B.C.’s Sunshine Coast is bursting with fall festivals


Rebecca Bollwitt

A bucolic coastal landscape, where leaves turn the colour of sea kelp and the tide’s emerald sheen reflects the bright boughs of rugged conifers. It may seem peaceful, serene and even sleepy on the Sunshine Coast in autumn, but just as I watched honey bees buzz around a patch of purple flowers at the botanical gardens on a sun-kissed September morning, this region is a hive of activity - particularly in the fall.

Whether it’s 380 artists in 165 galleries and studios opening up for “The Crawl,” or festival-goers celebrating the 30,000 types of mushrooms that grow in the Northwest, the Sunshine Coast has so many intriguing and immersive events. And I, was fortunate to meet with a few of the people involved in making them happen:

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Halfmoon Bay Apple Festival, October 20th

Sunshine Coast
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

“The seed was planted five years ago,” said Nick Farrer, as he asked me to pardon his pun as we stood in the tasting room of Bricker Cider in Sechelt. Nick’s business partners and co-owners grew up on the Sunshine Coast and their grandmother, whose maiden name was Bricker, inspired the company name.

Sunshine Coast
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

“She lived just up the road, a kilometre away and with her apple trees, she got her kids and grandkids into making cider.” Bricker grows and uses as many Sunshine Coast apples as they can and they’ll also be participating in the Halfmoon Bay Apple Festival, pressing apples and supplying the cider for the event.

The Halfmoon Bay Apple Festival has an apple butter-making workshop taking place with the main festival being held at Cooper’s Green Regional Park. Come out and celebrate the festival’s 10th anniversary and the harvest with musicians, food, produce and craft vendors, games and pony rides.

Mushroom Foraging on the Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

“Do you have any old growth around here?” J Duane Sept, asked the gardener at the botanical gardens in Sechelt. Duane has authored over 20 books, ranging from Common Wildflowers, Trees of the Northwest and the definitive pocket guide to Common Mushrooms of the Northwest. “You wrote that tidal pool, beachcombing book too didn’t you,” said Mary, the garden’s manager.

Now, I’ve been beachcombing before, looking for sea glass and seashells in Sooke, but I have never been on a mission to spot mushrooms in the forest. I feel it’s changed my whole outlook on forest walks altogether. With Duane’s book in hand and along with my camera, we set out on the perimeter walk of the botanical gardens. Look for old growth – that’s where mushrooms thrive. Conifers, they are good for fungi and mushroom growth too. And of course, moisture. Last year was the worst for mushrooms, Duane told me. He expects this season to be much, much better.

Make sure to check out the Powell River Mushroom Festival on November 3rd.

Sunshine Coast
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

I also learned that mushrooms can grow in bark mulch, so if you’re out looking for fungi, don’t forget to look on the path most-traveled too. We spotted Witch’s Butter, Wooly Inkcaps, Tiger’s Eye and Pear-Shaped Puffballs. “Sometimes they’re nothing spectacular colour-wise, but when you see them in full numbers, it’s quite the sight!”

Sechelt Arts Festival, October 18 - 20

Sunshine Coast
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

“Have some tea first, then some cake,” said celebrated artist, Motoko as she tipped her teapot and filled my ceramic cup. We sat in her gallery, which doubles as her studio in the off season, with her acrylic, watercolour and encaustic hanging on the naturally-lit walls.

“This isn’t a gallery where you come in and see a salesperson. It’s just me, and I enjoy meeting each guest and talking to them. They ask me questions about my art and I offer tea.”

Motoko will be participating in a multi-genre visual arts exhibition during the Sechelt Arts Festival called Earth Art at the Seaside Centre in Sechelt. Her inspiration mostly comes from the natural elements of the Sunshine Coast, and around her home studio in Pender Harbour. Three of her canvases, Spring Moss Forest, recently sold to a couple visiting from Switzerland. Earth Art will feature eight local artists and will showcase how the west coast landscape has inspired their creativity.

The Sechelt Arts Festival will also feature an array of performance art that includes an acrobatic and musical circus in a longhouse, taiko and First Nations drummers, a youth concert and Sunshine Coasters covering the music of other Coasters. There will also be a tribute to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

Sunshine Coast Art Crawl

Sunshine Coast
Photo: Rebecca Bollwitt

“It's great to see where people come from and to see their response to your work,” said ceramic artist, Beth Hawthorne as we walked into her studio, which is located in a masterfully converted horse stable in Roberts Creek. “Often when you're creating, you're in your own little zone, so actually having people come through and seeing what they respond to is pretty valuable.”

Beth and her partner, Robert Studer have been opening their studio doors for the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl for the last eight years. With hundreds of artists and artisans along the coast, I asked Beth what made the region such a draw for creative types. She says the proximity to Vancouver – for supplies and materials – is ideal, but overall, it’s the beauty of the area, plus the nurturing community.

“You've got the ocean and the mountains, all within 10 minutes of each other, and also because there is a strong art community that pulls like-minded artists up here.”

Even if you’ve done the crawl before, Beth says there are always new artists popping up, so one Crawl is never the same year to year. There’s always something new to experience!

The Sunshine Coast Art Crawl is a highly anticipated annual event, where everything comes together. Satellite events and festivals compliment this massive interactive art show that stretches from Langdale to Earls Cove, Earls Cove to Langdale October 18 – 20.

If You Go

Learn more about the awesome fall festivals on the Sunshine Coast here.

Read about the Sechelt Arts Festival on our festival overview page.

BC Ferries leaves from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver  to the Sunshine Coast with around 10 sailings daily, plus sailings from Vancouver Island to the northern Sunshine Coast (Powell River), or you can take advantage of the many other transportation services including float planes, passenger ferry service, and more.

Sunshine Coast Tourism can help make plans.

Tag #SunshineCoastBC and #ZenSeekers on your travels here and you might be featured on their social media channels.

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