The Sea to Sky Highway is known as one of the most scenic roads in Canada and maybe even the world, the Sea to Sky Highway makes for an amazing trip from Vancouver to Whistler, filled with epic landscapes and fun outdoorsy activities.
Drive From Vancouver to Whistler Sea to Sky Highway
Table of Contents
This guide to driving the Sea to Sky Highway includes information on the route, practical tips for driving (especially in different seasons), the most scenic stops along the way, as well as where to stay in both Vancouver and Whistler, at either end of the highway.
What is the Sea to Sky Highway?
The Sea to Sky Highway, also known as Highway 99, is a 409-kilometer route that links Vancouver with Whistler. Other names you may hear include Fraser Delta Thruway (south of Vancouver), The Squamish Highway, or Whistler Highway (north of Vancouver).
Originally constructed in 1942, the Sea to Sky Highway starts in the north at Highway 97 near Cache Creek, then ends in the south at the Surrey border between Canada and the United States. The road passes through five districts in total: North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Squamish, Whistler and Lillooet.
Of course, what the Sea to Sky Highway is most famous for is the epic scenery afforded to those who take a road trip along its course. The highway can be covered easily in two hours, but to truly enjoy the scenic stops, it’s recommended to ride over a weekend, pausing at the many points of interest along the way.
Tips for Driving the Sea to Sky Highway
- Don’t drive at night, as the route is not well lit and you’ll also miss out on the main attraction – the spectacular scenery!
- If you’re driving in the winter, make sure you have winter tyres and snow chains.
- If you’re driving in the summer, set off early to ensure that car parks at the main attractions are not full on arrival.
- It’s best to take your time, to soak up everything that this incredible road trip has to offer.
- There are great food and drink options in Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler, but many of the most scenic attractions on the Sea to Sky Highway are more off the beaten path, so make sure you eat a full meal before you set off and bring a picnic lunch, plus plenty of snacks.
Most Scenic Stops Along the Sea to Sky Highway
The list of things to see and do along the Sea to Sky Highway is limitless, but the below selection has been compiled to show off the most recommended scenic and fun highlights to include en route. These are listed in order from Vancouver to Whistler.
Whytecliff Park by Horseshoe Bay
The first stop of note is Whytecliff Park; a rugged corner of Howe Sound coastline that showcases mountain and ocean views. The waters here are known at great diving spots. There’s also a playground, picnic areas, tennis courts and a beach where you can swim.
Cypress Mountain Lookout
Another early stop is the Cypress Mountain Lookout, which gives visitors panoramic views of Vancouver and the scenery surrounding the city.
Just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver, on a clear day you can see all the way out across the Georgia Straight to Vancouver Island, as well as southeast to Mount Baker, which is located in Washington State.
As you may expect, Cypress Mountain Lookout is very popular with photographers and the best and busiest times to visit are at both sunrise and sunset. During September and October, there can be fog, however, this can also make for a great photo opportunity, as the tips of skyscrapers and other landmarks can be seen poking above the clouds.
Located on the eastern shoreline, Lions Bay is a sleepy little seaside village with pretty sea views (as well as views of the Gulf Islands and Coast Mountain Range) and a charming, residential vibe.
The community is known for art – the village is home to many writers, artists, and musicians – and there is a café, general store, and an art gallery. Lions Bay is a great place to pick up supplies for a picnic lunch.
Shannon Falls is a very popular spot along the Sea to Sky Highway. It’s around a 10-minute walk from the parking lot. The third-highest waterfall in British Columbia, Shannon’s cascades fall 335 meters above Highway 99, and its waters originate from Mount Habrich and Mount Sky Pilot.
Shannon Falls is a ideal picnic spot and there are also hikes you can do around Shannon Falls Provincial Park and into nearby Stawamus Chief Provincial Park.
Sea to Sky Gondola
The Sea to Sky Gondola covers 2,904 feet in 10 minutes over the Howe Sound and Coast Mountains up to the summit. At the peak, there are walking trails, a suspension bridge, rock climbing activities, viewing platforms, plus a café.
Gondola cabins hold a maximum of eight passengers and all are wheelchair and stroller accessible. The cabins are fitted with padded seats and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Note that the Sea to Sky Gondola is currently closed due to an act of vandalism.
The old mill town of Squamish is a great place to stop overnight on the Sea to Sky Highway; there are many rustic cabins and cozy B&Bs to stay at, plus great locally-owned bars and restaurants.
By basing yourself in Squamish for a night, you can also make the most of all the great outdoor activities available in the vicinity. There are over 600 Squamish hiking and biking trails to choose from in the forests and hillside, plus great fishing spots, rock climbing, and the 2,000-foot Stawamus Chief granite monolith – Squamish’s most famous landmark.
Brohm Lake Rope Swing
Best for summer visits as a way to beat the heat, the Brohm Lake Rope Swing is a fun feature to include on your trip, combined with a few hours swimming and chilling at the lake.
Tantalus Range Lookout
Just after Squamish, you’ll find the Tantalus Range Lookout, where there are scenic views out to a trio of snowy peaks: Mount Tantalus, Pelion Mountain and Serratus Mountain. The tallest is Mount Tantalus, standing at 8,540 feet. This can be a quick photo stop, or you can enjoy a picnic lunch on the chairs and tables here.
Paradise Valley Lookout
This popular lookout is located across the road from the Tantalus Range Lookout, so it’s worth a hop across the highway to see the view from another angle. This west-facing viewpoint is a favorite at sunset and shows off vistas of snowy mountains and the river valley below.
Garibaldi Provincial Park
The 750-square-mile Garibaldi Provincial Park is an expanse of wilderness known for snow-capped mountains, hiking, natural beauty and abundant wildlife.
There’s plenty to see and do here, including canoeing, climbing, cycling, fishing, swimming in the Elfin Lakes, plus winter sports such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in the colder months.
Another excellent photo stop is the Black Tusk, which is a stratovolcano rock found along a tough 29-kilometer hike (known to be one of the hardest in the whole of British Columbia).
The Black Tusk is considered to be a sacred natural wonder for Squamish people, as legends say that this was the ancestral home of the Thunderbird, which created the unique shape and black color in a lightning attack.
If you’re not up for a 29-kilometer endurance challenge, there are places with great views of the Black Tusk, such as Whistlers’ mountain.
One of the most popular waterfalls along the Sea to Sky Highway, Brandywine Falls are truly magical. It’s easy to get to the viewpoint from the car park and on a sunny day, you may even be lucky to see a rainbow forming in the cascades. However, if you prefer, you can walk down to the base of the falls, but be mindful that the way down is steep, muddy and slippery.
The small town of Whistler is best known as a winter ski destination, though of course, it can be visited all year round. There is a wide range of cafes, restaurants and bars, which makes Whistler a great foodie destination too – many specializing in hearty, homely North American classics made using local ingredients.
Things to do around Whistler include bungee jumping, zipling, rafting, hiking, golfing, or even spending a day at a spa (see below).
For winter sports enthusiasts, there are more than 200 marked ski and snowboard trails, 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers. However, in the summer, many of these trails are used by mountain bikers and the region turns into a massive bike park!
Relax body and mind at the Scandinave Spa. Located just south of Whistler, this a Nordic-themed collection of outdoor hot and cold soaking pools, massages treatment rooms and relaxing spaces. Recommended treatments include Swedish-style massage, deep tissue massage and restorative treatments for relaxation.
Where to stay in Vancouver
The Fairmont Waterfront
An historic landmark in Vancouver, the Fairmont Waterfront is composed of 12 guest room and suite types, and is known for hosting VIP guests, including Queen Elizabeth II. All accommodations are elegant and contemporary in design, boasting gorgeous views of the harbor, mountains and the city skyline.
Hotel facilities include a business center, gift shops, a spa and a health club with a rooftop swimming pool and a fitness center. Guests who stay in one of the Fairmont Gold room types also enjoy exclusive access to a club lounge, plus other benefits.
In terms of dining, guests can tuck into “plant to plate” dishes at ARC Restaurant & Bar. Plates are lovingly prepared to highlight homegrown ingredients, either grown on the property (there’s even a herb garden and beehives) or sourced locally.
Where to Stay in Whistler
The Four Seasons Resort & Residences, Whistler
Located at the base of Blackcomb Mountain, The Four Seasons Resort & Residences is a luxury hotel comprised of Whistler’s largest guest rooms, suites, and residences. There are 17 room types over a wide range of categories. Décor is cozy but sophisticated, featuring details such as wooden design, private balconies with mountain views, and gas fireplaces.
Facilities include a heated outdoor swimming pool, a comprehensive spa, a library, a gym with yoga facilities, a business center, a playroom, a vintage camper for nights roasting smores by a campfire, and a ski concierge, who can aid with ski lessons, equipment rental, and any other guest needs.
For dining, guests can enjoy premium meats selected and prepared by Executive Chef Eren Guryel and team at SIDECUT Steakhouse, cabin-style drinks and dishes at Braidwood Tavern, as well as 24-hour in-room dining and special culinary experiences.
The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler
The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler is an all-suite hotel located in the Coast Mountains, just a five-minute walk from both the ski slope gondolas and Whistler Golf Club. All suites feature kitchenettes, living spaces and fireplaces, while some add balconies, a second bedroom, split-level areas, whirlpool bathtubs and mountain vistas. Interiors are bright and modern, with large windows bringing lush scenery inside.
Facilities include the WestinWORKOUT® Fitness Studio, a full-service spa, a kids’ club, a business center and both indoor and outdoor swimming pools. There is also ski equipment rental available.
Dining options include the Grill & Vine for Whistler specialities such as Canadian beef tenderloin, British Columbian smoked salmon and wild mushroom ravioli; FireRock Lounge for creative cocktails and delicious tapas plates; Grab & Go for Starbucks® coffee, snacks and sandwiches; plus, 24-hour room service.
More Information on the Sea to Sky Highway
Of course, these are just a few suggestions on how to explore Highway 99, where to stay at the start and end of the epic road trip, as well as a brief overview of some of the best scenic stops to include in your itinerary. If you have any tips to add, accommodations to suggest, or favorite things to see or do along the Sea to Sky Highway, let us know in the comments below.