Situated between Jervis Inlet and Desolation Sound  along the edge of Malaspina Strait, Powell River (population 15,500) is almost surrounded by water. It’s a thriving center for the region’s abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, including salmon fishing (good year-round), trout fishing, scuba diving, sailing, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking.
Beyond downtown Powell River (also called Westview) is the original townsite, occupied by an ugly waterfront pulp mill and a number of boarded-up buildings.
The ferry terminal in Powell River is at the foot of Duncan St., right downtown. BC Ferries (604/485-2943) has regular sailings between Powell River and Comox on Vancouver Island . One-way fares for the 75-minute sailing are adult $11.80, child $5.90, vehicle $37.50.
Powell River Visitor Centre (4871 Joyce Ave., 604/485-4701, www.discoverpowellriver.com , daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m. in summer, weekdays only the rest of the year) is in the Crossorads Village Shopping Centre.
Start your exploration by visiting the excellent Powell River Historical Museum across the road from Willingdon Beach (4798 Marine Ave., 604/485-2222, summer daily 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., the rest of the year Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., adult $2, child $1), which holds a vast collection of photographs, displays telling the story of this seashore community, native artifacts, and even the shanty home of a hermit who once lived along Powell Lake. Starting across from the museum is the 1.2-kilometer (0.7-mile) Willingdon Beach Trail, lined by interpretive boards describing natural features and the uses of old logging machinery scattered along the trail.
North of town is the original townsite, built around a bay that still holds a working pulp and paper mill complex. The Heritage Walk brochure (available at the information center) will guide you around the interesting array of buildings that date from 1910 to the 1930s. Many—such as the grand Hotel Rodmay and the imposing Federal Building—have been boarded up for decades.
The sheltered Sunshine Coast  provides plenty of opportunities for good lake and ocean canoeing or kayaking. One of the best-known local paddles is the Powell Forest Canoe Route, a four- to eight-day backcountry trip that requires a few portages, or can be paddled in a single section. Mitchell Canoe & Kayak (8690 Hwy. 101, 604/487-1609, www.canoeingbc.com ) rents canoes for $26–33 for one day, or $23–26 per day for five or more days. The company also rents all the necessary accessories and fishing gear, provides free parking, and runs a shuttle service to and from the put-in ($60).
Although Powell River Sea Kayak (Malaspina Rd., 604/483-2160 or 866/617-4444, www.bcseakayak.com ) outfits for the Powell Forest Canoe Route, kayaks are its specialty. Single and double kayaks for use around local waterways rent for $50–70 for one day, $70–110 for two days, additional days $20–40. Guided two-hour tours are $55, overnight sea-kayaking trips start at $240, and three-hour basic kayaking classes start at $55.
Known as the “Diving Capital of Canada,” the Strait of Georgia provides divers with exceptionally clear, relatively warm water and more than 100 exciting dives mapped by local experts. Conditions are particularly excellent in winter, when visibility reaches 30 meters. Expect to see underwater cliffs and abundant marinelife, including sponges, giant octopuses, wolf eels, perch, ling cod, tubeworms, sea anemones, nudibranchs (including intriguing hooded nudibranchs), sea stars, crabs, and tunicates. Diving gear and a list of charter operators are available at Alpha Dive and Kayak (7050 Field St., 604/485-6939, www.divepowellriver.com ).
One of the most attractive and relaxing lodgings in Powell River is
Beacon Bed and Breakfast (3750 Marine Dr. 604/485-5563 or 800/485-5563, www.beaconbb.com , $109–119 s, $119–129 d), overlooking Malaspina Strait and the peaks of Vancouver Island  two kilometers (1.2 miles) south of the ferry terminal. Within the two-story home are two guest rooms, both with ocean views. Facilities include a lounge area overlooking the water, an outdoor hot tub, Internet access, spa services, and in-room luxuries like fluffy robes. Rates include a big breakfast that will set you up for a day of outdoor activities.
The least-expensive motel-like rooms at Beach Gardens Resort (7074 Westminster Ave., 604/485-6267 or 800/663-7070, www.beachgardens.com , $89–189 s or d.), five kilometers (3.1 miles) south of the ferry terminal, are more than made up for by amenities such as an indoor swimming pool, sauna, tennis courts, a fitness room, and a marina with boat rentals and divers’ air (it’s a great place to meet fellow scuba enthusiasts). The resort’s restaurant offers lunchtime buffets and a pub.
Willingdon Beach Campsite (4845 Marine Ave., 604/485-2242, www.willingdonbeach.ca , $18 tent sites, $20–25 hookups) enjoys a great waterfront location one kilometer (0.6 miles) north of the ferry terminal. You’ll find sheltered and very popular campsites along the beach, as well as a laundry and washrooms with free hot showers.
Head to Rocky Mountain Pizza and Bakery Co. (4471 Marine Ave., 604/485-9111, Mon.–Sat. from 6:30 a.m., Sunday from 8 a.m., pizzas $12–19) for great bakery items, coffee as strong (or as weak) as you like it, and daily newspapers.
At the marina overlooking Powell Lake, north of town, the Shinglemill (604/483-2001, daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m., $13.50–27.50) is part pub, part restaurant, with the former spilling out onto a wide deck. The pub menu is wide-ranging, with the seafood chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl ($7.25) being a good choice. In the restaurant, mains such as salmon baked in a soy-ginger glaze add a little sophistication to the scene.