Visit two of British Columbia's most popular destinations on this 4-day road trip. In Vancouver, stroll the cobbled streets of historic Gastown and enjoy some of Canada's best restaurants. Then take the stunning Sea-to-Sky Highway to the mountains of Whistler where you can access numerous hiking trails to alpine lakes. En route, take time to stop at ocean viewpoints or walk the short trails to local waterfalls.

Highlights

  • Walk Stanley Park's Seafront Promenade, between rainforest and sea
  • Stroll the short trail to Shannon Falls, British Columbia's third-highest waterfall
  • Ride Whistler’s Peak 2 Peak Gondola to hike through the high alpine to glassy lakes
  • Hike the Garibaldi Lake Trail for some of the province's most rewarding views

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vancouver Vancouver
Day 2 Vancouver to Whistler (2 hours) Whistler
Day 3 Explore Whistler: Garibaldi Provincial Park, Train Wreck, & Scandinave Spa Whistler
Day 4 Whistler to Vancouver, Depart (2 h 30 min)  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vancouver

Stanley Park, Deadman's Island, and downtown Vancouver
Stanley Park, Deadman's Island, and downtown 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.  

Day 2: Vancouver to Whistler (2 hours)

Morning light over Squamish, a popular rock climbing destination
Morning light over Squamish, a popular rock climbing destination

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.

Driving time (Vancouver to Whistler): 2 hours (75 miles /120 km)

Day 3: Explore Whistler: Garibaldi Provincial Park, Train Wreck, & Scandinave Spa

Icy blue Garibaldi Lake
Icy blue Garibaldi Lake

Grab an early breakfast at Mount Currie Coffee before taking to the trails south of Whistler for a full day of hiking in Garibaldi Provincial Park. En route, pull over to warm up the legs with an easy in-and-out trek through forest and over the rushing Cheakamus River to the historic Train Wreck site, a popular attraction of colorfully graffitied boxcars leftover from a 1956 derailed train (1.2 miles / 2 km).

Home to glaciers, wildflower meadows (late summer), and saw-tooth peaks, including the park's namesake mountain and impressive Black Tusk, Garibaldi Provincial Park offers a host of trails to choose from (most requiring at least a moderate level of fitness and expertise). From the Rubble Creek parking lot, pick up the Garibaldi Lake trail for an intermediate 11-mile (18-km) trek through thick forests of Douglas Firs, as you hike over an elevation of 2,690 feet (820 m). Stay awhile to soak up the view of the turquoise lake and glacier off in the distance before looping back. (Allow five to seven hours.)

Back in the village, indulge in a post-hike meal at Garibaldi Lift Co.—a popular spot with the locals and affectionately referred to as GLC—for a casual dinner of pub fare, draft beer, and live music that carries well into the night. Alternatively, grab a quick bite to eat and get cleaned up with a soothing mineral soak at Scandinave Spa and then make your way to elegant Araxi Restaurant & Oyster Bar, one of Whistler's long-running top restaurants.

Day 4: Whistler to Vancouver, Depart (2 h 30 min)

Downtown Vancouver with Stanley Park and Granville Island
Downtown Vancouver with Stanley Park and Granville Island

Sit down for a smoothie bowl and green drink from The Green Moustache and then load up the car and follow the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Vancouver and onwards to Vancouver International Airport (keeping in mind that you may hit some traffic passing through the city).

If you have time before your departure, stop at The Naam in Vancouver for lunch before making your way to the airport. If you're feeling indulgent, splurge on a seaplane harbor tour to take in the mountain-and-sea-dominated city from a new perspective. Alternatively, spend an hour walking (or biking) around Stanley Park's seawall to get some exercise before your flight. 

It usually takes 30-45 minutes to drive from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport. Best to arrive at least two hours prior to your international departure, and additional time if you need to drop off your rental car.

Driving time (Whistler to Vancouver International Airport): 2 hours, 30 minutes (80 miles / 130 km)

Map

Map of Sea-to-Sky Highway: Vancouver to Whistler - 4 Days
Map of Sea-to-Sky Highway: Vancouver to Whistler - 4 Days