PRIDE: Want some small town to go along with your extravaganza?

Kayaking out of Sargeant Bay, Halfmoon Bay Sunshine Coast

Here it comes for 2011: another huge helping of one of North America’s most popular queer festivals, Vancouver Pride. Over 600,000 spectators will line up to view the signature parade on Sunday July 31, but both before and after, queer and GLBT-friendly fans will be looking for activities to fill out the 10 day stretch bracketing the festival.

If you’re looking for a counterpoint to the fabulous big city oomph and non-stop events, why not make a day trip or short getaway to the Sunshine Coast on either side of Pride Week?

Many Vancouverites would be surprised to learn that just 40 minutes away by BC Ferries from Horseshoe Bay there is an 86km stretch of coastline running from Howe Sound to Earl’s Cove that is one of the most gay & lesbian friendly rural areas in Canada. After the First Nations community, the GLBT demographic is the Coast’s largest minority group; there is a long-established Gay & Lesbian Association, and a very active women’s community in particular. Not that you’ll find them coalescing in particular neighbourhoods or towns – the charm and draw of the Sunshine Coast for gay and lesbian residents is that they’re fully integrated into the greater community.

The surrounding population is tolerant, welcoming, and supportive of GLBT individuals. On the Coast you are as likely to see a lesbian couple celebrating an anniversary in a local restaurant as you are a straight one. The United Church has been performing marriages on the Sunshine Coast for a number of years, and the Anglican churches are part of the forward-thinking New Westminster Diocese, offering same-sex blessings in a vanguard wave rolling through the Anglican Communion worldwide.

There are scores of lesbian and gay-friendly accommodations, including resorts and bed & breakfast inns specializing in weddings, engagements, elopements, anniversaries and group getaways. You’ll also find businesses in every sector with queer people in them – as owners, employees, customers.

The Sunshine Coast offers a unique experience to gay & lesbian Vancouverites and Pride travelers: a truly small-town GLBT getaway and day trip destination with a distinctly rural and coastal BC flair.

As a lesbian business owner and 25 year resident of the Sunshine Coast, (transplanted Vancouverite) I invite anyone interested in doing something a little different around Pride Week to drop me a line – I’ll hook you up with everything you need to plan your visit.

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