Road Trip! A Whistler Pit Stop
Looking to get out of the big smoke for a day trip, a weekend adventure, or a pit stop during your next road trip? This Vancouver scenic drives will take you away from the city, along the coast, and into the mountains on your way to Whistler.
The scenic Sea to Sky Highway guides the 120-kilometre long journey from ocean to mountains with a Vancouver to Whistler drive time of ninety minutes – but expect to take longer to soak up the numerous viewpoints, natural roadside attractions, and outdoor activities and opportunities.
What to Expect Along the Sea to Sky Highway
Highway 99 (or the Sea to Sky Highway) has come a long way from a path only accessible by horse or on foot to an undivided highway with no barrier alongside a cliff. As a part of the 2010 Olympic bid, the highway underwent some major upgrades and is now an incredible journey with many opportunities to let others pass, stop to view sights, and travel safely.
Here’s what to expect during your trip along the Sea to Sky Highway.
Viewpoints a Plenty
Driving north along the Sea to Sky Highway, there are many opportunities to pull the car aside and snap some photos safely. Viewpoints are identified alongside the highway with a green upside-down triangle stating ‘Viewpoint Ahead’.
Always respect the signage by not endangering others on the road trying to backtrack to viewpoints, making illegal U-turns, or spilling out onto the highway. There are plenty of viewpoints along the way and better yet, you’ll have a chance to stop at the opposite viewpoints on your way back to Vancouver!
Scenic Rest Stops
They certainly aren’t your average side-of-the-highway in the middle of nowhere rest stops – these stops along the Sea to Sky offer amazing views, natural wonders, and a washroom – perfect!
- Porteau Cove is a lovely spot on the ocean to stretch your legs, use the facilities, and walk out onto the pier. See people scuba diving at the popular reef, snap photos, and view wildlife before hopping back into your car.
- Murrin Provincial Park is the best way to cool off on a hot day as it’s right off the highway and has an outhouse and a small, deep lake. There are plenty of picnic tables and even some short walks and climbing routes nearby for those looking to get a bit more active.
- Bask in the spray of the magnificent Shannon Falls, another quick turnoff from the highway. With picnic tables, washrooms, and hiking a short distance from the parking lot, it’s a great place to take in the view of British Columbia’s third highest waterfall.
Few Traffic Lights
One of the best things about the Sea to Sky Highway is that once you get out of Vancouver, there aren’t many traffic lights until you hit Squamish and even at that there aren’t many. It makes cruising up the highway a breeze between multiple lanes and merge points.
If you’re looking to stop in at a grocery store or check out a town, the only real option is Squamish whereas the rest of the drive is just you and nature. Britannia Beach has a coffee shop and corner store but otherwise, Squamish will have everything you need including restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, and more.
- Britannia Mine Museum National Historic Site showcases the history of mining in the area – this spot used to be home to the largest copper mine in the British Commonwealth! Do a mine tour, pan for gold, and check out old mining equipment in this well-done museum right next to the highway in Britannia Beach.
- West Coast Railway Heritage Park replicates a turn-of-the-century railway town including multiple historic buildings, train station, and mini-rail. Railway travel has played a vital role in the development of British Columbia and it is all showcased here at the park – a quick veer off the Sea to Sky Highway in Squamish.
- The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler is a beautiful space that contains cultural exhibits that share the history of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations people. Guided or self-guided tours that share their culture and traditions with visitors through song, weaving, woodwork, and story. A must see if you’re in Whistler!
How to Get From Vancouver to Whistler
The most difficult part about getting to Whistler is getting out of Vancouver! Cross the Lions Gate or Second Narrows Bridge onto Highway 1 that turns into Highway 99 (or the Sea to Sky Highway) in West Vancouver.
From there, follow Highway 99 for just over 100 kilometres and follow the signs to Squamish, and Whistler.
Best Roadside Attractions from Vancouver to Whistler
Everything you could want and more is a quick turn off the highway – from amazing natural features, shops, outdoor activities and attractions. A Vancouver scenic drive to Whistler should only be ninety minutes (not including pit stops). You’ll wish you factored in more time to explore along the way.
The Town of Squamish
The town of Squamish is filled with opportunity – from hiking the infamous Chief, riding the Sea to Sky Gondola, going for a walk along Nexen Beach, or having dinner at the Watershed Grill. It has all the amenities such as grocery stores, Walmart, Canadian Tire, and gas stations while also having some amazing biking and hiking trails, lakes, and climbing routes. It’s called the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada for good reason!
Brandywine Falls is an Instagram favourite and located right off the highway between Squamish and Whistler. A large parking lot, picnic tables, washroom facilities, and hiking and biking opportunities make it a nice spot to stop and get into nature. The pathway leads to the viewing platform of the magnificent seventy metre tall waterfall that is perched on the edge of a volcanic escarpment.
Welcome to Whistler Sign
Snag the epic shot of the ‘Welcome to Whistler’ sign as you approach the town. A popular spot for visitors to gather around and take selfies.
Things To Do in Whistler
Only passing through? Here are some activities that will give you an adrenaline rush, get you an amazing view, or relax and rejuvenate you to carry on your travels through the province.
Getting a bird’s eye view of Whistler, especially if you don’t have much time in the resort, a helicopter tour is an excellent way to gain a greater appreciation of the area. Flying out of the Whistler Heliport, soar over the town of Whistler, into the WhistlerBlackcomb ski resort, and into the backcountry filled with glaciers and towering peaks. Touch down on a glacier for a unique experience, and snap tons of photos.
Get the blood pumping on a scenic and exciting ziplining tour on Whistler’s Cougar Mountain. Four zip-lines take you across the valley and are linked with boardwalks that offer up amazing views of the valley and mountains in the distance.
Looking to relax before your next journey? Head over to the Scandinave Spa – a traditional Finnish spa that focuses on the system of hot, cold, and relax. Hot tubs, steam rooms, and wood-fired saunas will warm you up, plunge pools will cool you right down, and solariums, fire pits, and hammocks will allow you to relax and let all your troubles melt away.
Whether you have an hour or a full day, hiking is always an option and a wonderful way to explore Whistler and its surroundings. Take a quick jaunt around Lost Lake or tackle a hike in the alpine on Blackcomb – all you need is sturdy shoes, snacks, water, layers, and a camera of course.
Questions About Your Road Trip From Vancouver to Whistler
- How to go to Whistler from Vancouver by bus?
Travel from the Vancouver Airport on a shuttle bus with Whistler Shuttle or YVR Skylynx, or from Vancouver Downtown at Burrard Street with Epic Rides, SNOWBUS (winter only), Whistler Shuttle, or YVR Skylynx.
- How far is it from Vancouver to Whistler?
Around 120 kilometres or one and a half hours of driving time (a bit longer if you’re on a bus).
- How to get to Whistler from Vancouver airport?
Get yourself onto Granville Street which is the start to Highway 99, and continue north for 130 kilometres.
- How to get from Vancouver to Whistler?
Head north across the Lions Gate or Second Narrows Bridge onto Highway 1 heading west towards West Vancouver, where it turns into Highway 99 (or the Sea to Sky Highway). Continue along Highway 99 for 120 kilometres and follow the signs towards Squamish and Whistler.
- Best time to year to drive from Vancouver to Whistler?
Early summer (June) and early fall (September) would be the best time to drive as the roads aren’t as busy as in the height of summer or in the rush to the snow in winter. Weekdays are also quieter than weekends along the Sea to Sky Highway.
- Do I need snow tires to drive from Vancouver to Whistler?
Between October 1 and April 30, drivers are required to have snow tires or will face a fine. In British Columbia, regulations state that an appropriate winter tire is defined as one with either the M+S or mountain/snowflake symbol and in good condition with a minimum tread depth of 3.5 millimetres.
- What are the road conditions from Vancouver to Whistler?
Road conditions can be ever changing along the Sea to Sky Highway, especially in the winter. Be sure to check the DriveBC website to see if there are any issues, check Google maps to see if there are any delays, or pop on the Sea to Sky Road Conditions Facebook Page to see the latest from real drivers.
If you’re only planning to drive through Whistler on a Vancouver scenic drive, think again – you’ll wish you had planned to spend more time in this incredible mountain town with so much more to offer than skiing and snowboarding.
With so many outdoor activities, cultural exploration, restaurants, and shopping, there’s a little something for everyone to stay amused. Book a hotel or a campsite and stay a while, you won’t regret it.