Looking to do a weekend trip from Vancouver? A quick and easy one is the drive from Vancouver to Whistler along the Sea to Sky Highway. Also known as BC Highway 99, the scenic route hugs the shore of Howe Sound, with many awe-inspiring sights along the way. This 2-day itinerary encompasses exciting things to see and do on your Vancouver road trip to Whistler!
Weekend Trip from Vancouver: Seeing Whistler in the Summer
Morning: Plan to depart Vancouver early (ideally at around 7 am) as we have a lot to cover on the first day!
Head north on Hwy 99 towards Squamish and Whistler. Approximately halfway through the drive (~1 hour), watch for signs to Shannon Falls. This impressive sight stands at 335 meters as the third highest waterfall in British Columbia. With the cooling waters and soothing sounds of the waterfall, you can find a little zen in this natural wonder.
The hike to Shannon Falls is an easy walk from the parking lot, with multiple viewpoint platforms for photos.
Pro tip: For a more up-close view of Shannon Falls, tackle the Upper Shannon Falls Hiking Trail. The 7 km route is one of the popular hikes in Squamish and represents the bottom section of the larger Sea to Summit Trail. If you choose to do this, make sure you wear hiking boots and leave at least 4 hours for the activity.
Next stop: Sea to Sky Gondola. A short 10-min gondola ride takes you 849 meters above sea level.
At the summit, you will have access to the 100 m-long Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge and numerous hiking trails with views that will leave you awe-struck.
A walking trail that is relatively easy is the 1.6 km-long Panorama Trail. It winds through the lush forest and at the halfway point, it leads to the Chief Overlook Platform where you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Howe Sound fjord, Mamquam Valley, Mt. Atwell and the mighty Stawamus Chief. The walk will take no longer than 20 mins. Click here for the trail map at Sea to Sky Gondola.
Hop back in the car and continue onward. Make a quick stop at Brandywine Falls – another iconic landmark along the Sea to Sky Highway. Compared to Shannon Falls, it is tiny, dropping from a 70 m-tall cliff into the valley below. Nonetheless, it is a spectacular sight and one of the most photographed waterfalls near Whistler.
Adventurous hikers can take on the challenge to find the unofficial, unmarked trail down to the base of the falls. We attempted to do so but gave up midway for fear of getting lost – and also it just seemed too dangerous as it required us to climb down a pile of boulders.
Noon: You are fairly close to Whistler. From Brandywine Falls, you will arrive at the world famous Whistler Village in just 15 mins.
Relax and have lunch at Table Nineteen. This lakeside eatery is located at Nicklaus North Golf Course, overlooking the glacier-fed Green Lake. In warm weather months, their outdoor patio is the perfect place to enjoy the sunshine and indulge in the mountain surroundings as you sip on some cocktails!
Afternoon: Want to explore Whistler from the air? Then, you must go on a seaplane tour with Whistler Air! Imagine flying beyond the Whistler Valley, traveling deep into the mountains, and soaring above the majestic glaciers. It’s one of the top things to do in Whistler in the summer and will leave you the memory of a lifetime!
The tour company offers different tours of varying duration and prices, all departing from their base on the Green Lake. Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind experience!
Spend the rest of your afternoon at Scandinave Spa Whistler for a complete relaxation. Unlike other spas in Whistler Village, this Nordic-inspired day spa offers a traditional Scandinavian baths experience that uses hydrotherapy to cleanse the body and improve circulation. On top of that, its peaceful environment allows you to disconnect from the busy daily life and escape from all the worries!
So what exactly are Scandinavian baths? It’s quite simple. It consists of the following 3 stages to help you refresh and rejuvenate:
- First, heat the body in hot baths, eucalyptus steam bath, sauna, or thermal waterfalls for 10-15 mins
- Immediately after, cool the body in Nordic waterfall, cold baths, or cold shower for 5-20 secs
- Finally, relax in a solarium, by an outdoor fireplace, or in a hammock for 10-15 mins
- Repeat the hot-cold-relax cycle 3-4 times to release the tensions in the mind and body
Scandinave Spa Whistler is the proud recipient of several awards including Best Whistler Spa and Top 50 Spas in Canada. You are guaranteed to look and feel your best after your visit!
After your spa visit, check in at your hotel and stroll the charming Whistler Village. The Village is full of shops, boutiques and galleries to keep you busy.
Note: Most places are within walking distance. I personally find the town a bit difficult to navigate compared to Banff. So I strongly advise familiarizing yourself with the area with this map of Whistler Village.
Dinner: There are plenty of places to eat in Whistler Village. For a memorable dinner in Whistler, we recommend Araxi Restaurant & Oyster Bar. Their menu features the freshest seafood and farm-fresh fare that offer unforgettable tastes.
This popular Whistler Village restaurant does not disappoint, earning a place in this year’s 100 Best Restaurants in Canada and Best Whistler Restaurant by Georgia Straight!
Evening: Whistler has a buzzing nightlife with many bars, lounges and nightclubs spring into life after dark. If partying is not up your alley, check out Whistler’s newest attraction – the Vallea Lumina experience.
At sundown, join other adventurers on a multimedia night walk into the enchanted forest of Cougar Mountain. The spectacular evening of lights and sound brings the forest to life as you set off a journey into finding two missing hikers in a hidden valley.
It was a mind-blowing experience for us. We just had one piece of advice – be prepared to be dazzled by the dancing lights, captivating sounds, and high-tech special effects!
Morning: Wake up early to catch the sunrise! A sunrise paddle on one of Whistler’s lakes would be a wonderful way to start your day in this natural paradise.
Rainbow Park on Atla Lake is reportedly one of the best sunrise viewpoints in Whistler. Lost Lake also offers gorgeous mountain views in the early morning, but be warned that this is a nudist dock.
Treat yourself to a hearty breakfast at The Wildflower at Fairmont Chateau Whistler after the beautiful Whistler sunrise. At their bounteous buffet ($35 pp), you will find a wide selection of breakfast delights such as egg benedict, omelette, and smoked fish, ensuring you are full of energy to start the day. Of course, you can also opt for an a-la-carte breakfast.
Now that you are all fueled up, it’s time to get some action going! Whistler offers an exciting collection of things to do in the summer.
Looking for something adventurous? Ride the Whistler Gondola (aka Peak 2 Peak Gondola). The horizontal lift connects two mountaintops at the record-breaking distance of 3.024 km apart.
For the thrill seekers and daredevils out there, the Whistler Peak Suspension Bridge (officially known as the Cloudraker Skybridge) will sure get your adrenaline pumping. The 130 m-long wobbling bridge hovers 2000 meters above sea level with exhilarating views of the surrounding mountains.
Note: In addition to the gondola and chairlift, Peak 2 Peak 360 Experience Summer Ticket will give you access to the new Cloudraker Skybridge and Raven’s Eye Cliff Walk. More details here.
Other summer activities for adventure-loving travelers in Whistler include ziplining, helicopter tours, whitewater-rafting, canoe or kayak, bungee jumping, and ATV tours.
Lunch: Grab a quick bite at Peaked Pies. Whether you like sweet pies or savoury pies, this bakery cafe has got your covered. All pies are made fresh daily and everything is handmade in store to ensure the best taste possible!
Afternoon: It’s time to hit the road and drive back to Vancouver, but our journey does not end here.
On the way back, stop by Whytecliff Park by Horseshoe Bay. The oceanside park boasts beautiful scenery of the rugged coastline, stunning mountain range and passing ships.
The Lighthouse Park is another must-see in the West Vancouver district. Besides the lighthouse, there are several easy trails along the shores of Burrard Inlet offering spectacular coastal views.
Other attractions to Consider If You Have Extra Time
In Squamish, there are endless hiking trails and mountains to explore. Alice Lake Provincial Park, comprised of 4 lakes, has a relatively easy trail (6.5 km) that runs around them all. Stawamus Chief Hiking Trail (11 km) is a bit more challenging yet rewarding. It leads you to 3 different summits with magnificent views from each.
Garibaldi Provincial Park is a popular park in between Squamish and Whistler. A short and easy trail (3.5 km) worth checking out is the one to the turquoise Cheakamus Lake.
In Whistler, go chasing waterfalls! Rainbow Falls, Nairn Falls, and Alexander Falls are some of the best ones to add to your list.
Accommodations in Whistler
Looking for a high-quality place to stay? Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Four Seasons Resort Whistler are top places to consider in the luxury category. Both are a walkable distance away from the Whistler Village.
Nita Lake Lodge is also considered one of the best hotels in Whistler. It is a short ride away from the Village and locates on the shores of Nita Lake (hence the name!).
A summer road trip to Whistler is a lot of fun – especially with the addition of new attractions like Vallea Lumina and Whistler Peak Suspension Bridge!
To give you a chance to explore Whistler this summer, we have partnered up with The Adventure Group to give away a pair of tickets to the Vallea Lumina experience!
Vallea Lumina Giveaway
Enter to win 2 tickets to Vallea Lumina. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to experience the immersive, multimedia night walk this summer in Whistler’s forests!! This season runs till October 15th, 2018. If you are unable to use them this year, an arrangement can be made to extend to next year.
The contest ends on Sept 11th, 2018. 1 lucky winners will be announced on the very next day.
Try your luck now by entering the contest with the widget below:
Disclaimer: This post is written in partnership with Tourism Vancouver, The Adventure Group, and Scandinave Spa Whistler. As always, all opinions on For Two, Please are our own and we only recommend brands that we 100% stand behind.