Move over Route 66, one of our favourite day trips from Vancouver City (we also managed to fit in wild Killer whale spotting – post to come) was taking the Sea to Sky highway up to Whistler.
I tried to summarise all of the things we enjoyed about Vancouver in my ’18 reasons why we fell in love’ post, and failed miserably. There were actually about 26 things listed, not to mention the myriad of minor things like the sound of forest birdsong from our apartment terrace or the laughter at the wedding we attended, but one of our favourite things was the snaking road and stunning vistas along the Sea to Sky highway.
Even in the summer months Whistler was interesting, but as ever, it was the breathtaking scenery and smaller almost incidental moments that made the journey fix itself firmly in our memories. Even the spot where we stopped for our first coffee was beautiful. It’s easy to see how you could spend a few days really exploring and discovering the beautiful, dramatic countryside of waterfalls, forest and glaciers.
Highway 99, also known as the Fraser Delta Thruway south of Vancouver, and the Sea to Sky Highway, the Squamish Highway, or Whistler Highway north of Vancouver, is the major north–south artery running through the Greater Vancouver area of British Columbia from the U.S. border, up Howe Sound through the Sea to Sky Country to Lillooet, and connecting to Highway 97 just north of Cache Creek.
Spilling out of the car (we organised for a private tour to take us from our North Vancouver apartment up to Whistler for the day), our second stop was a quick leg stretch around the forest at the base of the Shannon Falls Provincial Park, just south of the town of Squamish, passing through the coastal village of Horseshoe Bay along the way.
Shannon Falls, is the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia at 1,100 feet (335 meters), and even in mid-summer where the waters weren’t at their most fulsome, it was beautiful to simply stand and listen to the waters gush over the stony hillside.
To give you an idea of scale, the small white blob floating along the path here? That’s a person.
We also pulled over on the way home at the Tantalus Lookout, overlooking the crags of Mount Tantalus, the valleys dipping down to the Squamish River, not to mention the many crags in between. Our guide told us many stories that day, local history, tall tales and personal run-ins with bears – but what amazed us were the turquoise, glacier-fed streams and rivers that shadowed the road.
(If I’m being honest, I don’t know how I’m standing at this point of the day – I’d spent a few hours in the Whistler Scandinavae Spa and was so relaxed that I couldn’t actually feel my bones anymore.)
Our last stop of the day was Porteau Cove, located on the Howe Sound, the most southerly fjord in North America. See how the pure glacial turquoise waters mix into the green brackish currents and eddies?
Taking its name from the French ‘Porte d’Eau’ or ‘Water’s Gate’, the protected area offers a serene expanse of ocean, fringed by a pebble beach and dotted with campsites, swimming spots and lookout points.
We wandered up and down the promenade, empty bar for other tourists and a few keen divers coming in for the day after exploring a local shipwreck and artificial reefs inhabited by starfish, anemone and octopus
And, obviously provided a shoefie moment that wasn’t at all embarrassing – until another couple wandered over to see what fish I has spotted which flummoxed me no end.
Do you prefer the journey or the destination, or both?
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