Coast, Beaches, Sunsets - Powell River, British Columbia, Canada
Powell River is surrounded by exceptional natural beauty. Our forests are groomed for hiking, our mountains for climbing, our oceans and lakes for paddling and fishing. Yet sometimes you don't necessarily come on vacation to be overly active; you just want to get away from it all and relax ...
Long, hot summer days call for a warm sandy beach and a nice cool breeze coming in off the ocean. Despite the preponderance of rocky coasts and granite slabs on the wild west coast, there are many places in Powell River - often remarkably free of people - where warm yellow sand meets the gently lapping waves, inviting you to pull up a seat and ... do absolutely nothing at all.
When people think of beaches in this area, most immediately conjure images of sunny, sandy Savary Island. This spectacularly unique island just offshore from Lund is one of Powell River's pre-eminent tourist destinations. Funky cabins are dotted around the wooded interior of this almost completely sand-based oasis, while the yellow beaches are frequented summer-round by all manner of vacation seekers, locals and visitors alike, basking in the summer sun and enjoying the unusually warm waves that lap the sandy coast.
Savary Island's location at the meeting point of two tidal streams - around the northern and southern tips of Vancouver Island - means that the water temperatures in this part of the world are much higher than elsewhere. Indeed, it is often said Powell River and Desolation Sound has the warmest summer water temperatures north of Baja California! This is especially true when the sun has time to bake the yellow sand on long beaches or in protected coves, and the incoming tide warms up to perfect swimming conditions, tempting even the most hesitant swimmer into the calm, warm ocean.
South Beach is the most popular beach destination on Savary, easily accessed by crossing the shortest length of the island after hopping off the water taxi from Lund. Huge fields of driftwood line the high tide line of the beach and are creatively put to use to build makeshift shelters with which to avoid the summer heat, while skim boarders, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders drift up and down the coast in the ebbing and flowing tide.
On the western edge of Savary, Indian Point is another popular beach with long expanses of sand stretching out further and further from the shore at low tide towards the distant, snow-capped peaks of Vancouver Island on the horizon.
If you're looking for a bit of isolation on your beach-side vacation however, do not fear! Duck Bay on the southern shore of Savary, around the geographical centre of the long, snake-like isle, is almost continuously vacant no matter which time of year, save for the occasional dogwalker or kayaker camping onshore. This large bay is protected from the ocean by a long, rocky reef of erratic boulders - remnants of the island's formation as a glacial moraine - which keep the power boats out and the atmosphere serene. At low tide you can even walk right out to many of the these boulders and search amongst them for all kinds of marine and bird life, from sea stars and cucumbers to beached seals and bald eagles.
On the shoreward side of Duck Bay the island is protected from development to better protect this sensitive eco-system from overuse and exploitation, and creating an oasis of solitude amongst the islands more populated and popular bays, beaches and coves.
Savary aside, right up and down the Upper Sunshine Coast it is easy to find a stunning and often secluded beach to walk the dog, while away an afternoon, or jump in the ocean to refresh and recharge after a busy day of exploring and adventuring elsewhere.
In the middle of Powell River, Willingdon Beach sits at the northern end of the commercial hub of Marine Drive and is incredible popular in the summer months, with easy access to the Willingdon Beach Trail and acting as the focal point for many festivals and events including PRISMA performances, Powell River Logging Sports, Sea Fair, Powell River Pride, and much more.
North of Wildwood, between Powell River and Sliammon, Gibson's Beach is accessed right off Highway 101, less than 10 minutes north of town. Perfect for beachside BBQs - away from civilization and with large open areas for the kids to play in the sand or explore the myriad of pools along the shore - Gibson's beach has fantastic views to the north west, meaning those long afternoons are often punctuated by a dazzling sunset over northern Vancouver Island at the end of a relaxing summer's day.
Gibson's easy vehicle access right off the highway also makes it a great launching point for kayaking or canoeing up and down the coast, or even a circumnavigation of Harwood Island just offshore, traditional territory of the Sliammon First Nation and full of interesting trails and beaches. (Please ask for permission from Sliammon First Nation if you wish to stay on the island overnight).
South of Powell River abounds with public beaches that can be accessed at various points along the highway. One of the more popular beaches is Donkersley Beach, found at the end of Donkersley Road just south of the Lang Bay store. This beach has a south west aspect which offers incredible, expansive views straight down the Strait of Georgia, between Texada and Nelson Islands in the direction of the southern Gulf Islands far in the distance, and a very unique perspective not usually seen from other Powell River coastlines.
At low tide the flat sandy beach at Donkersley extends far into the distance, much like a low tide at Savary, and this is enjoyed by all sorts of revellers. Huge games of frisbee take place along the shore, skimboarders throw down tricks along the smooth wet sand by the water, kids sit and build massive sandcastles that could stand the test of time. Indeed, the sandy nature of the beach allows families to stretch out and explore to their heart's content, with less worries about barnacle encrusted rocks and steep cliffs plummeting into the ocean. As the tide rises, too, the warm sand heats the incoming water to bath-like temperatures, transporting you far away with just a little imagination to much warmer, southern climates.
Alternatively, the rocky beaches and bluffs at Stillwater are perfect for those with curious tendencies to explore tide pools and view prolific marine wildlife. Apart from it's stunning scenery and steep cliffs plummeting straight into the sea, a year-round sea lion colony can often be heard barking incessantly on a few rocky offshore, and are frequently spotted swimming in small groups along the coast or hanging out in small groups with their fore flippers hanging out of the water to dry in the sun.
Perhaps the most memorable ocean-side moments, visible from every beach in this incredible area, are Powell River's best kept secret: our sunsets are up there with the best in the world. Wherever you are along the coast, the sky gently shifts through hues of blue, yellow, orange, red and pink as the sun drifts towards the rugged peaks of Vancouver Island in the west, finally dipping out of sight and leaving its vivid mark on the clouds and in the fading sky for up to an hour or more.
Whether catching the sunset, taking a walk along the coast or spending an entire day with your family by the sea, Powell River's beaches are a huge part of what makes this part of the world so special, and brings people back to visit time and time again.