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8 BEST Vancouver Road Trip Itineraries

8 BEST Vancouver Road Trip Itineraries

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Itching for a road trip from Vancouver, but don’t know where to begin? Well, you’ve come to the experts. 

We’ve lived in a few different areas of Western Canada, and have had the privilege of exploring this area extensively. We’ve found hidden gems, and tried the can’t-miss activities! However we know that Canada is HUGE, and depending on the length of time and what you want to see, the possibilities are endless!

To streamline your planning, we put together our top road trip itineraries. They range from one day to 2 weeks, and we have ideas ranging from hiking and camping to staying in a cozy lodge and sipping wine (or something in between!).

About the Best Vancouver Road Trips 

View from the front of a car driving on the Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler at sunset
The Sea to Sky Highway is impressively scenic!

We’ve designed 8 different road trip itineraries that all start in Vancouver. Since this is the largest international airport in Western Canada, it’s a major hub for travelers, and honestly, there is so much to explore within driving distance. It’s the perfect launch point for your adventures!

These itineraries are flexible and you can tailor it to fit your travel style, whether you have a short time frame and are trying to see it all, or you prefer to stop and smell the roses as you go. But, you can use our past experiences and recommendations as the framework for your own epic road trip. 

1. Vancouver to Whistler Road Trip – Sea to Sky Highway (1 Day)

Vancouver to Whistler road trip map
  • Start: Vancouver
  • End: Whistler
  • Duration: 1 Day
  • Distance: 121 kilometers (75 miles)
  • Best stops: Capilano Suspension Bridge, Tunnel Bluffs Hike, Shannon Falls, Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish, Brandywine Falls, and Whistler.

You can’t visit Vancouver without making a trip to Whistler – that’d be crazy! This one-day road trip takes you along the gorgeous Sea to Sky highway and let me tell you, you’re in for a treat. This highway is aptly named because you start in the sea-filled stretches near Vancouver and end in the sky-high mountain town of Whistler. 

This drive isn’t just about the scenic views though, there is plenty to stop and explore along the way. The first is the Vancouver-famous Capilano Suspension Bridge, where your stomach will drop as you cross the massive swinging bridge (it’s worth it though!). The Capilano Suspension Bridge can be very busy, so I highly recommend booking your admission tickets in advance so you have enough time for the rest of the road trip. 

If you depart Vancouver early enough, you can squeeze in the 4-hour-long Tunnel Bluffs Hike too! After all of that effort, you’ll probably be ready for lunch, so I recommend packing a picnic and stopping at Shannon Falls. It’s one of my favorite stops along this drive. 

Soon enough, you’ll hit the Sea to Sky Gondola, and this is an essential stop (in my book!). Just like the suspension bridge, it can get busy so it’s best to purchase your Gondola tickets beforehand here. Then stop in Squamish for gas and maybe a second lunch at the Crabapple Cafe! 

Brandywine Falls, Canada
The photo says it all, Brandywine Falls is a must!
Two people come down The Sasquatch Zipline in Whistler, Canada
The epic Sasquatch zipline in Whistler!

If you didn’t get a chance to hike earlier in the day, stop by Brandywine Falls, which is a short and easy walk to a beautiful waterfall. For a local tip, I recommend going further than the first viewpoint, as there is an even more impressive waterfall to see!

We obviously glossed over a lot of the details of these stops, but for a more in-depth explanation, read our full guide on the stops between Vancouver and Whistler

And once you get to Whistler, you’ll want to stay a few days. We love staying at the Adara Hotel, as it’s got all the luxuries we need at an affordable price! Whistler is an adventurous town, so join the fun by soaring down the Sasquatch® zipline, go mountain biking, or try the Via Ferrata (like rock climbing)!

2. Sunshine Coast – Vancouver to Klein Lake and back (2 to 3 days)

Vancouver to Klein Lake back to vancouver road trip map
  • Start: Vancouver
  • End: Vancouver
  • Duration: 2 to 3 days
  • Distance: 233 kilometers (145 miles)
  • Best stops: Sunday Cider, Secret Cove Falls Recreation Site, Klein Lake, Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, and Vancouver.

Here we have another road trip itinerary suited for the outdoorsy types (you’ll fit right in here in Vancouver!). Taking a few days to explore the Sunshine Coast will blow you away if you like small artsy towns and coastal beaches. You’ll also find hidden gems in terms of hiking, biking, and paddleboard spots as you travel from Howe Sound to Desolate Sound – sign me up!

You’ll have to hop on the ferry from Horseshoe Bay in Vancouver to Langdale. After we get off the ferry, our first stop is always Sunday Cider, which is a quick 10-minute drive from the terminal. We love stopping here to pick up a few to-go cans to enjoy later while we camp! Then take a 30-minute drive to Secret Cove Falls Recreation Site for a quick but gorgeous waterfall hike. 

Since this is our road trip for the outdoors lovers, camping at Klein Lake is a must! I wasn’t kidding when I said we had some hidden gems on this route because this lake is amazing and relatively unknown for camping. You can pitch your tent right on the lake’s edge for only $18 CAD a night, and it’s first come first serve so don’t dilly dally too long on your road trip stops. We got lucky enough to get a site with a private dock – score!

You can either stay here just one night, or if you have extra time I highly recommend spending a full day at Klein Lake and camping another night!

Once you head back to Vancouver, stopping at Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park simply MUST be added to your agenda. The rapids actually flow in reverse direction twice daily (I know crazy), but be sure to check the tide schedule to time your visit right. 

3. Vancouver to Kelowna (1 to 3 days)

Vancouver to Kelowna road trip map
  • Start: Vancouver
  • End: Kelowna
  • Duration: 1 to 3 days
  • Distance: 391 kilometers (243 miles)
  • Best stops: Fraser Valley, Harrison Hot Springs, Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, Hope, Othello Tunnels, Merrit, and Kelowna.

Kelowna is one of my favorite parts of British Columbia, and so we’ve made this road trip while living in Vancouver a handful of times. Not only does it include wine tasting and hot springs, but it also boasts the incredible landscape of BC – it’s a seriously pretty drive!

Leaving Vancouver, you’ll quickly come across the Fraser Valley, which has a great wine scene. You can stop at one of the many wineries here (as long as you’re not driving!), but my top recommendation is Mt. Lehman Winery. Continuing down the road, you will hit Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park, and there’s a great short hike to the waterfalls that can’t be missed.

Soon after you’ll hit Hope, where you can plan on staying the night. If you have extra time, we love staying a night at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort, in the nearby town of Harrison Hotsprings. We love using their famous hot pools, they are so luxurious and great after sitting in the car all day! There is also plenty to do in Hope to keep you busy for a few days, such as hiking the Hope Lookout Trail, enjoying Kawkawa Lake, and checking out the Othello Tunnels. 

Note: The Othello Tunnels are closed due to storm damage, but you can check for updates here for when they open! 

A lady poses for a photo at Kawkawa Lake in Hope, BC
How beautiful is Hope, BC?

You also can’t miss visiting Merritt, a small, quirky town that is actually one of my favorite stops along this drive. It’s affectionately called the “Country Capital of Canada” and you’ll see murals of country music singers and their handprints dotted all over the town. If you’re a true country music fanatic, I think you’ll get a lot out of this free self-guided Walk of Stars tour, which will take you to all the country music sights in the city!

After Merritt, our next stop is your final destination – Kelowna! Kelowna is all about enjoying food and drink, you will have no shortage of incredible fare here. The top activity is to go wine tasting, and we personally recommend this wine tasting tour, so you don’t have to worry about driving. There is also great hiking, lots of beaches to relax on, or try flyboarding on the lake (which is just as epic as it sounds!).

We have so many more details about these stops and routes, so be sure to check out our full Vancouver to Kelowna road trip guide before you head out.

4. Vancouver to Tofino (3 to 10 days)

Vancouver to Tofino road trip map
  • Start: Vancouver
  • End: Tofino
  • Duration: 3 to 10 days
  • Distance: 441 kilometers (274 miles)
  • Best stops: Victoria (and Butchart Gardens), Malahat Skywalk, Nanaimo, Parksville, Cathedral Grove, Port Alberni, Stamp River Provincial Park, Ucluelet, and Tofino.

This specific road trip can be tailored to fit your schedule, whether you have ample time to explore or are looking for a quick getaway. We have personally done this same route as quickly as 3 days (and still hit everything mentioned below!) but have also done it in 10 days. If I’m being honest, I’d say the latter is ideal, so check out our 10-day Vancouver Island road trip guide for the full details. 

This drive technically begins in Victoria, so you’ll have to hop on the ferry from Tsawassen terminal in Vancouver to Swartz Bay, which is about a 30-minute drive from Victoria. The ferry ride is a lovely experience, as you’ll have an hour and a half to grab a coffee and enjoy the views. Ferries depart regularly – check the exact schedule here!

Okay – I’ll try to keep this brief, but I love exploring Vancouver Island, and starting out in Victoria means you’re in for a treat! One of the most popular places in all of BC is Butchart Gardens, so you have to pencil in a few hours to explore. And if the ferry ride over got you itching for more, you can join this half-day whale watching tour, which is one of the top-rated experiences on Vancouver Island. We saw a pod of orcas on our cruise!

Leaving Victoria, you’ll pass by the Malahat Skywalk, which takes you 10 stories up and gives incredible 360-degree views of the island. It’s a great intro to the area, I recommend purchasing your Skywalk tickets ahead of time as it’s a new and popular attraction! After you climb all those stairs, you’ve earned a famous Nanaimo bar, which is perfect because the namesake city of Nanaimo is your next stop!

Bailey sits and enjoys the view from Little Mountain Lookout for Sunset in Parksville
Sunset at Little Mountain Lookout, Parksville
Bailey walks along a boardwalk enjoying the trees at Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island
Cathedral Grove is worth a stop!

Our next favorite stops include Parksville, where we had a lovely camping and hiking experience at Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park. We also loved walking through the giant trees at Cathedral Grove, and more forest walks at the Stamp River in Port Alberni. If you can time your road trip to visit in the fall, you’ll see the salmon run – it’s quite impressive!

And before you hit Tofino, you will pass through the charming town of Ucluelet. I recommend taking a hike on the Wild Pacific Trail (or at least part of it). You can also hike in Tofino – our favorite is Cox Bay Lookout! 

Phew, that is a lot of stops. That’s why we recommend taking 10 days to explore Vancouver Island thoroughly! There are so many hikes, camping spots, beaches, and quaint towns to explore, so you don’t want to rush through.

Related Read: We love exploring Victoria, so stay a few days and check out all the best things to do here!

5. BC Wine Trail Loop – Vancouver to Vancouver via the Okanagan (6 to 8 Days)

Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs to Osoyoos to Penticton to Kelowna to Hop back to Vancouver road trip map
  • Start: Vancouver
  • End: Vancouver
  • Duration: 6 to 8 days
  • Distance: 936 kilometers (582 miles)
  • Best stops: Fraser Valley, Harrison Hot Springs, Manning Park, Osoyoos, Peachland, Penticton, Kelowna, Hope, and Vancouver.

Calling my fellow wine-lovers out there – this road trip is for you! You probably already know that British Columbia has the perfect grape-growing climate. This route passes through the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan, so you can try the whole spread of BC wine offerings. And with great wine typically comes gorgeous scenery, too!

As you depart Vancouver, you’ll quickly come upon the Fraser Valley. Make a stop at Vista d’Oro for the incredible views and vino! Just because this is a road trip doesn’t mean you have to drive far each day, so spend a night in Harrison Hot Springs before taking off for Manning Park. This is a haven for adventure as you drive to Osoyoos.

Osoyoos is an added bonus stop (not directly on the way), but I always enjoy visiting here because its desert climate is quite different from the rest of BC, and it makes for some unique and delicious vino. My top tip is to take a day and visit the top wineries on this tour, that way you don’t have to worry about driving! 

Next up, Peachland is a fantastic stop as you head toward Penticton! Like all the other places mentioned on this road trip, you could easily spend a day or two in this area. There are heaps of adventure activities, like ziplining and ATV tours. But, this road trip is geared towards our wine connoisseurs, so add a visit to the Home Block Restaurant to your docket. They have incredible wine-pairing lunches or dinners!

Bailey enjoys a glass of wine in the sun in Naramata Bench, Penticton
Enjoying a glass at Naramata Bench, Penticton
Sprawling vines at a winery in Naramata Bench, Penticton
Naramata Bench in Penticton is stunning!

However, one of the ever-favorite wine experiences I’ve been on was this private full-day wine tasting tour in Penticton. We went to five of the best wineries in the Naramata Bench region, one of BC’s top wine-producing regions. However, if you’d prefer to spend some time in Kelowna, there are TONS of wine tasting experiences there. So check out our article on Kelowna’s best wine tours from our personal experience

After all of these drinking-filled stops, you’ll probably be wined out! As you make your way back to Vancouver, completing the Okanagan loop, you can stop in Hope for other alcohol-free activities.

6. Vancouver Island Explorer – Victoria to Campbell River (10 to 14 days)

Victoria to Campbell River road trip map
  • Start: Victoria
  • End: Campbell River
  • Duration: 10 to 14 days
  • Distance: 781 kilometers (485 miles)
  • Best stops: Victoria, Sooke, Jordan River, Port Renfrew, Lake Cowichan, Salt Spring Island, Nanaimo, Parksville, Cathedral Grove, Port Alberni and Stamp River Provincial Park, Tofino, Ucluelet, and Campbell River.

You can never have too many Vancouver Island road trips! This is the perfect getaway with the island’s relaxed vibes, paired with adventurous activities – our favorite type of travel! This road trip officially starts in Victoria, so you’ll have to take the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, just as we mentioned before. 

After spending some time in Victoria, we make a stop at Potholes Regional Park in Sooke on the way to Port Renfrew. We also love a picnic stop at Sandcut Beach in Jordan River! 

Port Renfrew is your first overnight stop, and as we called this road trip “adventurous yet chill”, camping is the best option here! Camping at Lizard Lake never disappoints. The next destination is Lake Cowichan, which is possibly our favorite part of Vancouver Island. You can’t visit Lake Cowichan without going river tubing – it’s a classic Canadian summer activity!

Daniel stands underneath the largest tree at Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island
Cathedral Grove is an outdoor wonderland!
Daniel surfing at Long Beach in Tofino, Vancouver Island
Daniel catching a wave at Long Beach in Tofino

Continuing on, we highly recommend catching the ferry to Salt Spring Island from Crofton. This island off of the larger island is insanely scenic and local artists love capturing the natural beauty, so there are lots of galleries on this island. You can ferry back to Vancouver Island and visit Nanaimo and Parksville, which are full of quirky gems. 

Another notable stop along the way is Cathedral Grove and its impressively large old-growth trees. Just see how big they are compared to Daniel in the photo above! We also love checking out the Stamp River Provincial Park where you can see salmon jump between August and December.

Spend some time in Tofino and Ucluelet, where we’ve experienced some of the best surfing in BC! It’s a huge hub for surfers and outdoors enthusiasts, so a day or two here is a must. 

Dock in Campbell River, BC

At this point, you’ll head back to the main highway and drive the short but incredibly sweet route from Courteney to Campbell River. This 30-ish minute drive is full of worthwhile stops, but the most impressive is Oyster River Potholes. 

And now you’ve made it to Campbell River! This town is quaint but cute. To celebrate the end of an awesome road trip, we suggest stopping by my favorite Vancouver Island brewery, Beach Fire Brewing Company! You have to try the Ember Red Ale, it has a roasty flavor, perfect for a fire on the beach!

7. Vancouver to Calgary via Whistler (10 to 14 days)

Vancouver to calgary road trip map
  • Start: Vancouver
  • End: Calgary
  • Duration: 10 to 14 days
  • Distance: 1,199 kilometers (745 miles)
  • Best stops: Sea to Sky Highway, Squamish, Whistler, Joffre Lakes, Kamloops, Kelowna, Revelstoke, Glacier National Park, Golden, Yoho NP, Lake Louise (and Icefields Parkway), Banff, and Calgary.

If you’ve got an extended amount of time, you can cover almost all of Western Canada on a road trip! Well, not entirely, Western Canada is HUGE – but you can certainly see the highlights. This road trip will take you through some of the most renowned sights – I’m talking world-class mountains, alpine lakes, and sweeping valley views that will make your jaw drop. 

You’ll drive the scenic Sea to Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler. There’s a lot you can stop and see along the way, but we’ve got ground to cover, so I’ll limit it to the iconic Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish. This is the best way to soak in all the scenery, so you can purchase your gondola tickets in advance so you don’t have to waste time waiting in line!

Whistler is known as an adventurous town, so while you’re here, indulge in some thrilling activities. We love kayaking, ziplining, or hiking, but on our last trip, we went on this off-road buggy excursion and had so much fun! An afternoon of mountaintop views and thrilling ATVing, what more could you want? 

Unfortunately, you can’t stay in Whistler forever, there is more to see! Just past here is Joffre Lakes, which has gorgeous turquoise lakes and incredible hiking (some of my favorite hikes in BC!). As you make your way to Kamloops, it’s time for a change of pace. We’ll slow things down a bit and spend the afternoon winery hopping through the Thompson Valley! 

I also recommend heading south to Kelowna for more wine tasting – this area can’t be missed! We love this 20-tasting wine tour in Kelowna. You read that right, you get to try 20 different wines, making this one of the best wine tours we’ve been on.

Bailey walks across the Golden Suspension Bridge in Golden, BC
The Golden Skybridge
View out the window of a car on the Sea to Sky highway outside of Vancouver at sunset
The Sea to Sky Highway!

Let’s get back into outdoor exploration – Revelstoke is right around the corner! From skiing to hiking, you won’t be in short supply of things to do here. Down the road a little further is Golden, which is perhaps one of the most underrated towns in BC. The Golden Skybridge is a super fun stop as you can walk across an impressive suspension bridge, giving incredible views and a couple of butterflies in your stomach! 

Yoho National Park is next, followed by the scenic Lake Louise as you enter Alberta. By now you’re officially in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, so the adventures are endless. After Lake Louise, you can take my favorite drive, the Icefields Parkway, and stop in the ever-famous town of Banff! Did you even go to the Rocky Mountains if you didn’t stop in Banff!?

Spend a few days in Banff, and then it’s a short few hours south to Calgary. This is a lot to fit into two weeks, but we’ve done it before and had the best time. For a detailed description of this route, more recommendations, and our top travel tips, read our guide to road-tripping from Vancouver to Calgary here

Related Read: If you plan on spending some time in Banff, be sure to read our top tips in our 1, 2, or 3-day Banff Itinerary!

8. Vancouver to Calgary via Whistler and Jasper (10 to 14 days)

Vancouver to whistler to jasper to calgary road trip map
  • Start: Vancouver
  • End: Calgary
  • Duration: 10 to 14 days
  • Distance: 1,279 kilometers (795 miles)
  • Best stops: Sea to Sky Highway, Squamish, Pemberton/Joffre Lakes, Kamloops, Clearwater and Wells Gray Provincial Park, Valemount, Mt Robson Provincial Park, Jasper, Icefields Parkway, Lake Louise and visit Yoho National Park, Banff, and Calgary.

You’ll notice that this road trip has the same start and end points as the itinerary above, but there is one major difference – a side trip to Jasper! Most of this route will be the same, but you can read our guide to driving from Vancouver to Jasper here to get all the specifics of our can’t-miss stops.

The route to Jasper will take you through Clearwater, which is an absolute gem in terms of scenery. It is home to Wells Gray Provincial Park, where you’ll find 41 named waterfalls – and these are just the ones with names! If you love chasing waterfalls, you will be in good company here. Spahats Falls is our personal favorite with its impressive drop and canyon outcropping. But there are so many that you can see right off the main road too! 

Another cute town you’ll hit on this route is Valemount. We stayed at the Mica Mountain Log Cabins which were super cozy and had amazing service. You can use this as your launch point for adventuring around Mount Robson Provincial Park. Despite being the tallest peak in the Rockies, it’s often overlooked by most tourists, so it’s certainly a best-kept secret in our book! My favorite hike here is the Kinney Lake Trail, which is the beginning portion of the Berg Lake Trail.

Scenic road down the Icefields Parkway in Canada
The Icefields Parkway from Jasper is epic!
A lady at Spahats Creek Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park, Clearwater, BC
Spahats Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park, Clearwater

Once you get to Jasper, add a few days here to your itinerary – there is so much to explore within the national park. As you head south to finish the road trip, you’ll drive along my favorite stretch of road towards Lake Louise: the Icefields Parkway! You’ll know what I’m talking about when you drive it for yourself.

I recommend setting aside time to visit Yoho National Park and the stunning Emerald Lake. It’s greenest in July and August and it’s so unique in color, I couldn’t believe it was a natural occurrence. You’ll finish up the road trip just as our previous itinerary did, stopping in Banff and making your way to Calgary!

Renting a Car in British Columbia

A rural road with Mt Currie in the background
Road trips are the best way to explore Canada!

If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province, and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.

Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. Read my honest review of Discover Cars here for more details!

Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at The Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, BC
Thanks for reading!

Can you believe there is so much to explore right outside of Vancouver? I don’t think just one road trip will be enough, I hope you can find time to try a few routes! British Columbia is full of beauty, from waterfalls and mountains to islands, and rolling hills of vineyards. I never get tired of exploring this area!

We hope you found these road trip itineraries helpful as you plan your next adventure. Be sure to check out our other Canada travel guides for more inspiration, starting with a few below:

15 Absolute BEST Tours in Vancouver (that you don’t want to miss!)

22 BEST Places to Visit and See on Vancouver Island

23 BEST Stops on the Drive from Whistler to Banff

Bruce Gartrell

Wednesday 17th of April 2024