Sunshine Coast Getaway

It was a few days or total relaxation.

BC's Sunshine Coast is simply breathtaking and offers a significant change of pace. I recently spent four days in the area being actively relaxed which for me meant taking simple hikes and breathing in nature. 

Home was Tuckers Inn, B&B, a great find with friendly hosts, immaculate rooms and home baking for breakfast. Laying just north of Sechelt, Tuckers Inn was a great base for the short break, I couldn't have asked for anything more.

Over the years of being in Canada, it's become clear that 'hike' is applied to any off road walk and it doesn't matter if it takes minutes or days, so take the word with a reasonable pinch of salt. The two main hikes were Smuggler Cove and Francis Point. Smuggler Cove is the easier of the two as it's flatter. The trail is simple to follow, the initial boardwalks across the wetlands helpful and the views cannot fail to render one horizontal. It's a shady trail and that helped as the temperatures were in the late 20's. The video opposite gives a good flavour of the experience. 

Francis Point was more challenging in that it was mostly in the open so be prepared for the heat on sunny days. There was also more clambering over rocks as the bulk of the hike to the lighthouse (beacon on a pole) is along the cliff coastline. The adventure is worthwhile, the views, once again, are stunning. 

I only scratched the surface and there's much more to the Sunshine Coast. The area is well worth a visit.

Photography wise, my aim was to capture a mix of tourist shots and other images that caught my attention. I chose video on the Smuggler Cove hike as the route was shaded with sunlight breaking through the canopy making for difficult shooting. Other shots were taken in the garden of the B&B and at the Sechelt Inlet. Manual mode predominated and I only flicked to Program when wanting to capture a moving boat when I didn't have the time to dial in the manual settings. 

Namesake beach

It would be wrong. Travelling to the Oregon coast and not visiting Cannon Beach would be unthinkable. So, a day at namesake beach it was.

1308-Seaside-03I’d ridden around Cannon Beach on my first motorcycle road trip in 2010. Back then I was on a tight schedule and couldn’t spare the time to stop. It felt good to be able to put that right. The strange thing was that the town area was nothing like what I thought I remembered. It would appear that I was suffering from bikers delusion. In 2010, Cannon Beach was early on day two of a six day excursion. I guess places simply blended together, and so in 2013 I was greeted by an unfamiliar town.

Although still very much a tourist-centric town, Cannon Beach seems to have set out its stall as providing a more ‘upscale’ experience than Seaside, at least in the town area. If you’re just looking for access to a great beach there’s nothing to choose. Oregon schools had returned for the new year so I have no idea how busy the beaches can get in summer. At the tail end of August, although not deserted, there w as plenty of space.

1308-Seaside-04Cannon Beach can also differentiate itself through the presence of the large Haystack Rock which certainly adds character to the area. The rock reminded me of the even larger beachside giant at Morrow Bay in California. I’d spent a wonderful afternoon in Morrow with my young family back in 2000, cue melancholy moment.The town area of Cannon Beach has none of the Seaside amusements, prefering to focus on the arts to persuade its visitors to part with their cash (or maybe to part with their credit card is more appropriate). So within a short drive one can have two very different holiday experiences.

It was back to Seaside for the evening meal and a walk along the promenade. The simple joys of walking and observing reminded me that this holiday was about relaxing. I wasn’t fussed about what the towns offered, the beaches were great to stroll along. The beaches provide the perfect place to let work related stresses get blown away.

1308-Seaside-07A spectacular, melt in to the ocean sunset viewed from the Lewis and Clark commemorative statue rounds off a very agreeable day.


The two sides of Seaside

The receptionist at the hotel in Olympia seemed very underwhelmed when we mentioned that Seaside was the next destination. Her advice was to make sure we took in Cannon Beach. Later on it would become clear what her advice was based upon.

1308-Seaside-05After another roadworks littered drive, Seaside! Seaside has made its claim to fame as the end of the Lewis and Clark trail. It seems that the claim is stretching things slightly as the expedition stopped at Fort Clatsop and sent a working party to what is now Seaside to produce salt to preserve food for the journey back east. I’m not going to call out Seaside on a technicality.

First impressions? Accommodation excellent, beach amazing. Time to explore some more. The short walk in to town turned up a local cafe and what appeared to be a rather interesting antiques hall. More about that later. Walking back to the suite, the second side of Seaside surfaced.

The walk west along Broadway became a walk back in time. It was seaside in the more English style, compete with arcades. The only missing piece was the ‘Kiss me quick’ hat. So from the very European (Dutch/Belgian coast) beach to a very British seaside experience all within the space of a few hundred metres. I’m guessing that the hotel receptionist in Olympia has been exposed to ‘Kiss me quick’ Seaside and not the great beach. My preference is undoubtably the sandy Seaside, one of multi-mile beach, constant crashing of waves, rolling dunes and wide open space rather than the more manufactured Seaside. 1308-Seaside-02The pont is that there’s a choice. Although the town is small, the Pacific frontage is wide and deep enabling those that prefer their downtime to involve nothing more than nature to get exactly that. Want dodgems? No problem, Seaside can do that too.

Dinner was taken in the rather fine Pacific Way Cafe in the adjoining town of Gearhart. Well worth the short drive both for the food and taking in yet another stretch of super sandy, lightly populated beach.

The holiday was shaping up well in terms of offering mental downtime.

This was a great view to end the day.


Heading to Seaside

After much deliberation the Sunshine Coast was consigned to ‘another time’. BC Ferries were the sole reason for a vacation 180 degree. As much as the scootour would have been fun, combined ferry fares exceeding $300 were simply too high. BC loses out to south of the border. The Oregon coast called loud. Some swift research unearthed a very cool looking place in Seaside. I’d ridden through Seaside on my 2010 road trip so was familiar with the area. It’s reminiscent of the Belgian/Dutch cost and that’s not a bad thing. Pre holiday excitement kicked in.

A great idea from Lesley. How about staying somewhere Sunday night. Olympia was an obvious choice do me and having secured the rather pleasant Red Lion hotel at a great ‘Hotwire’ rate, everything was in place. Time to test the Nexus cards again.

The previous crossing went somewhat wrong as there was a ‘problem’ with my card. This time, easy. The card repaid the cost of enrollment as a one hour line up for the great un-nexused was a 30 second breeze across the border. The North American version of holidayng abroad had really started.

Despite very heavy traffic either side of Seattle, a combination of stalls, accidents and so many cars, the holiday mood prevailed. The overnight accommodation was perfect and a relaxed end of day meal closed out the Seaside trip, day one.


Back to reality

A relaxed breakfast, final wander around the town and on the road. Time to head for home.

1308-Winthrop-01The traffic was certainly heavier than Friday. Driving felt more pressured, I had to keep up, the pace was faster. Consequently, the ride back through the Cascades was not as enjoyable. However, the horizontal relaxed state returned at he first pit stop. At the western side of the mountain range you’ll find the North Cascades Visitor Centre and whether one is entering or leaving the range, it’s worth stopping off. The exhibits, 3D map, film show and short hikes are informative and restorative. We followed a trail to a viewing point and were totally awestruck. The Picket Range, some ten miles in the distance appeared like painted scenery in and old movie. Breathtaking and yet so tranquil. The impromptu stop had certainly restored the sense of serenity that the weekend had instilled.

A final zip up I5 and the long weekend was over. Winthrop can be a great escape in the summer. Yes, it’s touristy, but if one puts aside that view and maybe treats the town as somewhere to lodge whilst taking in the surrounding beauty , the place makes sense.

1308-Winthrop-04Although good things can come to an end, the great thing about living in the Pacific Northwest is that the good thing can be revisited easily, it’s not a one off, holiday experience. Not only that but there are also many more ‘good things ‘ just waiting to be explored. One of the aims of relocation was to change my quality of life. Some might say that an 8000+ mile change wasn’t needed to do that. In my case, swapping the built environment of Europe for the outstanding natural environment of Cascadia has been worth every mile.