fishermen were working hard as the last day of the season to catch spotted prawns was imminent. Strong demand exists for these tasty morsels in Asia where they sell for $200 per pound. Here at home they cost roughly $15 per pound. Lucky us! For protection the wooden pilings were traditionally coated with creosote which killed the herring eggs. Nowadays, most pilings are metal which permits more herring to survive. The salmon feed on the herring and we (and the resident orcas) feed on the salmon. Several harbour seals were frolicking in the bay happy to have escaped the jaws of the transitory orcas.

At water’s edge, the sun-loving broadleaf evergreen Arbutus trees towered as much as 90 ft. above us. Their rusty-coloured bark was just starting to peel revealing a smooth pale yellow bark beneath. Mark added that bears like to munch the red berries on their treetops and often pull down the upper branches.

We also passed an old whaling ship which will perhaps see a new life as a restaurant, a half-sunken tugboat, old boathouses and fishing shelters supported on stilts, sightseeing floatplanes, a First Nations sweat lodge and a bald eagle’s nest.

The next day we had time for one last hike to Smugglers Cove Marine Park. In the late 1800s, Smugglers Cove was an access point and refuge for illegal human and marine traffic. We hoped that the sailboats moored here and the zippy little kayaks weren’t modern-day rum-runners. This fairly flat trail has wonderful views of the water and the woods. It traverses wooden boardwalks over wetlands and an extensive bog where the resident beavers have been hard at work creating a ghostly stand of dead and dying trees.

A mini-break from routine was all we needed. Sometimes, just sometimes, a little piece of paradise turns up unexpectedly in one’s own backyard. We returned to Vancouver feeling refreshed and re-energized. What more could one want?