The Sea to Sky Highway is often cited as one of the most spectacular road trips in the world. This 254-mile highway takes travelers on a beautiful Vancouver to Whistler drive, taking in the best scenery that the outdoors of British Columbia has to offer.
This is West Coast Canada at its best, and after enjoying the sights and culture of Vancouver, you head north into the wilds, stopping at small towns and enjoying scenic vistas on your way to Whistler.
To help you to plan your Sea to Sky Highway adventure, here are the best stops on the Vancouver to Whistler Drive.
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Sea to Sky Highway Road Trip Guide
Table of Contents
Where is the Sea to Sky Highway?
The Sea to Sky Highway gained its name from the fact that this is a driving route that takes you from the Pacific Ocean, into the mountains of British Columbia.
You start the route in Vancouver, the state capital and largest city on the west coast of Canada.
You drive through the state, away from the Pacific and finish the route in Whistler, one of the most iconic ski resorts and outdoor destinations in the country.
It’s an epic drive, lasting for just over 200 miles from start to finish. While you could complete the route in a few hours, most people choose to take at least 2 or 3 days if this is their first time traveling in this part of Canada.
That means you can stop off on the way, spend the night in rural locations, and enjoy the best sights on the Sea to Sky Highway.
The road is officially labeled Highway 99, and has a length of 254 miles. The highway starts at the US border, although most travelers will pick it up in Vancouver itself.
It officially ends in Cache Creek where it joins another highway, but most road trippers stop well before in Whistler.
Best Time of Year to Drive the Sea to Sky Highway
The best time to drive the Sea to Sky Highway is between June and September. This is the middle of the Canadian summer when the weather is at its best
Temperatures will be high and the sun will be out, and most importantly, conditions on the roads themselves are at their safest.
In summer, all the hiking trails are open too, once the snow has melted, and the wildlife will be out in force. It’s also a great time for camping and any other outdoor activities you might like to enjoy.
After September, the weather starts to take a turn for the worse, and the rain will start to pelt it down through autumn. The hiking trails start to close and the outdoor activities become less enjoyable.
Remember though, that summer is peak season, so delaying your trip until the shoulder season and risking bad weather will help you beat the crowds though.
If you have experience driving in snow and ice then you can still take on the Vancouver to Whistler drive all through winter, as the roads are kept open.
Whistler is a popular ski resort, so the roads are also kept clear as much as possible to allow access in and out.
Of course, if you love skiing and snowboarding, there’s no better time to be in Whistler than winter, and the ski season can last from November all the way through to April or even May.
Gas Stations and Supplies
While you could tackle the Sea to Sky Highway in a day, you still need to be prepared for the drive, as this is a remote part of British Columbia.
Make sure that you have a full tank of petrol when you leave Vancouver, and stock up again when you reach Squamish, as there are few places to refill after this until Whistler.
There are hotels on the way, and lots of restaurants and cafes in the tourist spots, but for grocery supplies, stock up in Vancouver where things are bound to be cheaper.
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The road is paved the whole length of Highway 99, and as this is an important thoroughfare through British Columbia, it’s well maintained and kept as clean as possible all throughout the year.
There are a few hazards to worry about though, and because you’ll be driving through rural areas once you’re outside of Vancouver, you’ll need to be vigilant and on the lookout for wildlife.
You might encounter moose and perhaps even bears on the Sea to Sky Highway, and you won’t want a run-in with these large animals. Avoid traveling in the dark if you’re not familiar with the roads.
Keep an eye on weather warnings too, especially in winter, as in this part of the world things can change rapidly, and you could find yourself snowed in with a little warning, especially as you head further into the mountains.
The roads are in good shape but they are windy, especially on the way up from Squamish to Whistler.
Take it slow, especially if the weather is bad. It’s best to make sure that your car has the correct insurance and roadside assistance should anything happen on the journey.
In winter, from October through to March, you also need to have winter tires fitted when you’re on the highway.
Accommodation Along the Route
While it’s possible to drive the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler in roughly 1.5 hours, without stopping, to best experience the route you should consider breaking it up into two days at a minimum.
If you don’t do this, you will likely feel rushed and miss some of the best stops along the drive.
Our recommendation would be to plan a night in Squamish. This will allow you to take your time with the sites on either side and enjoy the beauty this region has to offer.
In Squamish, we stayed at the Executive Hotel & Suites, located just outside of the downtown area.
It is extremely quiet there and the rooms are very large. Ours featured a kitchen, fireplace, living room area and bedroom with a large bathroom. We wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again.
Best Stops from Vancouver to Whistler
Your Sea to Sky Highway starts in Vancouver, the largest city in British Columbia. This bustling metropolis on the west coast of Canada is a melting pot of cultures, from Europe, North America, and Asia.
Explore Gastown, the oldest district of Vancouver, where you can take in the quirky history and admire the unique Steam Clock.
Visit Stanley Park and Granville Island, learn about the First Nations at the Museum of Anthropology and enjoy great craft beers and a fine selection of cuisines from around the world before you start your road trip.
Enjoy a wonderful overview of the Pacific Northwest on this full-day coach tour of Vancouver and the North Shore. Wind through downtown, Chinatown, and Gastown.
Visit Granville Island, snap photos from the Vancouver Lookout’s observation deck and admire Stanley Park’s famous Indigenous Peoples’ story poles.
Just outside of Vancouver, your first stop can be at the small community of Horseshoe Bay.
This will be your first glimpse of Howe Sound, the beautiful expanse of water that follows the coastline of British Columbia, where waterways, rivers, and fjords all meet before emptying into the Pacific Ocean.
Looking for a great tour including Horseshoe Bay? Sit back, relax, and enjoy the views on this full-day sightseeing tour to Whistler and Horseshoe Bay with an informative guide.
Along the way, you can see Downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park, enjoy views of Howe Sound, and take a few hours to explore Whistler independently.
Keep driving north and you’ll soon reach the community of Britannia Beach, which overlooks Howe Sound too.
This is where you’ll start to learn about the unique history of the area, as Britannia Beach is home to the Britannia Mine Museum.
This intriguing museum takes you on a journey through the early mining days of British Columbia, as you learn about the pioneers that settled and mined the area.
You’ll really start to appreciate the natural beauty – if you haven’t already! – when you reach Shannon Falls. This towering waterfall rises to over 300 meters in height and is the third-largest in British Columbia.
It’s an easy hike from the trailhead, and one of the best sights along the Sea to Sky Highway.
Experience the essence of British Columbia on a full-day excursion along the Sea-to-Sky Highway!
Leave the Vancouver area for a 7-hour trip through mountainous terrain and along Howe Sound to visit Shannon Falls. You’ll have plenty of time throughout to trek along forest trails.
Sea to Sky Gondola
The Sea to Sky Gondola is one of the most epic activities you can enjoy on the Vancouver to Whistler drive.
This incredible cable car takes you high above the highway and to viewing points over 800 meters above sea level. There are sweeping vistas over Howe Sound, the mountains, and the nearby town of Squamish.
Discover one dramatic landscape after another on this full-day coach tour between Vancouver and Whistler.
Take the Sea-to-Sky highway, ride the Sea-to-Sky Gondola, and visit Squamish, Whistler Village, and Brandywine Falls. From the gondola, admire Howe Sound, the Squamish River, and the coastal mountain range.
One of the highlights of the Vancouver to Whistler drive is a stop in Squamish, which makes for a great place to overnight, or to even spend a few days.
Not only do you have waterfalls, gondolas, and mountains nearby, but there are endless hiking trails into the surrounding parks and areas of natural beauty.
After a hard day of hiking, you can then relax in Squamish at the cafes and bars.
Join this small-group tour for a half-day wildlife excursion and scenic float on the Squamish River.
Marvel at snow-dusted Stawamus Chief Mountain, spring-melt waterfalls, the old-growth forests. Lunch, warm beverages, and a professional photographer make it a truly unique experience.
Read more 15 Epic Things to Do in Squamish, BC
North of Squamish you’ll find the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, one of the most exciting stops on the Vancouver to Whistler drive.
This area is known for its high concentration of eagles, and this provincial park protects a huge population of bald eagles that you can often see from the Eagle Run Viewing Area.
Take a stop at Garibaldi Lake to admire the sheer natural beauty of this large body of fresh water.
The lake is part of the wider Garibaldi Provincial Park, which is home to mountains, hikes, campsites, and glaciers.
Enjoy a bird’s-eye view over the rugged Canadian wilderness on this 35-minute Squamish Valley flightseeing tour.
Marvel at gigantic glaciers, shimmering alpine lakes, snow-capped peaks and plunging valleys across different mountain ranges.
Soar high over the breathtaking Garibaldi Provincial Park, nestled in the hills between Squamish and Whistler.
British Columbia is home to some of Canada’s best waterfalls, and one of the best is Brandywine Falls.
The trailhead can be found just off the highway, halfway between Whistler and Garibaldi. At 70 meters, this isn’t the tallest waterfall, but it is beautiful.
Your Sea to Sky Highway adventure ends in Whistler, the ski capital of British Columbia. It’s a spectacular place to spend a few days at the end of the trip, whether it’s summer or winter
In winter, you can ski and snowboard and join in all the Ski activities, while in summer you can hike and enjoy expansive views from mountain tops over the Whistler area.
Check out this great zipline adventure as you soar through the air and take in the beauty of Cougar Mountain.
Based in Whistler, soar above the breathtaking alpine wilderness, whitewater river valleys, old-growth forests, and more.
These dual zip lines are connected by wooden boardwalks and platforms and are some of the highest and longest in Canada.
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