Move over Big Sur, French Riviera and other world-renowned scenic drives, and make room for one more: Canada’s Sea To Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler is breathtaking and gets you very close to heaven on earth. (One quick word of advice: Snow tires and chains are the law between November and April. So, summer is the perfect time to take this fantastic 75-mile drive and stay for a while.)
Along the way, stop at the waterfront village of Horseshoe Bay; pan for gold at Brittania Mine Museum; view the thunderous Shannon Falls; picnic beneath the Brandywine Falls; and hike the Stawamus Chief near Squamish, the outdoor recreation capital of Canada.
Exciting mountain adventures really kick in when you arrive at Whistler, a unique, vibrant, pedestrian-only village. Pack away your acrophobia (I did!) and hop on the ski lift for the exhilarating 20-minute ride to the top of Blackcomb Mountain. At 8,000 feet, it’s about 840 feet higher than Whistler Mountain next door. For the full test of your acrophobia (mine failed), take the PEAK 2 PEAK, joining the two mountains. At 1,427 feet above the valley floor, it’s the highest lift of its kind and the longest continuous lift system in the world, with unparalleled 360-degree views from the gondolas (so I’m told).
Back on terra firma, you’ll want to try canoeing, kayaking, hiking and horseback-riding through old-growth cedar forests. Try biking at Whistler Mountain Bike Park, which has 47 or so trails for all skill levels; or summer-skiing and snowboarding in snow (yes, real, honest-to-goodness snow) on the glaciers at 7,600 feet. Whistler and its surrounding areas also are a top destination for golfers, so pack the irons and enjoy some of the most spectacular golf courses in the world. For the thrill-seekers, there’s zip-lining, white-water rafting, ice-climbing, paragliding, and the orthopedic surgeons’ favorite, rock-climbing.
Whistler Village boasts a year-round population of about 10,000 and rises to 50,000 during peak times. It’s truly a rags-to-riches story along the West Coast, growing from an isolated wilderness to a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and co-host for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Black bears, marmots and other critters were the main occupants of this pristine land, along with the Indians. The name Whistler comes from the shrill whistling sound the western hoary marmots made to warn of predators. These days, the shrills come from the Family Adventure Zone, where children of all ages delight in pony rides, miniature golf, bumper cars, Kiss The Sky bungee trampoline and Amaze’n Maze.
The Village also offers endless shopping and dining options, including Milestones for a marvelous prawn salad and Araxi for award-winning cuisine and wines. However, my all-time favorite has to be Mountain Top BBQ at the Roundhouse Lodge atop Whistler Mountain.
We found much to like outside the Village, as well. Tucked away in the woods and alongside beautiful Green Lake is Edgewater Lodge, a charming and rustic lodge with rooms overlooking the lake and mountain. Dinner there was a surprising culinary delight—both the delicacy of the meal and the thoughtful service—and highly recommended. Another find was Rimrock Café, for log-cabin atmosphere with a sophisticated menu and highly touted wine cellar.
Choices overwhelm for accommodations in the Village, but we recommend The Fairmont Chateau Whistler.
As we departed this summer wonderland—known and associated with winter-skiing—and headed south along the Sky to Sea Highway, we wondered, “When can we return, and who the heck needs snow?”