The Sea to Sky Highway on Canada’s Pacific Coast is one of the world’s most scenic routes as it runs past shorelines, mountains and lakes from Vancouver to the mountains of Whistler and beyond.
There is a whole host of outdoor adventures to be had along the way, but it’s the towering cliffs, the cascading waterfalls, the eye-catching lakes, the temperate rainforest and the coastal communities that make the route so impressive.
If you’re going on a fly drive Canada holiday soon, then the Sea to Sky Highway (also known as Highway 99) should be right at the top of your bucket list. Here are our top recommendations for unmissable places to stop along the route.
Essential stops along the Sea to Sky Highway
Cypress Mountain Lookout
In West Vancouver
We spoke to Felicia, a travel writer and photographer who is based in Vancouver and knows the area inside out. Together with her partner Wes, they run the blog Feather & The Wind and recently travelled the Sea to Sky Highway themselves. She says to start your journey you should head to the Cypress Mountain Lookout:
“The best way to start your Sea to Sky road trip is with a stop at the Cypress Mountain Lookout in West Vancouver. From here visitors can appreciate a free panoramic view of Vancouver and its surroundings before continuing along Highway 99.”
About 40 minutes from Vancouver
The scenic Porteau Cove is one of the route’s most popular stop-offs. It’s easy to get to as it is located between Lions Bay, just north of Vancouver, and Squamish, half an hour up the road.
Hannah and her partner Thom run That Adventurer, a blog about their outdoor adventures on the west coast of Canada. Speaking to Hannah, she highly recommends spending some time here:
“Porteau Cove is a great stop, especially on a rainy day or if you fancy some eagle spotting. The clouds always look amazing here and you can see the islands in the Howe Sound too. Take a wander along the beach and look up to spot the eagles!”
About 40 minutes from Vancouver
The Squamish-based waterfall is 355 metres (1,165 feet) tall and is the third highest waterfall in British Columbia! It should, therefore, come as no surprise that it can be seen from the Sea to Sky Highway. The falls offer you the perfect opportunity to get out and stretch your legs or to go for a picnic lunch en route to Whistler.
There is a really easy trail you can follow along Shannon Creek to a viewing platform offering the best views of Shannon Falls.
Felicia from Feather & The Wind agrees that Shannon Falls offers you the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs:
“About an hour into your road trip, make a quick stop to stretch your legs at the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia. Shannon Falls cascades down from a height of 335 metres and is among the most impressive in the region.”
Sea to Sky Gondola
About 45 minutes from Vancouver
Gondola or teleportation to paradise? You decide. 🌅 If you haven’t seen a sunset up here yet, it’s time to add it to your summer bucket list. 📸: @taraogradyphoto . . . #seatoskygondola #adventurebynature #squamishisawesome #hellobc #sunsetsaturday #mountainviews #howesound #gondola #goldenhour #exploremore #getoutside
Riding on the Sea to Sky Gondola (all 2,904 feet of it) is a must as it will give you unforgettable views across Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains.
Katie Tikkanen, Event Programming & Marketing Coordinator at Sea to Sky Gondola, explains why you should stop off at the attraction and what activities you can do:
“The Sea to Sky Gondola allows people to connect with the great outdoors. Just a 10-minute gondola ride up to the summit and you are transported into a new world. With over a dozen hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty, quick service restaurant, and countless viewpoints, it is the perfect way to experience the wonders of the Sea to Sky corridor.
“With only a few hours to spend at the summit, there are a few sights that can’t be missed. For a morning adventure up the gondola, it should definitely start with a locally roasted cup of coffee from our Co-Pilot Cafe. Take your coffee to go and enjoy a leisurely stroll along the Panorama Trail or the recently upgraded Wonderland Lake Loop. If you’re here in the evening, there is no better way to top off an adventure at the summit than with a pint of locally-crafted beer, sipped on the stunning patio overlooking Howe Sound.”
About 50 minutes from Vancouver
Another stop that Hannah from That Adventurer recommends is Squamish, known as ‘The Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada’:
“Squamish, Canada’s adventure capital, is a great place to stop if you want to do some mountain biking, hiking, rafting, climbing or pretty much any outdoor activity you can think of!”
To give you an insight into why Squamish is an outdoor enthusiasts dream, we take you through some of the activities you can do:
– Mountain biking – with over 200 kilometres of singletrack, Squamish has been named as one of the top 25 wildest and most exotic places to ride in the world by Mountain Bike Magazine.
– Rock climbing – As it’s nestled at the end of the Pacific Coast’s deepest Fjords, it is a rock climbing mecca, with climbers from across the world coming to scale the granite cliffs and bluffs.
– Hiking – It is easy to fall in love with Squamish on foot because of the network of trails that take you along rivers, lakes, rainforests and mountains. The Four Lakes Trail and up Stawamus Chief are popular routes.
All of these incredible outdoor activities are also within 10-minutes of each other, including the Sea to Sky Gondola.
During your visit to Squamish, you have to visit the 2,000 foot tall Stawamus Chief (known simply as the ‘Chief’ by locals). One of the largest granite monoliths in the world, it is the town’s most iconic landmark and is home to a number of great hikes that provide easy access to breath-taking views.
The Chief is also home to hundreds of multi-pitch crack climbing routes and granite walls, and the most well-known is The Apron and The Grand Wall.
If you are hiking up the Chief, you should pack a picnic as the smooth rocks and expansive views at the top are a great location to stop for lunch.
Brohm Lake rope swing
About an hour from Vancouver
One of the top spots to visit in the summer for many Canadians is Brohm Lake, as the combination of forest, lake and rocky nooks make it a scenic escape from Vancouver, which is only an hour’s drive away.
Robyn Robledo, who runs the blog Nomads With A Purpose, stopped off at Brohm Lake when she travelled the Sea to Sky Highway with her whole family in 2017. The family loved the rope swing that much that they visited Brohm Lake two days following.
Robyn shared her top tips and told us why she thinks you should head to the lake, “Brohm Lake’s rope swing is an absolute must do! Bring some inflatables and a picnic and chill on the lake for the day”
About an hour from Vancouver
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, then a visit to Alice Lake – a provincial park – is a must. Surrounded by towering mountains, there are four freshwater lakes that dominate the landscape and make swimming and fishing very enjoyable pastimes.
Robyn Robledo says Alice Lake is one of her favourite campgrounds: “Alice Lake is one of our favourite campgrounds in the whole world. It’s got something for everyone. There’s a great lake for swimming, SUPing, or chilling, there’s a fun bike park for kids, and our favourite, there’s an amazing mountain biking trail system right from the campground. Cliff’s Corner is our favourite trail at Alice Lake and even beginners can do it!”
Hike an alpine lake
Garibaldi Lake is about 1 hour 15 minutes from Vancouver
Along the Sea to Sky Highway, there are a number of alpine lakes that you can hike and all have their highlights, but Robyn Robledo shares her favourite lakes along the route:
“You have to hike to at least one alpine lake on Sea to Sky. Between Cheakamus Lake, Garibaldi Lake, Elfin Lakes, and Joffre Lakes, there’s an epic hike for all skill levels. The blue water, sharp mountains, and perfect solitude of these lakes will take your breath away!”
About 1 hour 20 minutes from Vancouver
Regarded by many as the number one spot to stop along the Sea to Sky Highway is the dramatic Brandywine Falls.
The waterfall plummets down 230 feet and is located in Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, which is just south of Whistler. There are ample hiking routes and mountain bike trails you can enjoy.
Felicia from Feather & The Wind says: “A must-stop between Squamish and Whistler is Brandywine Falls. The lookout point is an easy walk from the parking lot with great views of the iconic falls and sprawling valleys.”
About 1 hour 30 minutes from Vancouver
North of Vancouver and located in the stunning Coast Mountains, Whistler is a popular year-round destination that has frequently been voted as one of the best mountain resorts in the world.
It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting in the summer or winter months – there’s so much you can do in every season. According to Lotte Eschbach from Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog, the town is a food lover’s dream:
“Whistler is a beautiful and bustling little town, with lots of cafes, restaurants and shops. Plus, amazing hiking trails during summer and great skiing opportunities during winter.”
Some restaurants you could eat at include:
– Araxi Restaurant & Oyster Bar – a great spot for locally sourced Pacific Northwest dishes
– The Mexican Corner Restaurant – here you can find tacos, quesadillas & margaritas
– Earls Kitchen + Bar – this restaurant is known for its gourmet burgers
During the winter months, Whistler is known for being a world-class ski holiday resort as the surrounding mountains boast over 200 marked ski and snowboard trails, 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers to explore. In summer, the trails and lifts are used by mountain bikers from all over the world as the area transforms into a huge mountain bike park.
Tips for driving on the Sea to Sky Highway
Stock up on Food
Nomads With A Purpose’s Robyn Robledo says it is essential to go shopping and pick up lots of food for picnics as well as snacks:
“Stock up on a lot of picnic/snack foods ahead of time in Vancouver so you can really take your time and enjoy each stop on the Highway. While there are good restaurants in Squamish like Backcountry Brewery (PS they have best pizzas ever!), the best stops on Sea to Sky are off the beaten path, away from restaurants or grocery stores so you’ll want to be prepared.”
Take your time!
The last thing you want to be doing on the Sea to Sky Highway is to be rushing. Take your time to see as many as possible of the stops on our list.
Felicia from Feather & The Wind, says: “This is ranked among Canada’s most spectacular drives for a reason so bring your camera and a sense of adventure. With so much to see and do along Highway 99, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time on this road trip. A full day of driving can get you to Whistler and back but it’s worth spending 1-3 days on the Sea to Sky Highway to appreciate the various viewpoints and attractions in the area. This winding route is impressive in any season but take extra precautions when driving during the winter.”
Hannah from That Adventurer adds: “A lot of locals drive this road pretty quickly but if it’s your first time you’re going to want to slow down and take in the views. There are ocean and islands to your left and mountains to your right: it’s beautiful!”
Prepare for winter
If you are driving during the winter, you will need a car with winter tyres. Phenomenal Globe Travel Blog’s Lotte Eschbach says: “Be prepared when you drive the Sea to Sky highway during winter. Make sure your car has proper winter tyres and bring snow chains.”
Other things to consider
- Avoid driving the road at night as it’s not very well lit and you’ll miss the views.
- Go earlier in the morning (especially during summer) or the car parks for the main attractions will be full!
If you have been inspired, then take a look at the different fly-drive holidays on offer with Canadian Affair today.