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There is no shortage of amazing road trips in British Columbia, and the drive from Vancouver to Whistler MUST make it onto your list! Not only is the drive absolutely gorgeous, but there are so many different things to do along the way. This list is your ultimate road trip guide on what to see and do when you drive from Vancouver to Whistler!
Anyone who has visited Vancouver knows it’s an awesome city, full of things to do and amazing natural beauty everywhere you look. And then there’s Whistler – a world-renowned ski destination made famous during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Well, the road trip between these two destinations is just as amazing as visiting the cities themselves!
This blog will look at some of the most important tips and tricks to make the most of your drive, in addition to all the epic stops along the way. I hope it’s helpful as you begin to plan your trip to this amazing area!
- About the Drive from Vancouver to Whistler
- How to Enjoy the Drive from Vancouver to Whistler
- The BEST Stops when Driving from Vancouver to Whistler
- 1. Vancouver
- 2. Lions Bay Beach Park
- 3. Tunnel Bluffs Hike
- 4. Porteau Cove
- 5. Furry Creek Golf Course
- 6. Britannia Mine
- 7. Shannon Falls
- 8. Sea to Sky Gondola
- 9. Stawamus Chief
- 10. Squamish
- 11. Squamish Spit
- 12. Alice Lake Provincial Park
- 13. Tantalus Lookout
- 14. Garibaldi Lake
- 15. Brandywine Falls
- 16. The Train Graveyard
- 17. Whistler
- Where to Stay in Whistler, BC
- Before you go…
About the Drive from Vancouver to Whistler
The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is epic. There’s no other way to describe it! It’s such a beautiful area and you’ll love every moment of it.
To get to Whistler, you’ll exit the city of Vancouver and drive north along the scenic Highway 99 – also called the Sea to Sky Highway. There’s no mystery of why it’s called that… It offers views of the sea and sky all the way along! The Sea to Sky Highway is world-famous and gained international attention after major improvements were made to the route during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The route is about 120 kilometers (74.6 miles) long and would take about two hours to drive if you go straight through. Doing this, however, would be a big mistake! There are just so many amazing places to see along that way that you’ll definitely want to stop and visit.
You could easily stretch this road trip into a full-day experience or even take a few days, stopping overnight along the way. Whichever you choose, take your time and enjoy the ride!
How to Enjoy the Drive from Vancouver to Whistler
There are two ways you can enjoy the scenic drive from Vancouver to Whistler: join a tour or drive yourself. If you don’t have your own car and don’t want to drive on your own (I get it – let someone else do the work and you can sit back and enjoy), you can join a guided tour.
This tour is a great option for a one-day tour to Whistler. It will take you along the Sea to Sky Highway, stopping off at some of the best attractions along the way. It’s a guided tour so you will learn a lot about the region while you drive. The price is $190 CAD/person and includes your gondola ticket at the Sea to Sky Gondola.
If you’re up for an overnight adventure, this tour offers a 2-day getaway to Whistler. You’ll start with a tour of some Vancouver’s highlights, then make your way from Vancouver heading towards Whistler. You’ll stay overnight in Whistler and also experience the magic of the Peak 2 Peak Gondola up top Whistler Mountain! Because this tour is 2 days, you’ll have more time to check out all of the fun things to do in Whistler. The price is around $350 CAD/person which is really reasonable considering it includes overnight in a hostel, dinner, and a tour guide.
The other option is to drive yourself and enjoy the trip at your own, leisurely pace. If you don’t have your own car, you can rent one from many places in Vancouver (including the international airport). The drive is easy to navigate with signage along the way, so it should be pretty straightforward to know where to stop and get out to see the places on your list!
Of course, if you’re driving yourself then keep reading. This blog will help you plan the best road trip from Vancouver to Whistler with all of the best places to check out along the way.
The BEST Stops when Driving from Vancouver to Whistler
It’s likely that Vancouver will be your starting point before jumping into a road trip up to Whistler. 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:
- Walk or bike the seawall at Stanley Park: This 12km paved path goes all the way around Stanley Park, the iconic urban park in downtown Vancouver. Biking is a super fun way to see all the sites and explore! This is my top activity you should really prioritize even if you only have one day to spend in Vancouver.
- 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.
- Have a Beach Day: from English Bay to Spanish Banks to Kitsilano Beach, there are so many awesome beaches in Vancouver to hang out and go for a swim at. Hang around until sunset to watch the sky light up in all shades of orange – the perfect activity for anybody visiting Vancouver on their honeymoon.
- Check out a gallery or museum: While it’s not famous for galleries and museums like New York or London, Vancouver can hold its own! Try the Vancouver Art Gallery or the Museum of Anthropology – especially great choices on a rainy winter’s day in Vancouver.
- Go hiking: There are plenty of easy day hikes around Vancouver that are perfect for all fitness levels. Head to North Van and tackle Quarry Rock, or explore the popular Lynn Canyon.
2. Lions Bay Beach Park
Lions Bay is a small community just at the beginning of your trip to Whistler and your first point to get out and stop!
Depending on when you leave, it might be a great place for a picnic lunch at Lions Bay Beach Park. This park has a nice maintained grass and sandy area with a roped-off swim area. Limited parking is available near the Lions Bay Marina.
3. Tunnel Bluffs Hike
There are many, many awesome hiking options in and around Vancouver, and Tunnel Bluffs is definitely worth a stop! This intermediate hike will take about four hours to complete. It’s 11.5 km/7.1 mile roundtrip and has an elevation gain of 470 meters/1542 feet – definitely a bit of a challenge!
Tunnel Bluffs is accessible off the Sea to Sky Highway at the Lions Bay exit (Sunset Trailhead). 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 to Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast!
4. Porteau Cove
A few more kilometers up Highway 99 is Porteau Cove Provincial Park, a picturesque park and campground that is definitely worth a stop. You can get out and stretch your legs at this scenic viewpoint, walking out onto the old dock to catch some views of the nearby islands.
This is a popular spot for deep-sea divers, so you might be able to see some diving in action. Or, if you’re a diver yourself, book a dive!
If you want, you can book the campground here and spend a night or two right near the water – it’s truly a beautiful spot on the road from Vancouver to Whistler.
5. Furry Creek Golf Course
Depending on your schedule, 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!
Golf rates range from $89-$169 CAD depending on the month and day of the week you visit. Of course, weekends in the summer (July and August) are the most expensive. Furry Creek Golf Course is open annually from March until October. You should book a tee time in advance to ensure you don’t miss out.
Even if you aren’t a golfer, you might want to stop here to enjoy their very restaurant, fittingly called Sea to Sky Restaurant. This is a beautiful fine-dining experience in a restaurant that offers incredible views. They serve what they call “West Coast cuisine”, so you can expect plenty of fresh seafood. Reservations are welcome but are not required.
6. Britannia Mine
This unique attraction is a great, family-friendly stop along the Sea to Sky Highway. Britannia Mine was a copper mine in operation from 1904 to 1974. It was actually once the largest copper mine in the British Empire that employed over 60,000 people in the community!
Today, it is a heritage site that educates the public on the history of the mine and the region. On a visit to the Mine, you will get a guided tour that includes an underground mine tour. You’ll even learn how to pan for gold, and if you find anything then you can keep it!
You’ll also find an on-site cafe and gift store.
Entrance tickets (including an underground mine tour and gold panning experience) are $38 CAD/adult and $19.95 CAD/child. You should book your tour in advance as there are only select departure times and group sizes are limited.
7. Shannon Falls
This is the perfect pit stop to have a snack, stretch your legs, and check out some magnificent waterfalls! Shannon Falls is located just south of Squamish, where there is an easy, relatively flat trail to the falls lookout. There is also a paved trail to be accessible for all visitors.
The Falls are pretty spectacular at 335 meters (1099 feet) tall! The ideal time to go is the late Spring and Summer when winter snow on the neighboring mountains has melted and the falls are at their most powerful.
Personally, this is one of my favorite stops on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler. But, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Shannon Falls can get very busy in the Summer months so it’s best to plan for the crowds. If possible, visit early in the morning or later in the day, and mid-week as opposed to on the weekends.
At Shannon Falls you’ll find picnic tables and toilets. So, it’s a good place to have lunch and a bathroom break along your road trip if needed.
Related Read: Shannon Falls is also one of the best stops on a road trip from Vancouver to Lake Louise – read about the other stops on thie epic route!
8. Sea to Sky Gondola
If you’re ready for some jaw-dropping views, make sure you make a stop and ride the Sea to Sky Gondola! The gondola is located just before you reach Squamish on your road trip from Vancouver to Whistler just off the highway.
It will take you up the mountain, with great views of the Howe Sound from every direction. Once at the top, you can go on walks, check out the suspension bridge, have a drink or snack, and take in the views. Give yourself a good amount of time to enjoy the top, there are many different trails to viewpoints here and you can even enjoy some food at the restaurant.
My best advice is to ride the Sea to Sky gondola on a clear day. If there is too much cloud cover, you won’t see much from up there. But on a bluebird day, it’s honestly breathtaking!
A day pass for the gondola is $63 CAD/adult with discounted rates for seniors and children. There is also the option to hike up to the top but be warned, it’s pretty intense (almost 1,000m elevation gain!). Hikers can pay a one-way fare to go back down on the gondola.
9. Stawamus Chief
If you’re looking for an iconic, Instagram-worthy hike to do in the area, the Stawamus Chief has got to be your top choice. 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 (2.5 hours on average but some people take over 6 hours).
There is about a 600-meter (1968 feet) elevation gain, so get ready for a workout!
From the trailhead off of the Sea to Sky highway, you’ll start the hike on a wide trail. You’ll then see the trail quickly turn into a steep section of stairs. This section is the most challenging, so take rests as needed and push through.
Continue up the trail through a trail junction with the Sea to Summit Trail, and continue towards one of the three peaks of The Chief. The peaks are all marked, and depending on your fitness level, you can do one or all three.
Be ready for a bit of technical hiking! To get up to the viewpoint you’ll notice a section of ladders you’ll need to climb. Once you’re at the top you get to enjoy sweeping views of the entire region. Feel the sense of accomplishment and soak it all in!
Climbing the other peaks requires more time and is much harder, so if you’ve found yourself challenged enough only hike up the first summit and back down.
Squamish is an awesome city and a great place to stop for a visit, or even stay overnight to really make the most of it and break up your road trip. It’s the only city you’ll drive through on your way from Vancouver to Whistler, so fuel up and grab a bite to eat here.
Squamish is known as heaven for the outdoorsy crowd, with a lot of people attracted to the outdoor lifestyle, with plenty of hiking, rock climbing, and windsurfing enthusiasts living here.
If you’re just stopping for a bite to eat or a drink, try the Howe Sound Brewery or Zephyr Café – both fun, local stops to relax at for a bit. If you want to check out some culture and history, try the Railway Museum of British Columbia!
It’s also fun to just walk around the downtown area, as there are a ton of cute little shops to check out.
Where to Stay in Squamish
If you want to break up the road trip from Vancouver to Whistler then Squamish is the perfect place to spend a night or two. There’s plenty to do in Squamish and lots of hotels and holiday homes to choose from.
For a budget stay, check out the Adventure Inn. You can get a private room for an affordable price here as well as have access to shared communal facilities like laundry and a kitchen – super handy if you want to save money by cooking.
For something a little nicer, check out the Mountain Retreat. This hotel features many different styles of rooms from a standard queen all the way to a one-bedroom family suite. There is a pool, fitness center, and on-site restaurant.
Luxurious travelers can’t pass up the Highlands Bed & Breakfast. The one-bedroom suites here are stunning and a delicious breakfast is included. Views from around the property are seriously stunning and this B&B makes for the perfect relaxing getaway in the Garibaldi Highlands.
11. Squamish Spit
While in Squamish, make sure to drive out to the Squamish Spit, located at the tip of the Howe Sound near the Squamish Estuary. This long man-made walkway jets out into the water and makes for a nice place to take a stroll and stretch your legs on the road between Vancouver and Whistler. Enjoy the breeze and mountain views in every direction!
Although the views are nice, the main draw here is to check out the windsurfers! The natural environment here is perfect for wind sports, like windsurfing and kiteboarding. It’s pretty cool watching these athletes catch some major air and surfing the waves!
2022 Update: The Squamish Spit is scheduled to be removed in the coming months. Some excavation has already started, but the entire spit has not been removed as of yet.
12. Alice Lake Provincial Park
Okay, time for some R&R! If you’re itching for a beach day, Alice Lake Provincial Park is a great place to stop for the afternoon and it’s just 13km (8 miles) north of Squamish on the drive towards Whistler.
There are actually four lakes in the park, but Alice Lake is the biggest and is a beautiful lake surrounded by towering mountains. It has a well-maintained day-use area and overnight campsites as well.
Most people visit here to enjoy a picnic, a day of swimming, or even get out on the water in a paddleboard or canoe. The campsites are some of the best in the province too and they even have powered sites (not overly common for provincial parks.) Be sure to book your camping in advance, especially during the peak months of July, August, and September. Camping is generally open from May until October each year.
13. Tantalus Lookout
Keep your eyes open for the Tantalus Lookout sign while driving out of Alice Lake Park. This will be a quick pit stop, but so worth it. The views from Tantalus Lookout, which sits at a 320-meter elevation, are epic. Bring a camera and snap some great pics to remember your awesome road trip!
14. Garibaldi Lake
I told you there was a lot of awesome hiking in this area, and Garibaldi Lake is another example of one! This hike is rated intermediate, but at 820 meters (2690 feet) of elevation gain, it’s definitely quite a challenge for a lot of people! The hike is about 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) long roundtrip and will take approximately six hours to complete. I would personally give yourself a little more time to relax at the lake before having to hike back down.
The hike is accessible from the Rubble Creek parking lot, which is just south of Whistler, and begins at the wooden steps at the top of the lot. You’ll follow the trail until you get to the stunning turquoise-colored Garibaldi Lake. This, plus the picturesque meadows with alpine flowers along the way, make the effort so worth it!
The last time we visited, we spent the night at the lake. This is great because it breaks up the hike and allows you to enjoy “golden hour” at one of the most beautiful lakes in BC! Spending the night also means you’ll have more time to conquer the even more challenging hikes from there, Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge.
Of course, due to its popularity, you need to book your campsites in advance. At worst, you could hike up to the lake and back down in a day, however, spending the night is highly recommended!
15. Brandywine Falls
Not to be outdone by Shannon Falls is the other must-see waterfall on this drive from Vancouver to Whistler, the stunning 70-meter Brandywine Falls. It can be seen from a viewpoint that is just a quick 1km walk away from the parking area and back again.
The short walk to the viewpoint is flat and well-maintained, making it very accessible to most travelers. And the view? Well, just look at the photo! Brandywine Falls is truly gorgeous and well worth checking out if you ask me.
Brandywine Falls is located only a 15-minute drive from the town of Whistler, so it’s easily one of the best summer activities in Whistler.
16. The Train Graveyard
Located just outside of Whistler is the quirky and wonderful attraction that is the Whistler Train Wreck. It’s a spot in the middle of the forest with a handful of de-railed old train boxcars that have now been transformed into graffiti artwork. The boxcars ended up there when a train derailed in 1956 after going too quickly. The odd part, though, is that they were just left there!
Today, the train graveyard is accessible by various trails, but the quickest one is actually from a pullover bay right off the highway. If you check the train wreck location on Google maps you can see this trail. Alternatively, there are other trails from Whistler that you can take to visit the Wreck.
On the way to the trains, you’ll also pass a beautiful suspension bridge that crosses the Cheakamus River. There are a total of 7 carriages to explore with 5 being just after the suspension bridge and the other two a little further on.
This is a must-see spot and is a really cool place to explore and get some unique photos.
Hot Tip: Because the Train Wreck is located so close to Whistler, you can always skip this stop on your road trip and come back another day from Whistler.
You made it! Whistler. It’s an awesome city, no matter what season you go in. Obviously, Whistler is known as a world-class ski and snowboard destination, but there is so much more to do in Whistler than just that. Some highlights include:
- Take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. This gondola is the longest in the world and takes you between Whistler and Blackcomb’s peaks. Seriously epic views.
- Check out the Audain Art Museum to see some amazing local artists.
- Eat, drink, repeat. There are tons of great bars and restaurants to check out in Whistler Village! Be sure to pamper yourself and visit some of the fine dining options (perfect for couples visiting Whistler and those on a honeymoon!) There are also some beautiful coffee shops in Whistler worth checking out.
- Have a beach day at Lost Lake – it’s a great spot to chill out and go for a swim if you’re visiting Whistler in the summer.
Related Read: Did you know Whistler is a festive place to visit leading up to the holiday season? Read our blog about visiting Whistler in December for more info on annual events and special seasonal activites.
Where to Stay in Whistler, BC
There are tons of choices when it comes to hotels in Whistler, below are some of my very favorites:
For those travelers on a budget, the Hi Whistler is one of the only budget options. Although a hostel, the place is very clean and comfortable and they also have private rooms. A great place to meet travelers and enjoy your time in Whistler.
You can check availability on Booking.com.
The Listel Hotel is a beautiful place to stay in the heart of Whistler. I still consider it a budget option for Whistler but the hotel has lots of luxuries including a spa, restaurant, and bar.
You can check availability on Booking.com
For a luxury hotel in the heart of Whistler, the Whistler Village Suites is my top choice. For Whistler, it’s still a great value hotel and has a swimming pool, bar, fitness center, and restaurant. The rooms a very nice and for groups they have 2 bedroom apartments.
You can check availability on Booking.com
Heading to Whistler for a ski holiday? Check out our blog about the 5 best hotels in Whistler for skiing!
Renting a Car in British Columbia
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 is relatively cheap especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pickup and drop-off in different locations is around $70 CAD per day. The price does vary though depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Rental Cars.com. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Rental Cars.com all over the world including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
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!
Canada Travel Essentials
Before you decide to head off and explore the gorgeous mountains, lakes, towns, and cities around Canada it’s important to have the right equipment. Of course, it’s likely you’ll have most of the basics already but there are some common items people forget that I never travel without.
Crampons: In winter crampons are super handy, but what people don’t realize is that they come in handy in summer too. In fact, up until mid-July, you can still expect icy conditions in the mountains. The pair I use is only $29 and they have lasted me 3 seasons so far!
Waterproof shell: Most people will have this item but I thought I’d include it anyway since it’s so handy in Canada. The Columbia waterproof jacket is a lightweight windproof jacket that will seriously save you in many situations. The best part though? It comes in pink!
Scent-proof bag (for bears): Most people think you only need to keep the smell of food away from you when you’re overnight camping. However, bears can smell the food in your bag while you’re hiking and the best way to avoid an encounter is to use a scent-proof bear bag. Basically, you put your food in the bag and the bear cannot smell it while you’re hiking. This is one item most people never have (I never hike without it) but it could save you and the bear.
Buff: I love my buff! Seriously, I go nowhere without it both in winter and summer. There are a few brands around but I always buy the original Buff (you know, the one from Survivor!) They’re a little more expensive but the material is good quality and both breathable and quick drying.
Dry bag: I have expensive camera equipment so I always travel with a dry bag large enough to fit some of my equipment. It can be a camera, book, binoculars, or even my keys. Regardless, a dry bag gives me peace of mind! The MARCHWAY bag is really good quality, and when not in use, takes up only a small amount of room.
Binoculars: I love my binoculars! Seriously they have come in hand so many times especially when I’m looking for wildlife. The best part is, I use a set that only costs $27 and they serve my basic needs without any issues!
Before you go…
There are so many awesome things to do in Whistler, that this is just a taste. Both Vancouver and Whistler are amazing destinations in their own right, but the road trip between them? Pure bliss. I love a good road trip with lots to see and do along the way, and this one does not disappoint! So, get your car and some good tunes, and make some memories to last a lifetime on the drive from Vancouver to Whistler.
If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to browse the rest of our blogs about amazing destinations in BC including a few favorites: