A plethora of rocky beaches and sun-dappled forest trails, near a strip of upbeat art galleries, quirky shops, ocean-view bistros, and a local craft brewery: Willingdon Beach is a traveler’s gem.
Located at the western end of the funky commercial strip of the Westview district of Powell River, on Marine Avenue (Highway 101), Willingdon Beach offers a sweeping view of the Strait of Georgia. A campsite, a kids’ playground, and two small museums (one on either side of route 101) add to the attraction, (off-season, the museums aren’t always open at advertised times, be aware!).
But the main appeal of Willingdon Beach is the network of Millennium trails that meander through old sun-dappled logging roads, where huge Sitka spruce, cedars, and hemlocks shade groves of waist-high, prehistoric Giant Horsetails and burbling creeks.
A variety of logging machines from the early 1900’s, such as a steam donkey and sidewinder, dot the main trail that parallels the beach-stone shoreline for 1.2 miles.
Tiny native BC squirrels dart among the salal and huckleberry bushes and hurl insults at passers-by from the safety of tree branches, while off-shore, the plaintive cries of loons provide a poignant counterpoint to the distant raucous barking of Northern (Stellar) Sea Lions. These massive seals (females up to 360 kg, males up to 1000 kg) congregate near the Giant Hulks, a remarkable structure located offshore, north of Willingdon Beach. The Hulks are comprised of a number of concrete ships built during World War I and II; linked in a semi-circle, they form a massive floating breakwater, protecting the log storage pond of the local paper mill. The ancient floating ships have created a large artificial reef, which attracts not just colonies of sea lions, but human scuba divers. To view the Hulks, one must head north from Willingdon Beach, over to the Historic Townsite of Powell River and the Mill Viewpoint.
Back at Willingdon Beach, after meandering through the trails, a short walk into the Westview strip of funky restaurants, bookstores, art galleries and gift shops is definitely warranted. Powell River seems to pride itself on the quirky, making for interesting shop signs and a delightful variety of local restaurants that offer mouth-watering dishes as diverse as Latino/South American to traditional Thai dishes. There’s also a local brewery.
There’s no highway connecting Powell River to other mainland cities, due to the impenetrable Sunshine Coast mountains. One must travel here via BC Ferries and car. Driving Distances to Powell River from:
- Courtenay 41km (approx. 2 hours including ferry)
- Nanaimo 150km (approx. 3.5 hours including ferry)
- Vancouver 74km (approx. 4.5 hours including ferry)
- Squamish 201km (approx. 5 hours including ferry)
Or you can fly in! The Powell River Airport (CYPW) serves flights to and from Vancouver. CYPW (information for pilots below) is located four minutes’ drive east from the centre of town, and the Westview Flying Club has a great pilot’s lounge. Taxi service can whisk visiting pilots and passengers to Willingdon Beach for a mere $12: 604 483 3666. Make sure you over-fly the Hulks on your flight in or out, for great aerial views of the floating World War II concrete boats! For more trails near the Powell River airport, see my post on Myrtle Creek and Hammil Lake.