With a population of approximately 4500 living in 2100+ private dwellings, several prestigious awards - World’s Best Tasting Water, World’s Most Liveable Community with population under 20,000 - and a possible resort hotel and Granville-Island-style public market in early development stages, Gibsons makes a great liveable destination just 40 minutes by ferry from Vancouver.
Most people do not know that the Squamish First Nations people shared the Sunshine Coast territory with the Shishalh peoples. The Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw are known as part of the Salmon Peoples of the cedar longhouse (http://www.squamish.net/about-us/ our-history/) and had settlements along western Howe Sound and Chaster Beach. The Squamish National Traditional Territory extends from Howe Sound to Burrard Inlet and English Bay to Point Grey, encompassing all of the Gibsons area.
Early explorers came from Spain in the 1790s and many of the place names we see on area maps date back to those explorations and the British explorers who followed immediately after. The name ‘Gibsons’ comes from the surname of the first European settler to the area, George Gibson (his name was in the singular form), who purchased the first parcel of land in May of 1886. He was also the first farmer on the Sunshine Coast, growing enough produce to ship to Vancouver, and Gibsons today still has a healthy and productive farming community with larger acreages spread out on the flank of Elphinstone down to the sea at Chaster Beach.
Gibsons Landing, as it was originally known in the early 1900s, was a busy harbour with a wharf, postal outlet (George was the first Sunshine Coast postmaster). A second George purchased acreage in 1906 - Hopkins Landing - followed by the arrival of F.C. Grantham. Grantham invested heavily in the area, creating a large resort just outside Gibson’s Landing. In the summer months vacationers filled up to 25 cabins, dining on local produce and dairy products. Another strong influence in the area were the Finnish settlers relocating from Sointula on Malcolm Island (across from Port McNeill on Vancouver Island). Their socialist outlook informed the community in many ways, from the building of halls for community gatherings, to the Coast’s first co-op.
A Working Town
Gibsons has long had a history of manufacturing and industry. From the huge Howe Sound Pulp and Paper company, to the large-scale forestry sector, a busy fruit cannery, and a vibrant fishing community, Port Mellon through to Gibson’s Landing is the solid footing on which much of the Coast south of Sechelt was built. Today, Gibsons Landing is known for its busy harbour and active seaside village life. Bed and breakfasts and small vacation rentals ring the harbour, which is overlooked from restaurants, galleries, condos and old-fashioned cottages. Residents love to watch the boats entering and leaving the harbour with the backdrop of Keats and Gambier Island and the imposing mountains to the east. Spring through fall weekend markets and live music on piers and walkways make this a popular destination for both locals and visitors. Beautiful flower baskets and micro gardens sponsored by businesses along Marine Drive and Gower Point Road frames harbour views, perfect for gallery wandering, hanging with the locals in cafes, or dining overlooking ‘the Bluff’ and Shoal Channel.
Real estate in the area offers a wide range of options: mixed residential of condos, cottages, apartments, and larger showpiece homes with acreages or on high bank waterfront with commanding views of Howe Sound and the Salish Sea. The Landing also offers commercial and leased space for small business, and industrial lands and business parks sprinkle the stretch from Langdale to the road’s terminus in Port Mellon. There is transit available on a regular basis in the Landing, Upper Gibsons and out to Langdale, and an application is currently underway to have Sunshine Coast Transit offer a regular half-hour service between the Landing and the retail and major housing area along the Sunshine Coast Highway after a successful summer pilot project.
The Chasters Beach/Bonniebrook area is a unique community accessed via Gower Point Road and Pratt and Veteran’s roads to the west. This quiet community is known for its cottage lifestyle, with miles of rocky beach perfect for bonfires, kayaking and watching the sun set. This community is vehicle-dependent as there are no stores or amenities in the area, though there is a small oceanfront inn and waterfront restaurant for fine dining year round (winter months limited days of operation). Gibsons waterfront is accessed via a number of beach access points located along the Bluff and Gower Point Road, and the arbutus grove on Gower Point with views overlooking the Pasley Islands and the Salish Sea is a popular walking/slow drive spot.
Upper Gibsons, as it is referred to by locals, is a mix of farming, affordable single family homes, condos, apartments and commercial/retail businesses. The area’s retail community is largely centered into two main areas: the central Sunnycrest Mall, and the younger Gibsons Park Plaza. Shops range from anchor grocery tenants like Super Valu and Marketplace IGA to chain retail outlets, sporting goods, home furnishings and kitchenware and hardware/building supplies. Sprinkled within these areas are cafes, pubs, motels, professional and medical/dental services commercial space and boutique buildings.
Behind the retail stretch in Gibsons are busy commercial operations like mechanical service, boat-building and repairs, and light manufacturing. The plateau beyond is where the majority of farming operations in Gibsons reside, with roadside stands, small animal husbandry operations, kennels, stables and even a craft brewery. Lot sizes are larger and roads quieter and the mix of residential, commercial and farms makes for a unique community in an otherwise busy high-energy part of the Coast.
The Gibsons area was accessed for many years by steamboat by lower mainlanders and still today is a commuter community for many who head into the city on the ‘first boat’ and return at end of day. Frequent transit service to both the Langdale and Horseshoe Bay terminals, combined with affordable family housing make Gibsons a popular residential area for people new to the Coast. Though a decade ago much of the Coast had a ‘maňana’ feel, Gibsons today runs pretty much on Vancouver time, same or next-day availability of most products and services.
Gibsons has a very active arts community, with regular performances of live music, film, theatre and comedy in a mix of venues ranging from art galleries to movie houses and the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse. It is also home to one of the regional recreation centres, with a curling rink, pool, competition-sized baseball and soccer fields, and the Gibsons & Area Community Centre, with NHL-sized arena, squash and racquetball courts, youth centre and a wellness studio. A popular skateboard/bmx bowl is just outside the centre.
Sprockids Bicycle Park is a popular mountain biking destination, with a mix of trails ranging from beginner and skill development bowl to advanced mountain biking on the slopes of Mount Elphinstone. Mt. Elphinstone is a popular backcountry hiking area, with several historical spots like the Old Tramway Trail where early logging equipment still waits on the mountain for the return of the old ways.
A thriving Seniors Society offers a range of activities at Harmony Hall in the Landing, from Scottish country dancing to carpet bowling, from bridge and card games to tai chi. Supportive housing for seniors is available at the Gibsons Garden Inn, within easy, flat walking distance to health clinics, shopping, and transit.
Gibsons is home to a number of schools from pre-school to grade 12: three elementary schools, a secondary school, and the Sunshine Coast Alternative School.
Cedar Grove Elementary - Principal Barry Krangle
Cedar Grove Elementary is located just outside of the Town of Gibsons. Approximately 240 students enjoy their well- equipped school, a large accessible children s 'playground, extensive fields and a full scale medicine wheel. The students and staff are supported by very active and involved parents. Students, staff and the community enjoy the grove of many beautiful and culturally significant red cedar trees for which the school is named.
Gibsons Elementary - Principal Deborah Luporini
Gibsons Elementary provides a strong focus in reading and math instruction to over 300 students. This has been a goal over the past 4 years and we are proud to see data to support the increase in student performance. These positive results are reflective of regular reviews of instructional practice and a focus on the '"right things." Students enjoy a caring environment that includes a daily on site breakfast program, an after school Kids Club, Aboriginal Gathering Events, a new daycare and a StrongStart Center, all apart of the Neighbourhood Learning Center and Early Years Hub. Gibsons is vibrant and focused on supporting families.
Langdale Elementary - Principal Gregory Walters
Langdale Elementary is proud to be the cerntre for learning within this small community at the south end of the School District. It is a busy learning center where students benefit from being known by all staff. The schools success can be attributed to its eager, caring staff members and the thoughtful efforts of an extremely positive, active group of parents and community members. This is the little school that could, offering exceptional opportunities for students in the areas of literacy, athletics, citizenship, outdoor studies and the arts.
Elphinstone Secondary - Principal John Brisebois - Vice Principal Richard Biel
Elphinstone enrolls 225 students in the Town of Gibsons. The school has excellent facilities for physical education, the arts and technology. A well established partnership with Coast Cable allows for highly regarded video TV program to exist within the school. Staff work together to ensure the success of each student through a variety of different learning experiences. ITs unique kinesiology program includes post secondary visits and workshops. Creative grade structures and unique in class supports help propel our students through each high school and beyond.