Let me preface this blog post with a disclaimer: farmers’ markets are my jam! Pun completely intended, because who doesn’t love discovering a delicious homemade, seasonal jam during a visit to their local farmers’ market!?
As a relatively new transplant to the village of Cumberland (population: <5,000) by way of Vancouver, one of my first stops was to our local farmers’ market found in the Cumberland Village Square. Home to about a dozen local vendors on any given Sunday throughout the summer, I’ve found that visiting a local farmers’ market is truly one of the best ways to experience a new town’s authentic character and flavour. In fact, it’s where I discovered the best croissants the Comox Valley has to offer – and it’s now where I go anytime I’m in need of an artisan sourdough loaf. Shoutout to Honey Grove Bakery!
Needless to say, when the opportunity to travel to the Sunshine Coast with my family came up, I jumped at the chance – knowing that it’s home to some of the oldest farmers’ markets on the BC Farmers’ Market Trail. Touted for being eclectic, vibrant, and family-friendly – not to mention only a one-and-a-half hour ferry ride away from the Comox Valley – I quickly made a ferry reservation for mid-August and eagerly awaited our weekend getaway.
As a side note: the last time I visited this part of Vancouver Island was when I was a pre-teen with my sisters and parents and when I mentioned this trip to my dad, he and my mom invited themselves along on our getaway out of pure nostalgia. Not one to turn down free babysitting (who in their right mind would say ‘no’ to a ratio of four adults to two children!?), we were glad to have them tag along for the weekend.
Day 1 – Exploring the Historic Townsite of Powell River
With limited sailings each day from Comox to Powell River, we woke up bright and early on Friday morning to load up and head to the Little River ferry terminal in time for our ferry reservation and 9:25am sailing. (Hot tip: definitely book a ferry reservation well in advance during peak season to avoid disappointment or multi-sailing waits…especially if you’re traveling with small children, and in our case, a dog as well!). Blue skies, sunshine and calm waters welcomed us aboard, and a relatively short and painless ferry ride later, we arrived in Powell River with time to spare before lunch.
[Photo 1 / Caption: Stretching our legs at Willingdon Beach Park]
After an hour-plus long ferry ride with two antsy young kids and an even antsier dog, we decided to explore the coastline a little bit before finding a local spot for lunch. A short drive from the Westview ferry terminal brought us to Willingdon Beach Park, which is also home to an oceanfront campground (and which I’ve already bookmarked for future summer adventures!). It ended up being the perfect, scenic spot to stretch our legs. We enjoyed the hot, summer day with a walk along the beach while our kids happily splashed in the clear water. With a fantastic spray park and playground also located on the beachfront, there was something to keep everyone entertained until we headed in search of a spot for lunch.
[Photo 2 / Caption: Authentic, hot and crispy fried chicken from Genki Sushi on Marine Avenue]
Marine Avenue – the heart of downtown Powell River – is filled with tons of local shops and restaurants, and Genki Sushi and Korean Fried Chicken, with its spacious patio out front, immediately caught our eye. It was busy when we arrived, but we were seated quickly and the servers were extremely accommodating and friendly. We ordered a bit of everything: some familiar sushi rolls and of course, two flavours of Korean fried chicken – original and yangnyeom (sweet and spicy).
After enjoying a satisfying lunch of hot and crispy fried chicken accompanied by a stunning view from the restaurant, we were ready to head to our hotel to check-in and unwind a bit before dinner. As we were settling our bill, our friendly server asked if we were in town for the Blackberry Festival that evening. Having not heard about it till that very moment, we quickly found out that Powell River’s annual Blackberry Festival is a can’t miss event and promptly made plans to check it out that evening.
[Photo 3 / Caption: Looking for our room at Island View Lodge in Powell River’s historic Townsite]
With that, we headed out to the Island View Lodge located about ten minutes north towards Lund in Powell River’s historic Townsite district. The dog-friendly, family-run hotel accommodated an early check-in, which we greatly appreciated, and they were also quick to accommodate our request for two adjoining rooms. The hotel itself rooms were clean and updated, with free wifi and anything else you’d need for a comfortable stay in Powell River.
[Photo 4 / Caption: Enjoying a round of drinks on the patio at Townsite Brewing]
With a few hours to kill before dinner, my husband and I took the opportunity to leave the kids with my parents to explore Powell River’s historic Townsite on foot. On this balmy summer day, our first stop was Townsite Brewing, a microbrewery located just kitty-corner from the hotel. I parked myself at their small, but cozy outdoor, dog-friendly patio while my husband got us drinks. A flight of beer for him, and a delicious ginger beer for me. One thing worth mentioning, and a trend we’d continue to see throughout our stay on the Sunshine Coast: blackberries on every restaurant menu! Here, they had their award-winning, seasonal Blackberry FestivALE Wheat beer on tap and blackberry ice cream sandwiches, too.
Keen to see more of Powell River, we continued our exploration of the historic Townsite after a round of refreshing drinks. From the historic Patricia Theatre (Canada’s longest continuously operating movie theatre!) to the Postmaster’s House to the Town Site Mall and more, every walkable corner of Powell River’s historic Townsite was truly unique and photo-worthy!
[Photo 5 / Caption: The Wild Mushroom Rigatoni at Coastal Cookery]
After an afternoon of exploring historic Powell River, we headed to Coastal Cookery for an early dinner. Known for their trendy, modern aesthetic and a menu incorporating the best local, in-season ingredients, we were excited to enjoy a delicious dinner before hitting the rest of Marine Avenue for the Blackberry Festival. We were thrilled to see lots of local, seasonal ingredients and specials on the menu, including their must-try blackberry lemonade (or, you could opt for their blackberry whiskey lemonade if you prefer an extra ‘kick’). Other favourites from dinner – all featuring ingredients sourced from Vancouver Island – included the Salt Spring Mussels, BBQ Buttermilk Chicken Bites, and Wild Mushroom Rigatoni. Pro tip: ask for their ‘kids’ menu, which isn’t listed on their main menu. Our kiddos devoured their kid-sized portions of a classic burger and mac and cheese!
[Photo 6 / Caption: Enjoying Powell River’s Annual Blackberry Festival with homemade blackberry ice cream!]
While the dessert menu was tempting, we opted to skip dessert at Coastal Cookery in search of some sweet treats at the Blackberry Festival just outside the restaurant doors – and it did not disappoint. Live music, arts and crafts, classic cars, and blackberry everything lined both sides of Marine Avenue. The street was packed, and what seemed like the entire city of Powell River was out and about enjoying the festivities everywhere we looked. With delicious, handcrafted blackberry ice cream from Wild Scoop Ice Cream in hand, we strolled the festival for an authentic taste of the city, thoroughly enjoying the vibrant sense of community that radiated throughout the streets.
Day 2 – Road Trip to Sechelt
We woke up bright and early the following morning to journey further south down the Sunshine Coast with a goal of checking out the farmers’ markets located in the Sechelt area. The grandparents were keen to explore more of Powell River with our kiddos, so we opted for a “date day” and headed out in search of Powell River’s best coffee before heading to the Saltery Bay ferry terminal to Earls Cove.
While driving down Marine Avenue towards the ferry terminal, we immediately noticed a short line – of what looked very much like locals – forming at Base Camp Coffee more than 10 minutes before the café was even open! We took this as a promising sign and promptly joined the line. As a self-proclaimed coffee aficionado, Base Camp Coffee is a ‘can’t miss’ spot for your morning caffeine fix that rivals some of the best coffee we’ve ever had. We even returned the next morning for more coffee and espresso beans to take home! In addition to the aroma of freshly brewing coffee upon entering, there was lots of local art and merch for sale inside – again speaking to the now-obvious sense of community and emphasis on supporting local throughout Powell River. With a creamy cortado and Americano in hand, plus a fresh-out-of-the-oven cornbread breakfast muffin that we couldn’t resist leaving without, we were ready to hit the road.
[Photo 9 / Caption: En route to Sechelt from Saltery Bay]
Saltery Bay is less than a half-hour drive from Powell River’s city center, and we arrived with some time to spare before the next sailing. With a full day ahead of us, and this being a non-bookable route, we figured catching a ferry earlier in the day than later would be a good call so we could make it back in time for our 5:30 dinner reservation back in Powell River. It was another gorgeous summer day, and a short and scenic ferry ride later, we arrived at Earls Cove and started our hour-long drive down to Sechelt in search of our first farmers’ market (and the one I was personally most excited about!): the Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market.
The drive down south featured winding roads and views of the ocean and majestic, old-growth forests everywhere. While the road has a reputation of not being the most efficient – it’s single lane most of the way, and you can easily get stuck behind a big truck or camper going well below the speed limit until a passing lane appears – we got lucky and arrived in Sechelt just after 11. There was ample free parking within minutes of the farmers’ market entrance, and we were excited to explore all that the Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market had to offer.
[Photo 10 / Caption: Busy day at the Sechelt Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market]
Touted as the largest outdoor market on the Sunshine Coast, the market was packed when we arrived and filled with people and vendors of all kinds. As an added bonus, the market was also dog friendly! Featuring everything from fresh-cut flowers to locally grown produce, handcrafted jewelry and décor, homemade curries, jams, jellies and more, the variety of goods available was impressive and the friendliness of the vendors even more so.
Every vendor was more intriguing than the last, and after perusing the arts and crafts section – and picking up some handmade recycled glass earrings as Christmas presents (it’s never too early to start your Christmas shopping, right!?) – we ventured over to the produce section of the market. Fresh, locally grown, and very colourful produce lined one side of the market and were we staying somewhere with a kitchen, I would’ve definitely picked up some fresh, seasonal produce for dinner. Instead, after admiring the various in-season fruits and veggies for sale, we made our way down to the food vendors and enjoyed a late breakfast/early lunch (brunch-on-the-go?) of sorts.
[Photo 13 / A hot and tasty Breakfast Flat from EatsWest]
We were delighted by the handmade samosas from Sushmas Samosas, a mother-and-son duo, and after indulging in crispy samosas, opted to also take home a big mason jar of their chutney. Another highlight was the Middle Eastern-inspired Breakfast Flat from EatsWest – so flavourful, colourful and nutritious! This was truly a can’t miss market offering the best of the Sunshine Coast in the heart of Sechelt, and a great way to start off our day of exploration.
With our bellies full, we headed out in search of our next market stop: the Davis Bay Farmers’ Market, just another 10 minutes by car down the coast. The little seaside community of Davis Bay was a pleasant surprise, featuring quaint, beachfront shops and homes accented by an endless stretch of pebbled beach and blue ocean.
We found a parking spot right on the beach in search of the farmers’ market on foot. Found just minutes by foot off the main boardwalk, the Davis Bay Farmers’ Market on this particular weekend was a quiet and intimate market experience, featuring about 10 vendors selling a variety of goods. We enjoyed a lengthy conversation about hobby gardening with a wonderful vendor who was selling a wide selection of unique seeds she had harvested and saved herself over the years, and also enjoyed exploring the rest of the market. There were vendors with fresh produce, handcrafted lemonade and other refreshing drinks, as well as an adorable brother-and-sister candle startup also selling customized Dungeons & Dragons paraphernalia. If you happen to wander down the coast past Sechelt to Davis Bay, mark this farmers’ market on your map. It’s small, but charming and worth a stop if you happen to already be heading further south down to the lower region of the Sunshine Coast.
With two of three farmers’ markets knocked off our list (the Powell River Farmers’ Market was on our itinerary for the following morning), we began our trip back up the coast to catch a ferry back to Powell River in time for dinner. Anticipating a possible wait at the ferry, again due to the fact this was an unbookable route and we were traveling on a Saturday afternoon during peak season, we decided to stop at El Segundo in downtown Sechelt for a light lunch and drinks beforehand.
You can’t help but smile ear to ear when you walk in the door, thanks to the vibrant colours, tropical island-inspired décor and bright neon signs. Despite not having a reservation on what looked to be a busy afternoon, we were able to snag a table on their oversized patio and settled in with a couple of drinks. I enjoyed the Full English, a zero-proof ‘gin’ mocktail, and my husband had the El Segroni – a Tequila-based twist on the classic Negroni, and which he claims to be one of the best cocktails he’s had in a long time. To snack on, we opted to share the fish tacos with a side of truffle tots, along with a bowl of their seasonal corn chowder. The service was friendly, prompt, and the food delicious – definitely worth bookmarking anytime you find yourself in Sechelt!
The drive back up to Earls Cove was relatively uneventful and dare I say, relaxing. There were a few suggested stops by way of roadside signs along the way that we would’ve made if we had the luxury of time, but that I definitely have my eye on for my next visit to the Sunshine Coast including The Bricker Cider Company, Smuggler Cove Marine Provincial Park, and FibreWorks Studio and Gallery in Madeira Park, to name a few.
That evening, we had an early-ish dinner planned at The Granada Restaurant, conveniently located right next to our accommodations and – like many restaurants in Powell River – boasting a gorgeous outdoor patio. To take full advantage of the beautiful weather, we requested a table right out front which they graciously accommodated. Run by a husband and wife duo, Gus and Joyce Lenis, since 1973(!!), we were blown away by the immediate sense of family at The Granada. Not only were Gus and Joyce themselves seated at a corner booth when we checked in with the hostess, they were also all smiles – greeting their patrons and showing off their obvious passion for this iconic restaurant they had built in the historic Townsite of Powell River.
The authentic Greek and Italian menu had our mouths watering, and the food was both generous in portion size and exceptional in flavour. There was a wide selection of food to meet everyone’s preferences, and the service was friendly, quick and efficient – truly important qualities in a restaurant when you’re dining with small children. This meal – everything from the ambiance to the service and food – was by far one of the highlights of our trip. In fact, days later, my husband still talks about their lamb souvlaki!
[Photo 20 / Caption: Walking to the iconic Patricia Theatre in the heart of Powell River’s historic Townsite]
After a very satisfying meal, we sent our kids off to bed with their grandparents and headed to the Patricia Theatre for their nightly feature movie. Truly historic, this theatre has been open since 1913 and has been lovingly restored over the years. The interior is as impressive – if not more so – than its historic exterior, featuring nostalgic velvety cushioned seats and gorgeous paintings covering the walls and ceilings. Each employee was more friendly than the last, and with root beer and warm popcorn in hand, we found seats near the front of a fairly packed theatre and settled in for the movie which began promptly at 7’o clock. On this particular evening, they were playing ‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’, which proved to be just as charming of a film as the theatre itself!
Day 3 – An Epic Day at the Powell River Farmers’ Market
We were keen to make the most of our last day in Powell River, and were met with a slightly overcast, but warm morning. With a fairly late checkout of 11am available at the hotel, we opted to grab breakfast before checking out, and headed to Magpie’s Diner.
“Delicious comfort food made from scratch” is their tagline, and they definitely lived up to it. It was already quite busy when we arrived shortly before 9, and the restaurant had all the makings of a quintessential diner experience. Floor to ceiling shelves lined one wall filled with old books and knick knacks, while quirky mismatched tables and chairs could be found throughout the restaurant. With hot coffee, a dedicated kids menu, and ample breakfast favourites to choose from for the adults, we were excited to fuel up for an activity-filled day ahead.
After tasty hot breakfasts (and one spilled orange juice courtesy of my three year old), we checked out of our hotel and headed to Mowat Bay Park, about a 10 minute drive from the hotel by car. From the research we did online, we found that you could hike a portion of the Sunshine Coast Trail with a trailhead just off of the beach by the boat launch. Turns out, Mowat Bay isn’t just an access point to the famed Sunshine Coast Trail, it’s also a popular spot for all sorts of watersports in the summer, and extremely family friendly. With a waterfront playground, beach area for swimming, and washrooms, it’s easy to see why there were so many families hanging out in the area when we arrived.
Following the trail markers, we headed to the trailhead just past the beach area and managed to hike a decent portion of the trail, which involved a bit of a climb from the get-go. (Of note for those travelling with their furry family members, this beach is not dog-friendly in the summer, and dogs are required to be on-leash for portions of the trail within the Powell River Regional District). To keep the kids motivated during our hike, there were plenty of blackberries to snack on along the way. After a particularly steep section of the trail, we eventually turned around and made our way back down towards the parking lot – much to the pleasure of my three-year-old who, at that point, was complaining that his legs hurt.
[Photo 25 / Caption: Patiently waiting in line for treats from the Cottage Creek Bake Shop]
It ended up being the perfect segway for what turned out to be the highlight of our trip: the Powell River Farmers’ Market. Open from 12:30 – 2:30pm on Sundays, we arrived at the market – located conveniently by the airport – at 12:30 sharp and found that the designated parking areas were already quite full. Tons of shoppers were milling about, enjoying everything the market had to offer, their arms and reusable bags full of intriguing market finds. With live music welcoming you upon entry and tons of mouth-watering vendors scattered all over the market, we made a beeline for The Bean Buggy for (another) caffeine fix before patiently joining the line-up to sample freshly baked treats from the Cottage Creek Bake Shop. Again, we noticed blackberries on the bakery menu – in everything from pizzas to scones to bread and more! – and couldn’t resist trying one of their blackberry lemon muffins. Spoiler alert: it was delicious!
[Photo 26 / Caption: How do we pick just one donut!?]
After thoroughly perusing the market and admiring the variety of vendors – everything from handmade soaps and bath bombs to handsewn baby clothes, craft ice cream, delicious donuts, fresh produce, and more – we were happy to find a seating area to enjoy our market treats. By far the most kid-friendly market of the three we visited on the Sunshine Coast, we greatly appreciated the kids play area near the picnic tables at the center of the market so we could enjoy our snacks in the heart of the market while the kids happily entertained themselves.
[Photo 27 / Caption: A farmers’ market in the trees]
On that note, the highlight of the market – if you ask my kids – were the train rides. On Sundays only, the market offers train rides on their miniature railroad for just $2 per person. Despite what was turning out to be a very warm day, my kids insisted on lining up for two train rides each and it ended up being the perfect way to cap off our trio of market visits. We easily spent the full two hours at the market, and everyone left with big smiles and sticky fingers. Needless to say, there truly is something for everyone at the Powell River Farmers’ Market!
[Photo 28 / Caption: Latin-inspired vibes at Costa del Sol]
From the market, we headed back to town in the direction of the ferry terminal (just off Marine Avenue) for a late lunch before heading home later that afternoon. Costa del Sol caught our eye the first day we arrived, and we were happy to snag a spot on their (dog friendly!) patio for drinks and snacks to round out a very memorable trip.
[Photo 29 / Caption: Enjoying our last, delicious meal at Costa del Sol on the Sunshine Coast]
To nobody’s surprise at this point (but to everybody’s delight!), seasonal blackberry margaritas were on special. Deliciously refreshing, it was the perfect drink to kick off our last meal in Powell River. We shared a number of dishes that featured local in-season ingredients and that came highly recommended by our server, including the tuna tostada (with fresh strawberries!), chicken bites, nachos and pork Carnitas, which were all drool-worthy. The kids, meanwhile, thoroughly enjoyed their kid-sized veggie quesadillas. After eyeing up this spot since day one, we can confidently say it didn’t disappoint!
We came to the Sunshine Coast to enjoy their farmers’ markets, but we were thoroughly impressed by everything else this unique stretch of paradise on Vancouver Island has to offer. On top of some of the most artistic and lively markets we’ve had the pleasure of visiting on the BC Farmers’ Market Trail, the lush green backdrop, coastal breeze and charming people found only on the Island made our experience so much more authentic and memorable. If you’re looking for a place that offers a strong sense of community, delicious food, incredible art, shopping, abundant nature and more, add the Sunshine Coast to your ‘must visit’ list. It’s a true gem best enjoyed in the company of loved ones.