One Tank Wonder: Exceptional Egmont on the Sunshine Coast
There are places where lipstick and stylish shoes are requisite luggage, but Egmont is not one of them. The unincorporated town at the north end of the Sechelt Peninsula on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast is a come-as-you-are destination. There's no pretension here, just rustic beauty, massive swaths of wild, untamed nature and all the peace and solitude you need for an escape from city life.
We were lured by the reverence we heard in the voices of people who had seen the Princess Louisa Inlet and the Chatterbox Falls, sites most easily accessed from Egmont. A provincial marine park 90 minutes by boat northwest of town, Princess Louisa Inlet is a place of mysterious, surreal beauty. Thick-waisted, old-growth trees sit drenched in mist, their branches heavy with moss. The chattering waterfalls thunder over jagged rocks, and in the spring and summer, limber black bears make their way up the sheer granite cliffs that line either side of the inlet.
We caught a ride up with Sunshine Coast Tours' guide Cliff Silvey, wending our way from Egmont up the Sechelt Inlet on the flat, calm water. Days earlier a pod of orca whales had passed through, feasting on sea lions that basked on rocky outcroppings. On our journey, the silvery grey heads of seals punctured the smooth ocean, and we passed waterfalls, steep granite walls with trees clinging in precarious defiance, and 5,000-year-old pictographs.
Silvey's ancestors settled in Old Egmont in the 1800s, and our young guide knew the channels and contours of the water like the back of his hand. Along the way he pointed out logging camps, 2,400-foot inlet depths used as practice grounds by the Canadian navy, and salmon-rich waters long closed to commercial fishing. As we pulled into the Princess Louisa dock, schools of herring flitted near the surface and jellyfish hung translucent in the water like floating spectres.
Gibsons. Sechelt. These are the well-known, populated hubs of the Sunshine Coast. Egmont, with a small handful of year-round residents - who call themselves Egmonsters! - might not be on the tourist radar whatsoever with the exception of its two star attractions. Princess Louisa Inlet is one of them, known for her calm serenity.
The other star is the Skookumchuck Rapids, a four-kilometre hike through the rainforest that leads to a lookout above some of the fastest tidal currents in the world. In an ebb tide, the water churns and roils furiously, creating a frenzy of rushing whitewater. In a flood tide, the presence of a single, continuous wave attracts hardcore wave kayakers who come to test their skills as 200 billion gallons of water glow each day through the narrows connecting Sechelt and Jervis Inlets. The currents have claimed several lives over the years, and most visitors who venture out for the view come by speedboat, or hike through the Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park.
Along the way, they can sample baked good from one of BC's more remote bakeries. The Skookumchuck Bakery & Cafe, 300 metres from the road, is nestled deep enough into the rainforest that its very existence seems implausible. But its cinnamon buns are reputably the best on the coast, and on weekends its baked goods fortify the steady stream of visitors who come to play the word Skookumchuck on their tongues and see one of nature's great shows.
The next day we were on the water again, this time on jet skis with Luke Hansen, whose family owns the West Coast Wilderness Lodge. We zoomed a few kilometres out to Hotham Sound in the Harmony Islands, where the water temperature is a comfortable 22 degrees Celsius and the Freil Lake waterfall cascades into a four-foot pool. "We often come out here for the day," Hansen reflected. "We stop for lunch on one of the islands, shuck oysters straight from the rocks, and take a dip beneath the waterfall."
It's spring and there's still a chill in the air, but as the warm water rushes over my feet, I wish I had a swimsuit and towel at the ready.
Later we feast on steak and linguine patio side at Inlets. The resort's fine dining restaurant, it is perched on a craggy bluff overlooking sun-drenched islands and mountains densely packed with trees. Herons fish from the docks and even though they don't make an appearance for us, schools of Pacific white-sided dolphins often splash through the channel. With the exception of a few homes scattered across the way on islands and the inlet's shores, the view looks much the same as when Captain George Vancouver first sailed this way in 1792.
Egmont is rustic, authentic and welcoming, its shores promising incredible vistas, a rich assortment of wildlife and a destination where you're welcomed exactly as you are. If you want to be an Egmonster for the weekend, bring warm fleeces, comfy track pants, a big smile and a sense of adventure. Leave everything else back in the city.
WHEN YOU GO
Sail / Drive: BC Ferries has several daily sailings from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale on the Sunshine Coast. If you're traveling on a weekend in the summer, reservations are a must. The drive from Langdale to Egmont takes two hours on Highway 101 North.
Information: Visit Sunshine Coast Tourism
Stay: The Backeddy Resort & Marina is positioned right on Sechelt Inlet and offers a selection of comfy waterfront accommodations including geodesic domes, 1970s cabins and contemporary waterfront suites.
Boat: Explore the Princess Louisa Inlet by boat on a five-hour day trip with Sunshine Coast Tours. For a quicker turnaround time try West Coast Wilderness Lodge's excursions, which take guests to the falls by speedboat and return them by seaplane.
1 (800) 870-9055
1 (604) 883-3667
Eat: Given its remote location, it's no surprise that eating out in the Egmont area is pricey. Inlets Restaurant at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge offers gourmet fine dining with no dress code and a spectacular view. A ten-minute drive south, La Trattoria Italiana at Ruby Lake Resort has a tasty selection of locally grown seafood, wild game, pastas and salads, best eaten on the patio overlooking the lake and its resident beaver.
This article was originally published in OpenRoad Driver magazine, Volume 15 Issue 1. Words and photos by Lauren Kramer.