Horseshoe Bay December 11, 2019
The Early Days
Prior to the beginning of the 20th century, Horseshoe Bay remained an isolated and undeveloped area. That is, until Albert Whyte arrived on the scene. Whyte’s West Shore and Northern Land Company developed what was then called White Cliff City. With its added amenities, such as a water and sewer system, the project attracted many new residents. The completion of the P.G.E. railway and Marine Drive roadway brought further development to the Horseshoe Bay area.
Then, in 1931, another land developer named Dan Sewell bought waterfront property on which he built a resort called Whytecliff Lodge. Later, he added a marina and hotel, as a part of his plan to create a sport fishing business. News of his new fishing resort spread quickly, and Whytecliff Lodge soon developed a North American-wide reputation.
The Horseshoe Bay Ferries
There had been a few small ferries servicing the area. But it was not until the 1951 that a reliable ferry system was put into place, after Black Ball Ferries in Seattle leased property in Horseshoe Bay and began regular ferry service. First came the ferry service to Gibsons. Later, they added additional ferry service to Bowen Island and Nanaimo.
Trouble arrived in 1958, though, when a strike by Back Ball workers threatened to isolate Vancouver Island without ferry service. The Civil Defense Act allowed the government to take control of their ferry operations to avoid a disruption of service. Afterwards, when a government proposal for expanded ferry service was turned down by the private ferry companies, the government started its own ferry service. By 1961, government expansion led to the purchase Back Ball Ferries, and the provincial ferry operation was on its way to the establishment of BC Ferries.
Horseshoe Bay Today
Today, the bedroom community of Horseshoe Bay has become the starting point of the incredibly scenic Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler. This section of Highway 99 winds through the Coast Mountains, starting from the coastal rain forest at Horseshoe Bay, and continuing up through Squamish, to the Resort town of Whistler, and on to Pemberton and Lillooet, BC.
The pleasant waterfront of Horseshoe Bay offers quaint cafés, restaurants, gift shops and boutiques. Most spectacular are the great views of the surrounding mountains and islands, and the scenic Howe Sound.
The beauty of this part of Howe Sound has a certain unique mystique, one that has been especially inspirational for my own work. I hope you enjoy it!