Snowbirds! Spending Your Winter in the Vancouver Area? Check Out This Side Trip – North Vancouver to Whistler
Recently, we wrote a blog about things to see and do if you are a Snowbird staying in the Vancouver area. We suggested a drive from Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs along Highway 7. Here is another drive that follows the Sea to Sky Highway (Hwy 99) from North Vancouver to Whistler.
The Sea to Sky Highway hugs the coastline as it winds its way north offering up stunning views across Howe Sound and to the mountains beyond. It then heads inland north of Squamish to the year-round destination of world-famous Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. Mt Seymour, Grouse Mountain, and Cypress Mountain are all popular winter activity destinations, two of which are included in this trip.
- Rent a pair of ice skates and enjoy the exhilarating fresh air atop Grouse Mountain on their 8,000 sq. ft. ice skating pond. The Skyride allows for stunning views across Vancouver, Stanley Park and beyond.
- Take a self-guided snowshoe tour or go cross-country skiing at the top of Cypress Mountain through a forested winter wonderland. Warm up with a hot drink or bowl of soup.
- Back on Highway 99 and a further 18 km (11 mi) is the tiny, picturesque village of Lions Bay which hugs the shoreline. A must stop-off is the Lions Bay General Store and Café, located on the east side of the highway (take Lions Bay Avenue exit) and a favourite of those who have travelled this road for decades. You’ll find local products, great coffee, beer, lunch, souvenirs and great views too.
- Adjacent to the highway is the Britannia Mine Museum, an award-winning national historic site. It was a working copper mine from 1904-1974 and opened in 1975 as the BC Museum of Mining. You’ll be dazzled by the light and sound show as you are transported underground by train.
- Just south of Squamish is the entrance to the Sea to Sky Gondola. Be amazed at the stunning views of snow-capped mountains, old-growth forests and turquoise waters of the Howe Sound stretched out before you. At the top take in the brisk winter air, try snow-shoeing or tubing and then warm up with a hot drink or visit the Sky Pilot Restaurant where you can enjoy delicious West Coast fare.
- Like to try local craft beer? Howe Sound Brewing in Squamish produces an abundance of craft beer, from seasonal to year-round brews. Pair their excellent beer with small bites or big bites, all made in-house. It’s located on Cleveland Avenue left off Highway 99, almost at the end of town; you will see the pub on your right.
- For some eagle spotting, head back to the highway and continue north towards Brackendale and Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, one of North America’s largest congregations of wintering bald eagles. These majestic birds gather in this area from November to January to feast on salmon. There are plenty of lookouts and shelters to view the eagles (the Eagle Run viewing shelter is at 41015 Government Road) and you can take an organized tour or even an eagle viewing float trip. Visit Squamish Tourism’s web page on eagle viewing for more information.
- Get back on the highway, it’s time to head to Whistler! There is so much to do in this world-renowned resort. In winter the snow is the big attraction with skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more, but if you want to do something different or your ski legs need a rest there are fabulous restaurants, art galleries, spas, winter events, festivals and more. A must-see is the Whistler Village stroll where you will find fun and sporty shops, bistros and cafes, and the Whistler Olympic Plaza, which is transformed into an outdoor skating rink in winter.
- To experience First Nations art, history and culture visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. Hear the stories and songs and admire the traditional regalia, carvings and art. This is a beautiful museum with stunning works and exhibits; guided tours are available.
- If you are in Whistler on a Sunday evening from December to March check out the free Fire & Ice Show in Whistler Village. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or warm cider and be prepared to be amazed at the spectacle created as expert skiers jump through hoops of fire!
- Once you have explored Whistler then it’s time to head back, and the views are just as stunning on the return journey! You will pass Furry Creek, known for its golf and country club, and the villages of Lions Bay and Horseshoe Bay, home of the BC Ferries terminal for taking travellers over to Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island. Horseshoe Bay has some shops and eateries and it’s always fun to watch the ferries coming and going.
There is so much more to see in this area, particularly in and around North Vancouver and West Vancouver. You could spend a day or two exploring the parks and waterfront walks, Lonsdale Quay Market, with its specialty shops and services, or the historic and growing urban neighbourhood of The Shipyards District.
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Published: November 12th, 2021
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