Located on the North Coast, Powell River is home to some of the best outdoor adventures the Sunshine Coast has to offer. Read on to discover the very best things to do in Powell River, including where to stay, eat, and sunbathe!
As we sail through the sheltered inlets that connect Earl’s Cove on the South Coast to Saltery Bay on the North Coast, a sense of serenity washes over me. Around me locals gaze at the familiar scenery that signals they’re almost home, whilst a few first timers eagerly snap photos on their cameras, filled with excitement for what awaits on the North Coast.
Green, wild and ruggedly beautiful, a trip to the northern Sunshine Coast is a dream for those who crave the stillness of nature and peaceful solitude. After all, it’s these same striking surroundings that adventurers find so enticing that have kept the area relatively remote, despite its proximity to Vancouver.
Located in the traditional territory of the Tla’amin Nation, Powell River is one of the Sunshine Coast’s hidden gems. Its enchanting local culture and countless outdoor activities have turned many visitors into residents.
In this guide, I’m covering the very best things to do in Powell River, from outdoor adventures to places to eat and drink. I’ve also shared my choices for where to stay and personal tips to help you plan your time in Powell River.
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THINGS TO DO IN POWELL RIVER
1. Go kayaking around Desolation Sound
Located at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast lies the achingly beautiful Desolation Sound. Framed by the towering Coast Mountains and the temperate rainforest, this secluded provincial park offers some of the most breath-taking views in Canada.
Rent a kayak and spend the day exploring the uninhabited islands and sheltered coves that make up this rugged wilderness. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife which are drawn to the area. Seals, bald eagles, and deer are a common sight, and it’s not unusual to spot pods of transient orcas and humpbacks in the distance.
Powell River Sea Kayak offers rentals as well as single and multi-day kayak tours from both Lund and Okeover. We booked a day rental from Okeover Inlet and paddled out to Grace Harbour. While Desolation Sound is fairly sheltered, you are still out on the open water and need to have previous kayaking experience if opting for a self-guided trip.
2. Explore the historic townsite
Designated as a National Historic District in 1995, Powell River’s townsite is remarkably intact. The historic townsite has retained more than 400 original buildings from the 1910 town plan, including the paper mill which was once the largest in the world. Today, it operates as an arm of Catalyst Paper and serves as a reminder of Powell River’s mill town roots.
Visit the Powell River Historical Museum to learn more about the town’s heritage. Here you’ll find a collection of logging equipment as well as art from the Tla’amin First Nations.
3. Hike the Sunshine Coast Trail
Stretching 180 km from Sarah Point in Desolation Sound all the way to Saltery Bay, the Sunshine Coast Trail is Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail. There are 14 huts dotted along the trail where hikers can sleep before continuing their journey. These are currently closed due to the provincial guidelines so if you’re planning a multi-day hike, you’ll need to bring your own tent.
If you don’t fancy hiking the full 180 km, there are various access points along the way so you can explore smaller sections of the trail instead. There are a number of wonderful day hikes and short multi-day routes that enable hikers to experience the North Coast’s diverse landscapes. Coastal shores, old growth forests, serene lakes, and panoramic mountaintops await those who venture into the beautiful backcountry.
Given its proximity to many of the trail heads, hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail is one of the most popular things to do in Powell River. Sliammon Lake, Haywire Bluff and Inland Lake are great day hikes which are easily accessible from Powell River.
4. Or opt for a more leisurely trail
Although the Sunshine Coast Trail takes the lion’s share of visitors and publicity, Powell River boasts a myriad of scenic and picturesque hiking trails. Two popular trails include Willingdon Beach Park Trail and the Seawalk. Willingdon Beach Park Trail follows the coastline to the Townsite community, whilst the Seawalk is located in Westview and offers unprecedented views of the Salish Sea. If you have time, explore some of the trails in Millennium Park which pass old growth trees and delightful creeks.
5. Take a day trip to Savary Island
Located at the entrance to Desolation Sound, Savary Island is one of the most picturesque islands in the Straight of Georgia. Due to the southern tide, the island is blessed with the warmest water north of Mexico. Add white sandy beaches and it’s hardly surprising that a day trip to Savary Island is one of the most popular things to do in Powell River.
To get from Powell River to Savary Island make your way north to Lund, the furthest point on Highway 101. You can either drive, taxi, or if you’re travelling on a Tuesday or Friday, bus.
Once at Lund, board the passenger-only ferry to Savary Island which takes around 15 minutes. Both Lund Water Taxi and Savary Island Ferry offer daily sailings but its recommended that you reserve your time in advance to avoid disappointment.
6. Go to the movies
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Powell River, head down to the Patricia Theatre, Canada’s longest running movie theatre. Built in 1913, the theatre is a key part of Powell River’s history and the cultural hub of the historic Townsite. Although the theatre has stepped into the modern age with a state-of-the-art sound system, it still retains its original charm that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back to another era.
7. Sample the local beers
Any trip to the Sunshine Coast should involve a stop at one of the region’s multiple award-winning craft breweries. The flourishing beer culture extends all the way north to Powell River which is home to Townsite Brewing. This microbrewery is located in the town’s historic district and offers brewery tours and tastings all year round.
Try to grab a table outside and soak in the atmosphere and heritage of the area. It’s one of the best things to do in Powell River, even if you’re not a beer drinker. Whilst it may be a brewery first and foremost, it also serves a range of craft ciders and non-alcoholic options to cater for all tastes.
8. Sunset at Second Beach
No holiday to the Sunshine Coast is complete without a little beach time. Thanks to its location, Powell River boasts many great beach spots that you can enjoy all year round. Second Beach (or Hulks Beach as the locals call it) is a popular place to cool off in the heat of summer and is accessible via a short hike from Willingdon Beach Trail. It’s also a wonderful spot to watch the sunset. Wrap up warm, grab a blanket, and end your day listening to the waves wash up against the shore.
9. Visit the other coastal towns on the North Coast
Powell River is a wonderful base from which to explore the other Northern coastal towns, namely Lund and Saltery Bay. The Sunshine Coast is all about slowing down and relaxing, so try to plan your trip so that you can spend a little longer in each, rather than just popping in for an hour and rushing to the next.
Depending on how long you’re visiting, you could catch the ferry from Saltery Bay to Egmont and spend a few days exploring the South Coast and experience the local culture.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN POWELL RIVER
Base Camp Coffee
No trip to Powell River would be complete without stopping by Base Camp Coffee. A staple of the Powell River community, this café and eatery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with a range of delicious takeaway options. Even if you’re just after a coffee, pop into Base Camp to admire the local artwork from talented artists based in Powell River.
Costa Del Sol Latin Cuisine
Set in a former 1900’s police station, Costa Del Sol serves fresh Mexican and Latin inspired dishes in a vibrant setting. Sip on margaritas as you take in the Mexican masonry and local art and let yourself be transported to Mexico for the night.
Culaccino was recommended to us by several people and after walking by and having a quick glance at the dishes being served, we can see why. Whilst we didn’t have time to eat here, it would be remiss not to include it on this list. If you’re yearning for authentic Italian cuisine, this is the place.
Run by the same owners of Costa Del Sol and Culaccino, Coastal Cookery is another West Coast staple offering some delicious and mouth-watering dishes. If like me you have a serious sweet tooth, you’ll want to eat here for the desserts alone!
The Seasider Bistro + Wine Bar
The Seasider Bistro + Wine Bar is chic yet relaxed restaurant with one of the best patios overlooking the ocean. Sip on a glass of wine or sample one of the delectable cocktails on the patio, and keep cozy by the fireplace whilst you watch the sun go down.
WHERE TO STAY IN POWELL RIVER
Powell River has a variety of accommodation options to suit different tastes and budgets.
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The Old Courthouse Inn
Built in 1939, this highly rated boutique hotel was once home to Powell River Courts, Police Station, and even the Jail. Beautifully refurbished whilst retaining its history, the hotel’s 8 rooms have antique décor reminiscent of the Tudor era. Double rooms from $130 CAD a night. To check prices and availability, click here.
Beach Gardens Resort and Marina
As the name would suggest, this hotel has a private beach area and a full-service marina. The rooms are clean and simple, and whilst they aren’t particularly special in terms of design, most have beautiful sea views and private balconies when you can watch the sunset. Double rooms with a sea view start at $130 CAD per night. Check prices and availability here.
Blitz Beach House Oceanside Suite
Located between Powell River and Lund, this oceanfront studio is one of my favourites. The studio is beautifully designed with high ceilings, natural wood interiors, and a private balcony. The views are truly wonderful and it’s a great place for storm watching in the off season if you want to experience the west coast at its wildest. Prices start from $143 CAD in the off season and require a 3 night minimum stay. Check prices and availability here.
HOW TO GET TO POWELL RIVER
So you now know all the wonderful things to do in Powell River, but how do you get there? Although the Sunshine Coast is part of BC’s mainland, the mountainous terrain means it can only be accessed by air or water from Vancouver or Vancouver Island.
Getting to Powell River from Vancouver
From Vancouver, you can either drive or fly to Powell River.
Take a short 40 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale on the southern end of the Sunshine Coast. Once you arrive in Langdale, enjoy a leisurely drive (1h14) along the scenic Highway 101 to Earls Cove where you’ll board a second ferry to Saltery Bay. From Saltery Bay, it’s a 30 minute drive to Powell River.
Ferries do get busy especially over long weekends so I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance to secure your preferred crossings. You can check the sailing schedule here.
If you don’t plan on using a car on the Sunshine Coast, you can fly directly to Powell River from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) with Pacific Coastal Airlines. Not only in this a lot quicker than driving, it’s also a wonderful way to see the Sunshine Coast from a new perspective.
Travelling from Vancouver Island to Powell River
BC Ferries run daily services between the Little River ferry terminal in Comox to Powell River. It takes just under one hour and 30 minutes and usually costs $130 return per vehicle.
Getting around Powell River
Due to the remote nature of the North Coast, having a car will give you the freedom to explore at your own pace and see more of the area. If you aren’t bringing a car, you can use public transit, taxis, and bikes. You can find out more here.
Whether you choose to stay for a week or just an afternoon, there are so many lovely things to do in Powell River. There’s a lot of information in this guide so don’t forget to save it so you can read it again later.
If you’re looking for more travel inspiration, have a look at these BC guides:
- Gibsons: The Gateway to the Sunshine Coast
- A guide to Squamish
- 15 wonderful hikes near Vancouver
- A weekend in Tofino
- The prettiest spots in Vancouver
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer them.