The Sunshine Coast is an absolutely magical part of Western Canada. Near the north end of the coast, you’ll find the quaint town of Powell River. After spending some time exploring this more isolated part of British Columbia, we put together a list of our favourite things to do in Powell River, BC to help you make the most of your visit here.
It takes a couple of ferry rides and a few hours of driving to reach this part of the world from Vancouver. The nice thing about this is that tourism in Powell River isn’t huge yet, making it a fantastic place to explore and beat the crowds for a few days. If you are wondering what to do in Powell River then look no further as we guide you through this picturesque corner of the West Coast.
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How to Get to Powell River
While Powell River is technically part of mainland Canada, it isn’t particularly easy to get to. However, the difficulty to get here does add to the charm and reduces the number of tourists. Below are the most common routes to get here and the approximate time it takes to drive these routes.
Vancouver to Powell River – 4.5 Hours
Wondering how to get from Vancouver to Powell River? There are actually a couple of separate routes, which are detailed below. However, the 1st route through Gibsons to Powell River, along the Sunshine Coast, is the quickest and easiest route. Powell River is an awesome long weekend getaway from Vancouver.
Option 1 – 4.5 Hours
- Ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale
- Drive from Langdale to Earls Cove
- Ferry from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay
- Drive from Saltery Bay to Powell River
This route is a mixture of driving and two short ferry rides. On busy weekends we highly recommend booking the ferries several months in advance. You can check out the BC Ferries schedule to Powell River here.
Option 2 – 5.5 Hours
- Ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island (Either Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen)
- Drive from Nanaimo to Comox
- Take the Comox to Powell River ferry
This route is slightly longer, mainly due to the long ferry rides, although if you take this route you can mix your trip to Powell River with a bit of a road trip around Vancouver Island.
Vancouver Island to Powell River – 1 Hour 40 minutes from Comox
The journey from Vancouver Island to Powell River is much easier as it just requires one ferry.
- Drive to Comox
- Comox ferry to Powell River
Check out the BC Ferries Comox to Powell River schedule here.
Flights to Powell River BC
Flights to Powell River are operated by Pacific Coastal Airlines and they mostly operate Vancouver to Powell River flights. The schedules do change slightly throughout the year so you can check what flights are operating directly with Pacific Coastal Airlines.
Places to Stay in Powell River
Beach Gardens Resort Powell River – There aren’t too many options to choose from in terms of hotels in Powell River, but the Beach Gardens Resort and Marina is probably the best choice. It is in a great location, just a short drive from the town centre and it is right on the water so you’ll get nice views out over the water. Like most accommodation in Powell River, it is also very reasonably priced.
There are also several places to go camping in Powell River, such as Willingdon Beach Campsite, which is right on the edge of town or camp a short drive away at Haywire Bay Regional Park.
Things to do in Powell River, BC
1. Visit Savary Island
While not quite in Powell River itself, there are few better things to do than visit the incredible Savary Island. This little slice of paradise is home to the warmest waters north of Mexico and has some of the most beautiful beaches you’ll find anywhere in Canada (tied for the top spot with Tofino).
Savary Island is one of the more unique places you will visit along the west coast and the island has very little infrastructure which is what makes it so charming. Once you get off the water taxi you’ll find gravel roads, beach huts and a whole lot of untouched wilderness to enjoy. The island is ideal for a day trip or you can rent a cabin or stay in the local campground if you want to extend your trip here.
The best thing to do on Savary is to visit South Beach. This part of the island is home to a long stretch of pristine white sand and warm water that is ideal for swimming. Even the path down to the beach is cool, as you walk down a steep sandy trail that is cut into the side of the cliff that overlooks the beach. Enjoy basking in the sun, swimming, throwing a frisbee around and checking out the cool driftwood shelters that line the beach.
We really enjoyed just walking along the main road that runs through the heart of Savary, known as Vancouver Boulevard, and checking out all of the unique cabins and eclectic shops. This includes Riggers (the local pub), the food truck located in the back garden, the General Store, the Sugar Shack and some other stores that can be found as you wander along the main road.
Most places on the island are cash only so be sure to have some cash with you. The General Store does allow you to get cash-back with any purchase using a debit card if you are stuck.
If you want to reach the far end of the Island, especially if you are just visiting for the day, then we highly recommend that you bring your bike over on the water taxi or rent a bike from Savary Bike Rentals. You’ll have such an amazing time exploring this beautiful little island and all of the hidden treasures it has to offer.
How to Get to Savary Island
There are very few vehicles on Savary Island and the main mode of transportation is biking or walking. This means that the main way to get to Savary is to take a small water taxi from Lund which only carries people and bicycles. The water taxi costs $12 per person each way and during the busy summer months, it is recommended that you book your ticket in advance.
You can find the schedule for Lund Water Taxi and book your trip here.
While you are on the ferry, keep an eye out for whales as we saw several whales on our trip over as well as from the pier on Savary as we waited for our return water taxi. They are fairly common in these waters and the water taxi even shut off its engines so we could watch the whales swim by.
2. Townsite Brewing Inc.
Enjoy an ice-cold beer in one of the best Powell River attractions, Townsite Brewing Inc. This micro-brewery is located in the Townsite region of Powell River which sits right on the shores of the Salish Sea. The brewery is located in a pretty red-bricked building and the interior is just as cool as the exterior and one of the tables you can sit at is a fully functioning, old-school arcade machine.
They brew a wide range of beers with a Belgian flair and their taps are constantly rotating as they make beers to match the seasons. They usually have around 10 or so beers on tap for you to try as well as a couple of ciders and kombucha. The brewery is usually busy and we really enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere as we spent a couple of hours drinking away a rainy afternoon.
They do have off sales so you can grab some of your favourite beers to take home with you. A visit to the brewery should definitely be high up on your list of things to do when you visit.
3. Hike the Sunshine Coast Trail
The Sunshine Coast Trail in Powell River is a 180-kilometre backcountry hiking trail that runs from Desolation Sound all the way to Saltery Bay. What is awesome about the Sunshine Coast Trail is that you can hike so many different parts of it based on the amount of time you have available. There are lots of day trips, overnighters and multi-day trips to choose from so you can enjoy at least part of the trail.
One of the most popular sections of the trail and one that we highly recommend is Tin Hat Hut. There are actually 14 huts along the entire trail and it is Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail. While there are numerous huts to choose from, the Tin Hat Hut might just be the pick of the bunch.
It is a relatively easy hike and can be done as a day trip or as a short overnight trip. If you have the gear we highly recommend staying up at Tin Hat in Powell River as the sunset from up here is spectacular. You’ll get to enjoy 360-degree views over the surrounding mountains and lakes as well as being able to see all the way out to Texada Island and beyond. The huts are completely free to use or you can bring a tent as there are a few places to set up next to the hut.
Whether you have several days or just one, make sure you check out at least a part of this incredible trail and enjoy the magnificent views from one of the many peaks.
4. The Hulks, Powell River
The Hulks are a string of concrete reinforced ships that have been floated just off the coast of Powell River to create a floating breakwater. This breakwater was made in 1930 to create a log pond for the pulp and paper mill. This was once the largest paper mill in the world and at one point employed 2,500 people.
The water was too deep to sink the ships so they had to be floated instead. This is regarded by many as the largest floating breakwater in the world. The best way to see the Hulks is to stop at Townsite Viewpoint along Marine Avenue which gives you an aerial view of this unique floating structure. You won’t need more than a few minutes at the viewpoint but it is definitely worth making a quick stop here.
5. Willingdon Beach Trail
If you are looking for an easy and beautiful walk then check out the Willingdon Beach Trail in Powell River. This trail is 1.2 kilometres one way and the wide gravel path is quite flat the entire time making it easy for anyone to walk. Trains used to run along a track here and the trains carried logs to the mill to be processed. You can still see some remnants of this history along the trail, including an old trestle bridge and a steam donkey.
As well as a quick look into some of the history of Powell River, you’ll also get beautiful views out over the ocean as you walk right along the water. The trailhead is right by Willingdon Beach campground, so you can park at the beach and find the trail just past the beach.
6. Willingdon Beach
If you are looking for a nice place to enjoy the sun for a few hours but don’t want to travel too far then head to Willingdon Beach in Powell River. It is a few minutes walk from the town centre and there is a really nice patch of golden sand to relax on or you can head to the rocky part of the beach on the other side of the pier.
You’ll find volleyball courts, kids play park (including an area with shooting water fountains for hot days), picnic tables, a large grassy area and bathrooms. This is the perfect place to enjoy on a sunny day, especially as it is within walking distance from the town centre.
7. Stand Up Paddleboard or Kayak
Powell River has plenty of spectacular coastlines, and while you can enjoy it from land, it looks even better from the water. Either bring your own stand-up paddleboard or rent one. If you are looking for SUP or kayak rental in Powell River then head to Mitchell’s Canoe, Kayak & SUP, Sales and Rentals.
You can get into the water at numerous points along the coast and there are several beaches and bays for you to explore. If you don’t like the open water as much you can also paddle around one of the many lakes in the area, like Powell Lake or Inland Lake. We love getting out on the water and kayaking in Powell River is such a great way to take in the beautiful surroundings.
8. Powell Lake
Powell Lake is absolutely huge but we recommend checking out a small part of it by visiting Haywire Bay Regional Park. From here spend a few hours exploring the picturesque Powell Lake, or even better, stay at the campground that sits right on the edge of the lake.
This is a huge campground with first come first serve sites available year-round. There is a really nice day-use area in the middle of the campground that has a sandy beach to soak up some sun and a roped-off swimming area perfect for families.
If you have a kayak, canoe or SUP you can take to the water and explore slightly further afield. On a warm summer’s day, there are few better things to do than spend the day by the lake. Even if you get a bit of rain there is a shelter with a fire pit where you can escape and warm up. We were surprised by how quiet it was out here and it seems to be one of the Powell River secret spots or hidden gems based on how few people were here.
9. Inland Lake Provincial Park
Another of the beautiful Powell River lakes is Inland Lake. You can stay at Inland Lake Campground in Powell River and once here you can enjoy swimming, kayaking, boating and cycling the trails around the lake. The short drive from the town centre takes you deep into the countryside so you can enjoy a quiet escape out amongst the forest.
If you are feeling energetic then you can follow a well-maintained trail the entire way around the lake. The circuit totals 13 kilometres and you can walk or cycle along the path. It is a gravel trail that is intersected with bridges and wooden boardwalks along the way. Allow around 2 hours to walk the entire loop or hop on your bicycle to complete it in a much shorter time.
10. Check out Base Camp Coffee
One of the most popular spots in town, Base Camp Coffee is a cool spot to start your morning with a hot cup of coffee and a snack or come at lunch to grab one of their delicious sandwiches. This tends to be a pretty busy place, especially on the weekends, but it is worth stopping in at. Grab your coffee and a bite to eat and enjoy watching the world go by on the picnic benches that sit out front.
Base Camp Coffee is located on Marine Avenue and it’s hard to miss as there always seems to be people milling around outside. It’s definitely worth stopping in at.
11. Grab a Margarita at Costa Del Sol
Another really cool spot located along Marine Avenue is Costa Del Sol. They have done an awesome job of making their small space feel like a small oasis in the heart of town. They have a really cool patio right out front of the restaurant and this extends around the side of the building as well.
They have done a great job with decorating the outdoor space, and they do have some fire pits and patio heaters for when it gets a bit colder. The atmosphere here is awesome and they make great margaritas, including rotating flavours. You can grab food here as well but if you are short on time then we recommend at least stopping in for a quick drink.
12. Walk along the Seawalk
On the other side of town to the Willingdon Beach Trail is the Seawalk. This is another easy and flat trail that you can walk or bike along. You’ll walk right along the harbour so you can check out all of the boats and watch the ferry come in and as you walk further along this trail you will enjoy unobstructed views out to the nearby islands of Texada and Harwood.
This is a really easy trail and the paved section is just 1 kilometre each way. If you do want to keep going there is a small dirt trail that continues on and eventually leads you to an open beach. This is another nice trail for families or if you just want to take in some more of the pretty views out over the Georgia Strait and surrounding islands.
13. Go Shopping in Powell River
There are some really cute stores in Powell River, especially along Marine Drive. Spend an hour or two checking out the Powell River shopping scene. You’ll find several boutique clothing stores, places selling handcrafted and local homewares, delicious ice cream shops, bike shops and lots of other little stores selling really cool local crafts.
The town centre in Powell River may be quite small but there are a lot of cool shops worth checking out during your visit here.
There are a lot of fun things to do in Powell River and this is really an outdoor adventurers paradise. Whether it’s hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail, visiting one of the local islands or kayaking along the coast, you’ll have an action-packed few days on your trip here. We really enjoyed our short time in this more remote and picturesque part of British Columbia.
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