It's always a treat to stumble into an unexpected gem. Smuggler Cove, just north of Halfmoon Bay off the Sunshine Coast Highway, is one such treat. You'll find an incredible trail, a gorgeous shoreline pocketed with tiny coves, sailboat and kayak visitors from just about everywhere, along with some poignant history to spice things up.
A highlight is the remarkable ~4km trail in to Smuggler Cove, much of it built over an expanding, other-worldly wetlands within the surrounding Provincial Park. I rode in, but it's really a hiking trail, mostly flat and well groomed, with several short rougher stretches. For those interested in waterfowl or wetland ecosystems, the park has lots to offer.
In days gone by, the dramatic coastline, with tiny, almost hidden coves, was a magnet for smugglers. Some of this history had a human toll. Here's several quotes taken off the sign board you'll see when you reach the cove:
"At the first sign o' trouble I'll toss ye overboard and ye'll sink like a rock to the bottom o' the sea." This was the policy of Larry Kelly, an ex-Royal Navy seaman who used Smuggler Cove's tranquil waters to collect cargoes of Chinese labourers ... recently unemployed with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1885) ...
... during prohibition (1920 to 1933) Smuggler Cove was used as a safe haven by rum runners ... to transport alcohol to thirsty destinations in the United States.
They recommend that boaters enter the inner waters at low tide so they can see all the rocks. In summer, it's common to see sailboats boats moored here and there, and kayaks pulled onto the shores. There's a little 5 site campground; basically tent clearings with an outhouse nearby. There's no tables, and you need to bring water in, but it's well worth worth it, partly as you're likely to meet some interesting people: either of the nautical sort in need of some shore time, or hikers who packed their gear in.
From the main cove and campground, there are further trails along the coast, up and over into nearby coves. These trails are rougher than the main route in, but highly recommended as the rugged coast is so striking.
Halfmoon Bay, complete with store, small restaurant, and picture postcard bay, is roughly halfway (40+ kms) up the Sunshine Coast between Langdale ferry terminal in the south, and Earl's Cove in the north. A km or so north from the turnoff into Halfmoon Bay, keep an eye open for Brooks Road and turn west towards the coast. It's ~3 kms on paved Brooks Road to the Smuggler Cove trailhead, complete with parking lot. The park and trail are well signed.
Can't resist one more trail picture to finish up.