To enjoy an unforgettable day between Vancouver, Squamish, and Whistler, active adventurers won't want to miss out on the following Sea-to-Sky Highway attractions.
Start early because there's a lot to see and do. If you're up for ticking off each item in this list, you'll need 10-12 hours. And be sure to check out the map at the bottom of this post to help you find your way.
1. Cypress Viewpoint
Once you get the heck out of the hustle and bustle of Vancouver... turn around and take a minute to say goodbye.
On a clear day, from the Cypress Viewpoint you'll get amazing bird's eye views of the entire city of Vancouver, all the way south to the US border, west to Vancouver Island, and if you're really lucky you might even see Mount Baker looming in the distant horizon to the southeast.
Take a few minutes and some pictures then say goodbye to urban sprawl, get back in your car, and get ready to say hello to the Canadian wild.
Drive time from downtown Vancouver: 25 minutes (19 km)
Stop time: 10 minutes
Getting There: Follow the signs for Cypress Mountain and Cypress Bowl Road (exit #8) along the highway. Drive up the side of the mountain about 5 minutes. You won't be able to miss the viewpoint on the right.
2. Hike The Stawamus Chief or Sea-to-Summit Trail
Wind your way north along the Sea-to-Sky highway (Highway 99) and unwind your mind with gorgeous views of the ocean to your left and mountains to your right. Then mentally prepare yourself for either of these strenuous mountain climbs.
You may want to make a quick caffeine and carb pitstop at Galileo Coffee (about 30 mins along the highway by Britannia Beach) and decide between hiking the Stawamus Chief or the Sea-to-Summit Trail.
Both hikes offer amazing views of Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains from the top. The difference is the top of the Chief is all-natural—just the bald dome of the monolith (fancy term for giant rock)—whereas the top of the Sea-to-Summit is developed, with a cafe, viewing deck, suspension bridge, and lots of tourists who were too lazy to hike up and took the gondola instead.
Some key stats to help you decide:
- Stats: 4 km round trip, 540 meter elevation gain, 2-3 hours hiking
- Pros: Free. Shorter, so less time pressure for subsequent activities.
- Cons: You have to hike down. Busier, especially on a nice weekend day.
- Stats: 7.5 km one-way, 918 elevation gain, 3-4 hours hiking
- Pros: You save your knees by not having to hike down. Less busy.
- Cons: $10 gondola ride down. Longer hike, leaving less time for other attractions.
Drive time from previous Sea-to-Sky attraction: 40 min (52 km)
Action time: 3-5 hours (hiking plus taking in views and photo ops, if you're fast)
Getting there: Both on the right hand side of the Sea-to-Sky highway about 10 mins after passing through Britannia Beach. The parking lot for the Chief is just past the one for the Sea-to-Summit. Both are hard to miss.
3. Lunch in Squamish
To replenish the calories you just burned, head to Canada's outdoor adventure mecca and Whistler's little sister, Squamish. Only a few minutes drive from your hike, it has a variety of drool-worthy options. And don't worry about being sweaty and dirty from your hike; most local "dirtbags" are even more muddy, sweaty, and poorly dressed than you.
Here are some recommended places for a quick bite:
- Mag's 99 can't be beat for a huge and cheap meal. Don't be fooled by appearances. While Mag's looks like some hokey low-quality fast-food place from the outside, it's actually a hokey high-quality slowish-food delight. Go for the Burrito Maximus, which weighs an absurd 1 pound.
- Zephyr Café is your best bet for a healthier alternative. This busy café is where all the "Squamptonians" go for their local, raw, organic grub.
- The bustling Squamish Farmers' Market and its multiple vendors and food trucks is ideal if you happen to be passing by on a Saturday.
If it's a nice summer day, get take-out and head to the next destination, Brohm Lake.
Drive time from previous Sea-to-Sky attraction: 5 min (4 km)
Action time: 1 hour
Getting there: Drive north along the Sea-to-Sky highway. Mag's is on the left-hand side of the highway just before hitting Squamish (look for their highway sign on the left). Zephyr and the Farmers' Market are in downtown Squamish, a left-hand turn at the Cleveland Ave. intersection of the highway, just after you see the Squamish Adventure Inn and our highway sign.
4. Brohm Lake
Ignore whoever said you shouldn't swim within an hour of eating. If you're doing this Seat-to-Sky highway attraction itinerary in the summer, hitting up one of the area's crisp, fresh lakes is a must.
And for the adventurous, Brohm Lake can't be beat. Jump off one of the 15-65 foot cliffs or try out on one of the insane rope swings.
Drive time from previous Sea-to-Sky attraction: 15 min (15 km)
Stop time: 1 hour
Getting there: Heading north from Squamish, Brohm lake is on the left side of the highway, past Alice Lake Provincial Park and about 1 km past signs to Cat Lake you'll see to your right.
4. Brandywine Falls
These spectacular waterfalls are reportedly named after the booze that fuelled a bet on how high they are (Answer: 66 meters / 216 feet).
The official viewpoint is only a 10 minute from the parking lot, but be sure to get off the (heavily) beaten bath and continue down the unmarked path to the base of the falls for an even better photo op.
Drive time from previous Sea-to-Sky attraction: 16 minutes (25.5 km)
Stop time: 1 hour
Getting there: The parking lot is on the right side of the Sea-to-Sky highway. Look for the Brandywine Falls sign.
5. The Whistler Train Wreck
Urban art within and old growth forest. The story is these trains wrecked and were dragged to their final resting place in the 1950s, well before Whistler existed. They are now covered with artwork by some of the area's top urban artists, creating an eerie and unusual juxtaposition with the surrounding nature.
The short walk (1km) to the Whistler Train Wreck is a highlight in itself, walking along the Cheakamus river and crossing it on newly built suspension bridge.
Drive time from previous Sea-to-Sky attraction: 6 minutes (8.7 km)
Stop time: 1 hour
Getting there: Heading north on the Sea-to-Sky highway from Brandywine Falls, look for the traffic lights of the Function Junction intersection. Take a right, follow Cheakamus Road, cross a small bridge, then take another right onto Jane Lake Road. Look for the trail on your right. Here is the trail map.
6. Beer O'Clock
Cap off your day of Sea-to-Sky Highway attractions with a fresh craft beer from the Whistler Brewery.
Drive time from previous Sea-to-Sky attraction: 4 minutes (1.6 km)
Stop time: 45 mins
Getting there: Backtrack from where you parked for the Whistler Train Wreck, cross the highway, and turn left on Millar Creek Road.
7. Time For Rest
Find cheap accommodation in Whistler to rest up for your next day (read our guide), or save money, experience authentic Canada, and head 40 minutes back down the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Squamish. We'd be doing ourselves (and you!) a disservice if we didn't recommend our own place: the Squamish Adventure Inn.
Sea-to-Sky Highway Attraction Tour Summary:
Drive time: 2 hours (126 kilometres)
Stop time: 8-10 hours
Total time: 10-12 hours (like we said at the beginning, start early!)