In this detailed guide, Jack Christie shares his favorite two- and three-day trips in the Vancouver area. It covers everything from rugged outdoor activities in the Gulf Islands to bicycle tours in Victoria, wine tours in the Okanagan, and backroad exploring in Whistler, ensuring that visitors can find as much (or as little) adventure as they like. There are getaways for every taste and budget, and none are more than a five-hour drive from Vancouver, including ferry travel where necessary. Each of the 28 entries ...
In this detailed guide, Jack Christie shares his favorite two- and three-day trips in the Vancouver area. It covers everything from rugged outdoor activities in the Gulf Islands to bicycle tours in Victoria, wine tours in the Okanagan, and backroad exploring in Whistler, ensuring that visitors can find as much (or as little) adventure as they like. There are getaways for every taste and budget, and none are more than a five-hour drive from Vancouver, including ferry travel where necessary. Each of the 28 entries includes complete driving directions with tips on sights to see along the way, as well as activities, attractions, accommodations, and dining options for the destination. In addition to photos, each chapter features sidebars and pull-out sections that offer specific tips for maximizing one’s time. Indexes of the destinations and activities make planning the perfect weekend getaway a breeze.
Jack Christie says that no matter how long he explores the outdoors, there is always more to discover. His books include 52 Best Day Trips from Vancouver, Day Trips with Kids, One-Day Getaways from Vancouver, Whistler Outdoors Guide and The Whistler Book. Jack is the outdoors columnist with the Georgia Straight, a contributor to Northwest Best Places and the author of Inside Out British Columbia: A Best Places Guide to the Outdoors. He hosts "The Rec Report" on Shaw TV's The Express. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
••••• Access: Head 115 km north of Vancouver on Highway 99. Why Go: Whistler is North America’s premier resort—and it’s right in our own backyard. Keep In Mind: Whistler has a reputation for being expensive. As most accommodations come with kitchens, one of the best ways to stay on budget, at least as far as meals, is good old DIY. When I brought out my first guidebooks to Whistler in the 1990s, it was already evident that the “little resort that could” had begun to cast a welcoming halo well beyond its municipal boundaries. Since then, growth in neighbouring Squamish and Pemberton has born out that promise and given rise to subsequent editions, including The Whistler Book in 2005. For detailed information on outdoor activities throughout the region, pick up a copy.
The selections in this chapter reflect my favourite attractions and amenities garnered from years spent overnighting at the renowned resort municipality. Information on outdoor activities as well as detailed recreation maps of Whistler are available from the Whistler Visitor Info Centre (4230 Gateway Drive; 604-932-5922) and the Whistler Activity Centre (4010 Whistler Way; 604-938-2769 or 1-877-991-9988).
For guided tours check out Backroads Adventure Tours (604-932-3111), which offers guided and independent canoe and kayak trips on the River of Golden Dreams with the option of a pedal ride back; the Whistler Outdoor Experience Centre (604-932-3389) offers canoe and kayak rentals and guided tours at Lakeside Park on Alta Lake and the Edgewater Lodge on Green Lake. Cyclists may want to visit Evolution Bike Service (604-932-2967), Fanatyk Co Ski and Cycle (604-938-9455), Katmandu Sports (604-932-6381), or Wild Willie’s Ski Club (604-938-8036) for rentals, trail maps and repairs.
Cougar Mountain activities: Cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, nature observation, picnicking, sky-lining, snowshoeing, walking. Follow Highway 99 north from the heart of the resort as it curves along the western shore of Green Lake. Watch for 16 Mile Creek Forest Service Road (also called Cougar Mountain Road on some maps), a well-marked, two-lane road that rises uphill on the left (west) side of Highway 99, 1 km north of the Emerald Estates neighbourhood. After a short distance, you will pass a brown Forest Service sign marking the beginning of the road along 16 Mile Creek. Just past the sign is a widening on the right (north) side of the road, base for the Cougar Mountain at Whistler adventure centre (604-932-4086). A wide range of motorized and self-propelled guided activities is offered here year-round, from horseback riding to dog sledding. This is also where snowmobilers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers congregate in winter, since snow is not cleared past this point. In summer, drive 4 km and park at the entrance to the Showh Lakes recreation area. A detailed map posted at the information kiosk here outlines trail choices, all well marked. A 1.6-km hiking trail (no bikes) leads uphill on the right and links with the Ancient Cedars Loop Trail, a 5 km round-trip. Allow 2 hours to make the complete journey, and take plenty of fluids on warm days.
Also from the kiosk a rough road leads 1 km uphill to the Showh Lakes trailhead and parking lot. Hike or bike 2 km to the lakes and the Ancient Cedars trailhead. Halfway along, the larger of the two lakes appears below. A trail leads down through stumps and berry bushes heavy with fruit in late summer to a giant log half-submerged in the shallow water. Walk out on it to fly-cast, picnic, or swim.
The Ancient Cedars Trail is worth waiting for. After the dust and open sky along 16 Mile Creek Road, the forest seems gloomy. White snowberries and the red fruits of devil’s club stand out vividly among the evergreens by late August. (Beware the rhubarb-like leaves and spiny stems of devil’s club, which can leave you with painful, inflamed scratches.) This rocky, root-filled trail is surprisingly soft in spots from the years of cedar needles that have accumulated on the forest floor. A small wooden bridge spans a creek beside a waterfall near the outset of the loop trail. You can tell when you’ve reached the ancient cedars: trunk diameters suddenly swell to 3 m. On a hot day, the shade cast by these spires blessedly lowers the temperature a degree or two. The hush among these spires is remarkable. Take your time. Breathe deeply. Reconnect with wild nature, Cougar Mountain style.
Golf: Four top-ranked golf courses make Whistler, according to Golf Digest, one of the “Top 20 Greatest Golf Destinations in the World.” The oldest course, which holds its charm after twenty-fve years, is the centrally located Whistler Golf Club (4001 Whistler Way, 1-800-376-1777 or 604-932-3280). Striking scenery and abundant wildlife (including the occasional black bear) may take your eye off the ball, but whatever your level, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable round at this 6,722-yard course, the first in Canada designed by Arnold Palmer. The season lasts from May to October. If you don’t golf but your partner does, you may “ride along” for $20—or walk the course for free. Alternatively, it’s surrounded by a walking/cycling path with benches and lookouts that doubles as a cross-country ski trail in winter.
Elements Urban Tapas Parlour (4359 Main Street; 604-932-2778): Enjoy casual tapas-style menu choices. Très yummy.
Fifty Two 80 Bistro (4591 Blackcomb Way; 604-935-3400): Everything harmonizes in this bistro’s relaxed atmosphere where creativity abounds, right down to the tinkle of piano keys.
Araxi Restaurant and Bar (4222 Whistler Village Square; 604-932-4540): One of the best places to enjoy seafood and a glass of the Okanagan’s finest wine is atop a bar stool at Araxi’s unique eighty-seat patio with heated outdoor bar, the perfect place for people-watching in the hub of the village year-round, or in the wood-panelled lounge adjacent to the entrance.
To ensure a good night’s sleep, when booking in the heart of town request a room that doesn’t face on Village Stroll. In Village North, avoid rooms that face on Northlands Boulevard.
Edgewater Lodge (8020 Alpine Way; 604-932-0688 or 1-888-870-9065): This lodge offers the best views, hands down, of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains from any property in the resort short of the hostel on West Side Road. It has rooms only, but breakfast is included, and it features an excellent dining room and outdoor adventure centre.
Sundial Boutique Hotel (4340 Sundial Crescent; 604-932-2321 or 1-800-661-2321): Boutique at its best, this hotel comes complete with private balcony hot tubs plus a roof-top one for stargazing. East-facing rooms have front-row seats for whatever is going off on the slopes above Skier Plaza, such as big air stunts executed by skiers and snowboarders launching through a flaming hoop. Also check out weekly “Welcome to Whistler” presentation on Sundays throughout the winter, complete with fireworks.
The Westin Resort and Spa (4090 Whistler Way; 1-888-634-5577): Sounds of a waterfall calm the air in the suites that rise beside the Whistler Mountain gondola. Fall out of bed and onto the lifts—it doesn’t get much better than that. In-room kitchens and a quiet location (opposite the equally charming Hilton) help assuage the user-fee charged for use of the pool and fitness centre.