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Vancouver to Whistler: A Sea to Sky Journey

10th November 2016

There can be no better way to sum up summer in British Columbia than combining the ‘sea to sky’ experience of Vancouver and Whistler Mountain. While Vancouver is temperate all year, in summer, Whistler comes alive with wildlife, water sports and green mountain trails, and the highway linking them becomes an easy drive. With only two hours separating the two, you could be zipping around Vancouver Harbour whale watching in the morning, and bear watching at Whistler in the afternoon.

Take a ride on the wild side

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An orca breaches in the Strait of Georgia, with Mt Baker in the background
An orca breaches in the Strait of Georgia, with Mt Baker in the background

From March to October each year, thousands of humpback whales, orcas, grey whales and minke whales migrate through the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland, making it one of the world’s best summer whale watching locations. Several Vancouver-based tour operators offer whale watching expeditions, with choices ranging from high-speed zodiacs and fully-equipped cruisers, to kayaks and seaplanes. In addition to whales, you’re likely to spot dolphins and sea lions, and a huge variety of seabirds, from tufted puffins to bald eagles.

Fly to Victoria for the day

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View of Victoria Harbour from aboard a sea plane
Victoria from the air

Seaplanes take off and land all day long on Vancouver’s harbour and make it easy to visit beautiful Victoria on Vancouver Island in a day. It's a fantastic way to get some great flightseeing in while saving plenty of time to enjoy the sights of Victoria and still make it back to Vancouver for dinner.

British Columbia's official capital puts the ‘British’ in British Columbia, and you could be forgiven for thinking you have landed in a little slice of England. The best way to experience it is with an upscale afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

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Buchart formal gardens in Victoria, Canada
Beautiful Buchart Gardens

Victoria is also known as the ‘City of Gardens’, and the world-renowned Butchart Gardens come into their own in spring and summer, with dazzling floral displays. Take a walk back in time with a Discover the Past walking tour; or lose yourself in British Columbia’s history at the Royal BC Museum.

 A little further inland: Jewels of the Rockies

Taming the wild: Canada's Most Luxurious Wilderness Lodges

The Sea to Sky highway

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Aerial view of car driving on highway through fir trees on edge of blue lake
Highway 99, or the Sea to Sky Highway

Highway 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway, will take you from downtown Vancouver to Whistler in less than two hours. The drive is one of British Columbia's most spectacular, with blue waters on one side, soaring cliffs on the other, and incredible sights at just about every turn.

If you’re not in a hurry, take it slowly and spend time drinking in the views from the Sea to Sky gondola at Squamish; feel the spray from British Columbia’s third highest waterfall at Shannon Falls; and follow the cultural journey of Canada’s Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations people. Short on time? Skip the drive and take Whistler Air’s floatplane service from downtown Vancouver for spectacular views from the air.

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Beautiful lookout with background of snowy mountains and fir trees
The Sea to Sky Gondola lookout in Squamish, BC

Reach for the sky

Once you reach Whistler check into one of the mountain’s finest resorts such as The Westin Resort and Spa Whistler, located in the centre of the pedestrian friendly Whistler Village and just steps from both mountain gondolas. You could spend a leisurely afternoon at a spa or golf course, or get the adrenaline going with bungee jumping, ziplining, or rafting.  

For a more relaxed, but equally impressive journey, take in the breath-taking panoramic views of glaciers, extinct volcanoes, and snow-capped peaks from the Peak 2 Peak Gondola over to Blackcomb Mountain.

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Black bear peers at camera from among grass and flowers
Black bears are some of Whistler's most famous inhabitants

One thing you should not miss is the chance to see Whistlers famous black bears and their cubs that wander through the surrounding cedar forests after their winter hibernation. Bear-viewing tours with local experts provide the opportunity to watch the furry, four-legged locals in their natural environment, and even learn about their personalities and names. 

Get in touch with your local Travel Associates consultant to find out the best way for you to discover the splendour of Vancouver and Whistler 

Photos: Getty Images