How to Have an Epic Outdoorsy Weekend on the Sunshine Coast


Born and raised in beautiful British Columbia, I grew up with a fairly outdoorsy lifestyle. My grandparents lived on a farm and my family went camping in the Okanagan every summer; I have many memories of outdoor escapades. These memories include searching for sand dollars at the beach, building forts in the woods and skipping rocks on the lake. I remember being dragged (okay, that might be a touch dramatic) by my parents on hikes through the old-growth forests, amidst a tapestry of moss, ferns and fallen trees. Probably whining, “Are we there yet?” every few metres. Looking back now, I realize I didn’t fully grasp the value of those experiences at the time.Kellie Paxian

Now in my mid-30s, my wanderlust has lured me around the world and back again, constantly seeking out far-flung destinations, craving something different from home—so much so that the primary place I call “home” now is Cape Town, South Africa, a place that resonates with my soul on levels I have never experienced anywhere else. Through my travels to 55 countries around the globe, one of my top takeaways is that my home province of BC is truly among the most beautiful places on Earth. My adventures near and far have taught me that beauty is often right on our doorstep if we simply open our eyes to see it.

A friend I met in Cape Town, Taylor, is currently residing on the Sunshine Coast of BC. When she invited me to visit, my adventurous spirit was not about to say no. It wasn’t long before I was boarding the ferry at Horseshoe Bay, already in awe of the breathtaking scenery: deep emerald water and rugged rocky cliffs adorned with evergreen trees—a bluebird summer day. We cruised across the Howe Sound, and I knew I was in for something special.Kellie Paxian

The beauty of the Sunshine Coast blew me away and all I could think of was… how hadn’t I made it here sooner? While I’m constantly dreaming of faraway places, eagerly anticipating my next flight abroad, this paradise had been right in my backyard my whole life and I was only just becoming acquainted now. How many other places like this exist for all of us—exquisite local gems just waiting to be discovered? 

Every aspect of my visit to the Sunshine Coast was immersed in nature and I couldn’t have been happier about it. The roads here are lined with lush forests, occasionally parting to give glimpses of water be it the expansive ocean or the tranquil lakes. Houses are surrounded by forest, frequently visited by deer or bears, with fruitful gardens growing produce to be picked for meals. Taylor is staying in a house that has a dense garden from which we harvested fresh blackberries and lettuce for salads. I was reminded how freshly picked berries always taste so much better than their store-bought counterparts, evoking memories from my childhood spent in the U-Pick fields filling our buckets with berries to take home and devour.

Taylor and I made the most out of my visit by exploring the treasures of the coast, starting with Gray Creek which is accessed via an unmarked 10-minute forest hike off the side of the road. It seems the crowds haven’t discovered this gem yet as our hike unveiled a haven of freshwater pools and cascading waterfalls, which we accessed by scaling down a rock face using a rope that had been tied to a tree. We had this paradise all to ourselves and it was one of the most beautiful spots I’ve seen in our province in my entire life. Kellie Paxian

We swam in the ocean off Tuwanek Beach where the small, scattered islands and coastal serenity took my breath away, the water providing a refreshing escape from the summer heat. We went to the sunset sweet spot of Welcome Beach and watched as the skies turned a vibrant orange hue, Taylor and I each lost in our moments of gratitude as we let the waves and sounds of the surrounding nature do the talking. Finding solace in sunsets is a practice I intentionally engage in while in Cape Town and throughout my travels around the world, but this moment proved it is just as magical on home turf (and by turf, I mean rocky beach). I believe we should all make more of a conscious effort to not let the hustle-and-bustle of our daily lives get the best of us and make more time for sunsets.Kellie Paxian

We spent a wonderful day driving up the coast, embarking on the easy hour-long hike to the popular Skookumchuck Narrows’ whirlpools, where we watched a seal playfully riding the waves. As we passed young hikers on the trail, a wave of nostalgia washed over me, reminiscent of my childhood when my parents would take me for walks in the woods. My mind was most likely occupied with thoughts of playing with my Beanie Babies or Pogs back home (90s kids, where you at?), not fully appreciating the beauty around me. The familiar scent of the coastal rainforest with its dense and textured vegetation composed of ferns, mosses and other plants felt like a warm hug, evoking cherished memories from my childhood.Kellie Paxian

Most of our day was spent at Ruby Lake, renowned as the best lake on the Sunshine Coast. Taylor had another lesser-known gem up her sleeve as we pulled over onto the side of the road, descended a dirt hill with the support of ropes anchored to tree trunks and embarked on a short hike through the forest to the reward of our own secluded rocky beach. Hours slipped away as we plunged into the fresh water and soaked in the sun, the lake so blue, it reminded me of the Caribbean.

Privy to the sunset-seeking secret key to life, Taylor and I headed to Davis Bay Pier for our favourite time of day. The sky was tinting into its most vibrant shades of orange while some local thrill-seekers were leaping off the pier into the brisk ocean water. The nature immersion doesn’t stop here when the sun goes down.Kellie Paxian

Even after a couple of days on the Sunshine Coast, I felt incredibly refreshed, rejuvenated and recharged—the very feelings I seek when exploring the globe. My visit was rooted in nature, and I fostered a newfound appreciation for my homeland.

So here’s a challenge to myself and you, our lovely Explore reader—next time we feel like we need a new perspective, instead of yearning for faraway places, why not take a fresh look at what’s right in front of us?


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