It’s a rare delight to observe, in a single eyeful, aquamarine oceans, old-growth forests and an outstretched panorama of crumpled mountains dolloped with snow.
And yet, on a road-trip along Canada’s tucked-away Sunshine Coast and northern Vancouver Island, we’re constantly gorging our eyes on just such a chocolate-box vista.
Ocean-meets-alpine to dazzling effect here, and the journey is all the more exhilarating thanks to numerous car ferry crossings.
Reached by crossing a glacier forged landscape, picturesque Gibsons is our first, reluctantly too-short, stop. Close to our lodgings in a historic timber mansion are several driftwood-strewn rock beaches with incredibly clear water.
I could happily spend a week exploring the maze of island-sprinkled inlets, sounds and sculptured little bays of the southern Sunshine Coast.
Unsurprisingly, this region boasts Canada’s highest proportion of artists, many of whom open studios on what’s known as the ‘Purple Banner’ trail.
The fact that one-quarter of the world’s temperate rainforests are found along the jagged coastline of western Canada comes as no surprise as we travel north. Numerous short walks pack a vivid visual punch here with standouts including Smugglers Cove, Francis Bay Provincial Park and Scookumchuck Narrows which is home to unique tidal rapids.
Surrounded by glassy water, the picturesque, low-slung Sunshine Coast settlements present a storybook image of timber buildings in vibrant colours surrounded by magnificent Douglas Firs.
In these parts, summer is celebrated with gusto, with affable locals kicking up their heels with an impressive range of music festivals, arts events and ubiquitous displays of incandescent flowers.
At Powell River, our lodgings are in the carefully curated Old Courthouse Inn, a haven for vintage lovers with antique-embellished interiors and a retro-styled diner and bar that serves delicious well-priced meals.
Next, I’m joined by deer as I stroll past the timber Arts and Crafts style homes and handsome civic buildings of Townsite, an intact ‘company town’.
Mist hovers over the water in ghostly translucence as we traverse the lower section of the spectacular Inside Passage to reach Vancouver Island. A drive through dense forest gets us to Telegraph Cove, an antiquated sawmilling village that’s become an Orca and Grizzly Bear viewing hot-spot.
The escapist Discovery Islands archipelago is sprinkled between Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. On the short ferry ride, it’s easy to see why this mosaic of secluded inlets and silky bays proved so popular with draft dodgers.
We base ourselves at Quadra Island, where the intricate lacework of islands, rocky shores, beaches and channels – with water so impossibly still it’s hard to believe it’s sea-water - feels close enough to touch from the deck of our apartment at April Point Resort.
A seal plays below our deck, tempting me to jump in.
Tours that seek out Grizzlys and Orca are also available here and a quick paddle from the resort will get you to pristine beaches favoured by seabirds. Quadra Island also boasts several beautiful short walks.
This region is famous for salmon and best of all, you can go snorkelling with them. Starting upstream in a section of the Campbell River edged by fragrant pine forest, our trip commences with a boat ride over rapids.
Jumping into a deeper pool, we’re surrounded by a wriggling throng of thousands of salmon. After floating under bridges and pausing to munch on ripe berries, we eventually reaching the estuary where we’re accompanied by seals.
Sunsets are mesmerising on Quadra Island and ideally savoured from a kayak.
As I paddle through what looks like golden satin, passing forested slopes that slip straight into the ocean, I watch snow-capped mountains glow mauve, then lolly-pink.
This is a part of Canada you have to see.
Published under license from Well Travelled.