Sea to Sky Highway: Top Stops From Vancouver to Whistler
By Kilee LeBlanc
The route from Vancouver to Whistler is more than a drive from A to B – it’s a destination in itself! Highway 99 (or the Sea to Sky Highway as locals call it) snakes its way from the Pacific Ocean to Howe Sound – the most southerly fjord in North America – and into the snow-capped Coast Mountains.
Along the way, you’ll see waterfalls, sheer rock faces, lakes, rivers, canyons which can turn the hour-and-a-half-long drive into a full- or multi-day adventure in your campervan rental or car. No need to race to Whistler for there’s so much to see and do along the way – let’s go!
Located in West Vancouver, and only an hour from Escape Campervans’ Vancouver depot, Lighthouse Park is a great stop to stretch the legs and see a unique perspective of the city of Vancouver. The 105-year-old Point Atkinson Lighthouse guides seafarers between the Burrard Inlet and Howe Sound and offers incredible views of Bowen Island, Vancouver, and on a clear day even over to Vancouver Island to the west and Mount Baker to the east.
Walk amongst towering Douglas Fit and Western Red Cedars on one of the many trails in the park, or pack a picnic and enjoy the views on the smooth rocks near the sea. If you time it right, Lighthouse Park is also a great place to watch the fireworks during the summer’s Celebration of Light for a unique viewpoint away from the crowds.
Carry on driving for about forty minutes from Vancouver and you’ll end up at Porteau Cove Provincial Park – a lovely spot to beach comb, view marine life, or spend the night. In 1981 it was established as British Columbia’s first underwater park with three sunken ships making a reef for some incredibly unique scuba diving. Back on dry land, it provides a nice stop along the way to breathe in the fresh salt air, stretch, and use the restroom before continuing your drive towards Whistler.
For those looking to spend the night, the campground has sites right on the ocean and is open year-round. Spots book up quickly at this popular site and for good reason – incredible sunsets, the sound of the waves lapping the shore, and epic stargazing and Aurora Borealis viewing opportunities.
There is so much to see and do in Squamish – it is the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada after all! As you approach Squamish, it’ll be hard to miss Shannon Falls – the third highest waterfall in British Columbia and a wonderful spot for a quick stroll to the base of the falls for a refreshing spray.
Stawamus Chief Provincial Park
Hop back on the highway and turn off at Stawamus Chief Provincial Park to spot climbers scaling the massive granite face; and if you have the time and energy, consider hiking the Stawamus Chief trail (locally known as ‘The Chief’). The trail is an absolute thigh-burner but once you reach First Peak you’ll be rewarded with the most incredible views of the town of Squamish, Howe Sound, the Sea to Sky Highway, and surrounding mountains. Don’t be deceived by the short distance of the hike to First Peak – there is some serious elevation gain that will leave your legs sore for days, but it’ll have been worth it!
Food & Drink
Hiking and sightseeing with surely have built up your appetite, so drive over to Backcountry Brewing and sample local beers while munching on delectable thin crust pizzas made to order in-house. Rub shoulders with local legends, pat a few dogs, and froth over their truly Instagram-worthy tasting room.
Looking to satisfy a sweet tooth? Get a cone of the tastiest real fruit soft serve in town at Alice & Brohm. House-made waffle cones paired with fresh, locally sourced fruit and dairy make this the best spot for ice cream in the Sea to Sky.
Alice & Brohm Lakes
Leave Squamish in your rear-view and head north out of town where the speed limit increases and the trees get taller and denser. If you’re looking to cool off after a hot day, Alice Lake or Brohm Lake provide sweet relief (much like the ice cream shop – these lakes are their namesake!) and are located right off the highway. Alice Lake also has a popular campground surrounded by hiking and biking trails. Campsites here are best reserved well in advance or try your luck at a walk-in spot.
The lookout when you’re driving south is fairly obvious, but since you’ll be driving north towards Whistler the lookout is easily missed. You’ll be cursing yourself if you miss it since there’s no place to turn around safely to get back to it, so listen up! The Tantalus Lookout is ten minutes from Alice Lake, where two lanes merge into one and you start descending down a long steep hill. Keep your eyes peeled on the right side of the road where you’ll see a sign stating ‘Viewpoint’ with a road on the right – this is the turnoff! You’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the Tantalus Range – with powerful glaciers visible even in the summer months.
Wind along the highway amongst the Cheakamus Canyon and river as you eke closer and closer to the final destination – Whistler. Before you reach the town of Whistler, stop in at Brandywine Falls Provincial Park for a quick hike, picnic, and waterfall viewing opportunities. The water seems to appear out of nowhere from the forest as it plunges 230 feet (70 meters) into the river below. The falls are best seen from the viewing platform perched high on the edge of a volcanic escarpment and provide views of Daisy Lake and the surrounding mountains.
It would be a shame to race towards Whistler from Vancouver and neglect to visit the many beautiful stops along the way. Give yourself plenty of time to make the 121-kilometer-long drive from Vancouver to Whistler, or even spend the night in your Escape Campervan along the way to further extend your time along the Sea to Sky.
With so many recreational opportunities, places of historical and cultural significance, and amazing restaurants and breweries there’s no wonder why the area is experiencing a boom in tourism – it is naturally and spectacularly beautiful. Book your Escape campervan rental today from their Vancouver depot to spend a few weeks or even a long weekend exploring this incredible corner of British Columbia.