Road Trip! 8 Things To Do On Your Way To Whistler
They often say that it’s the journey and not the destination that makes for a memorable trip. When your destination is Whistler you may want to throw on cruise control and b-line straight here.
Why not take hit the pause button? Slow it down……
We are of the opinion, you’ll be missing out on some seriously epic spots if you do! Luckily, you’ve come across this epic must-stop-list. We share the best pit stops and hot local tips to make your trip from Vancouver (or Seattle) to Whistler amazing from the moment you get in the car!
This is your go to list of Vancouver to whistler drive stops!
Starting From Seattle
Before The Border
Canada is where you want to be, so if you’re starting in Seattle, jump on the I-90 and head to the border! If you feel like shopping, the Premium Outlets are an easy stop right off the highway. There are dozens of designer stores and a food court and of course, washrooms.
Gas is much cheaper in the USA (even with the exchange rate if you’re Canadian), so fill up as close to the border as possible.
Be Smart About Timing
If you can come mid-week, you will save significant time waiting at the border. Avoid long weekends and holidays if possible. If these are your only times off, try to arrive at the border very early or very late. Know where you’re heading and have your passports ready.
Road Trip Starting From Vancouver
To avoid traffic, especially getting out of the city, your best bet is to get on the road from Vancouver to Whistler super early (6 am) or wait until everyone gets to work (10 am). Again, if you can go mid-week, you will miss the weekend traffic.
Sit back and relax for about an hour and take in the breathtaking views of the 99. The Sea to Sky is famous for simply being a stunning drive. Once you get closer to Squamish you’ll be itching for a stretch and we’ve given you the best places to get out of the car!
Local’s Tip: If it’s your first time driving the 99, pay attention! The road curves in and out of the mountains for most of the trip. Take your time and try to drive in daylight. You also are required to have BC approved winter tires from Oct 1-May1.
3 Places To Stop For The Outdoorsy Type
Porteau Cove Provincial Park
A stunning, waterfront provincial park makes for a great stop to have lunch, take photos, and take in the scenery. With a gorgeous view of Howe Sound and a sandy beach, you may be tempted into spending the night. Guess what? You can! The park boasts campsites, but they fill up quickly so book early.
Want to stretch your legs? The Stawamus Chief (just The Chief for short) is a well-renowned BC landmark and a bucket list item for many hikers. Although it is a relatively short distance to the top, don’t let the 6-7km distance fool you.
With a 500m elevation gain and more stairs than you’ve climbed in the last month, your calves will be aching. That being said, the panoramic views of Howe Sound and all of Squamish are breathtaking and worth the burn.
Local’s Tip: There are three peaks to The Chief, all unique and worth doing. A reasonable level of fitness is required as there are sections that require the use of a chain to assist a steep slope.
When you get to Brandywine you’re almost in Whistler! We know you’ll be excited, but Brandywine is worth your time. The gorgeous, rushing falls are only about 1km from the parking lot, so you can be back at your car with an epic Instagram photo in 30 minutes.
4 Places In Squamish To Eat and Drink
Whether you’re a foodie, starving from hiking The Chief, or a craft beer lover, Squamish should not to be ignored when it comes to delicious eats.
Situated in what appears to be an old warehouse, Backcountry is a local brewery that provides beer to many of the pubs in Whistler. With high ceilings, an open concept and a rustic vibe, Backcountry is a great place to stop for a beer. They sell their beer for takeaway, and they also have a retail shop that sells their authentic, beautifully designed clothing.
Local’s Tip: The pizzas at Backcountry are excellent and large enough to share!
The Watershed Grill
Squamish’s only waterfront restaurant, the Watershed Grill hosts incredible views from their patio, as well as fresh seafood and lots of other options.
Their covered patio features large glass windows as well as a completely outdoor area, making it ideal for any weather. They hold brunch from 10am-2pm, so it’s a perfect pit stop if you’ve gotten away late from Vancouver. If you’re still not convinced, check out their menu here.
If beer isn’t your thing, have no fear. With plenty of rotating ciders and a unique list of cider-based cocktails, Northyards is a quaint, two-floor cidery that offers bar bites, flights and charcuterie boards. With comfy couches upstairs and board games to keep you entertained, it’s a perfect stop-off.
If you are lucky enough to be in Squamish on a Saturday (despite this being against earlier advice), the Squamish Farmers Market is a must-do. Right off the highway, the market is easily accessible and runs from 10-3 in the summer months.
With up to 60 vendors, the SFM is more than just a market, they often host events. Check out their website to see a full schedule.
Local’s Tip: There are countless places to eat, drink and grab a coffee. Check out more suggestions for a full itinerary from Vancouver to Whistler (including drive stops) here.
Make A Big-Box Store Stop
It sounds silly to include Walmart, Dollarama, and the Grocery Store on a road trip to-do list, but any local will tell you the same.
Whistler is a high-end vacation spot, meaning a lot of products, including grocery items, have a high markup. While you won’t struggle to find the essentials, you’ll pay about 20% more for them in a lot of cases.
Stock up on groceries if you’re staying for a while, sunscreen, beach toys and the camping equipment you forgot at Walmart and Dollarama, both less than two minutes out of your way.
1 Stop For The Adrenaline Junkie
So your legs are sore from The Chief and your belly is full from Backcountry. You’ve got a ‘grammable photo of the waterfall and all of your supplies for the weekend. Next stop on your road trip from Vancouver to Whistler has to be your hotel right? Well…
Only 15 minutes from your destination, Whistler bungee is a top bucket list item for the adrenaline seeker. Suspended 49 meters (160 feet) above Cheakamus Lake, the bridge is a sight to see and even more so to jump off of!
Another bonus, previously mentioned Brandywine Falls is a stone’s throw away so you can tackle two must-dos within the hour. We get that you might want a little more information before you jump off a bridge, so find that here.
What To Do When You Get Here
Your hotel will more than likely offer secure parking, which means no stress about driving around looking. If you are only visiting Whistler for the day, there are five day lots that can be used for $5-10. Turn off the 99 at Village Gate Boulevard. Take this to the four-way stop at Blackcomb Way and you can’t miss the lots.
Local’s Tip: Need to find parking? We covered the cheapest (or free) places to park in How to Do Whistler for Free
Wander Through Whistler Village
There are countless places to eat and things to do in Whistler Village, so once you’ve dropped your bags head there. If it’s sunny and warm, take your pick of patios. Our favourites are Longhorn, The Beacon and Dublin.
If you only have the weekend and are looking to seriously make the most of it, or you want some ideas for the trip home, follow our 48-hour itinerary.
If you’re looking to focus on food and drink on your road trip from Vancouver to Whistler, check out our foodie blog.
If you have a bit more time, Pemberton can make for a great day trip. You’ll get to see the beauty of Emerald Lake (you can even skate on it in winter!) on your way and Pemberton boasts some excellent camping sites for summer. Pick berries at Northarm Farm, have lunch at Mile 1, check out the sunflower fields in August then head back only 40 minutes to Whistler.
Getting to your destination is always exciting (especially Whistler), but the hidden gems along the way can make the trip. We hope we helped you make the journey worth a story or two!