Canada: British Columbia's natural beauty

By Joanne Carroll

The natural wonders of Canada’s Sunshine Coast have Joanne Carroll spellbound.

The Chatterbox Falls at Princess Louisa Inlet. Photo / Tourism BC
The Chatterbox Falls at Princess Louisa Inlet. Photo / Tourism BC

"There is no scenery in the world that can beat it. Not that I've seen the rest of the world. I don't need to, I've seen Princess Louisa Inlet."

Author Erle Stanley Gardner was summing up of the magical Canadian fjord, and hit the spot.

Princess Louisa Inlet, on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast, attracts visitors from all over the world. Rivalling our own Milford Sound as the most beautiful anchorage on the globe, the inlet is a magnificent granite-walled gorge which rises up to 2100m.

In spring, melting mountain snow creates up to 60 waterfalls which cascade down the massive granite bluffs on both sides. The glacier-cut inlet reaches far inland, surrounded by pine, cedar and fir forests. Seals take refuge there all year round. It can only be accessed from the Strait of Georgia through the Jervis Inlet.

Bryce Christie, the owner/operator of marine sightseeing business Sunshine Coast Tours based in Egmont, took us there by Zodiac.

On the way he shared his wealth of knowledge about the region's forestry, fishing and tourism industries, as well as its coastal and marine environment.

At the opening of the inlet is a youth campground marked by native Canadian totem poles. The opening is so small, 19th century explorer Captain Vancouver mistook the inlet for a river and sailed right by.

As we cruise up the inlet, Christie tells us its history and shows us ancient rock paintings drawn by native First Nations tribes in ochre, berry and salmon roe. He points out bird and marine life, including bald eagles, seals and harlequin ducks.

At the head of the inlet is a small national park where you can picnic and visit the beautiful Chatterbox Falls, which tumble 40m into the inlet.

The 895ha of protected conservation land is overseen by ranger Ming Neil, who has been living in the ranger cabin from May to October every year for 12 years. He welcomes visitors - up to 50 boats a day can pull in during summer - and helps keep the area pristine.

One of the greatest natural spectacles in British Columbia are the Skookumchuck Narrows - the second largest tidal rapids in the world. Twice daily the tide changes and the flow of saltwater switches to create powerful, turbulent rapids.

Some extreme kayakers and divers come to test their skills on the rapids, which can feature dramatic whirlpools. They are considered one of the great whitewater wonders of the world. Even if you don't want to ride them, they are captivating to watch.

The West Coast Wilderness Lodge in Egmont has some of the most stunning views I've seen. The lodge and its restaurant are set high up on a craggy granite bluff overlooking forests, inlets and islands. From the dining room, lined with wood panelling, you can gaze out of floor-to-ceiling windows.

The resort is set in bush but overlooks incredible panoramas of four inlets, waterfalls, and lakes. Built in 1997 by Paul and Patti Hansen, it was developed as a wilderness retreat. They also offer outdoor activities, including sunset kayaking tours where you can see spectacular phosphorescence.

Another beautiful resort to stay in is the Painted Boat Resort Spa & Marina in Medira. It has wonderful waterfront views across the small fishing village and its marina. The resort has 31 luxury villas that are available for sale and for rental accommodation. It also has a spa, fitness centre and waterfront pool.

Its restaurant is one of the best on the Sunshine Coast. Head chef Spencer Watts treated us to a delicious meal where I tasted bison for the first time. Watts is focussed on highlighting the abundance of fresh ingredients available on the Sunshine Coast, including produce from its sustainable fisheries.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Canada's Sunshine Coast is a scenic ferry ride from Vancouver.

The harbour area known as The Landing is home to Molly's Reach, a restaurant famous as the setting for 70s-90s TV series The Beachcombers.

The village has cute vintage and souvenir shops and galleries containing local art and craft, enhancing the charm of this harbourside town.

The pier has beautiful views of the harbour where you can watch vessels come and go. The town also has a museum to learn about the history of The Landing.

A great way to travel back to Vancouver is by float plane, where you can soar over the forests, mountains and land back on the water in the harbour in the heart of the city.

Air New Zealand operates direct flights between Auckland and Vancouver, and offers a daily service on Air New Zealand and partner airlines via Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Joanne Carroll travelled to Canada courtesy of Air New Zealand.

- Herald on Sunday

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