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Exploring the Coast Mountains: A Road Trip from Vancouver to Whistler

Exploring the Coast Mountains: A Road Trip from Vancouver to Whistler

Embark on a thrilling road trip along the Sea to Sky Highway, stretching from the bustling Waterfront of Vancouver to the majestic slopes of Whistler.

This route is not just about the destination but about an unforgettable journey through the Pacific Northwest, offering vibrant city life, mesmerizing natural beauty, and a plethora of activities to engage in. Let’s start at the beginning, in Vancouver, and cruise our way up to Whistler, exploring each must-see stop and adventure (including local sips along the way: This is Canada’s blog on sipping locally).

Let’s start at the beginning, in Vancouver, and cruise our way up to Whistler (and maybe beyond?), exploring each must-see stop and adventure along the way. 

Vancouver, a city that seamlessly blends vibrant urban life with breathtaking natural beauty, is the perfect starting point for your next adventure. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountains, this bustling metropolis offers a myriad of experiences for every type of traveler. Begin your journey with an unforgettable stay at one of Vancouver’s iconic Fairmont Hotels, known for their luxurious accommodations and exceptional service.

Before heading out on the open road, take some time to explore the vibrant city life that Vancouver has to offer. Stroll through the historic Gastown district and enjoy live music and craft cocktails, take a small open-air ferry ride to bustling Granville Island Public Market, or take a relaxing bike ride around the 9km stunning Stanley Park seawall. For those seeking a thrill, consider kayaking in False Creek or hiking up Grouse Mountain for panoramic views of the city and beyond.

Lions Gate bridge out of Vancouver on your way to your Whistler road trip

As you leave the city, the drive out of Vancouver towards the mountains is as thrilling as it is beautiful. Initially, you transition from urban landscapes to lush green forests and awe-inspiring mountain views in less than an hour. This journey along the Sea to Sky Highway, one of the most scenic drives in the world, will take you from the bustling Waterfront of Vancouver to the majestic slopes of Whistler. Along the way, you’ll encounter mesmerizing natural beauty and numerous activities, making every moment of your trip unforgettable.

Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or an extended vacation, Vancouver and its surrounding regions offer endless possibilities for adventure and exploration. So pack your bags, book a stay at one of the luxurious Fairmont Hotels, and get ready to embark on a journey through the stunning landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.

Sea to Sky Highway road trip on the way to Whistler from Vancouver

Image Credit: Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane

Embarking on a journey along the Sea to Sky Highway unveils a world of breathtaking landscapes and captivating historical sites. Firstly, this route, stretching from the coastal plains up through the mountain ranges, offers an unforgettable experience for every traveler. For a deeper dive into the attractions along this scenic highway, consider exploring further insights and tips in this comprehensive guide.

Additionally, the Sea to Sky Highway is lined with numerous stops that are worth your time. For example, take a pause at the Shannon Falls Provincial Park to witness the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia. Furthermore, the Britannia Mine Museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s mining history with underground tours. Lastly, for a quick photo op and a brisk walk, stop at the Tantalus Lookout for a spectacular panoramic view of the Tantalus Range.

Why This Road Trip is a Must

Shannon Falls Provincial Park

As you journey along the Sea to Sky Highway, make your first road trip stop at Shannon Falls Provincial Park, home to the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia. The falls are a majestic sight, cascading from a height of 335 meters (1,099 feet) into a series of smaller pools below. A well-maintained, easy-to-walk trail leads you from the parking area to the base of the falls, making it accessible for all ages and fitness levels. The park is a perfect spot for a picnic, with several tables situated near the base of the falls, surrounded by old-growth forests and the soothing sounds of cascading water.

Tantalus Lookout

The Tantalus Lookout provides an unmissable opportunity for those who appreciate breathtaking vistas. This roadside stop offers panoramic views of the dramatic Tantalus Range, with its jagged peaks rising sharply against the sky. The lookout is easily accessible from the highway and features several viewing platforms that make it ideal for capturing stunning photographs or simply enjoying a moment of awe-inspiring beauty. The best times for a visit are during the early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight bathes the mountains in warm hues, enhancing the natural splendor of the area.

Porteau Cove Provincial Park

A lesser-known gem along the Sea to Sky Highway is Porteau Cove Provincial Park, which boasts one of the most scenic waterfronts in the region. The park offers spectacular views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains, with facilities for picnicking, camping, and stargazing. Its pebbly beach is a popular spot for kayaking and scuba diving, with several artificial reefs nearby. The park’s pier stretches out into the sound, providing a perfect backdrop for sunset views and a peaceful walk.

Britannia Mine Museum

Further along the highway, the Britannia Mine Museum offers a fascinating exploration of British Columbia’s mining heritage. It was once the largest copper mine in the British Empire and is today an educational and historical resource. Visitors can embark on a guided underground tour, traveling aboard a mine train in the old mine tunnels. The museum also features numerous exhibits, including a working mill show, demonstrating how the mined ore was processed. This stop not only educates but also provides a unique glimpse into the life of a miner, making it an intriguing visit for families and history buffs alike.

Sea to Sky Gondola

A lesser-known gem along the Sea to Sky Highway is Porteau Cove Provincial Park, which boasts one of the most scenic waterfronts in the region. The park offers spectacular views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains, with facilities for picnicking, camping, and stargazing. Its pebbly beach is a popular spot for kayaking and scuba diving, with several artificial reefs nearby. The park’s pier stretches out into the sound, providing a perfect backdrop for sunset views and a peaceful walk.

Squamish Adventure Centre

As you approach the town of Squamish, consider stopping at the Squamish Adventure Centre. This architectural marvel, designed to resemble the wing of a bald eagle, serves as both a visitor center and a hub for outdoor enthusiasts. Here, you can find information on local activities, book adventure tours, and browse through an extensive selection of local artisan goods. It’s also a great place to grab a coffee, enjoy the building’s striking architecture, and take in the panoramic views of Stawamus Chief Mountain.

Mountain Biking in Whistler

Upon arriving in Whistler, the range of activities is as vast as the landscape. Firstly, the village buzzes with energy all year round. For instance, during the warmer months, Whistler Blackcomb offers world-class mountain biking and breathtaking gondola rides between its peaks.

Moreover, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a nature lover, or someone looking to relax and soak up the scenery, Whistler has something spectacular for everyone. Therefore, here’s your ultimate guide to making the most of your time in this vibrant mountain paradise.

Two mountain bikers at the bike parks in Whistler, Credit: Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane

Mountain Biking

Whistler Blackcomb turns into a premier mountain biking destination in warmer months. The Whistler Mountain Bike Park has over 70 trails for all skill levels, with lifts and a high-speed gondola for easy access back to the top.

Credit: Tourism Whistler/Mike Crane

Multicultural family
enjoying view from Peak 2 Peak Gondola in
Whistler, British Columbia

Gondola Rides

For a scenic experience without the adrenaline, the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is perfect. Connecting Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, it offers stunning 360-degree views of glaciers, alpine lakes, and forests. It’s a must-do for photographers and nature lovers.

Image Credit: Tourism Whistler/Guy Fattal


Golfers can enjoy the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. It features stunning mountain scenery, natural creeks, ponds, and exposed rock faces, providing a beautiful and challenging experience.

Image Credit: Brad Kasselman

Hikers in front of Black Tusk in Whistler, Credit: Tourism Whistler/Justa Jeskova

Hiking: Trails for Every Explorer 

Whistler’s trails are a hiker’s dream. Lost Lake offers easy loops with lake views, perfect for families. For a challenge, Garibaldi Provincial Park has trails to Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk. Enjoy lush wilderness and spot wildlife like bears and deer.

Image Credit: Tourism Whistler/Justa Jeskova

Paddle Boarding in Whistler

Water Sports on Whistler’s Lakes 

Alta Lake, near Whistler Village, is perfect for water sports. Enjoy kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, wakeboarding, and windsurfing, with rentals and lessons available. The accessible lake and great facilities make it ideal for a fun day on the water.

Credit: Ziptrek/Mitch Winton


Experience the thrill of ziplining through the mountains, over rivers, and through forests. This is a great way for adrenaline seekers to see the landscape from a different perspective.

Image Credit: Ziptrek/Mitch Winton

Wildlife Tours

Join a guided tour to observe Whistler’s wildlife in their natural habitat, an educational and awe-inspiring experience.

Image Credit: Tourism Whistler/Michael Allen

Scandinave Spa

Spa and Wellness

After a day of adventure, unwind at one of Whistler’s luxurious spas. The Scandinave Spa offers hot baths, cold plunges, and relaxation rooms in a serene forest setting. Alternatively, visit the Fairmont Whistler for traditional spa treatments and excellent pool facilities.

Image Credit: Scandinave Spa/Justa Jeskova

Family in Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, Credit: Tourism Whistler/Justa Jeskova

Cultural Exploration

Visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to learn about the region’s indigenous cultures through exhibits, tours, and live demonstrations.

Image Credit: Tourism Whistler/Justa Jeskova

From Vancouver’s vibrant Waterfront to the serene and adventure-packed Whistler, the Sea to Sky Highway offers a journey that promises beauty, excitement, and unforgettable memories at every turn. Whether you’re seeking urban exploration, historical insights, adrenaline-pumping activities, or just a peaceful retreat in nature, this road trip encompasses it all. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and let the Pacific Northwest charm you with its wonders!

Want to extend your road trip?

Head to the Rockies

Head out to the legendary Icefields Parkway, navigating through the heart of Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper. These aren’t just places; they’re the soul of Canada, vibrant and alive, especially in the summer. For a seamless journey from the Pacific coast to the heart of the Rocky Mountains, consider the unique experience of traveling by train with the Rocky Mountaineer.

The Rocky Mountaineer offers an extraordinary rail adventure that transports you from the coastal city of Vancouver all the way to the majestic Rocky Mountains. This journey, highlighted in This is Canada’s blog about Rocky Mountaineer train journeys, is a spectacular way to traverse the diverse landscapes of British Columbia and Alberta. From the lush, rain-soaked forests near the coast, through winding river canyons and the fertile fields of the Fraser Valley, to the towering, snow-capped peaks of the Rockies, the train ride offers panoramic views and luxurious comfort.

This summer, immerse yourself here—where Canada’s heart beats in the rhythmic dance of the Northern Lights across a starlit sky. 

Hop to the Island

No trip to the West Coast is complete without visiting Vancouver Island. The journey from Vancouver to Victoria is picturesque, whether you fly via a commercial airline, cruise the Strait of Georgia aboard a BC Ferries boat or take a quick 35-minute floatplane or helicopter ride. Keep your eyes on the lookout because if you’re lucky, you might even glimpse an orca or dolphin. Surrounded by sweeping beaches, storied cityscape and world-class attractions, it’s a stunning landscape to explore. From golfing to gardens and parks, exploring the rich history at local museums to having fun with the whole family, there is so much to see and do in Victoria.

Places to Stay

Vancouver & Victoria

Begin your journey with an unforgettable stay at one of Vancouver’s iconic Fairmont Hotels, known for its luxurious accommodations and exceptional service.

Fairmont Waterfront

Located on the city’s harbourfront, discover a relaxed west coast luxury hotel with sustainability at its core. Learn about honeybees and their impact on the planet at the hotel’s apiary and later sip on a signature “Stinger Lager” made in partnership with Whistler Brewing, or join for Bottomless Brunch or Sip & Shuck which features the best of BC wines & oyster bar pop-up while supporting Okanagan wineries impacted by last year’s wildfires.

Fairmont Pacific Rim

Located near the waterfront, this hotel is Vancouver’s home of contemporary design, refined indulgence, creative inspiration and the definition of welcoming culture. Complete with curated rotating in-house exhibitions, a world-class spa, innovative restaurants, and award-winning cocktail bar, guests are invited to immerse themselves in a unique experiential escape.

Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

A landmark hotel in the heart of downtown, combining classic elegance with modern amenities, just steps from shopping, dining, culture and entertainment. Wine and dine at Notch8, featuring regional fare that includes new favourites and prized classics, or indulge in one of their famed themed Afternoon Teas, which rotate every four months.

Fairmont Airport

Conveniently situated within the airport, perfect for those looking to start their adventure the moment they land. Surrounded by luxurious interiors and stunning mountain views, find time to unwind with health and wellness offerings, indulge in seasonally inspired local cuisine and watch live music—all without leaving the airport.

Fairmont Empress

Overlooking Victoria’s sparkling Inner Harbour, Canada’s Castle on the Coast is a National Historic Site dating to 1908. Located in the heart of Victoria, steps away from the British Columbia Parliament Buildings, this award-winning property is where modern meets icon. Whether you come to immerse yourself in the history and culture of Victoria, explore the iconic parks and beaches, or visit for a romantic getaway to relax and recharge, Fairmont Empress is the ideal retreat to create unforgettable memories.

Whistler & the Canadian Rockies

Begin your journey with an unforgettable stay at one of our iconic Fairmont hotels in Whistler, Jasper, Banff, Lake Louise, or the Rimrock. Luxurious accommodations and exceptional service await you.

Fairmont Chateau Whistler

Nestled at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, Fairmont Chateau Whistler is the pinnacle of luxury lodging in the area. With its alpine chic elegance, the hotel provides an exclusive gateway to both relaxation and adventure. Whether you’re looking to unwind at the spa or step out onto the slopes (skiing or mountain biking), the Fairmont is equipped to make your stay unforgettable. 

Fairmont Banff Springs

Nestled in the heart of the Rockies, the Fairmont Banff Springs is a luxurious escape blending historic charm with modern amenities. Enjoy world-class dining, spa relaxation, and outdoor adventures in this iconic “Castle in the Rockies.”

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Perched on the shores of Lake Louise, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise combines luxury with stunning alpine views. Indulge in spa treatments, gourmet dining, skiing, and hiking in this picturesque mountain sanctuary.

Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge

Surrounded by Jasper National Park’s pristine beauty, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge offers rustic elegance with cedar chalets and log cabins. Enjoy golfing, lake paddling, and wildlife adventures in this luxurious nature retreat.

The Rimrock Resort Hotel

High above Banff, The Rimrock Resort Hotel offers breathtaking views and refined luxury. Enjoy fine dining, a full-service spa, and nearby natural wonders for a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure.

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