The Scenic Sea to Sky Highway
Around the world there are scenic highways that are renowned for their beauty, and that must be driven on at least once in your life; well here in Canada that road is the Sea to Sky Highway, and, on a clear day at least, this is one of the most scenic stretches of road you’ll find anywhere.
The Sea to Sky Highway is officially named Highway 99 and this most famous stretch of it runs along the coast from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, and heads 134 kilometres (83 miles) north, passing through Lions Bay, Squamish, Whistler and eventually Pemberton. It’s the only route by road between Vancouver and Whistler and prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics the highway was improved to be able to handle all the extra traffic using it. Though you’ll find there are people who just want to get from A to B as fast as possible, there are many places that you can stop along the way, and ambling along this beautiful stretch of coastline is really the way to go, in my opinion! Pull-outs, provincial parks, picnic spots, hikes, and of course views, can all be enjoyed along the Sea to Sky.
Attractions Along the Sea to Sky Highway
Heading north from Vancouver you should really allow yourself a day to be able to experience, in some part, all of the attractions along the Sea to Sky, though in reality you could take even longer if you want to spend more time everywhere.
Lions Bay is the first place you’ll come to on leaving Horseshoe Bay. This artsy community includes an art gallery, marina and general store where you could stock up on some items for a picnic to enjoy at the next stop along the highway, Porteau Cove Provincial Park. This small park is big on appeal, providing picnic areas as well as camping facilities, and there’s a beach and places to swim. You can even scuba dive here, making use of the old ship that has been sunk off shore!
Britannia Beach is one of the larger villages on the Sea to Sky and it’s famous for its mining heritage, which you can discover at the BC Museum of Mining. Underground tours, a visit to the mill, and panning for gold are some of the highlights of this attraction!
Another two provincial parks await you a little further north: Murrin Provincial Park has wonderful scenery and is popular for its climbing walls, plus you’ll find picnic spots, swimming and walking here too, and you can walk to the waterfalls of the Shannon Falls Provincial Park. These falls are the third highest in the province.
Squamish is the next port of call, and as the largest town in the area there are stores, places to eat, and places to stay, and if you enjoy recreation this may be a good place to stop as it’s known as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada!
Further north still and we’ve almost reached Whistler, but there’s another provincial park 11 kilometres south of the resort town, called Brandywine Falls Provincial Park. Here the 70 metre high falls are simply beautiful and there’s a fabulous view of them from the viewing platform that you can reach after a short walk.
Whistler itself is a different story entirely, and it’s not just a winter destination; hiking, mountain biking, golfing and plenty more can be enjoyed here in the summer months too. Heading out of Whistler though, about 20 minutes driving time along the highway there’s one more provincial park, Nairn Falls. As the name suggests, this one is home to waterfalls too, and there’s a 1.5 km hiking trail to get to these ones, which fall 60 metres.
Finally, at the end of the Sea to Sky Highway we reach Pemberton. This growing community will remind you of those towns you used to see in Westerns, so it has a real charm that will make you want to stop and get out of your car! The surrounding scenery includes the majestic Mount Currie, and it offers a fitting end to our Sea to Sky Highway tour!
Photo and article copyright Claire Bolgil. Claire is a freelance travel writer based in Beautiful BC. Find out more about her at www.clairebolgil.com.