Why the Sunshine Coast should be on your summer bucket list

Summer is right around the corner, which means it is time to get out and explore, and I might be a bit biased, but I think British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places to explore. One of the places I love exploring is the Sunshine Coast. I make a trip out there every single summer. Recently I had a chance to explore with Destination BC and wanted to share some of the top things to see and do.

 

Traveling to the Sunshine Coast

One of the reasons I love the Sunshine Coast as a vacation spot is the fact that it is easy to get to. The ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale is just 40 minutes and you only have to pay for one way (some of the other BC islands I want to travel to require multiple ferries and hours of travel).

Where to stay

I have had the chance to stay in 3 different areas on the Sunshine Coast, Gibsons, Sechelt, and Egmont. Each area offered a unique and different experience. I loved the cute shops and restaurants of Gibsons, the outdoor adventure in Sechelt, and the tranquility and relaxation in Egmont – the best thing is you can explore all 3 in one trip.

There are many different options for lodging on the Sunshine Coast and I have been lucky enough to stay in different areas and places. There is a wide variety of Airbnb options, including ones right on the water. There are also adorable B&B and Cottages. One of my favourite stays was at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge. The lodge was gorgeous with rooms offering ocean views. The restaurant on site was fantastic and there was a beautiful patio where you could watch the sunset and search for whales. They also offer a ton of packages that include meals and tours.

What to do

There is so much to see and do across the Sunshine Coast. Like I mentioned there truly is something for everyone – for the foodies, and the outdoor enthusiasts, and the ones that want to just relax. Here are my top must do activities to do on the Sunshine Coast.

  • Hike to Skookumchuck Narrows: I have seen some incredible natural wonders in B.C. but this might top them all. Twice a day nature dances as the tides at the narrows change and the water actually reverses direction. The difference in water levels between on side of the rapids and the other is sometimes 9 feet high. Come at the right time and you can catch kayakers daring the waves the tide creates. Another highlight is the gorgeous forest you walk through to get to the narrows – make sure to grab a coffee at the Skookumchuck Bakery and Cafe before your walk, it is the cutest cafe I have ever seen and you can pack a picnic to eat while watching the show.
  • Princess Louisa Inlet: The float plane ride to the inlet was enough to make this trip a must do. You soar over the beautiful fjord beside snow capped mountains landing at what has been dubbed the  ‘most beautiful anchorage in the world’ and for good reason. The granite walls of the inlet are powerful, but what will truly take your breathe away is the beautiful Chatterbox Falls – a stunning 120 foot waterfall. Because of the risks the tides cause in the area it is recommended you travel here with an experienced guide. I loved the plane tour with Sunshine Coast Air.
  • Take a canoe or kayak on the water: When I stayed in Egmont we teamed up with the Egmont Adventure Centre for a day of kayaking. We went on the Sechelt Inlet Kayaking Tour. It was so peaceful to be out on the water and a big highlight was stopping by a rock that was famous for its seal population. There were more than a dozen of them, including some new pups.
  • Take a hike: The Skookumchuck Narrows is just one of the beautiful hikes on the Sunshine Coast. There are so many beautiful trails to explore. A must see is Smuggler Cove. The hike takes you through a lush forest that then opens up into a beautiful cove. Pack some snacks because the rocks overlooking the cove offer the perfect spot for a picnic.
  • Mountain Biking: While I am definitely not a mountain biker my husband and his friends absolutely love a day at Coast Gravity Bike Park. Known for it’s trails built by riders for riders.
  • Take a sip on a brewery tour: Our first trip to the Sunshine Coast we stayed in Gibson and decided to do a little bike brewery tour. There are some great spots that are part of the Sunshine Coast Ale Trail. We started at the 101 Brewhouse for lunch and a drink before enjoying the sunshine and even some whale watching on the patio of Tapworks Brewery  and then we finished off the tour at the ever popular and beautiful Persephone. Sometimes during the summer there is even a market at Persephone.
  • Shop until you drop: Both Sechelt and Gibson had some adorable local shops. I loved supporting some local businesses, and every time I visit the Sunshine Coast I make sure to come home with some delicious olive oil. Both towns have their own olive oil shop!

 

Where to eat

The different towns might be small but mighty when it comes to restaurant and food options. Here are some of my favourite spots to dine on the Sunshine Coast.

  • Buono Osteria (Gibsons): We went for dinner here for my husband’s birthday who loves pizza, and he said this is potentially the best pizza he has ever had. The owner is first generation from Italy and they make their pizzas in  a wood burning oven.
  • Lunitas Mexican Eater (Gibsons): You cannot beat this location – right on the water the patio is beautiful and the tacos are delicious
  • Smitty’s Oyster House (Gibsons): Another oceanfront location with delicious food and drinks and just a really fun vibe.
  • Beachcomber Coffee (Gibsons): Locally roasted coffee, this is a quaint little cafe and a must stop to start the day
  • El Sugundo (Sechelt): This place is a must visit. They are famous for their delicious tropical cocktails and their delicious pan pacific fusion food
  • The Bakery (Sechelt): The name says it all. A delicious bakery that serves up simple yet savoury breakfast treats

 

Unique Vacation Activities (For people who have done it all)

I know, I know, with travel restrictions easing up many of us are itching to book a vacation. Getting away for a bit should be fun, but sometimes it can feel like you have already done it all before. Another beach getaway? Another ski slope? Sometimes it can get redundant and some experiences, like sitting on a beach, aren’t really unique to a specific place. 

So for those that are itching for something new, well I am sharing some unique vacation activities for people who have done it all.

 

1.Go On A Food Crawl

I love food, in fact sometimes I pick vacation spots based on cuisine. If you’re heading to a destination known for the quality of its food, you might want to indulge in a food crawl. Here you make your way from eatery to eatery throughout the day (or week), sampling different foods. 

Going on a food crawl can be a lot of fun. But you’ll want to keep the portions small. Focus on eating appetizers, not entrées. Otherwise, you’ll wind up feeling bloated and uncomfortable. 

 

2.Take A Class

If you’re in a new place, it’s a perfect opportunity to take a class in something you don’t have access to at home. For instance, perhaps a local instructor offers dance classes in a style unique to the country you are visiting. I know I loved taking thai cooking classes in Thailand. 

Taking a class helps you to use your vacation time wisely. It gives you a chance to learn something and improve your skills which, ultimately, could make your life better. 

 

3. Try Wine Tasting

 

If you’ve never tried wine tasting before, you’re in for a treat. When you arrive at your destination, search for “wineries near me.” Usually, at least half a dozen will pop up. Then investigate whether any of them offer tasting sessions. More often than not, they do. 

Wine tasting gives you a chance to learn more about wine flavours. By going to one, you’ll get coaching on improving your palate so that you can enjoy the drink more in the future. 

 

4. Dine With Local People

Dining with local people might sound like a bit of a strange idea, but it can also be a lot of fun. They tend to know the food landscape better than you so they are in a great position to point you in the direction of the best dishes. What’s more, they also provide interesting conversation, introducing you to their ideas, culture and sometimes other people in their life. 

5. Take A Segway Tour

Segways are strange-looking forms of propulsion. But they can be a great way to cover a large area without expending much energy. This makes them ideal for exploring the wilderness or making your way around a big city. 

Segway tours come in multiple forms. They’re usually suitable for people of all ages, though some providers will not allow young children to use them. 

6. Hire A Canal Boat

Hiring a canal boat is a lot of fun and introduces you to new landscapes. It is a wonderful way to explore a region and find out more about it. 

Canal boats are also handy because you can sleep in them. So you can moor them at the side of the river, explore a local area, and then return to them at night. 

 

Exploring a new side of Tofino

It is no secret that I love Tofino. In fact, I think I have been quoted saying “it’s my favourite place in the world”. I can’t even count the amount of times I have been there and every time I go I discover something new. So you can imagine my excitement when my first post pandemic trip was going to be to Tofino. You can imagine my excitement even more so when I was going to be staying at a new location, the Tofino Resort and Marina.

What I loved about the Tofino Marina Resort

I have been very lucky to stay at some gorgeous lodges in Tofino, but one downside is they were always so far away from town. Tofino Resort and Marina is located just a 5 minute walk into town, so you can go for dinner and drinks and get home safely. I also loved that you don’t really have to leave the resort to have an amazing experience. The world class restaurant 1909 is right on the property and all the adventures we took started at the marina just steps from our door.

Day 1: Unique Hikes

 

Like I said this was exploring a completely new side of Tofino and so no surfboards but definite beach visits. In fact the hike I was told I was doing was called the “West Coast Facial” where we would find some spots on the beach to feel the ocean spray.

Tofino Resort and Marina partners with Long Beach Nature Tours for hiking adventures and we were taken on a custom tour starting at one of the trail head entrances to Pacific Rim National Park. I had done a few hikes through parts of the park before, but I had never been fully emerged in it. It was incredible to see and smell the giant old growth cedar trees. After about 6km the trees opened up and unveiled a beautiful beach. We had made it to Florencia Bay, and guess what we were the only ones there (quite the contrast to the usually packed Tofino Beaches). We walked along the sand for a while taking in the fresh ocean sent before we dipped back into the forest to make our way to a different beach look at point at Wickaninnish Beach – equally beautiful and equally as quiet.

We ended the day with a delicious dinner at 1909.

https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/videos/gallery/what-is-a-west-coast-facial-this-bc-hike-ends-with-a-unique-skin-treatment/5802443041001/6264187909001/forecasts

Day 2: Ocean adventures

We got up and made our way to the marina for a full day of adventure on the open water. We were going for a true West Coast Safari of sorts, keeping our eyes peeled for the BC big 5: Orcas, gray whales, bears, sea lions, and seals. Before we even really left the marina we first laid a crab trap (which we would get later for dinner). Not long into our trip, we heard the best news on the radio, orcas nearby. We made our way out to where they were spotted and at first noticed the spray followed by a gorgeous killer whale emerging from the waters. It was a whole family of them out for a hunt. While I always love seeing orcas, I was most impressed with how up close and personal we got with some steller sea lions. It was quite easy to tell the dominant male in this bunch. We drove by some cute otters rafting, some seals bopping their heads up to say hello, and saw the distant spray of a grey whale. Oh and from the shore we did see a black bear – crossed everything off our list. Then it was time to come back and feast on our tasty crab.

https://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/videos/gallery/from-sea-lions-to-orcas-set-sail-and-explore-bcs-incredible-wildlife/5802443041001/6264894763001/forecasts

Like I said this was a very different Tofino experience then what I have done in the past. Less relaxing on a beach and more adventure and exploring and I feel like that is what Tofino Resort and Marina is all about. You can find out more about their tours on their website.

 

I am already planning my next trip to Tofino because this place never gets old.

Happy exploring my friends,

xo

Mia

Best B.C. getaways this summer: Okanagan road trip

The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and we just aired our Spring Forecast at the Weather Network. This can only mean one thing, summer is right around the corner.

I know for many people this has been a long, hard, and dark winter and while the rules and regulations for the summer are still uncertain, there has been a lot of initial whispers that it will be similar to last summer. In B.C. last summer a six person bubble was acceptable and you were allowed to travel inter provincially.

Now, I am by no means saying go ahead and book that getaway until we know exactly what the summer will look like, but if we are allowed to explore some of B.C. I wanted to share some of my favourite trips with you.

I have always been a big fan of the Okanagan (wine country hellllllooooo) but last summer for work I was able to discover a lot more than just delicious Okanagan wine. Think of Tuscany, but just 5ish hours outside of Vancouver. Rolling hills, mountains, and yes rows of green and purple grapes. It is an amazing place to explore, and one great aspect of this road trip: along the way there you travel through the ‘Electric Highway’ where there are hundreds of electric vehicle charing stations so it can be a great getaway that is also not hurting the environment.

I wanted to share some of my favourite places to stop and enjoy along the way.

Stop 1: Osoyoos

Osoyoos is the southern most town in the Okanagan Valley. The origin of the name comes from “soo-yoos” meaning “narrow waters”. Here you will find a dramatic desert like landscape with sweeping valleys and deep brown mountains.

Things to do 

My first stop in Osoyoos was to the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre where I had a tour of the state of the art interpretive centre. The tour took his to the edge of the hill side, stopping to marvel at the sage and deer brush (which is endangered). My amazing guide Jenna taught me all about how the Osoyoos Indian Band use the land here. Different trees are used for tools and clothes, different leaves are used for food and herbs. It was truly amazing to learn about the connection to wildlife first hand. While I am petrified of snakes, this area is also home to B.C.’s endangered rattlesnakes and they do a lot of studying and rehabilitation at the centre.

Once the tour was done I made my way over to the Nk’Mip Cellars. This is actually the first Indigenous owned winery in North America. It was amazing to hear about the history and the story behind the award winning wine. I had a chance to sip some of the wines while overlooking the beautiful Osoyoos Lake.

Stop #2 Vernon

After exploring Osoyoos, I hoped back on Highway 97 heading north towards Vernon. Vernon is well known for hiking and biking trails that curve around colourful lakes and sandy beaches. It is the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Things to do 

Before making it to my hotel I made a quick stop at Davison Orchards. I have never seen an orchard so big. They had endless rows of all different types of apples and other fruits. I had a chance to try their famous “Appleanche” Slush. It was sweet and refreshing on a hot day.

Next I rented a bike from Kalavida Surf Shop and decided to explore some of the famous Rail Trail. The Rail Trail is a bike path that goes all the way from Vernon to Kelowna passing through beautiful rock faces and gorgeous lakes. At the start of the trail you bike along Kalmalka Lake. This 16 km lake is famous for its blue-green waters (it is one of a small handful of marl lakes in Canada). You could actually see the different tones as you traveled along the side of the lake. I just wish I had brought my bathing suit because there were some sandy beaches just off the trail.

Stop #3 Kamloops

After riding the bike it was back to the car for the third and final stop of the trip. I had only ever been to Kamloops once before and that was to cover a wildfire in the area, so I was excited to discover a different side of this city.

Kamloops is pretty unique because it is located in the middle of two branches of the Thompson River. What I didn’t know though is it is also home to amazing mountains and breathtaking hikes.

Things to do 

I had a chance to meet with local guide Frank Ritchie, who first took me to a beautiful lookout point to see where the two parts of the river meet. After that we made our way to the Thompson Grasslands Provincial Park. Here we did a moderate hike up Lac Du Bois to see some incredible hoodoo formations as well as columnar basalts (aka lava flows). We even saw mountain goats in the distance. After taking some pictures of the incredible hoodoos, we then made our way over to the Garden of the Trolls. An easy stroll, through some grass patches and then boom – all of a sudden these giant rock formations that look like trolls faces appear out of nowhere. Some of them standing 20 feet high. I had a chance to climb to the top of one of them for some spectacular views.

I must say I really enjoyed this trip. As a weather reporter I usually head out to this region as I mentioned for wildfires, but this trip opened my eyes to a whole different side of the Okanagan. It is home to some stunning lakes and breathtaking hikes. I cannot wait to go back and discover more of B.C.’s wine country (and so much more).

I would love to hear some of your favourite summer getaways around B.C. so we can dream of exploring again.

xo

Mia

Planning the perfect honeymoon in Bali Part 1: Ubud

I know right now we aren’t allowed to travel for anything that doesn’t classify as essential, but if you are anything like me you are dreaming of your next vacation. As a travel enthusiast, not knowing when we will be able to travel again has definitely been hard, but I figured now was the perfect time to revisit my most recent vacation, so hopefully you can have some inspiration when life (and travel) does get back to normal.

Back in February (which seems like a decade ago) my hubby and I left on a two week vacation. The first stop was his pick, skiing in Japan, the second week was the more tropical destination that I chose, Bali. I will have more on Japan as well as how to plan a double honeymoon on a budget coming to the blog soon, but right now I wanted to share the highlights, must sees, and some tips for exploring beautiful Bali.

Why Bali

 

First, I must say Bali wasn’t my first choice. I was fortunate enough to go to Thailand a few years ago and figured the two would be similar – I couldn’t of been more wrong! We ended up choosing Bali because of the close proximity to Japan, but Bali itself is so unique and beautiful it should be on top of everyone’s list. From stunning jungle views, to incredibly colourful culture, to serine beaches, Bali was paradise.  I am sad we only had a week to explore, but we were able to see and do so much during that time.

Because there was so much to see and do I am going to break the blog into two parts. This one will focus on the first half of the trip, Ubud.

Where to stay

When we started researching Bali, it was pretty hard to plan the trip. We only had a week to explore and I quickly realized Bali is very diverse. If you are into beaches and surfing you will want to spend most of your time in Seminyak or Canguu, if you want to see black volcanic sand beaches head to Lovina. I was most interested in the culture and adventure, and so Ubud was the obvious choice.

While this was my first time in Bali, and so I can’t compare different hotels and location, I must say the hotel we stayed at was gorgeous and I highly recommend this spot, especially if it is for a romantic getaway, like a honeymoon.

Ubud Village Resort and Spa: Since Bali was the more romantic part of our honeymoon, we decided to splurge a little more on accommodation here. We decided to stay in a villa at the Ubud Village Resort and Spa, which was voted one of the most romantic spots in Bali and I must say they lived up to the expectations. It was honestly hard to leave the hotel because it was so beautiful. We had our own outdoor pool and lounge area. The on site restaurant was delicious, and the pool was so calming (with views of the on premises rice field). I also loved that it was a little out of town so it was a bit quieter, but offered a free shuttle into town. Also if it is a special occasion make sure to let them know, they will have a little surprise waiting for you!

 

What to do

Now that I have shared where to stay, let’s get into the fun stuff – What to do? There is so much to see, do, and experience in Bali. From delicious food to exhilarating adventures, to amazing cultural experiences. Since there is so much I am going to break up my Bali honeymoon blog into two parts. This one will focus on everything to experience in Ubud.

 

Sunrise Hike up Mt. Batur

Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy waking up at 2am for this hike, but it was definitely worth it. In fact this might of been my favourite moment of the entire trip. A driver will pick you up from your hotel and take you out to Mt. Batur where you will then meet with your guide. You start your two hour trek up the mountain in pitch black ( so make sure to bring headlamps or a flashlight). There are a few rest points along the way. When you get to the top there is a glimmer of light appearing behind Mt. Agung. Our guide ran off to make us hard boiled eggs in the steam from the volcano! We ate our breakfast as the sun rose for one of the most gorgeous sunrises I have ever experienced. After the sun was up we got to see the crater, steam, and even some monkeys.

Pro tip: If you can, book a private tour. The hike is really busy but if you book a private tour you will get to hike up the less crowded side of the mountain. We booked with Bali Sunrise Trekking and Tour and I cannot recommend them enough.

Campuhan Ridge Walk

I will warn you ahead of time, wear clothes you are ok to sweat in and try and go either early in the morning or later in the day because this walk is in the open and it will be hot but beautiful. on either side of the paved path is endless hilltop views. The walk will eventually take you through a quaint village where there are some coffee shops and restaurants
Pro tip: The path will take you right to the most gorgeous spa called Karsa. Book your appointment ahead of time though because it is a pretty popular spot. We had an amazing couples massage

Tirta Empul Temple

One of the incredible things about Bali is the culture. It is the only part of Indonesia thats religion is Hindu and so there are lots of of beautiful statues and temples dedicated to their Gods. It is impossible to visit all of them, but one that needs to be on your list is the Tirta Empul Temple, or the water temple. The temple is famous for its holy water and basically you get into a pool of water and you dunk your head under a fountains to be purified. Here you are supposed to make an offering and in return you can pray for health and wellness for your loved ones. It was a super neat experience, especially because at the end of our tour we got to see where the holy water comes from, and it is from a source right inside the temple.
Pro tip: Just like any other place of worship it is important to dress appropriately at the temple. Woman make sure you cover your shoulders and knees. You will also be given a sarong for inside the temple and another for in the water. Also be warned, there are large koi fish in the pools with you!

Monkey Forest

We actually didn’t go to the Monkey Forest because we had gone to see the snow monkeys in Japan, however we did walk by and you could see how beautiful the actual forest is, you could also see the monkeys that had wondered into the streets. If I ever have a chance to go back I definitely want to make a stop here
Pro tip: While we didn’t go into the forest, I have heard from friends and also experienced the monkeys in Thailand, and I would make sure you don’t have any food or valuables on you because the monkeys can be very sneaky. Also don’t wear flowing clothes.

Ubud Art Market

Looking for the perfect souvenir from your trip? Well this is a one stop shop and everything inside the market is made from local artists. Even if you aren’t into shopping just staring at the hand woven baskets and beautiful silk scarves can entertain you for the entire day.
Pro tip: Galungan dayHaggling and bargaining a price is actually encouraged here so have a bit of fun and hopefully you can get something beautiful for a great price.

Rice fields and terraces

Listen, no trip to Bali is complete without seeing the Tegallalang Rice Terrace, probably the most famous of the rice terraces in Bali, but it has definitely been turned into a tourist hot spot, and for a few dollars you can get a picture swinging above the rice (yes I fell for it) but Bali is filled with beautiful rice terraces to explore. In fact my favourite was near the Karsa Spa.

Eat at the Sayan House

We had some amazing meals (including an 18 course at Locavore which was incredible but we sadly had to leave early because of some Bali belly- yes it is a very real thing) however one place not quite as famous as Locavore but is a must experience is the Sayan House. This is the epitome of dinner with a view as the restaurant overlooks the jungle. It is a fusion of Japanese and South American cuisine. The food is delicious and the view is breathtaking.
Pro Tip: Call ahead for a special occasion and ask to have a table with the view of the jungle. Also try and book for sunset, I promise you won’t regret it.

Know before you go

There are a few things to know before traveling to Bali and I wanted to share some of that information with you ahead of time.
1) Currency: Bali uses Indonesian Rupiah and they won’t accept foreign currency so make sure you have local money on you.
2) How to get around: I would highly recommend hiring a driver for anywhere you need to go. They usually have half and full day rates and are very knowledgeable, it is like having a private tour guide for $30 a day. They are much cheaper and more reliable than taxis, safer than the scooters, and they also double as a photographer for you!
3) Check the schedule ahead of time: We didn’t know this ahead of time, but we booked our trip during Galungan, a celebration of good conquering evil. It is a big celebration and therefore a lot of tours aren’t operating on that day and things are closed, however the positive side was that we got to see the beautiful colours and decorations of Galugan and learn a bit more about the tradition. We learned that there are many holidays in Bali that cause the city to shut down to a certain extent.
4) Watch out for Bali belly: Unfortunately my husband  came down with the dreaded Bali belly, and he was out of action for a full day and a half. Make sure you watch what you are eating and do not drink the water. If you do unfortunately catch the stomach flu there are some amazing local doctors who are very experienced in treating this. Just google search it. Also it is pretty cheap, the treatment and medicine cost about $70, so even if you cannot figure out your insurance go and find a doctor!
I hope we will be able to travel again soon and I hope that Bali will be on your list of places to go because it is the perfect combination of culture, beautiful beaches, delicious food, and adventure.
I cannot wait to share the second half of the trip with you soon but in the meantime happy future travels my friends,
xo
Mia