Sechelt is the largest community on the Sunshine Coast.
Nestled a pristinely beautiful location between Sechelt Inlet and the Strait of Georgia, Sechelt also boasts a rich cultural legacy and an intriguing history.
Just 50km/31mi north of modern-day Vancouver, the Sechelt Peninsula was the ancestral home of the Sechelt Nation for thousands of years. The name "Sechelt" is derived from the original Coast Salish name for the nation, "Shishalh," and means "land between two waters." Skilled farmers, hunters, and traders, First Nations people also specialized in woodwork, creating everything from animal carvings and cedar baskets to totem poles and traditional canoes. Sechelt was incorporated as a district municipality in 1986. In 1952, the Sechelt Nation became the first aboriginal group to receive self-government rights.
Early European Settlement
European settlers began to arrive en masse in the 19th century. A Catholic mission was established in Sechelt in the 1860s. Other new arrivals had more secular aims. John Scales of the British Army's Royal Engineers purchased land in the Sechelt area. Thomas John Cook and his wife Sarah became the first permanent European settlers in Sechelt in 1893.
Herbert Whitaker was another key pioneer, building up Sechelt's infrastructure. At the dawn of the 20th century, Whitaker owned local logging camps and sawmills, a hotel and cottages, and a store. He served as the local postmaster and ran the wharf where the Union Steamship Company's ships arrived.
Sechelt in the 20th Century
Tourism and logging emerged as core industries for Sechelt, which continued to expand on its narrow strip of oceanfront land. Rockwood Lodge, the current home of the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, was built as a Union Steamship Company resort in 1936, and St. Hilda's Anglican Church was also erected that year. The Sechelt Elementary School followed in 1939.
A huge step forward for the community came in 1951 when a regular car ferry service was established between Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) and the Sunshine Coast (Langdale). That would end the reign of the Union Steamship Company by the end of the decade. But it was for the better overall, as locals could now commute to and fro between Vancouver and home with greater ease.
The paving of Highway 101 in 1952 facilitated driving to Gibsons, Pender Harbour, Powell River, and other communities along the Sunshine Coast.
Today, the Sechelt Nation is committed to preserving their rich culture. To learn more about this culture, head to the House of Chiefs museum, or the House of Héwhíwus. Exhibits showcase traditional weaving and salmon-smoking methods, colourful masks and paddles, stone carvings, and more. Performances with live singing and dancing take place in the adjacent Raven's Cry theatre.
Meanwhile, Sechelt is full of amiable, outdoorsy residents who love water activities like fishing, diving, and kayaking, and also show great pride in their artists and art galleries. It's easy to relax here with a walk by Davis Bay or shopping along Cowrie Street.
A worthwhile pictorial history book about Sechelt is Helen Dawes' Sechelt.