• red starfish on rocks

Beaches in Powell River

From Savary Island to Saltery Bay

Visitors are often surprised to find that there are many Powell River beaches to discover and explore – often completely free of people – where warm yellow sand meets gently lapping ocean waves

Savary Island

When people think of beaches here, most conjure images of sunny, sandy Savary Island. This spectacularly unique island just offshore from Lund is one of Powell River’s pre-eminent tourist destinations. Funky cabins are dotted around the wooded interior of this almost completely sand-based oasis. The yellow beaches are frequented summer-round by all manner of vacation seekers, locals and visitors alike, basking in the summer sun and enjoying the unusually warm waves that lap the sandy coast.

Savary Island’s is located at the meeting point of two tidal streams – around the northern and southern tips of Vancouver Island. This means that the water temperatures in this part of the world are much higher than elsewhere. Indeed, it is said that Desolation Sound has the warmest summer water temperatures north of Baja California!

This is especially true when the sun has time to bake the yellow sand on long beaches or in protected coves. The incoming tide warms up to perfect swimming conditions, tempting even the most hesitant swimmer into the calm ocean.

Sandy Savary Island is home to some of the most famous Powell River beaches
Duck Bay on Savary Island is often completely free of people no matter what time of year

South Beach is the most popular beach destination on Savary, easily accessed by crossing the shortest length of the island after hopping off the water taxi from Lund. Huge fields of driftwood line the high tide line of the beach and are creatively put to use  to build makeshift shelters with which to avoid the summer heat, while skim boarders, kayakers and stand-up paddle boarders drift up and down the coast in the ebbing and flowing tide.

On the western edge of Savary, Indian Point is another popular beach with long expanses of sand stretching out further and further from the shore at low tide towards the distant, snow-capped peaks of Vancouver Island on the horizon.

Duck Bay on the southern shore of Savary, around the geographical centre of the long, snake-like isle, is almost continuously vacant no matter which time of year, save for the occasional dogwalker or kayaker camping onshore. This large bay is protected from the ocean by a long, rocky reef of erratic boulders – remnants of the island’s formation as a glacial moraine – which keep the power boats out and the atmosphere serene. At low tide you can even walk right out to many of the these boulders and search amongst them for all kinds of marine and bird life, from sea stars and cucumbers to beached seals and bald eagles.

On the shoreward side of Duck Bay the island is protected from development to better protect this sensitive eco-system from overuse and exploitation, and creating an oasis of solitude amongst the islands more populated and popular bays, beaches and coves.

Savary aside, right up and down the Upper Sunshine Coast it is easy to find a stunning and often secluded beach to walk the dog, while away an afternoon, or jump in the ocean to refresh and recharge after a busy day of exploring and adventuring elsewhere.

Ols logging equipment at Duck Bay on Savary Island
Volleyball nets at WIllingdon Beach, one of the most visited of the Powell River beaches

Powell River Beaches

In the middle of town, Willingdon Beach sits at the northern end of the commercial hub of Marine Drive and is probably the most popular and well-known of the Powell River beaches. Willingdon has easy access to the Willingdon Beach Trail and acts as the focal point for many festivals and events including PRISMA performances, Powell River Logging Sports, Sea Fair, Powell River Pride, and much more.

Gibson’s Beach is accessed right off Highway 101, less than 10 minutes north of town. Perfect for beachside BBQs – away from civilization and with large open areas for the kids to play in the sand or explore the myriad of pools along the shore – Gibson’s beach has fantastic views to the north west, meaning those long afternoons are often punctuated by a dazzling sunset over northern Vancouver Island at the end of a relaxing summer’s day.

Gibson’s easy vehicle access right off the highway also makes it a great launching point for kayaking  or canoeing up and down the coast.

South of Powell River beaches can be accessed at various points along the highway. One of the more popular beaches is Donkersley Beach, found at the end of Donkersley Road just south of the Lang Bay store. This beach has a south west aspect which offers incredible, expansive views straight down the Strait of Georgia, between Texada and Nelson Islands in the direction of the southern Gulf Islands far in the distance, and a very unique perspective not usually seen from other Powell River coastlines.

At low tide the flat sandy beach at Donkersley extends far into the distance, much like a low tide at Savary, and this is enjoyed by all sorts of revellers. Huge games of frisbee take place along the shore, skimboarders throw down tricks along the smooth wet sand by the water, kids sit and build massive sandcastles that could stand the test of time. Indeed, the sandy nature of the beach allows families to stretch out and explore to their heart’s content, with less worries about barnacle encrusted rocks and steep cliffs plummeting into the ocean. As the tide rises, too, the warm sand heats the incoming water to bath-like temperatures, transporting you far away with just a little imagination to much warmer, southern climates.

Two canoeists paddling along Powell River beaches