Vancouver Road Trip: Driving to Whistler, BC

The Sea-to-Sky Highway, one of western Canada’s most stunning roadways, connects Vancouver to the year-round outdoor mecca of Whistler.

Just a two-hour drive, it’s perfect for a day trip or as part of a longer exploration. Whistler offers not just North America’s largest snow sports resort but also plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, paddling the glacier-fed lakes, and exploring the region’s First Nations heritage.

Between Whistler and Vancouver, the town of Squamish is a hot spot for outdoor activities, including excellent hiking and the region’s best white-water rafting. For those looking for gentler adventures, Squamish’s Sea-to-Sky Gondola delivers stellar mountain views and access to mountaintop hiking trails.

Along the Sea-to-Sky-Highway near Whistler, BC.
Along the Sea-to-Sky-Highway near Whistler, BC. Photo © Ontario Ltd. Spirer/123rf.

Driving to Whistler from Vancouver

Allow about two hours to make the 75-mile (120-kilometer) drive between Vancouver and Whistler along the spectacular Sea-to-Sky Highway.

From downtown Vancouver, take West Georgia Street to the Lions Gate Bridge. Watch the signs carefully as you approach Stanley Park en route to the bridge to stay in the proper lane. The center lane on the three-lane bridge reverses its travel direction at different times of day, typically creating two travel lanes into the city in the morning and two travel lanes toward the North Shore during the afternoon rush hour.

After you cross the Lions Gate Bridge, bear left toward Marine Drive west/Highway 1/Highway 99. Enter Marine Drive and stay in the far right lane to take the first right onto Taylor Way (the sign says “Whistler”). Follow Taylor Way up the hill, and exit left onto Highway 1 west. Continue on Highway 1 until it merges with Highway 99 (Sea-to-Sky Hwy.). Stay on Highway 99 through Squamish and into Whistler.

Driving to Whistler from Kamloops

If you’re driving to Whistler from Kamloops or from points farther east in the Canadian Rockies, follow Highway 1 west. At Kamloops, continue west on Highway 1 to Cache Creek, where you make a sharp right turn onto Highway 97 north, following the signs for “BC-99/Prince George/Lillooet.” When Highways 97 and 99 meet, take Highway 99 west, which will take you through Lillooet, Pemberton, and on into Whistler. Kamloops to Whistler is 185 miles (295 kilometers), a four-hour drive.

Driving to Whistler from Vancouver Island (via Ferry)

If you’re traveling between Vancouver Island and Whistler, you don’t have to go through the city of Vancouver. Take the B.C. Ferries (888/223-3779) service from Nanaimo’s Departure Bay Terminal to Horseshoe Bay, which is on the mainland northwest of Vancouver. The Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay Ferry (one-way adults $16.90, ages 5-11 $8.45, cars $55.40, bikes $2) takes one hour and 40 minutes.

The Departure Bay Terminal (680 Trans-Canada Hwy., Nanaimo) is two miles (3 kilometers) north of downtown Nanaimo.

From Horseshoe Bay, drive north on Highway 99 (Sea-to-Sky Hwy.). It’s 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Horseshoe Bay to Whistler; allow about 75-90 minutes for the drive.

From late June through early September, ferries between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay generally make eight or nine trips daily, with six or seven daily runs the rest of the year; check the B.C. Ferries website for the seasonal schedule.

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