5561 Wharf Ave
Sechelt, BC V0N 3A0

#117 - 1100 Sunshine Coast Hwy
Gibsons, BC V0N 1V7

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(Background image: illustrated map from a Union Steamship tourism brochure ca. 1925)

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1791 chart
1791 Narváez chart

1792 chart
1792 Vancouver chart

1792 chart
1792 Galiano chart

1892 Sargeant Bay survey
1892 Sargeant Bay survey

About the Sunshine Coast

Exploration & Early Settlement
Town Profiles
Things To Do
Population & Demographics

In 2009 I helped the District of Sechelt create three markers relating to the early exploration and development of the Sunshine Coast (see the news release here). A fourth sign was put up in July 2011.

  • José María Narváez: First European Explorer of the Sunshine Coast
    Location: South end of the Davis Bay Seawall
    Click here to see an article I've written on this subject. Click here to see a photograph of me with maritime artist Steve Mayo at the sign on September 4, 2010; Steve's painting of Narváez's ship the Santa Saturnina appears on the sign.
    Click here to see the sign.

  • Early Explorers of the Sunshine Coast
    Location: North end of the Davis Bay Seawall
    Click here to see an article I've written on this subject.
    Click here to see the sign.

  • The Union Steamship Era: Opening Up the Sunshine Coast
    Location: Trail Bay esplanade at the foot of Trail Avenue
    Click here to see an article I've written on this subject.
    Click here to see the sign.

  • Capt. George Henry Richards: 1860 Sunshine Coast Survey
    Location: Davis Bay Seawall near Westly Road
    Click here to see an article I've written on this subject.
    Click here to see the sign.

Exploration & Early Settlement

The first European visitors to the area we now call the Sunshine Coast did not arrive until the 1790s when three maritime expeditions, two from Spain and one from England, explored the area:
  • Narvaez
    José María Narváez — 1791. At the age of only 23, Narváez of Spain led the first European excursion into the central part of what is now called Georgia Strait. Although not as well known as the three great explorers who arrived one year later, Narváez has the distinction of being the first European to cruise along the Sunshine Coast, on July 10-12, 1791. He was also the first to set foot on solid ground after anchoring off Mission Point near the mouth of Chapman Creek (he named it Rio de la Aguada — River of the Watering Place) so that he could replenish his fresh water barrels at the banks of the river. This is the first recorded landing of an explorer on the southwestern mainland coast of what is now British Columbia. For more information, see my article José María Narváez: European Discoverer of the Sunshine Coast at http://www.GaryLittle.ca/maps-historic/narvaez.html.

  • Vancouver
    George Vancouver — 1792. Vancouver was a master navigator and cartographer and his charts covering the length of the largely unknown northwest coast from Puget Sound, Washington to Anchorage, Alaska are legendary for their detail and accuracy. On the evening of June 15, 1792 he camped at what was probably Gibsons harbour and the next day his longboat proceeded along the Sunshine Coast through Welcome Pass opposite Halfmoon Bay. He noted in his log that "This part of the coast is of a moderate height for some distance inland, and it frequently jets out into low sandy projecting points. The country in general produces forest trees in great abundance, of some variety and magnitude; the pine is the most common, and the woods are little encumbered with bushes or trees of inferior growth." For more information, see my article George Vancouver Visits the Sunshine Coast: 1792 as well as my interactive map showing his exploration of the Sunshine Coast area in June 1792 at http://www.GaryLittle.ca/maps-historic/van250.html.

  • Valdes
    Dionisio Alcalá Galiano & Cayetano Valdés — 1792. The Spaniards Galiano & Valdés, officers in the Alejandro Malaspina scientific expedition, were ordered to continue exploring the area Narváez had visited the previous year. They left Nootka in May of 1792 in two new 46-foot schooners built in Mexico — the Sutil and Mexicana — and returned four months later, becoming the first explorers to circumnavigate Vancouver Island in the process. In what must have been quite a surprise, just as they entered Georgia Strait, they discovered George Vancouver's two ships anchored in Birch Bay just south of the 49th parallel. The two expeditions eventually sailed north together along the Sunshine Coast, worked cooperatively to chart Desolation Sound (north of Powell River), then decided to go their separate ways. It would be almost 70 years before the Sunshine Coast was examined again by another surveying team. For more information, see my article Dionisio Alcalá Galiano: 250th Anniversary of Spanish Explorer's Birth at http://www.GaryLittle.ca/maps-historic/galiano.html.
Permanent settlement of the Sunshine Coast by Europeans did not occur for almost another century when, between 1875 and 1890, prime land was pre-empted in the areas of present day Gibsons [George Gibson, George Gibson, Jr, George Glassford: 1887], Roberts Creek [Will Roberts, William Campbell, James Mitchell: 1889], Davis Bay [William Simpson, Beecher Hungerford: 1888], Sechelt [John Scales: 1875 and Joseph Bouillon: 1889], and Sargeant Bay [Frederick Sargent: 1887]. In the 1890s, more pre-exemptions were made further north in Halfmoon Bay and Pender Harbour. These pioneering settlers were primarily adventuresome loggers, farmers, and fishermen.

Town Profiles

Gibsons. Located close to the ferry terminal in Langdale, this is the town most people explore the first time they visit the Sunshine Coast. It features spectacular views of water and islands, and of the Sea-to-Sky mountains across Howe Sound. The older part of town, near the harbour and wharf, is a tourism centre that becomes very busy in the summer. Gibsons achieved lasting fame as the home of The Beachcombers television show which ran for 18 seasons (1972-1990) on CBC TV. This show helped bring the natural beauty of the Sunshine Coast to millions of people around the world. Gibsons is the winner of the prestigious 2009 LivCom award for most liveable community in the world with a population below 20,000.

Roberts Creek. This small community is known for the resolution of many of its residents — the so-called Gumboot Nation — to adopt healthy, organic lifestyles and to respect and protect the environment. It has become an increasingly popular spot to live since it is a quiet area conveniently located half way between the Gibsons and Sechelt business centres. The Sunshine Coast Golf & Country Club is located here.

Sechelt. Sechelt is the largest town on the Sunshine Coast with over 8,000 residents and is the primary business centre. It is known as the land between two waters because the central village occupies a narrow isthmus that separates the open water of Georgia Strait from Sechelt Inlet to the north. The municipal district is quite large and includes the neighbourhoods known as Wilson Creek, Davis Bay, Selma Park, East Porpoise Bay, Sandy Hook, Tuwanek, West Porpoise Bay, and West Sechelt. Sechelt has an airport (in Wilson Creek) and a seaplane harbour (on Porpoise Bay). For information on parks in the Sechelt area, go to the District of Sechelt's Parks, Playgrounds, Streetscapes & Green Spaces page.

Halfmoon Bay. This is a tranquil community located just northwest of Sechelt. People have been coming to Halfmoon Bay for almost a century to escape city life and enjoy the great outdoors. The original Redrooffs Resort which attracted many early visitors is long gone, but the kayaking, boating, and hiking opportunities remain — as does the Redrooffs name which now identifies the road that meanders along the picturesque Halfmoon Bay coastline below the main highway. Halfmoon Bay includes two major parks that are worth visiting: Sargeant Bay Provincial Park and Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park. For a summary of all parks in the area, see my Halfmoon Bay Parks page at http://www.GaryLittle.ca/parks-hmb.html. For a summary of special events, see my Halfmoon Bay Special Events page at http://www.GaryLittle.ca/hmb-events.html.

Pender Harbour. This boater's paradise is known as the Venice of the North for its large collection of interconnected bays, coves, and islands. People come here to fish, scuba dive, sail, or to simply enjoy the great scenery. Pender Harbour is surrounded by several small communities, notably Madeira Park (the business centre), Garden Bay, and historic Irvines Landing. A little farther north is the ferry terminal at Earls Cove (the ferry here takes you to the Powell River area), the small community of Egmont, and the Skookumchuck Rapids.

Things To Do

  • Boating & Kayaking. There's water, water everywhere and plenty of interesting places to visit whether you're motoring, sailing, or paddling. You can explore the bays and beaches of the coastline, the offshore islands, or, with care, the world famous Skookumchuck Rapids.

    Want to learn more about all those big ships out in the Strait of Georgia? Check out my Marine Traffic Map at http://www.GaryLittle.ca/marinetraffic.html.

  • Swimming. There are pools at the Sechelt & Area Aquatic Centre, Gibsons Aquatic Centre, and the Pender Harbour Aquatic & Fitness Centre in the Pender Harbour Secondary School.
  • Scuba diving. The Sunshine Coast is a favorite destination for scuba divers. Many popular dive sites are located in Pender Harbour. Coopers Green in Halfmoon Bay is also a popular jumping-off spot.
  • Golf. There are several golf courses on the Sunshine Coast: All these clubs are open to the general public.
  • Skating / Hockey / Lacrosse / Curling. The new Gibsons & Area Community Centre supports hockey and skating while Sechelt is home to the Sunshine Coast Arena for skating, hockey, and lacrosse.
  • Skiing. The Dakota Ridge Recreation Area has 12 km of groomed cross-country skiing trails as well as snowshoeing trails.
  • Tennis. The Suncoast Racquet Club has an indoor tennis facility in central Sechelt.
  • Hiking & Biking. There are plenty of hiking/biking trails to enjoy on the Sunshine Coast. Many of them lead to waterfalls — visit my interactive waterfall map to see where they're located. Also take a look at this informative video on hiking trails in the Gibsons area and this website dedicated to hiking and biking trails.
  • Reading & Writing. Every year in August, the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts is held in Sechelt. This is Canada's longest running summer gathering of Canadian writers and readers. The Sunshine Coast is also the inspirational home of many prominent writers, including Howard White, Edith Iglauer, Andrew Scott, Terry Barker, Tony Greenfield, Heather Conn, Theresa Kishkan, Betty Keller, Andreas Schroeder, and Kristjana Gunnars. The Coast will inspire you, too!

Arts & Culture

Check out my interactive map of highlighted studios and galleries on the Sunshine Coast at http://studios.GaryLittle.ca/. These facilities are part of the Coast Cultural Alliance Purple Banner Tour.

Population and Demographics

The BC Government socio-economic profile for the Sunshine Coast Regional District summarizes population estimates, age distribution information, personal taxation statistics, and labour force by industry for the Sunshine Coast.

The population of the entire Sunshine Coast area, according to the 2016 Canadian census, is 29,970, an increase of 4.7% since the 2011 census. The populations of the two largest towns, Sechelt and Gibsons, are 10,216 and 4,605, respectively. The populations of the rural unincorporated areas are:

  • Pender Harbour & Egmont (Area A) — 2,624
  • Halfmoon Bay (Area B) — 450
  • Roberts Creek (Area D) — 1,867
  • Elphinstone (Area E) — 3,664
  • West Howe Sound (Area F) — 2,043