Finding paradise on the Sunshine Coast

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      (This article is sponsored by .)

      It's fair to call Jack Pope one of the 's leading tourism ambassadors. After growing up in Vancouver, he moved to nearby Gibsons as a student teacher in 1974 just as a long-running, Gibsons-based CBC TV series, The Beachcombers, was hitting its stride.

      Pope enjoyed a successful career as a teacher and principal in Sunshine Coast elementary and secondary schools for 30 years. He likes to say that he and his wife discovered paradise at a very early time in their lives.

      According to Pope, life on the Coast is even better nowadays with the return of marine mammals, including Pacific white-sided dolphins, orcas and sea otters, as there was a time when sightings were rare. "At this time of the year, there are also lots of seals in the water because the salmon are spawning. Our resident family of eagles like to perch in a big old Fir almost beside our property. It's great to watch them. We're getting orcas coming back into the inlet,” Pope says.

      On top of that, Sunshine Coast towns are enjoying the rise of funky new businesses. He likens Cowrie Street in Sechelt to a "little Commercial Drive" with its specialty food stores, locally owned restaurants and cafes, fish market, and shops.

      "I feel like there's this real renaissance happening in Sechelt right now," Pope says.

      Pope operates the , a tastefully decorated getaway with an outdoor hot tub overlooking Sechelt Inlet, which has won a Certificate of Excellence from the TripAdvisor website. What stands out for him is how there is so much more to do now in the region compared to when he arrived more than 40 years ago.

      "There's the emergence of craft breweries," Pope says. "There's and , which has just opened up this summer in a great, great building. And then in Sechelt, we have a cidery that's just opened up called "

      The award-winning and internationally acclaimed in Gibsons is named after the boat on The Beachcombers. It's a 4.5-hectare beer farm popular with locals and tourists alike, eager to learn how craft beer is created from locally grown ingredients. Even if you don’t visit the beer farm, it’s easy to find it on tap throughout the Coast at places such as the in Egmont or the in Garden Bay.

      Then there's , another award-winning craft beer operation, located in the historic Townsite area of . Belgian born brewmaster, Cedric Dauchot, takes pride in educating visitors about the history of craft beverages and the beer-making process. There will be plenty to learn on November 4th when the takes place, featuring over a dozen breweries, plus cideries and distilleries at the ARC Community Centre. Is it any wonder that the has become a popular attraction for Metro Vancouver craft-beer aficionados looking to check out different tasting rooms and meet new friends?

      The Sunshine Coast has also long been a haven for artists, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that it will soon host one of the province's largest community art exhibitions and art sales.

      From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Friday to Sunday (October 20 to 22), the eighth annual will offer local residents and visitors an opportunity to see the work of more than 330 artists in 144 venues in an 80-kilometre stretch of Highway 101 from Langdale to Earls Cove. The user-friendly brochure on the crawl's website showcases what's available in each community, and details around each artist’s specialty.

      "It's also cross-indexed by genre," Pope says. "It's a great weekend event."

      The Sunshine Coast is a 40-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale, with free return fare. And don’t miss out — in the fall and winter seasons there are some outstanding deals on a , including bed and breakfasts and locally owned hotels.

      Visitors from Vancouver Island can visit via ferry from Comox to Powell River on the northern Sunshine Coast, which also includes the picturesque seaside village of Lund on the edge of Desolation Sound Provincial Park. Not far from Lund, nature lovers can reach Sarah Point and begin the epic 180-kilometre trek along the , which ends in Saltery Bay.

      This world-class hiking experience includes 13 huts along the way and it's completely free!

      From Saltery Bay it's easy to reach the southern Sunshine Coast by hopping on a ferry to Earls Cove. This enables visitors to travel down Highway 101 all the way to Langdale. Along the way, they can visit such idyllic communities as Egmont, Pender Harbour, and Halfmoon Bay before reaching Sechelt, Roberts Creek, and Gibsons.

      Pope points out that it's also possible to reach the Sunshine Coast by float plane and then rent a car to explore the region. Two weeks ago, he hosted a couple who rode a tandem bicycle from Point Grey in Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay, and then cycled from Langdale to his retreat in Sechelt.

      Pope’s pride in his local community shines through as he shares stories about the Sunshine Coast. “As I said earlier, it's a paradise here. It really is."

      (This article is sponsored by .)