- Bike Stanley Park's Seawall for beautiful water and Vancouver city views
- Ride Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola to hike the high alpine to glassy lakes
- Eat like a cowboy at Historic Hat Creek's heritage ranch
- Spot ospreys and blue herons along the trails in Marine Peace Park
- Picnic with a bottle of wine along the shore of Lake Okanagan
|Day 1||Welcome to Vancouver!||Vancouver|
|Day 2||Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler||Whistler|
|Day 3||Whistler to Shuswap Lake, following the Gold Rush Trails||Shuswap Lake|
|Day 4||History & Outdoor Adventure around Shuswap Lake||Shuswap Lake|
|Day 5||Shuswap Lake to Osoyoos through Lake & Wine Country||Osoyoos|
|Day 6||Relax and Explore around Osoyoos||Osoyoos|
|Day 7||Osoyoos to Vancouver: Wineries & Local History||Vancouver|
|Day 8||Depart Vancouver|
Day 1: Welcome to Vancouver!
Fringed by the Pacific Ocean and backed by the stunning Coastal Range, Vancouver is one of the world's most livable cities with some of North America's best cuisine, rich indigenous heritage, and outdoor venues that beckon the active traveler.
It only takes around 30 minutes to get from the airport to downtown via taxi or Skytrain ride. The city center and surrounding neighborhoods are easily walkable, and all the main attractions are a short distance away. To get your bearings, start with a stroll along the seawall from English Bay to False Creek before wandering the historical, cobbled streets of Gastown and Chinatown.
With over 60 different cultures, there is a slew of international restaurants serving anything from Asian cuisine to seasonal farm-to-table dishes. For dinner, choose from a selection of top-notch eateries—from downtown and the West End to the North Shore and Kitsilano vicinity. Bear in mind, Vancouverites love eating out any day of the week so be sure to make a reservation if it's a popular restaurant.
Other recommended activities:
- Vancouver Art Gallery. See historical and contemporary exhibits by regional, national, and international artists.
- Chinatown. Snap pics of the towering Millennium Gate and mosey through the tranquil Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
- Sam Kee Building. At just 6 feet (1.8 m) wide, marvel at the world's narrowest office building.
- Vancouver Lookout. Ride the high-speed elevator up 40-stories for 360-degree views. Keep the receipt and come back later to watch the sun setting over the Strait of Georgia.
Day 2: Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler
Collect your rental car (keeping in mind Vancouver's rush hour is from 8-9 am) and begin your road trip north to Whistler along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, one of British Columbia's most iconic drives. A scenic route between the ocean and mountains, there are several great places to stop to break up the short drive.
Halfway to Whistler—and where the ocean, river, and alpine forest meet—there's Squamish, an access point for outdoor activities and adventure. Just before reaching Squamish, you can see the area's most famous peak from the highway, the Chief, a sheer granite rockface popular with skilled climbers. Pick up the Stawamus Chief Trail for a hike up the back to reach the summit (divided into three peaks and graded as an intermediate hike, it takes the average person 3-4 hours to reach the first—and most visited—summit). Or, take the Sea-to-Sky Gondola up the mountain for excellent views of Howe Sound from Summit Lodge at the top where you can also grab lunch.
You'll reach Whistler, an upscale, chalet-style pedestrian village (and venue for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics) in the early to mid-afternoon. Whistler is North America's largest winter sports resort worth a visit at any time of year. The village is built around Whistler-Blackcomb, twin peaks accessed by an ultramodern lift system that provides opportunities to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, rock climb, or zip-line in warmer months and ski or snowboard in the winter.
From Whistler Village, take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola up the mountain for an afternoon adventure. You can hike through the high alpine to Harmony Lake (1.6 miles / 2.5 km from the top of the gondola) or touch the toe of a small glacier on a similarly lengthed trek. For something unique, rent a pair of snowshoes to explore areas covered in year-round snow. Alternatively, there are hiking trails you can take from the village itself. Follow the Valley Trail to Lost Lake, where you can take a dip or enjoy a picnic in the summer months or cross-country ski along its shoreline in the winter.
If you're looking for something more relaxing, spend the afternoon exploring the village: people-watching from an outdoor café, hitting one of the great spas, such as Scandinave, visiting the Whistler Museum, or doing a little shopping. And if you arrive before 4 pm, head over to the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center to sample First Nations cuisine and visit one of Whistler's best gift shops.
Other recommended stops & activities:
- Shannon Falls. Stroll the short trail to British Columbia's third-highest waterfall at 1,099 feet (335 m)
- Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. Home to one of North America's largest eagle populations
- Brandywine Falls Provincial Park. Stand atop a 230-foot (70-m) waterfall and hike a 4-mile (7-km) circuit through dense forest and ancient lava beds to Cal-Cheak Suspension Bridge.
Driving time (Vancouver to Whistler): 2 hours (75 miles /120 km)
Day 3: Whistler to Shuswap Lake, following the Gold Rush Trails
Leaving Whistler, drive northeast through Pemberton following the signs for Lillooet. Be sure to stop at Nairn Provincial Park, where you can stretch your legs on a 40-minute (round-trip) hike along a wooded trail from the banks of the Green River to Nairn Falls.
Once you pass the First Nations settlement of Mount Currie, continue to follow the Sea-to-Sky Highway toward Lillooet, a historic town founded as Mile Zero of the 1858 Cariboo Wagon Road (also referred to as the Gold Rush Trail), which lead north to two goldfields. Enjoy the spectacular scenery of fast-moving rivers, icy-blue lakes, flower-laden meadows, and snow-capped peaks because everywhere you turn offers a picture-perfect view.
From Lillooet, follow the weaving Gold Nugget Route east toward Shuswap Lake in the northern Okanagan region of British Columbia. As you make your way, note the changing desertlike scene: sagebrush-covered hills, cacti, and mostly-barren volcanic landscape with the odd blowing tumbleweed.
To break up the long drive today, stop at Historic Hat Creek, where buildings from the Cariboo gold rush still stand—some dating as far back as 1861. Experience the western atmosphere as you tour the grounds, and if you're hungry, lunch on suitably western dishes, like bison chili, at the Historic Hat Creek Ranch.
Arriving in Salmon Arm, the "Gem of the Shuswap," you'll be out of the desert and surrounded by wooded hills, farms, and the Shuswap Lake-based provincial parks. A popular outdoor destination in the summer, check into your accommodation before finding your way to the Salmon Arm Wharf for lake views and to take in the birdlife on a late afternoon stroll.
Driving time (Whistler to Salmon Arm): 5 hours, 30 minutes (249 miles / 401 km)
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 4: History & Outdoor Adventure around Shuswap Lake
Just over two miles (2 km) east of Salmon Arm is the R.J. Haney Heritage Village & Museum, home to the town's main historic attractions. Discover Salmon Arm's earliest days and explore the park-like grounds of the adjacent Haney House. You'll find an early-20th-century farmhouse that holds a blacksmith's shop, an old fire hall, a church, and a tea house.
Farther afield, history buffs might venture to the Last Spike in Craigellachie, a 40-minute drive northeast along Shuswap Lake. An important part of Canada's history, it's here you'll find a cairn with a plaque and a piece of railway line to mark the spot where Canada was connected from sea to sea. On your return to Salmon Arm, stop in Sicamous to choose your flavor of ice cream at D Dutchmen Dairy and then plonk your towel on any of the sandy beaches that line the banks.
Taking advantage of the watery playground, join a 90-minute guided paddle of McGillivray Lake to see wildlife and uncover local history in a 30-foot (9-m) voyageur canoe replica with Northwest Voyageur Canoe Tours. Afterward, relax lakeside and indulge in a "fur trader's feast," a multi-course picnic add on (lunch and dinner options available).
Other recommended activities:
- Grass Root Dairies. Sample gouda as you watch the cheesemakers at work and explore the farm.
- Marine Peace Park. Walk the trails and spot ospreys and blue herons from the boardwalk along the pier.
- Hire a boat in Sicamous. Discover why it's known as the "Houseboat Capital of Canada."
- Adam's River Sockeye Run. See spawning sockeye in the protected river (first three weeks in October).
Day 5: Shuswap Lake to Osoyoos through Lake & Wine Country
Save your appetite this morning and hit the road to work your way south through the bucolic Okanagan Valley past lakes, orchards, and vine-striped hills, enjoying the several food-and-wine related stops (not to mention outdoor activities) along the way. Just north of Vernon, stop at Silver Star Mountain Resort and take the chairlift to the top from where you can hike or mountain bike the trails back down.
After taking a dip in the clear waters of Kalamalka Lake at Kal Beach, make your way to the Kal Lake Lookout just off the highway. Here you can appreciate the sweeping vistas of the color-changing emerald and turquoise water of the marl lake and surrounding mountain panorama. Stop for lunch in Kelowna and dine on local seasonal eats at Krafty Kitchen + Bar or picnic in the shade of maples and oaks along Lake Okanagan, keeping an eye out for the elusive Ogopogo.
Resting at the arid southern end of the Okanagan Valley along the Canada-US border sits Osoyoos, a small town on a narrow spit of land ringed by the beaches of Osoyoos Lake, as well as the orchards, farms, and vineyards it irrigates. After a long day, don your swimsuit and relax in Canada's warmest freshwater lake.
Other recommended stops & activities:
- Historic O'Keefe Ranch. One of the Okanagan's first cattle ranches with a range of fun activities and history lessons.
- Summerland. A lakeside hamlet with some of the valley's finest wines at Sumac Ridge Estate.
- Rent a bike. Explore the 20-some well-respected wineries spread between Penticton and Naramata.
- Black Sage Bench. Region renowned for its premium Bordeaux-style grapes. Check out Stoneboat Vineyards and Burrowing Owl Estate Winery.
Driving time (Shuswap Lake to Osoyoos): 4 hours (165 miles / 266 km)
Day 6: Relax and Explore around Osoyoos
A day to relax and explore the surrounding region. Head north to Covert Farms to pick fruits, taste organic wine, and shop the country-style market, an excellent local-approved spot to stock up on supplies. Then, if it's not too hot (Osoyoos boasts Canada's highest year-round average temps), return to Osoyoos to visit the Desert Center. Learn about this very unique corner of Canada, from the pocket desert to its desert dwellers, including 23 invertebrates found nowhere else in the world.
When the warm, dry weather becomes a little too much, head to Gyro Beach or Cottonwood Beach on Osoyoos Lake. There's also Sẁiẁs Provincial Park (Haynes Point), a skinny peninsula that juts into the lake south of town, that affords a narrow beach and a walking trail through the marsh. Dry off and have lunch from an outdoor table overlooking the vineyard at Nk'Mip Cellars, the signature restaurant of Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Center.
Early evening, make the short drive to Oliver for dinner at Terrafina, a Tuscan-style restaurant belonging to Hester Creek Estate Winery.
Other recommended stops & activities:
- Osoyoos Golf and Country Club. Take to its sagebrush-lined fairways for a round of golf.
- Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Center. Watch Coyote Spirit and walk the trail through the desert to significant points of interest complete with interpretive panels.
- Mount Kobau. Drive the gravel road to the summit (6,150 feet / 1,874 m) for a bird's eye view over Osoyoos Lake and look out for Spotted Lake, a curious natural phenomenon.
- Naramata Heritage Inn & Spa. Pamper yourself with a spa, great food, and local wines.
- La Stella Winery. Drink the highly-regarded Cabernet-Sauvignon-based Maestoso at this beautiful winery with terracotta roof tiles and floors—a vision straight out of Italy.
Day 7: Osoyoos to Vancouver: Wineries & Local History
Following Highway 3 out of Osoyoos, zigzag your way across southern British Columbia to Vancouver. Stop in the Similkameen Valley to visit a winery or two, like Forbidden Fruit or Orofino wineries in Cawston, or check out the historic grist mill in Keremeos and purchase fresh-picked fruit from any number of roadside stands in between.
For a taste of gold rush history, visit Princeton and District Pioneer Museum to see pioneer artifacts from Granite City, Chinese and Salish artifacts, and a considerable fossil display. Stretch the legs and experience the lakes and alpine meadows of E.C. Manning Provincial Park. If you have three hours to spare, hike Heather Trail (12 miles / 20 km) to Three Brothers Mountain and enjoy the colorful views: a carpet of yellow, orange, and white wildflowers (late July to mid-August).
Approaching Vancouver, the scenery transforms from the bright sunlit rock faces of the Coast Mountains to misty coastal cedars and tall firs as you near the coast. Have dinner in the suburb of Richmond for some of the best Chinese cuisine outside of China.
Other recommended stops & activities:
- Canyon scenery. Twenty minutes off the main drag, cross the river at the north end of Princeton's Bridge Street toward whimsical Coalmont.
- Othello-Quintette Tunnels. Five tunnels carved out of solid granite of the Coquihalla Canyon.
- Hell's Gate Airtram. Ride the tram over the Fraser River Canyon, a scenic pit stop (and 50-minute detour north of Hope).
- Harrison Hot Springs. Charming village and spring-fed mineral hot springs, popular with families.
- Fort Langley National Historic Site. Heritage-style antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants with interpreters in period costume.
Driving time (Osoyoos to Vancouver): 4.5 hours (247 miles / 398 km)
Day 8: Depart Vancouver
Head to The Naam (open 24/7) for an early morning breakfast before making your way to the airport. If you're feeling indulgent, splurge on a seaplane harbor tour to take in the magnificent scenery of the mountain-and-sea-dominated city from a new perspective. Alternatively, enjoy some more time at Stanley Park, paying a visit to Klahowya Village via the Spirit Catcher miniature train to watch cultural performances. Here you can also purchase souvenirs and gifts of traditional First Nations arts and crafts from the Artisan Marketplace and Métis Trading Post.
It usually takes 30 minutes to travel from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport but allow extra time in case of traffic. Best to arrive at least two hours prior to your international departure while allowing extra time to drop off your rental car.