Clenching my fists in my lap, I inhale deeply and nod nervously at the pilot who asks if I can hear him through my headphones. It’s only my second time boarding a float plane, and let’s just say that my stomach didn’t agree with my first flight.
I’m about to experience the brand new Flights to Flights Air and Ale Tour offered by Sunshine Coast Art Tours, and Sunshine Coast Air. which begins with a scenic 25-minute flight aboard a classic, six-seater De Havilland Beaver that takes us over Sechelt Inlet on the Sunshine Coast of B.C. Two friends and I are experiencing the inaugural tour, and this first flight has me feeling equal parts nervous and excited.
Josh, the pilot, casually pulls up on the wheel and laughs at me as he sees my eyes widen. The lift off is smooth and my stomach is surprisingly stable. As Sechelt sinks further and further away from my feet, I’m mesmerized by the sparkling sea that blankets below.
I spot a bay of turquoise water and white sandy shores below, as though I’m soaring over a tropical archipelago. “That’s South Thormanby Island,” the pilot nods at it, answering my unasked question. I glance back at my friend sitting behind me to see if she shares my enthusiasm, and laugh out loud when I see that she too is wide eyed and awestruck.
The view over Thormanby Island
When we land we’re giddy with chatter, wildly waving farewells to our pilot as we walk towards the 15-passenger Sunshine Coast Art Tours van where our tour director Douglas, decked out in a neatly tied neck scarf and Coogan cap, warmly greets us and helps us in.
The “ale” portion of our tour takes us to Bricker Cider Company, a family-run farmstead whose red barn is sweetly surrounded by a cluster of picnic tables set amidst rows of apple trees. We sip on our chosen trio of ciders (Elderberry and Lavender cider quickly becomes a personal favourite), all made on site, as we nibble at a charcuterie board. I take a final swig before jumping back into the van for the next leg of our tour.
Bricker Cider Company
Found at the end of a windy dirt road, Bruinwood Estate Distillery—the second stop on our sipping tour—is a pleasant surprise. Set in a structure that more resembles a modern West Coast home than a craft distillery site, the property is as warm and welcoming as its hosts. We sip on Earl Grey Gin and curious craft creations such as the Pechuga, a savoury Mexican liqueur made of chicken breast, mango, rice, corn, garlic and spices.
Bruinwood Estate Distillery
The last stop of our five-hour tour takes us to Batch 44, a new brewery that sits snug in the centre of downtown Sechelt. Washing down fried pickles and battered cauliflower with sips of Halfmoon Pale Ale, I jest about the jitters I had felt at the start of our flight, and take comfort in hearing that my friends had felt the same. We clink our glasses with cheers to new adventures, old friends, and the memories made on our day’s journey, and wave goodbye as Douglas dashes off with an enthusiastic farewell.
Where to Stay
Make a weekend of your visit to the Sunshine Coast with a stay at Painted Boat Resort & Spa. There, you’ll find coastal chic waterfront villas, each with a fully equipped kitchen, an expansive deck with BBQ, a soaker tub, and lots of room for a cozy night in. Cook in your cabin, or enjoy a night out at the on-site Lagoon Restaurant, which offers a menu of seasonal west coast fare with an international twist—think roasted beet salad crowned with a rainbow of assorted seasonal greens, or belly-filling braised Moroccan lamb with crispy polenta. Order the Luscious Lemon house cocktail (Limoncello, lime, Prosecco, served down) and watch the sun set over the marina.
Painted Boat Resort and Spa
While You’re There
A morning nature walk along raised wooden boardwalks takes you to the scenic viewpoint at Smuggler Cove, where boats anchor and hikers picnic at the edge of a quiet patch of emerald green water amongst the surrounding rugged rocky terrain.
Complete your weekend getaway with lunch at the new El Segundo Restaurant, where the vibrant tropical decor is as delicious as the dishes that are served. Pork and Egg Tacos (rich pork belly topped with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chipotle and mayo, along with a savoury ramen-style egg) pair perfectly with the Singing in the Wild Branches cocktail (local Sheringham gin and sake, sweetened with house made cherry blossom liqueur and topped with frothy egg white) for an off-the-charts treat before you catch your ferry home.
El Segundo Restaurant