As a local, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve driven the Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler. I’d say I drive it at least twice a year, but probably more. It’s a gorgeous drive along the side of Howe Sound, an ocean fjord, and then up into the snowy mountains to the Whistler ski village. Along the way you’ll pass through the town of Squamish, known as Canada’s adventure sports capital and home to world class hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. Instead of just speeding through all the way to Whistler, take a little longer and get out of your car. There are so many amazing places to stop including viewpoints, waterfalls, hikes, swimming, picnic spots and museums. In this guide I’ll give you directions to all my favourite places along the Sea to Sky Highway, plus include tips for driving and recommendations for where to eat and stay.
Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase. Thanks for supporting my website! -Taryn
Sea to Sky Highway Driving Directions
Total Distance: About 120km from Vancouver to Whistler
The Sea to Sky highway (also known as Highway 99) runs from West Vancouver to Whistler, passing Squamish about half way between the two. It also extends past Whistler to the towns of Pemberton and Mount Currie before ending at Lillooet.
To get to the Sea to Sky Highway, take the Lions Gate bridge from Vancouver. Once over the bridge, follow the signs left for Highway 99 and Whistler. Turn right onto Taylor Way, continuing to follow the signs. Go up the hill on Taylor Way. Then go under the highway and turn left to merge on to the highway.
At this point you are on a highway that is both Highway 1 and Highway 99. Continue for about 7 minutes. Watch for the signs for Whistler where the highway splits. Stay in the left lane to continue onto Highway 99 (the Sea to Sky Highway). Continue following the Sea to Sky Highway for another 100 kilometres to Whistler. You stay on the same highway the whole time so it’s easy to follow.
Sea to Sky Highway Map
I’ve made a custom clickable map of the Sea to Sky Highway for you showing all my recommended stops including places to eat and sleep.
Sea to Sky Highway Driving Times
Driving Time: Minimum 2 hours
If traffic is light and the weather is good, you can drive the entire Sea to Sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler in about 2 hours. However, if you want to make a lot of stops, allow a full day. If you want to make any longer stops, I’d recommend splitting the trip up over 2 or 3 days.
Sea to Sky Highway Road Conditions and Driving Tips
Best time to drive the Sea to Sky Highway: June-September
You can drive the Sea to Sky Highway all year, but the best time to go is from June to September when the snow has melted and the hiking trails are accessible. The most popular time is July and August on the weekend. If possible, try to go mid-week.
The Sea to Sky Highway was upgraded for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, so it’s in much better shape than it was before. However, it is still narrow in a few places and very winding, especially south of Squamish. Accidents are common so take your time and go slow (even if the locals are speeding).
The weather can also be a huge factor when you drive from Vancouver to Whistler. There can be lots of snow in the winter. Heavy rain and fog can make the drive treacherous any time of the year. You can check conditions before you go on the highway webcams. From October 1st to March 31st you must have winter tires on your car to drive the Sea to Sky highway. If you don’t, you could be fined.
There are lots of gas stations, restaurants and shops in Squamish, but there are few services along the rest of the drive.
The Sea to Sky Highway is in the ancestral territory of the Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh) and Lil’wat First Nations. Along the way there are interpretive signs in kiosks in the shape of traditional cedar bark hats. If you want to learn more about First Nations culture and history, be sure to stop when you see one.
Places to Stop on the Sea to Sky Highway
This beautiful park is nestled into a pocket cove surrounded by fancy West Vancouver mansions. There’s a playground, some short trails and a picnic area, but the highlight is the ocean. Head down to the beach for great views of Howe Sound and the nearby Sunshine Coast. At low tide you can scramble across the rocks out to Whyte Islet, the rocky island just offshore.
Getting there: 7102 Marine Dr, West Vancouver. From the highway, take exit 2 for Eagleridge Drive. Go right at the round about and continue past the the ticket booths for the ferry terminal. Turn left onto Marine Drive. At next two roundabouts, go straight to continue on Marine Drive. Stay on Marine Drive as it winds through the neighbourhood and ends at the Whytecliff parking lot.
This small provincial park is wedged between the Sea to Sky Highway, a rail line and the deep waters of Howe Sound. The day use area is a great place to stop and stretch your legs. Be sure to take a walk out on the pier for great views of the surrounding mountains. (Fun fact: The pier actually doubles as an emergency ferry terminal in case parts of the Sea to Sky Highway are impassable. However, it’s never actually been used for that purpose.)
Getting There: Turn left at the sign for Porteau Cove Provincial Park.
More info: BC Parks
Britannia Mine Museum
This little village of Britannia Beach used to be home to the largest copper mine in the British Commonwealth. These days the mine is a museum and the village is pretty sleepy. After driving past it for years, I visited the Britannia Mine Museum for the first time a few years ago. It’s actually pretty cool!
They have lots of old hulking machinery on display, including a GIANT truck. But I found the historical displays the most interesting. They explain the history of the village and what it was like for the miners and their families who lived there. In the mine’s heyday, there was no road to Britannia so it was a pretty isolated spot.
The highlight of the museum is the underground mine tour. You get to ride on an old mine train, wear a hardhat and experience what it was actually like to mine for copper. (Hint: It was LOUD!)
Getting There: 1 Forbes Way, Britannia Beach. Turn right off the Sea to Sky Highway onto Copper Drive at the traffic light in Britannia Beach.
More Info: Britannia Mine Museum
Murrin Provincial Park
On summer weekends you’ll be lucky to get a spot in the parking lot at Murrin Provincial Park. That’s because tiny Browning Lake is a super popular swimming spot with warm water and a nice sandy beach. It’s a nice spot for a picnic any time of year too. Keep an eye out for rock climbers on the nearby cliffs.
Getting There: Turn left at the flashing yellow light and signs for Murrin Provincial Park.
More info: BC Parks
As you round the corner into Squamish, you’ll see a pull out on the left. This is the Nch’kay viewpoint. From here you get a great view of Mount Garibaldi, known as Nch’kay to the indigenous Skwxwu7mesh people. Mount Garibaldi is a huge dormant volcano that towers over the town. If the weather is clear, pull over here for a quick photo op of Nch’kay and the town of Squamish.
Getting there: Turn left into the pullout about 1.5km after Murrin Park.
At 335m tall, Shannon Falls is the 3rd highest waterfall in BC. It’s a short 5 minute hike to the falls. Be sure to check out both the upper and lower viewing platforms to see the falls from different vantage points.
Getting there: Turn right at the Darrell Bay Road traffic light and follow the park road into the parking lot.
Sea to Sky Gondola
Opened in 2014, the Sea to Sky gondola is one of best attractions in between Vancouver and Whistler. It carries passengers from the side of the highway, up past granite cliffs to a lodge perched high above Howe Sound. It’s an easy way to get up into the mountains without a breaking a sweat. (Although it will give your wallet a minor workout.)
If you want to save some money, you can also hike up to the top via the challenging Sea to Summit Trail. It climbs 900m over 7km and will take most people about 3.5 hours. If you want, you can take the gondola down for a fraction of the price it costs to go up.
Once you arrive at the top, be sure to check out the viewing platforms and suspension bridge near the lodge. For more epic views, walk the Panorama Trail. It’s mostly flat and quite easy and at only 1.6km long, it’s short enough for almost everyone. If you are up for a longer hike, Al’s Habrich Trail made my list as one of the best hikes near Vancouver. In the winter, the Sea to Sky Gondola also has some of the best snowshoeing trails in Squamish.
If you get hungry, the lodge has a small cafe. Grab a bowl of poutine and a beer, then sit out on the patio in the sunshine and enjoy the views.
Tip: Save time by buying your Sea to Sky Gondola tickets ahead of time.
Getting there: 36800 Highway 99, Squamish, BC. Watch for the entrance on the right hand side of the Sea to Sky highway just after the Darrell Bay Road traffic light.
More info: Sea to Sky Gondola
The Stawamus Chief is a huge granite dome that towers over the town of Squamish. The Sea to Sky highway passes right beneath the base. The Chief is 700m tall and is one of the largest granite monoliths in the world.
If you just want to pull over for a quick look, the best place is the roadside parking lot just after the pedestrian overpass. See if you can spot rock climbers high above you! If you want to try it out, you can go on a guided rock climbing trip that’s geared for beginners.
However, you don’t need a rope and harness to get to the top. There’s a steep hike up the backside of the Stawamus Chief that takes you all the way to the top of the cliffs. Be careful as there are no railings and it’s a LONG way down! This is a popular hike and is one of Vancouver’s most Instagrammed hikes.
Getting there: Turn right off the Sea to Sky highway into the parking lot just past the pedestrian overpass.
More info: BC Parks
Downtown Squamish and the Farmer’s Market
Be sure to turn left off the Sea to Sky Highway to explore downtown Squamish. There are a few boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. (Find my recommendations on where to eat at the bottom of the post.) If you are driving the Sea to Sky Highway on a Saturday, be sure to stop in at the Farmer’s Market for local produce, baked goods, crafts, and live music.
Getting There: Turn left at Cleveland Avenue and follow it a few blocks into downtown Squamish.
More Info: Squamish Farmer’s Market
West Coast Railway Heritage Park
I’m not into trains, so I have to be honest and say I’ve never been here. However, my nephew loves it and has been several times. The West Coast Railway Heritage Park has all kinds of vintage train cars, engines, and parts (over 90 of them!) Some of them are over 100 years old. They also have a miniature railway that is popular with kids. At Christmas they have a special Polar Express Event. There’s also a Thomas the Tank Engine event in the spring. New for 2019, they also have a railway-themed escape room inside an old train car.
Getting There: 39645 Government Rd, Squamish, BC. Turn left off the Sea to Sky Highway onto Commercial Way. Go straight through the roundabout, then turn right on Queens Way. Follow Queens Way as it curves around to the left and becomes Government Road. Cross the railway tracks and find the entrance to the West Coast Railway Heritage Park on your right.
More Info: West Coast Railway Heritage Park
Squamish Estuary and Spit
For the best view of the Stawamus Chief, head to the Squamish Estuary and Spit. This finger of land sticks out into Howe Sound at the mouth of the Squamish River. There are lots of flat trails where you can spot birds and other wildlife.
But for the best views, head out to the end of the spit. Squamish means Mother of the Wind, and the spit is the windiest place in Squamish. There are usually lots of kitesurfers and windsurfers playing in the waves just offshore.
Getting There: Turn left on Industrial Way. Then turn right at the T-junction onto Queen’s Way. Follow this road as it curves around to the left and becomes Government Road. Cross the train tracks and keep going on Government. Look for Spit Road on your right. It’s gravel, but fairly smooth. Follow Spit Road to a T-junction and turn left. Keep going to the end of the road.
Brackendale Eagle Viewing
Squamish has more eagles than anywhere else in the world, usually around 1,300 every year. Many eagles migrate to Squamish in the fall to feed on spawning salmon, then stay for the winter. Head to the dykes along the Squamish River in the Brackendale neighbourhood to see them. From November until January there are volunteers along the dyke on weekends with telescopes to help you get a better look. You can also bring your own binoculars of course!
Getting There: Turn left off the Sea to Sky Highway onto Garibaldi Way. Turn right at Government Road and follow it as it approaches the river. Park in the gravel parking lot on the right just before the Watershed Grill. Cross the road and follow the path to the top of the dyke.
Alice Lake Provincial Park
Alice Lake has a popular campground and picnic area that makes a great place for break when driving to Whistler. You can go for a swim in the lake or rent a paddleboard or kayak. But be warned that the water is cold! There’s also an extensive network of hiking and mountain biking trails. If you’re looking for an easy hike, I like the Four Lakes Trail. It’s mostly flat and only takes 2 hours to complete.
Getting There: Turn right off the Sea to Sky Highway at the flashing yellow light at Alice Lake Road. Follow the road into the park. On busy summer weekends when the parking lot fills up park rangers may close the entrance gate.
More Info: BC Parks
This small lake 15 minutes north of Squamish gets fairly warm in the summer. It also has several docks you can jump off. The lake is surrounded by walk-in campsites. It’s a popular spot for partiers on the weekend, but during the week you can have it mostly to yourself.
Getting There: Turn right off the Sea to Sky Highway onto the Cheekeye Forest Service Road about 3 minutes after you pass the turn off to Alice Lake. Follow the gravel road about 2.5km to the parking lot.
From the highway Brohm Lake looks pretty marshy. However, if you head around the corner you’ll discover a pretty little lake surrounded by forest and granite bluffs. There’s a trail around the lake so you can stake out your own lakeside spot. Locals love to swing into the water from the rope swing or jump off the short cliffs. The parking lot is small so go early on summer weekends to get a spot.
Getting There: Turn left off the Sea to Sky highway at the sign for Brohm Lake. There’s a small left-hand turn lane. It’s just past the turn off for Cat Lake.
More Info: My guide to Brohm Lake trails
The snow-capped mountains on the west side of the Squamish River are called the Tantalus Range. There are no roads and few trails that access the jagged peaks. But you can get a great view just by pulling off the road.
Getting There: Turn right off the highway at the viewpoint sign. It’s about 2.5km past the Brohm Lake turnoff. Follow the road uphill for a few meters to a parking lot on the left. There’s actually an even better view, but you can only access it when you are driving southbound from Whistler to Vancouver. Look for it on the west side of the highway. (You can’t turn left going northbound so save it for the drive home.)
The hike to Garibaldi Lake is one of the most popular (and most beautiful) hikes in BC. It’s a long hike so allow a full day to get there. It is 18km return with 800m of elevation gain and will take at least 5 hours. Make sure to leave enough time at the top to take photos or even go for a dip in the freezing cold glacial lake. If you’re really keen, you can add on the hike to Panorama Ridge. The views are great but it will add another 12km, 700m and 6 hours to your hike. You can also camp overnight. (FYI: Garibaldi Lake is on my list of the 10 best hikes near Vancouver, so if you’re a hiker, you shouldn’t miss it.)
Getting there: Watch for the sign for Garibaldi Provincial Park, then turn right on Daisy Lake Road just after going over a bridge. The trailhead is 2.5km down the road from the Sea to Sky Highway.
More Info: BC Parks
The 70m tall Brandywine Falls are pretty spectacular since they have carved a huge canyon into lava columns. The waterfall is one of the Sea to Sky Highway’s best known attractions. It’s a short half-kilometre hike to the viewing platforms. There’s a steep and dangerous trail down to the bottom of the falls, but it’s officially out of bounds so I don’t recommend it.
If you visit in the winter, the trails around Brandywine Falls are also one of the best places near Squamish to go snowshoeing.
Getting there: Turn right off the highway at the sign for Brandywine Falls.
More info: BC Parks, my guide to waterfall hikes near Vancouver
It’s a bit off the beaten track, so Alexander Falls doesn’t get as much press as Brandywine Falls or Shannon Falls. But I’d argue that it is equally impressive. It’s 43m tall and drops down over several tiers. You can drive right up to the viewing platform.
Getting there: Watch for the sign for Whistler Olympic Park, and turn left off the Sea to Sky Highway onto Callaghan Road. Follow the road for about 10 minutes. Look for the Alexander Falls Recreation Site sign on the left and turn into the gravel parking lot.
Whistler Olympic Park
During the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics, the nordic skiing, biathlon and ski jump events were held at Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley. In the winter you can cross country ski or snowshoe here. (Checkout my guide to snowshoe trails.) The trails are open in the summer too, including hiking up the ski jump. You can also sign up for biathlon lessons and shoot on the same course as the Olympians! There’s a small fee to get in.
It’s also worth a drive up this road as its one of the best places in the Sea to Sky corridor to see bears. If you see a bear, stay in your car and take photos from a distance. Never, ever feed a bear! Read more about bear safety.
Getting there: 5 Callaghan Rd, Whistler, BC. Watch for the sign for Whistler Olympic Park, and turn left off the Sea to Sky Highway onto Callaghan Road. Follow the road for about 15 minutes to the lodge, passing Alexander Falls along the way.
More info: Whistler Olympic Park
I’m a chicken and have never bungee jumped. (And I likely never will unless someone is paying me to do it!) But if bungee jumping is on your bucket list, you can do it in Whistler. You’ll plummet 50 metres (160 feet) off a narrow bridge into the Cheakamus River canyon. The river is glacially fed so it’s a beautiful bright blue colour.
Getting there: Calcheak Forest Service Rd, Whistler, BC. Just after the turn-off to Whistler Olympic Park, turn right off the Sea to Sky Highway onto Cal-Cheak Forest Service Road. You’ll cross train tracks right away and then the road turns to gravel. Follow the road for about 7 minutes to the bungee bridge.
More info: Whistler Bungee
Best Places to Eat and Drink on the Sea to Sky Highway
Mags 99 Fried Chicken and Mexican Cantina
This place is a local’s favourite. They make enormous (and delicious) burritos as well as fried chicken served fast-food style from a counter. It’s a really popular place so be prepared to wait in line at dinner time. But trust me, it’s worth it. They used to be located right on Highway 99 near downtown, but they moved in early 2019.
Getting there: 1257 Commercial Way, Squamish. Turn left off Highway 99 onto Commercial Way. Go straight through the roundabout, then turn right into the parking lot. Mags 99 is located right next to Dairy Queen.
Want coffee or a healthy snack in Squamish? Head to Zephyr Cafe downtown. They have smoothies, breakfast and lunch too, including lots of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.
Getting there: 8084 Cleveland Ave, Squamish. Turn left off Highway 99 onto Cleveland Avenue. Zephyr Cafe is on the left hand side about half a block past Winnipeg Street.
Howe Sound Brewing
View this post on Instagram
They’ve been brewing beer here since 1996. Stop in to enjoy one on the patio. They have a full gastro-pub style menu too that focuses on local and sustainably sourced ingredients. Their wood-fired pizzas are really popular.
Getting There: 37801 Cleveland Ave, Squamish. Turn left off Highway 99 onto Cleveland Avenue. Howe Sound Brewing is down at the end of Cleveland Avenue near the intersection with Vancouver Street.
The Watershed Grill in Brackendale is my favourite place to eat in Squamish. It’s right on the banks of the river and has a great patio. They have tasty pub-style food. It’s a locals hangout so expect crowds on nights when there’s hockey on TV.
Getting There: 41101 Government Rd, Brackendale. Turn left off the Sea to Sky Highway onto Garibaldi Way. Turn right at Government Road and follow it as it approaches the river. Look for a gravel parking lot on the right just after a cross walk. Park here and cross the road. The restaurant is just ahead behind the trees.
Fergie’s Cafe has some of the best food in Squamish. In fact, I think they have the best eggs Benedict I’ve ever had! This small restaurant is attached to the Sunwolf resort. They have a big outdoor deck and some indoor seating. They’re just open for breakfast and brunch. Go early to get a good table.
Getting There: 70002 Squamish Valley Rd, Brackendale. Turn left off the highway at the flashing yellow light onto Squamish Valley Road. Look for the entrance to Fergie’s on the right hand side just before going over a bridge.
Where to Stay Along the Sea to Sky Highway
If you really want to make the most out of your Sea to Sky Highway road trip, you should break it up over a few days and stay overnight. The easiest place to base yourself is in Squamish where there are lots of options from cabins to hotels to hostels. But if you want to camp, you have options all along the Sea to Sky Highway.
Here’s the complete list of campgrounds on the Sea to Sky Highway, ordered from south to north. Some campgrounds require advance reservations while others are first-come, first served. Plan ahead on summer weekends as it can get REALLY busy.
- Porteau Cove Provincial Park
- Klahanie Campground
- Stawamus Chief Provincial Park
- Squamish Municipal Campground
- Mamquam River Campground
- MTN Fun Basecamp
- Alice Lake Provincial Park
- Paradise Valley Campground
- Cat Lake Recreation Site
- Whistler RV Park and Campground
- Cal-Cheak Recreation Site
Boutique Hotel: Howe Sound Inn
The Howe Sound Brewing Company also has their own boutique hotel, the Howe Sound Inn. It’s right in the heart of Squamish so you can walk to shops and cafes. And if it’s raining, you don’t even have to go outside – just go downstairs to the brew pub! Book now.
View this post on Instagram
I stayed at the Sunwolf cabins a few years ago. It’s an old fishing lodge right next to the Cheakamus River in Brackendale. The cozy wooden cabins have river views and fireplaces, but no TVs – just what you need for a wilderness getaway. Plus its on the same property as Fergie’s! Book now.
Hostel: Squamish Adventure Inn & Hostel
The Squamish Adventure Inn has both dorms and private rooms, a kitchen, and patios. It’s located just off the highway next to the river. If you’ve had enough driving, it’s within walking distance to bike trails, hiking, rock climbing, restaurants and groceries. My sister stayed here for the weekend and says it’s a great place to meet other travellers to go hiking or exploring. Book now.
With all that info, you should be ready to head out on your own Sea to Sky Highway road trip. What’s your favourite spot to stop between Vancouver and Whistler? Do you have questions about driving the Sea to Sky highway? Let me know in the comments.
More Sea to Sky and Vancouver area posts:
- The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish: 9 Places to Go Snowshoeing
- Hike to Crooked Falls in Squamish
- The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Whistler: 8 Free Places to Snowshoe
- Photo Essay: A Winter Weekend in Squamish
- Most Instagrammed Hikes in Vancouver (Updated for 2019)
- The 10 Best Hikes in Vancouver: A Local’s Guide
- 6 Easy Hikes in Vancouver for Beginners and Tourists
- 15 Unusual Hikes Near Vancouver
- Waterfalls Near Vancouver You Can Hike To
Like this post? Pin it on Pinterest.