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The Sunshine Coast manages to feel like a well-kept secret, even though it’s a mere 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver. Although technically connected to the BC mainland, the stretch of quaint waterside communities give off strong island vibes with a very different character to the rest of Greater Vancouver.
Access to the Sunshine Coast is only via sea or air, which has allowed the region to develop a strong sense of individuality. Summer is tourist season when thousands of visitors fill up holiday accommodations, restaurants and cafes. But in the winter month, a chilled out pace of life takes hold, offering locals a unique opportunity to make this beautiful slice of the world their home.
Welcome to the Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast is bound by Howe Sound to the southeast, Desolation Sound to the northwest, the Coast Mountains to the northeast, and the Strait of Georgia to the southwest. A short ferry from West Vancouver’s Horseshoe Bay lands you in the town of Langdale. Heading northwest up the coast, you’ll hit the communities of Gibsons, Roberts Creek, Sechelt and Madeira Park, before needing to take another ferry to another stretch of coast that’s home to the region’s largest town, Powell River.
Each community has its own approach to coastal living. Roberts Creek, for example, is an artists’ enclave, while Sechelt operates as the main tourist hub with shopping, restaurants and cafes keeping people busy.
You’d be forgiven for thinking a place called the Sunshine Coast would be all about beaches and sea views. The region is part of a temperate rainforest, offering breathtaking hikes through old growth forests. So if you need a day away from the water, head inland to spend some time amongst the towering trees.
For many daytrippers to the Sunshine Coast, Gibsons is as far as they get. But with a cute and welcoming public market and the famous Beachcomber Coffee Company, that’s more than enough.
The town itself is split into Lower Gibsons (by the water) and Upper Gibsons (in the hills). With its proximity to the ferry terminal, Gibsons is home to a large number of commuters who head into Vancouver for work each week. That’s allowed a younger demographic to settle here, creating a mix of first-time buyers, families and seniors.
A number of new developments are in the works, including affordable housing projects, which is good news considering the growing demand from new and prospective residents.
"The town of Gibsons is focused on density,” says Stockwell, “so we're starting to see a lot more condo developments. They're not huge and obtrusive, they're sort of low-rise, but it's what we need. We need housing."
A world away from Gibsons (but actually only 10 kilometres down the road) is the artist community of Roberts Creek. Once the home of a sizable number of American conscientious objectors fleeing the Vietnam War draft, Roberts Creek managed to maintain its counter-culture links over the years.
"Roberts Creek is a funky, unique community,” says Stockwell. “It just has a low-key, easy-going vibe to it."
At the heart of the town is the community mandala, a geometric pattern updated by local artists each year. Nearby you’ll find a general store, yoga studios and top-notch restaurants. Properties here tend to be larger than what you’d find in Gibsons, with a lot of single-family homes along the waterfront.
"You have this beautiful beach and you can literally walk out onto the sandbar and pick up a Dungeness crab,” says Stockwell. “With a fishing licence, of course."
Our final stop on the Sunshine Coast is the town of Sechelt, one of the largest communities here. Once known for being a haven for retirees, Sechelt is updating its reputation and welcoming in a new generation of residents who are ready for adventure. Wherever you are in town, you’re close to beautiful beaches and great outdoor spaces, including a downhill mountain bike park.
Sounding the town, you’ll find a lot of single-family detached homes with incredible sea views. But more options are in development for first-time buyers and renters, including a series of new townhomes.
“Sechelt is still in a growth period, for sure,” explains Stockwell. “We have more housing opportunities coming on the market, which is great. And there are a few places still slated for development, which we'll start seeing over the next five years."\
Gina Stockwell grew up on the Sunshine Coast. Her grandmother found a beautiful waterfront lot in Sechelt in the 1960s, where she built a cabin. Her parents soon followed suit, setting Stockwell up for an idyllic childhood in one of BC’s most beautiful regions.
"Most Coast kids, when you grow up here, it tends to pull you back,” she says. “It's really a wonderful place, and that's what happened to me. I was away for about ten years, came back and got married. Two kids and three businesses later, and then real estate happened."
Since kicking off her real estate career in 2015, Stockwell has worked her way to the top, eventually ranking as the number one realtor on the Sunshine Coast. But she doesn’t take all the credit for her success.
“I have a wonderful team behind me, in terms of marketing and conveyancing and paperwork,” she says. “That way I can focus on what I'm really good at - connecting people with their dream properties."