Like many city dwellers in Vancouver, we dreamed of the mountain lakes and fresh air of nearby Whistler. Located just an hour and a half from downtown BC, this versatile town is perfect for year-round entertainment. From downhill biking in the summer, to tackling some of Canada’s most impressive ski slopes come winter; this is a resort that offers an adventure for everyone and it doesn’t have to cost the earth.
Whenever I’m planning a trip away, I like to list all the possible activities and then decide how to make the most of our time. With that in mind, this review starts with a list of things to do and then an idea of how to cram it all into a long weekend.
My top 10 summer activities in Whistler:
- Cycle the forest track around Lost Lake.
- Go for happy hour at the Nicklaus North Golf Course.
- If you are a golfer, pay the green fee, the views are worth it!
- Test your fear of heights on the Peak 2 Peak gondola.
- Strap on your protective gear and cycle down Whistler Blackcomb Mountain.
- Take in an aerial view of the majestic glaciers from a sea plane.
- Camp in the Garibaldi Provincial Park.
- Discover local history at the Squamish-Lil-wat Cultural Centre.
- Relax at the Scandinave Spa.
- Attend the Outdoor Summer Concert Series in the Olympic Plaza.
If you are travelling from Vancouver, as we were, I would highly recommend Epic Rides as a stress free and affordable way of getting to Whistler. For just CAD$35, which includes free luggage and bike transportation, this bus picks you up from downtown Vancouver and drops you off in the heart of Whistler village. I suppose the only downside is you can’t stop along the route to admire the beautiful countryside, nor continue your journey on to Pemberton, which I’ve heard is just incredible. But hey ho, it does the job at a bargain price!
Where to stay
Accommodation in Whistler village is limited, so I’d highly recommend booking a few months in advance if possible. Especially as people from BC like to plan ahead, which we’ve discovered on more than one occasion!
We rented a one bed apartment on Airbnb for about CAD$60/night, which was perfectly located opposite the Olympic Plaza (a legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games). If you’re unsure about where to stay in the village, then the Olympic Plaza gives you a good central point from where to begin your search. Another is the Whistler Blackcomb lift, which is right in the heart of Whistler village.
Whistler is an affluent resort town, so dining out can get expensive. If budget is an issue, I’d recommend finding an apartment with a small kitchen so you can at least cook some of your meals at home. Nice breakfast in bed perhaps!
Suggested 3 day itinerary: Whistler on a budget
Arrive early to make the most of your long weekend. Drop off your bags at your hotel/apartment and walk into town to have a bite to eat. After lunch, walk to the Whistler Blackcomb lift. Take a seat at the notorious Longhorn (the bar just in front) and watch the mountain bikers speed down the track as you enjoy a relaxing drink. Before the day is over, ensure you’ve hired a bike, if you didn’t bring your own, ready for an active day tomorrow.
Alternatively, if you’re into mountain biking, then you’d want to head up into the hills. I’ve heard you often see black bears roaming the pastures beneath the chairlift. Travel across the record-breaking Peak 2 Peak gondola and do the full loop. This is not only the highest lift in the world, but also the world’s longest unsupported span for a lift. Eek! I have a deep fear of heights so opted for an itinerary that stayed firmly on the ground.
After breakfast, jump on your bike and cycle to Lost Lake, about 10 mins away. It’s a beautiful, serene lake surrounded by towering trees and mountain peaks. There are numerous trails that circle the lake, from a relatively flat 5km path, to more challenging trails that climb high into the trees. This is bear country, but luckily the area is busy with human activity, so it’s unlikely you’ll encounter one. Look out for the jetty in the centre of the lake, which offers wonderful panoramic views. And if you’re feeling brave enough, attempt a dip in the chilly waters from the beach.
Jump back on your bike and head north towards Green Lake. Spend the afternoon cycling around the shores taking in the fabulous views. Stop at the Nickalaus North Golf Course when happy hour approaches for a glass of wine with a view. Watch the seaplanes take off from the lake and admire one of the most beautiful greens in the world.
Come nightfall, head back into town for a concert in the Olympic Plaza.
Final day. Wake up and cycle south towards Alta Lake. Head towards Backroads Whistler Canoes and Kayaks and if the weather is good hire a vessel for an hour or two and enjoy a gentle paddle on the water.
If budget allows, end the day relaxing at the Scandinave Spa.
If you’ve been to Whistler in the summer months, I’d love to hear what your favourite activity was. Leave a comment below.