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12 BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Squamish

12 BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Squamish

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One of the most scenic drives in Canada has to be the short drive from Vancouver to Squamish. At just 64 km (40 miles) long you’ll be surprised by the number of things to see and do along the way! The hour-long drive between these two scenic cities is on most people’s Canadian bucket list, so, I advise turning this drive into a full-day affair and stopping at each of the 12 stops I’ve listed below. There are numerous hiking trails, a sandy beach, the third largest waterfall in B.C, and even the chance to explore the underground mining world on this drive!

With so many amazing things to do in Vancouver, you may find it difficult to leave the city but I promise once you get on the open road to Squamish you won’t regret it!

In this blog I’ve listed 12 of the best stops between Vancouver and Squamish, it’s the best guide of what to see and do along the way as well as some driving tips to make this scenic drive as enjoyable as possible!

Note: This blog also works in reverse if you’re driving from Squamish to Vancouver.

About the Drive from Vancouver to Squamish

The 64 km drive (40 miles) from Vancouver to Squamish will take just 57 minutes without stops. It is considered an easy drive as it follows the main Sea to Sky Highway (also known as Highway 99) the entire journey. The Sea to Sky Highway is world-famous for its epic scenery and it’s aptly named because there are sea and mountain views pretty much the whole drive!

If you’re driving from Vancouver to Squamish during the winter, note the section of highway just before Squamish can be icy but there will be road crews clearing the highway regularly to ensure your safety. You also need to ensure your vehicle is equipped with winter tires.

12 BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Squamish

1. Vancouver

Olympic Village as seen from a scenic flight in Vancouver, Canada
What a view!
Daniel and Bailey at sunset on a cruise in Vancouver
We love a good sunset dinner cruise!

Vancouver is a fantastic starting point for your road trip to Squamish. There are so many awesome things to do in Vancouver that you’ll want to spend a few days here! You can see our complete round-up of things to do in Vancouver, but these are some highlights: 

Some of the other most popular things to do in Vancouver include:

  • Go Whale Watching – By far one of Vancouver’s top activities! From out on the open water, you’ll have the opportunity to spot various types of whales, including Humpback whales and, my favorite, Orcas. But besides whales, you’ll also have the opportunity to spot other wildlife, including seabirds, seals, and otters. You can expect to pay about $236 CAD for this half-day whale-watching tour that includes tea and coffee as well as expert naturalists to teach you all about the whales and area.
  • Visit Grouse Mountain – for the best views of Vancouver catch a cable car the 1,200 meters (3,900 feet) up Grouse Mountain or if you’re keen for a workout complete the ‘Grouse Grind’ to reach the top, this involves climbing up over 2,800 steps! It’s an especially popular activity with local Vancouverites, some even do this as their daily workout! The views from the top of Vancouver CBD and the Howe Sound are well worth the climb. In fact, this is one of the best hikes in Vancouver. If you want to catch the cable car to the top instead you can buy your tickets here.
  • Sunset Dinner Cruise – What better way to experience Van than on the water? This 2.5-hour sunset dinner cruise sails through Vancouver Harbor, giving incredible views of the city and the stunning landscape. The food onboard is also worth mentioning, and the ambiance was lovely with live music and drinks for purchase. We have actually taken this sunset dinner cruise twice now, and would totally go a third time!
  • Check out Granville Island – Though it’s not really an island, it’s an awesome little place to shop, eat, explore art galleries, and more! There’s a lot more to do on Granville Island than originally meets the eye so be sure to allow for some time here. To me, the VIP Granville Island Food Tour was such a fun way to eat my way through the market!
  • Relax at Kitsilano Beach – as I mentioned Vancouver is filled with urban beaches and one of my favorites is Kitsilano Beach. It’s a nice, clean beach that’s a great spot to head for sunset. Surrounding the beach is the trendy neighborhood of Kitsilano which is home to lots of cool restaurants, bars, and stores. The Maritime Museum is also located here as well as a great waterfront public swimming pool.
  • Ride in a Sea Plane – This has been the most exciting thing I have done in Vancouver! Taking off and landing on the water was new and a little scary but don’t worry, though; the pilots are trained professionals. While this scenic flight is only a 20-minute Vancouver city seaplane tour, it was such a fantastic experience and we got to see so much of the city and surrounding mountains. The best part is that it only cost $168 CAD! Can you believe that?

Where to stay in Vancouver

The Cambie Hostel Gastown is perfect if you’re looking for a budget option! There are not as many hostel options in Vancouver but this one in Gastown is a good option. While it doesn’t have super high ratings it is in an excellent location.

For something a bit more moderately priced in the West End in the middle of the action try The Listel Hotel Vancouver. There is an on-site restaurant and is a short walk to major attractions like Stanley Park or the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Or ball out at the Fairmont Pacific Rim if you are searching for luxury. It has a full-service spa and rooftop swimming pool, on-site restaurants that have live music, and an outdoor terrace. The views from this hotel are phenomenal, as it’s right at the waterfront. 

There are literally hundreds of places to stay in Vancouver. Read our blog about where to stay in Vancouver for info about the best areas to base yourself and the top-rated hotels.

Related Read: Squamish is one of the best day trips from Vancouver – find out what the rest are!

2. Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

The Capilano Suspension bridge above the river in Vancouver
It’s a long way down!
Close up of a Totum Pole at Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver
A Totum Pole we found at the Capilano Suspension Bridge

Just a short 15-minute drive outside of Vancouver City is one of the most iconic Vancouver attractions that is the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This is a fun and exciting stop for pretty much anyone and the forest views here are mesmerizing. Plus, don’t you just love the smell of fresh cedar trees?

Although the main focal point here is the huge 137-meter (450 feet) suspension bridge that is situated 70 meters (230 feet) above the Capilano River, the rest of the 27-acre Capilano Suspension Bridge Park has much more to offer!

This includes a treetop walk through lush forests alive with wildlife, a glass-floor lookout, an epic Cliffwalk, and The Birds of Raptors Ridge where you can meet eagles, owls, and other birds of prey up close. Along the way, you’ll also notice information boards posted to learn about the area.

To see everything that was mentioned should only take an hour or two but you’ll need to purchase tickets for the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park which can seem pricey at $66 CAD per person.

However, I do think it’s worth seeing at least once because it’s such a relaxing spot to take in nature, especially if you’re passing by this area!

3. Lions Bay Beach Park

Lions Bay Beach Park between Vancouver and Whistler
Lions Bay Beach Park between Vancouver and Squamish

Lions Bay Beach Park is an incredibly scenic public park within the village of Lions Bay. This should be your first stop on the drive from Vancouver to Squamish because it’s just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver and has a lovely sandy beach with a safe swimming area with a float for kids to play on.

The swimming area is sectioned off from the rest of the ocean by wooden logs so the kids can’t venture too far and must stay in the shallow waters where you can safely watch them from the shore, which is handy. From the beach there are great views across to Howe Sound, FYI – it’s especially pretty here at sunset. In fact, this is one of the best places to visit in Vancouver during the Summer!

There are also two small playgrounds here and a large grassy area for picnics. Worth noting is that parking here is limited and tickets to park at the car park here can be bought via the Lions Bay Marina.

To get to Lions Bay Beach Park take the Lions Bay Avenue Exit from the Sea to Sky Highway.

4. Tunnel Bluffs Hike

man sitting at the top of Tunnel Bluffs Hike
What a view!

For an area as naturally beautiful as Vancouver, it’s no surprise that there are heaps of scenic hiking options in and around Vancouver, and Tunnel Bluffs, just over a 10-minute drive from Lions Bay Beach is definitely worth a stop on your road trip from Vancouver to Squamish! This 11.5 km (7.1 mile) return hike will take about four hours to complete. It’s classed as an intermediate hike as it has an elevation gain of 470 meters (1542 feet) – which is definitely a challenge! 

You can reach the Tunnel Bluffs hike at the Lions Bay exit (Sunset Trailhead) of the Sea to Sky Highway. Worth noting, the hike is a push, with lots of steep switchbacks. But you will be rewarded with the most amazing views along the way, especially at the top, where you can look out across at Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast!  

5. Porteau Cove Lookout

Porteau Cove Lookout and campsite
Imagine camping here!

You can reach one of the best viewpoints on your drive at Porteau Cove Lookout, that’s because it has awesome views of Howe Sound and Brunswick Mountain. Interestingly, Howe Sound is the most southern fjord in North America. There’s a popular rocky beach here, a photogenic pier, and a very scenic campsite. As well as that, it’s considered one of the best places on the drive from Vancouver to Squamish to watch the sunset.

A 2.1 km (1.3 mile) walking trail starts next to the campsite here and along the way, there are a few lookout points of Howe Sound and there’s also a popular cliff-jumping spot if you’re feeling brave. You’re also likely to spot lots of sea life from the trail, like porpoises, otters, and even orcas and humpback whales from March to October, if you’re lucky. The trail is considered easy and is mostly paved, it can get very busy here at weekends thanks to its close proximity to Vancouver (just a 35-minute drive away).

As mentioned, Porteau Cove is also a very popular camping spot, and booking a campsite can only be made if you plan to stay during the busy season – from March 24 to October 9. For the rest of the year, the campsite operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

6. Furry Creek Golf Course 

view from above of Furry Creek Golf Course
This golf course has the best location! Photo Credit: Furry Creek Golf Course

If you have time, you might want to stop off at Furry Creek Golf Course, which has the title of “British Columbia’s Most Scenic Golf Course”! And I can see why – views of the Howe Sound Bay and snow-peaked mountains from all around. If golf is your thing, it’s definitely worth a visit! 

A full day of golf is priced between $79-$139 CAD depending on the day of the week and time of the year.

The Sea to Sky Restaurant on the property has tree and mountain views and is open to the public so even if you aren’t golfing you might want to have an appetite to enjoy lunch here.

7. Britannia Mine 

the inside of Britannia mine on the road from Vancouver to Whistler
Such an interesting place to check out. Photo Credit: Britannia Mine

About halfway on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler is this unique family-friendly attraction. Brittania Mine was once the largest copper mine in the British Empire and was in operation for 70 years, from 1904 to 1974. Today, it is an award-winning museum and a must-stop en route to Squamish.

I recommend allowing at least two hours here because there is a lot to see and learn about the mysterious world of mining, including an underground train system that takes you through the former working areas of the mine. As well as that, you can pan for gold (kids love this experience!), and hear all about the history of mining at the live-action BOOM stage performance!

There’s also an on-site cafe and a gift store selling some truly unique souvenirs like unique gems and stones.

Entrance to the Britannia Mine (including the underground mine tour) is $41 CAD per person!

8. Murrin Provincial Park

Just 10 minutes before Squamish, is this popular local spot that attracts hundreds of visitors each day for lake swimming, hiking, fishing, and even rock climbing. Murrin Provincial Park is huge at 24 hectares, so it’s easy to spend a few hours here. There’s a lovely, easy 600-meter (0.37 miles) walking trail around Browning Lake where you’re likely to see many people fishing from the lakeshore, that’s because the lake is abundant with rainbow trout.

As mentioned, Murrin Provincial Park is very popular with rock climbers, the variety of climbing here is excellent and there’s a rock climbing route for every ability. There are big overhangs, long vertical routes, and even testpiece cracks, what’s good too is that most of the climbing routes here are shaded making it an ideal Summer activity.

From the car park here you can also start the 11.5 km (7.1 miles) Petgill Lake Trail, which is a steep uphill hike to picturesque Petgill Lake and awesome views of Howe Sound, Squamish, and the huge Stawamus Chief.

9. Shannon Falls 

Daniel and Bailey take a self at Shannon Falls on the Sea to Sky Highway
Shannon Falls!
Shannon Falls on the road between Whistler and Vancouver

The third highest waterfall in British Columbia – Shannon Falls is just 2 km (1.2 miles) before you Squamish on the road from Vancouver. The falls are spectacular at 335 meters (1099 feet) and are most powerful in late spring and summer when winter snow on the neighboring mountains has melted.

It’s just a 600-meter (0.37 miles) easy walk into the falls from the car park, it’s paved the whole way which means everyone can enjoy it! This is the perfect pit stop to have a snack, stretch your legs, and check out some magnificent waterfalls!

Personally, this is one of the best places to visit in BC and is of my favorite free stops on the drive from Vancouver to Squamish.

10. Sea to Sky Gondola 

Bailey stands on a viewing platform at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola with a mountain backdrop in Squamish, BC
Just admiring the view from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola!
Daniel sits inside the Sea to Sky Gondola near Vancouver, Canada
Yes!

Easily the most popular stop on your short drive from Vancouver to Squamish is the famous Sea to Sky Gondola, and in my opinion, hopping on the gondola to the top of Mount Habrich is the easiest way to take in Squamish’s natural beauty. From this high vantage point (885 meters/2900 feet, above sea level) you can see Howe Sound, all of Squamish, and the iconic Stawamus Chief!

Once at the top, you can take in the mountain scenery on one of the walking trails, which are especially pretty during the summer when colorful wildflowers are in full bloom.

Many tourists visiting the Sea to Sky Gondola also take in the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge at the top, which is 100 meters long (328 feet) and incredibly photogenic with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and forest. The bridge is both stroller and wheelchair-friendly, and if you’re afraid of heights don’t look down – the drop into the valley below is about 65 meters (213 feet)!

A day pass for the Sea to Sky gondola is $71 CAD per person. There is also the option to hike up to the top but be warned, it’s pretty intense (almost 1,000m/3,281 ft elevation gain!). Hikers can pay a one-way fare to go back down on the gondola. 

If you want to get even more adventurous you can try out assisted rock climbing with via ferrata where you can get the feel of rock climbing with the safety of a harness and extra handholds. You’ll climb up granite cliffs with a fixed cable system and hold onto large steel rungs. It’s just like climbing a giant ladder … but on a cliffside!  

The Via Ferrata climbing experience in Squamish can be booked online and is led by a certified guide. It starts at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola (previously mentioned above), so you’ll need to book gondola tickets separately. 

11. Stawamus Chief

Bailey sits at the top of the Stawamus Chief, Vancouver
I grabbed a seat at the top to take in the views!
A man walks along the summit of Stawamus Chief
The summit of Stawamus Chief

If you’re looking for an iconic, Instagram-worthy hike to do before you reach Squamish, the Stawamus Chief has got to be your top choice. This is one of the best hikes around the Vancouver area and it’s very popular with locals and tourists alike. The hike is rated intermediate, but depending on the route you go, it can be longer or shorter but 2.5 hours is average.  

There is about a 600-meter (1,968 feet) elevation gain, so get ready for a workout! At the top of “The Chief”, you’ll have amazing views of Squamish and the Howe Sound. 

12. Squamish

Squamish town from above
Squamish town
Outdoor seating at Backcountry Brewing, Squamish, BC
Doesn’t a meal on the patio sound nice? Photo credit: Backcountry Brewing

You’ve made it to Squamish, the last stop on your epic road trip from Vancouver! The small city of Squamish is especially popular with outdoor lovers with plenty of hikes, rock climbing routes, and water sports on offer here. With a population of approximately 20,000 residents, the town almost triples in size during the summer months thanks to thousands of tourists flocking here each weekend. In fact, the city’s popularity has surged recently thanks to the Netflix series Virgin River, which was filmed here.

From downtown Squamish, you can easily access the Squamish Estuary Trails (access is from Vancouver Street or Main Street). These winding trails are flat and easy and take in native forest and bogland, as well as views of the “Chief” and the Pacific Ocean from the estuary. There are several trails here that all join together, so you can choose to spend just a short time hiking here or up to two hours to complete the entire trail system.

A more difficult hike is the 2.5 km (1.6 mile) Smoke Bluffs Trail which starts from Smoke Bluffs Park on Logger’s Lane, there are lots of steep uphill sections on this hike as well as many steps but the views along the way of Howe Sound and downtown Squamish make it worthwhile.

For an adrenaline rush whitewater rafting needs to be on your agenda! See Squamish from the water is while navigating rapids on the Elaho and Squamish Rivers.

This whitewater rafting tour includes transportation, a guide, and all the gear you need. You can simply grab a paddle with your group and head out for some outdoor fun on the river!  

These rapids are Class 3-4 and feature some exhilarating twists and turns including the “Devil’s Elbow” section of the river. You’re going to ride big waves here and catch some air on the choppy rapids.

The entire journey is about 16 kilometers (10 miles) and it costs about $209 CAD but is worth every penny.

For a more laid-back activity, I highly recommend setting sail on the Howe Sound where you will be offered the chance to take the helm or learn how to trim the sails (balance them). You could also just sit back and enjoy the views and if you get lucky you might spot some wild orcas or dolphins. This sailing experience lasts 3 hours and costs $179 CAD.

In the city itself there are lots of fun things to do in Squamish, check out the Railway Museum of British Columbia on Government Road which houses several vintage trains as well as seasonally themed train rides. For awesome food in Squamish try the Howe Sound Brewery or Zephyr Café.

From the city, you can drive out to the Squamish Spit, at the tip of the Howe Sound near the Squamish Estuary. The main draw here is to check out the windsurfers! The natural environment here is perfect for wind sports, like windsurfing and kiteboarding.

Related Read: Heading to Whistler next? Check out the best things to do in Whistler and our guide about where to stay in Whistler before you go!

Where to Stay in Squamish

the outside of Executive Suites Hotel & Resort, Squamish BC at sunset
This is the best place to stay in Squamish! Photo Credit: Executive Suites Hotel & Resort, Squamish BC

There are lots of choices when it comes to hotels in Squamish, here are three of my personal favorites!

Two miles from downtown Squamish is the 3-star Sandman Hotel and Suites which offers spacious rooms, a gym, and a swimming pool. Breakfast is available at the hotel, but there’s no restaurant to enjoy lunch or dinner. This hotel is also pet-friendly. Rooms here start from $195 CAD per night.

A fantastic budget-friendly option in downtown Squamish is the Crash Hotel, where rooms start from as little as $123 CAD per night. This hotel doesn’t look like much from the outside but the interior is stylish and cozy and there’s even an on-site bar/restaurant The Goat Pub.

At the top end of your budget is the Executive Suites Hotel and Resort which has lovely mountain views and a large outdoor swimming pool. The rooms here are luxurious and spacious and come with a basic kitchen. Worth noting it’s a 5-minute drive into downtown Squamish. A studio here starts from $219 CAD per night.

There are lots more hotels and holiday homes to choose from so have a look for yourself if none of the above catch your eye!

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 you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable! Read my tips on using Motorhome Republic here before you book!

Thanks for reading!

selfie on the Chief hiking trail on the road between Vancouver and Whistler
Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoy the road trip from Vancouver to Squamish as much as we did!

As you can see, there are lots of awesome stops on the short drive from Vancouver to Squamish, and once you complete the drive you’ll understand why it’s so popular with tourists to Canada. I mean it’s just so scenic, I can’t wait to drive this iconic stretch of road again!

If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to browse the rest of our blogs about amazing destinations in BC including a few favorites:

14 BEST Stops on the Drive from Vancouver to Kelowna

33 EPIC Things to do in Vancouver in Summer

4 BEST Food Tours in Vancouver – Chosen by a Local!