Side trips from Vancouver Offer Plenty to Do in the Winter
If you are spending the winter in the Metro Vancouver area there are many excellent attractions to keep you busy. In Vancouver, some of those include Granville Island, Science World, the Planetarium, Art Gallery, Chinatown. There are also plenty of festivals and events, especially around the Christmas season, as well as Chinese New Year celebrations in February and the Dine Out Vancouver Festival that runs from mid-January to early February. However, we want to provide some alternative options, ones that will get you out of Vancouver to experience what the region has to offer.
Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs via the Scenic Hwy 7
The Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs trip will, for the most part, take you along Scenic Highway 7 from Coquitlam to Harrison Hot Springs. Before you go make sure you have winter tires and that you dress appropriately for the colder temperatures.
There are a number of RV parks open throughout the winter and hopefully you have found yourself a good place to stay and close enough to appreciate what Metro Vancouver and the region has to offer. So, wherever your RV home base is get yourself onto Highway 7 which runs east-west and is north of the Fraser River. Once there head east into the Fraser Valley. The highway will deviate through Maple Ridge and Mission (lots of lights in Mission but do persevere) and then you are out into the country with stunning views over fields and mountains. The distance from Coquitlam to Harrison Hot Springs is approximately 100 km (62 mi) and takes about 1.5 hrs driving time not including any stops along the way.
- Snowshoeing at Sasquatch Mountain – you must carry chains to travel up the mountain road in winter. This is definitely worth the trip though as you have access to some great snowshoeing opportunities, from easy to more strenuous, from do-it-yourself to guided tours. Of course, there is also skiing, tubing and much more to experience on the mountain. Sasquatch Mountain Resort. (Distance from Coquitlam to turn off at Sasquatch Inn is approximately 75 km then 10 km to resort).
- Fraser Valley Bald Eagles. Between Mission and Harrison Hot Springs you may be lucky to see many bald eagles in the area. The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival is in the middle of November and they come to feast on the spawning salmon, but there are eagles around throughout the fall and winter (October to February). Eagle viewing can be had at various locations including Kilby Provincial Park and along Nicomen Slough on Highway 7 east of Mission from Dewdney to Deroche (be careful parking on the side of the highway). Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival.
- Shortly past the Sasquatch Mountain turn off you will come to the sign to Kilby Historic Site in Harrison Mills. Don’t miss the right turn after a sweeping right hand bend which crosses the Harrison River. If you miss the first one there is another right turn just along the highway. Check out this historic museum that houses a fascinating display of artifacts from the 1920s and 1930s, a Post Office and the Manchester House Hotel and it dresses up for Christmas too.
- Back on the road and still heading east you will come to a stop light (13 km) that directs you to turn right to continue on Highway 7, however go straight on towards Harrison Hot Springs on Highway 9 north. It’s only a short distance to the hot springs resort. This resort is very popular in the summertime as visitors flock to soak up the ambience, relax on the beach, go boating and experience its small town charm. In the winter it is much quieter but you can take a bracing walk along the waterfront, stopping for a hot chocolate, bowl of soup, or, take a relaxing dip in the hot springs at Harrison’s Public Pool. The hot mineral waters are pumped into the pool from one of the hot springs and cooled to 38 C (100 F). They are open 7 days a week. If you are there around the Christmas season, you will be able to experience the twinkling Lights by the Lake which are on through December and January. Harrison Hot Springs in Winter.
- Now, turn around and head back the way you came. You may find some quirky little places to stop at such as Lake Errock and Deroche but we will take you on into Maple Ridge. If you need a diversion and want to stretch your legs, head to Golden Ears Provincial Park and Alouette Lake with its beautiful views of snow-capped mountains. Take 232nd St north off Highway 7, right on 132nd Ave and onto Fern Crescent and follow signs.
- Maple Ridge has lots of food offerings and here are a couple of suggestions for a snack, dinner or whatever takes your fancy. Try Kingfisher Waterfront Bar & Grill. You can locate this restaurant by turning left (south) off Highway 7 at 240th Street in an area known as Albion. Great atmosphere, food and views across the Fraser River.
- Alternatively, there is the Big Feast Bistro. This small town bistro offers a menu utilizing local foods and served with a big heart. They also offer their dishes frozen too so that you can take home to enjoy. Find them at 11920-227 Street in the heart of Maple Ridge and a short distance north of Highway 7.
- Heading west towards Pitt Meadows is Golden Ears Cheesecrafters offering their own farm cheeses (watch them make the cheese as well) and country kitchen lunches. Note: their cheeses are so tasty and ‘moreish’ they are incorporated in menus at many of Vancouver’s premier restaurants. They also sell other locally made items. Situated in the ‘country’ north of Maple Ridge on 128th Ave. This little gem is worth a visit.
- Since you are on 128th Ave we suggest you continue west turning right on 210th St which turns into 132nd Ave and then into Old Dewdney Trunk Road (at a T junction you will need to turn right and then left at the next stop sign – you are still on Old Dewdney Trunk Road) until you come to Hopcott Meats in Pitt Meadows. This local family butcher offers sustainable meats and other local produce and you can enjoy a snack or lunch in their bistro. Blue Heron Fruit Winery is also next door.
- Just a short distance along the road you will join up again with Highway 7. Turning right takes you over the Pitt River Bridge with options to head into Coquitlam and beyond or taking Highway 7A (the Mary Hill By-Pass) and onto the Trans Canada Highway 1. Heading into Coquitlam there are many choices – trails, lakes, shopping, casino, theatre and more. Take a walk around Lafarge Lake and enjoy the stunning Lafarge Holiday Lights – the largest free holiday lights display in the Vancouver area (open throughout December and into early January). If you need to polish up on your golf Eaglequest Golf Course is open year round (weather permitting). There is also the Hard Rock Casino where you can take in a dinner and show.
- Finally, if you are here in December and haven’t experienced the CP Holiday Train, this is the time. The train crosses the country leaving Montreal at the end of November and completes its journey in Port Coquitlam just before Christmas raising awareness of hunger and collecting food donations along the route. The train is adorned with Christmas lights plus, has entertainment, and in this area stops at Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Port Moody and Port Coquitlam – all close to Highway 7.
Please check on road conditions before you head out and check websites or call regarding opening and closing times during the winter.
Check this blog Three Ways to Welcome Spring in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley for more information on this area.
Vancouver to Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway
Wherever you have chosen to over-winter in the Metro Vancouver area, getting out and exploring the region gives you a taste of what the south-west corner of British Columbia is all about (and maybe encourage you to return in the summer to experience more!). This trip starts on Vancouver’s North Shore, heads north on Highway 99 (Sea to Sky Highway) to Squamish and on to Whistler. The journey from the Ironworkers’ Memorial Bridge (also known as the 2nd Narrows Bridge) to Whistler is about 125 km (78 mi) and takes 90 minutes.
The Sea to Sky Highway hugs the coastline as it winds it 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 Resort. Seymour, Grouse and Cypress Mountains are all popular winter activity destinations, a couple of which we have 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. And, of course, the Skyride gondola roundtrip to get you there and back offers stunning views across Vancouver, Stanley Park and beyond. Accessed via Capilano Road North off Hwy 1 at exit 14.
- Take a self-guided snowshoeing tour or take in some cross-country skiing at the top of Cypress Mountain. Lots of powder snow takes you through a winter wonderland of forests. Then warm up with a hot drink or bowl of soup. Exit Hwy 1 at Cypress Bowl Road (exit 8) and head north for about 13 kms.
- Back on Hwy 99 and a further 18 km is the tiny picturesque village of Lions Bay that hugs the shoreline. You must stop off at the Lions Bay General Store and Café which is located on the east side of the highway (take Lions Bay Avenue exit) and has been a favourite stop for those who travel this road for decades. This is a hidden gem. Local products, great coffee, even a beer, lunch and souvenirs can be found here. Great views too.
- The Britannia Mine Museum was once the site of a large copper mine but has been transformed into an award-winning attraction showcasing a light and sound show as you are transported underground by train. The award-winning National Historic Site is definitely worth a visit. You can’t miss it, it’s right on the highway.
- Like to try local craft beer? Howe Sound Brewing in Squamish produces a lot, and I mean a lot, of craft beers. Some are seasonal mind you so they are not all available year-round but you will still be spoiled for choice. And pair their excellent beer with small bites or big bites all made in house. Great stop for lunch. It’s located on Cleveland Avenue left off Hwy 99, through town, almost to the end and you will see the pub on your right.
- Head back to the highway and continue north. Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park north of Squamish is where you go to see hundreds of Bald Eagles feast on salmon during November through January. You may have seen an eagle or two in your travels but nothing quite like this experience. There are plenty of places to view and you can take a tour too. Eagle Viewing in Squamish
- Back on the highway head to Whistler. There is so much to do in this world-renowned resort and of course in winter the snow is the big attraction with skiing, snowboarding and more. But if you want to do something different there are plenty of other opportunities from art galleries, shopping, food experiences, trails, spas and more. And don’t forget to do the Village Stroll where you will find interesting shops, eateries and the Whistler Olympic Plaza which is transformed into an outdoor skating rink in winter.
- To experience First Nations Art, History and Culture stop off at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. Hear the stories, admire the native traditional regalia, legends, carvings, art and songs. Guided tours are available. This is a beautiful museum with stunning art and exhibits.
- If you are in Whistler on a Sunday evening during December to March then you should take in the free Fire & Ice Show in Whistler Village. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and be prepared to be amazed at the spectacle created as expert skiers jump through hoops of fire!
- Saturday afternoons at the Westin Hotel is the Whistler Winter Artisan Market. It’s on December through March and features local handmade foods, pottery, jewelry and more. A nice spot to go to get out of the cold.
- Once you have enjoyed your stay in Whistler then it is time to head back and the views are just as awesome on the return journey! You will pass several smaller communities south of Squamish such as Furry Creek – known for its golf and country club, Lions Bay which hopefully you stopped off at on the way to Whistler, Horseshoe Bay a small village which is the terminal for BC Ferries taking travelers over to Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island. It also offers shopping and eateries and is always fun to watch the ferries coming and going.
There is so much more to see in this area, especially in and around North and West Vancouver. You could definitely spend a day or two exploring the parks, Lonsdale Quay Market, Shipyards District, waterfront walks and more.
Explore the Communities South of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
Below are 2 trips that cover Richmond and Delta as well as White Rock and Langley. However, even though they are written and mapped as routes some of these suggestions could certainly be undertaken on their own. As well a couple are evening destinations. So mix them up and do whatever takes your fancy but this winter get out and enjoy what some of the communities south of Vancouver have to offer.
Our first trip starts in Richmond then heads south to the Village of Steveston, across to Delta and the Village of Ladner. There are some good country roads you can take to get to some of these destinations rather than a major highway but as it’s winter we will leave you to make the decision as to which way to get there.
- Richmond celebrates Chinese New Year in style. With a significant Chinese population, it is a popular destination for both locals and those from further afield. Held towards the end of January into February this 15-day celebration showcases entertainment, authentic cuisine, pop-up gift shops and more. Many of the participating restaurants book up quickly so check the website and plan early.
- A historic landmark, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery situated in the Village of Steveston in Richmond has interactive, fascinating displays showcasing the machinery, tools and life in the West Coast fishing industry over a century ago. For the month of December the Cannery also hosts the Festival of Trees decorated and sparkling for the holiday season.
- For close to six weeks leading up to December 31 Steveston lights up and celebrates the festive season in style. Entertainment, food and fun provide a great way to spend a few hours alongside the waterfront. Steveston’s Winter in the Village
- More interactive displays highlight what life was like in the early days of Steveston Village at the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site. The shipyard building was built in 1889, originally as a cannery. It is located here among 12 or so buildings including bunkhouses, stilt homes, the manager’s house and interprets the life of the people and wooden boat building in this area. The site is also part of the Winter in the Village festive season.
- If you enjoy watching birds in their habitat the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta is a must place to visit. Home to thousands of snow geese that over-winter here there are also many species who live here year-round. Ducks, loons, teals, swans, sandpipers are just a few of the birds you are likely to see over the winter. Hundreds of acres of wetlands are criss-crossed by trails and quiet places to observe the birds.
- Located in Delta is the Historic Village of Ladner. The original village is very small but offers some fun opportunities to poke around unique shops – coffee spots, fashion and gift boutiques, home décor, crafts and even a seed shop that yes, while it is a garden shop, they also have interesting gifts.
Our second trip starts in White Rock. White Rock is a seaside community south of Surrey and Langley, its eastern neighbour, offers a country experience. Several golf courses are here if you want to keep your hand in and are open throughout the year when weather permits. This is a region that is dotted with wineries, cideries, gardens, fruit and dairy farms open to the public, and even a turkey farm with a bistro. Some of these businesses may be closed for the winter season. However, we have picked an eclectic mix of places to visit, things to see and we hope you enjoy them.
- White Rock is a small seaside town on Semiahmoo Bay that is popular in the summer with locals and tourists who come here to enjoy the sun, sand and water sports. Restaurants, gift shops and ice cream parlours line the main street, Marine Drive, but White Rock’s claim to fame is its white rock and long pier. At any given time you will find people stretching their legs on the pier enjoying the view of Mount Baker, the San Juan Islands and of course the Pacific Ocean breezes.
- A short distance east of White Rock, following 8th Avenue, will bring you to Campbell Valley Regional Park. This is a significant park with many kilometres of hiking, biking and horse trails. If you want to get out and stretch your legs this is a good place to visit.
- Chaberton Estate Winery located on 216 Street is just around the corner from Campbell Valley Park. It is a well-known award-winning winery offering a variety of red and white wines. Sample some of these wines in the tasting room followed by a delightful lunch in the Bacchus Restaurant which offers up an authentic french menu.
- Up for some more wine tasting? A short distance further east on 232 Street is Backyard Vineyards. They produce award winning bold reds and bubblies that will tingle on the palate.
- When was the last time you went to a drive-in theatre? Well you can relive those days for a nostalgic evening by visiting the Twilight Drive In Theatre. Showings and times are all on their website.
- Fort Langley National Historic Site provides a glimpse into history when the Hudson Bay Company established a small post here to trade furs with the First Nations. Explore the various historic buildings, watch live demonstrations by costumed storytellers that showcase what life was like here in the 1800s. While here take a short walk into the community of Fort Langley which is known for its antique shops, eateries and gift boutiques.
- How about taking in a hockey game? The Vancouver Giants are Vancouver’s major junior hockey team and play in the Western Hockey League out of the Langley Events Centre. Giants games are an affordable alternative to a Vancouver Canucks game, and you never know, you may be watching the next Wayne Gretzky!
Read more information in this blog Explore Fort Langley & Gulf of Georgia Cannery Historic Sites & Check Out Some of BC’s Fascinating History.
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