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Table of contents from The Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast
The Gibsons Area
The Sechelt Area
The Pender Harbour Area
Jervis Inlet
The Powell River Area


UNTIL THE 1980S the sublimely scenic 100-mile stretch of shoreline along the eastern side of Georgia Strait known as the Sunshine Coast enjoyed a blessed obscurity that allowed its forty-thousand-odd residents to indulge their oddness to the fullest. The area has a reputation for being the maverick among British Columbia's favoured south coast regions and seems to rejoice in it. In the past twelve provincial elections, the Sunshine Coast has voted against the government of the day nine times, a contrariness which has rewarded the area with some of the twistiest sections of Highway 101 north of Guatemala.

The oddball image works for geography as well as politics. It's not an island, but you have to take a ferry to get therefive different ferries if you want to see all of it. Local developers have spent years dreaming of bridges, tunnels, overland links and fast commuter ferries aimed at breaching the isolation of the Sunshine Coast while the old-time residents were just as determinedly trying to preserve it. The split between those who wish to conjoin with the growth convulsing BC's Lower Mainland just across the water and those who want to preserve the coast's quiet backwater status provides the spark that animates local politics. At one point in the early 1990s the area was served by no fewer than nine regularly published newspapers, and still there was never enough room to carry all the letters to the editor that flare up around such issues as improving the Westview-Comox ferry service or allowing the first McDonald's restaurant onto the Sechelt Peninsula.

Being neither fish nor fowl from a geographic standpoint, the Sunshine Coast lacks some of that romantic aura that attracted urban hordes to the true islands of the Gulf, leaving the area to evolve in its own way. Among those in the know it has long been seen as a haven where people might do their own thing in their own time with a minimum of interference from the outside world. This has made it a refuge for painters, writers, hermits, handloggers, stumpranchers, trappers, prospectors, fishermen, and draft dodgers of every war since the original of the Egmont Jeffries jumped ship during the 18 5 9 Pig Wars in the San Juan Islands. They and other fugitives from the twentieth century established a string of quiet little villages whose names, from Hopkins Landing to Secret Cove to Gillies Bay, reflect their salty sense of self-possession.

It took until the mid-1980s for the area's attractions to be discovered in a major way, and by the early 1990s the Sunshine Coast was the fourth fastest-growing residential area in BC, to the chagrin of many of those longtime seekers of peace and quiet. But it remains one of the few places within commuting distance of Vancouver where you can still experience some of the sights and scents of the oldtime BC coast of the steamships and the stumpranches, the float camps and the fish plants. Villages like Lund and Pender Harbour still cling to their rocky shorelines like a fringe of storm-tossed driftwood, connected by red-railed boardwalks; Gambier and Savary Island children still ride to school in sea-going schoolbuses; and tide-borne seaweed, shovelled into gunny bags and wheeled up the beach trail in the wheelbarrow, is still the fertilizer of choice for home vegetable gardens throughout the region.