By sea and by land: Rolling on and off the water on a drive and ferry trip to British Columbia

By Gary A. Warner

The Orange County Register (MCT)

Published: Saturday, Oct. 20 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

Good eats: Rhodos Coffee Roasting Co., Courtenay. Stop in on the way to the ferry if the motel breakfast doesn't kick start your day. 364 Eighth St., No. 106; 250-338-5592; rhodoscoffee.com

Why Powell River: A newspaperman's heart is going to love Powell River — which once ground trees into newsprint used around the world. But the town refused to go belly-up when the mill laid off thousands and ownership changed. It has reinvented itself anew within a shell of the old town.

To Halfmoon Bay

Distance 60 miles, including a ferry between Saltery Bay and Earl's Landing.

Quote: "I'm looking way out at the ocean

"Love to see that green water in motion

"I'm going to get a boat

"And we can row it

"If you ever get the notion

"To be needed by me

"Fresh salmon frying

"And the tide rolling in."

— Joni Mitchell, "Lesson in Survival," from the album "For the Roses"

Along the way: Rockwater Secret Cove Resort. A favorite of the high-end glossy magazines for its luxury tents set dramatically on rocks overlooking an inlet, all linked by a weathered wood walkway. It's a romantic spot. I checked out the tents and the log cabins, and my vote goes to the less glitzy but more sequestered cabins. 5356 Ole's Cove Road, Halfmoon Bay; 877-296-4593; rockwatersecretcoveresort.com

Good eats: Rockwater Secret Cove Resort. Even if you can't afford to stay at the resort, stop in for a drink or dinner at the pretty little cove set amid the woods and water of the Sunshine Coast.

Why Halfmoon Bay: Joni Mitchell. If you've ever seen her album "For the Roses," you've seen the Halfmoon Bay area. In high school, I fell in love with the freckle-faced woman on the cover (on a rock in an inlet). Mitchell bought a place here as a hideaway from the craziness of fame in Los Angeles and New York. She still keeps a residence in the area and is active in local preservation struggles. I went to the General Store, where she is known to visit, but no Joni on this trip.

To Vancouver airport

Distance 92 miles, including a ferry from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay and getting seriously lost driving in North Vancouver.

Quote: "We hope you have a good time in L.A."

— Westjet pilot's announcement as we approach John Wayne Airport in Orange County on the flight back from Vancouver.

Along the way: After so many beautiful trips across the water, the 40-minute ferry ride between Gambier and Bowen Islands was the most dramatic of the trip, with towering, pine-covered mountainsides. It helped that the roiling gray clouds parted frequently for blasts of sunlight that freckled the waters before receding into the low-lying mist. A classic bit of put-on-your-jacket Canada.

Good eats: Molly's Reach, Gibsons Landing. Locals will tell you there are better places to eat on the Sunshine Coast and even better places to eat up the street in Gibsons. But I'm a sucker for other cultures' icons, especially ones I know absolutely nothing about. Molly's was the setting for a hit TV series called "The Beachcombers," and Canadians will drive across the continent just to have fish and chips here. It's kind of like the "Cheers" bar in Boston. It doesn't matter if the food is good, you've achieved your goal when you walk in the door. Dive into someone else's sentimental obsessions. Fun to see the glow on the tourists' faces when they come through the door. 647 School Road; 604-885-9106; mollysreach.ca

Why Vancouver: The end.

If you go …

B.C. ferries: Fast and efficient ferries are suited to long hauls from the mainland to Vancouver Island or short jumps across long inlets. Book your reservations ahead of time during peak summer months or holidays like Thanksgiving. Morning southbound sailings and evening northbound sailings along the southern Sunshine Coast can get crowded with commuters going in and out of Vancouver. Prices vary by season and time. Go to bcferries.com or call 888-223-3779.

More info: HelloBC.com, sunshinecoastcanada.com

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