I recently went on a week long camping trip to the Sunshine Coast. While it is not the easiest part of British Columbia to get to, it is certainly worth the effort.
From Victoria, one of the best ways to see the Sunshine Coast is by making a loop. Ours started by driving through Vancouver and taking the Langdale Ferry and finished by taking the ferry from Powell River to Comox, then driving down the Island. While on the trip we stayed in three different places and tried to stop and visit each little village along the way. Our last stop was in Powell River. It turns out, it is a pretty cool place and certainly worth a visit.
The town has at least three distinct parts to it that I visited. There is a great commercial strip along Marine Avenue, there is a newer commercial area for shopping centred around Joyce Avenue and there is the Powell River historic townsite that is about 3.5 kilometres to the north.
If you are staying a couple of nights in and around Powell River, you will likely need to do some shopping around the Joyce Avenue area, it has grocery stores, strip malls and gas stations and anything else you are likely to need on your trip.
In town, if you are wanting to go out for something to eat or just want a beautiful walk, I would highly recommend Marine Avenue. I was quite surprised and impressed by it. There is a port feel to it, as it looks over the ferry terminal and marinas but there is also a strong West Coast cool vibe that you wouldn't necessarily think about when you hear "Powell River". There was a great coffee shop called Base Camp Coffee and quite a few restaurants that looked good. We went to the excellent, Costa del Sol Restaurant that focused on Latin American cuisine. We had just an appy and a main and it was way too much, but also delicious.
If you are visiting Powell River and like architecture and history, a visit to the historic Townsite is a must. It is just a short drive from the rest of Powell River.
The townsite was recognised in 1995, as an intact historic district by the federal government and it is evident why. Originally built by the Powell River Company starting in 1911, the townsite was to house and serve those working at the paper mill. The townsite was completely pre-planned and continued to follow that plan for many decades after the first buildings were constructed. The central townsite is on a hill rising above the enormous mill, which at one time was the largest producer of newsprint paper in the world.
Make sure to walk around the central part of the townsite, there are beautiful Arts and Crafts Houses, old wooden churches and in the commercial district, well kept brick buildings (One of which is home to the very popular Townsite Brewing Company), and the longest continuously running movie theatre in British Columbia.
The design and the implementation of the plan for the townsite is considered a good example of the Garden City movement that grew in popularity in the late 1800s. The central elements are a completely planned community with parks, industry, commercial and industry in their own portions of the plan and completely surrounded by a green belt. As you walk around the townsite you can certainly see the thought that had gone into it.
As I have read about and then seen the Powell River townsite, I can see that there is a lot of opportunity to make the townsite in particular, though the whole town would benefit, a significant tourist destination. With a couple of recreated buildings in the centre and some effort by the province, the experience could come near the same level as Barkerville, Skagway, Alaska or Virginia City, Nevada.
That said even now Powell River is definitely worth a visit.