Looking for a quick spring getaway without crossing a border? Head north up one of the most beautiful highways in the world and prepare to indulge all the senses.
From the fresh pine scent that wafts through the air to delectable eats, sublime spa days and those dazzling mountain vistas that feel like a movie set, you’ll marvel more than once at this charming escape in our own backyard.
Once strictly a winter ski resort, Whistler now caters to all four seasons and there’s no better time to visit than spring and summer. The forests are lush, the lakes are glistening in the sunshine, there’s a wide variety of fun and adventurous activities and accommodation is cheaper than the pricey winter months. My advice? Just go!
No drive up the Sea-to-Sky Highway is complete without a stop at the cozy Galileo Coffee Company (173 Highway 99) in Britannia Beach. With excellent java they roast themselves, breakfast wraps, hearty sandwiches and homemade cookies, it’s the ideal spot to fuel up for the rest of the journey. There are a few tables inside, but if the weather’s nice, choose the picnic tables outside to gaze at the towering peaks hugging the ocean waters of Howe Sound across the highway.
Finding accommodation in Whistler is easy. There are myriad hotels rooms, bed & breakfasts, private condo rentals and Airbnb options at a variety of price points. Tourism Whistler’s website is a good place to start and www.hotels.com has deals throughout the year. My favourite place to stay is the small, privately owned Sundial Boutique Hotel right in Whistler Village. The location, at the base of Whistler Mountain, couldn’t be better. Surrounded by restaurants, shops and cafes, the Whistler Village Gondola is also right at your doorstep.
The best part? The Sundial is the only hotel in Whistler Village that offers suites with outdoor private hot tubs (some condos also offer this perk). After a day exploring, sinking into your own tub while counting the stars is the ultimate in relaxation. You’ll pay more for this luxury, but in my opinion it’s worth it.
Speaking of exploring, no matter what your level of physical fitness is, there is an activity for you. Biking, hiking, sightseeing, bear viewing, arts and culture, golf, beachcombing, ATV tours, canoeing and horseback riding are just a few on offer.
Ziplining sounds scarier than it is and the folks at Ziptrek are true professionals. Anyone over the age of seven can zip, and there are a few tours to choose from depending on your comfort with heights and desire for an adrenaline rush.
Each tour includes interpretive information about the old-growth forest surrounding you and the guides are well versed in the ecology of the area. You’ll traverse canyons, walk along boardwalks and suspension bridges, climb suspended stairways and fly through the trees. Trust me when I say that you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face.
On the opposite spectrum of activity level is the peace and tranquility of the Scandinave Spa. Modelled after the hot and cold baths popular in Scandinavia, this is hydrotherapy at its best. Alternating hot and cold treatments, you’ll sit in saunas and eucalyptus steam rooms, plunge into cold pools and melt in hot baths. In between, you’ll relax on outdoor hammocks and Adirondack chairs while warming your toes next to a fire pit, or lounge on indoor benches and recliners, all designed to quiet the mind.
Did I mention there is also complete silence? The entire spa is silent except for the change rooms and the café. The only sounds you’ll hear are the splashing of waterfalls, the chirping of birds or the wind in the trees. The Scandinave team takes this rule seriously and will gently remind you if you forget, so you’ll quickly master some hand signals to your partner or friends.
You can easily spend hours here doing the hot and cold circuit a few times over and there is no time limit on your $60 day pass. The café serves yummy light meals like soup, salads and wraps, so if you get hungry, head inside the lodge to refuel and catch up with your friends. Scandinave also offers massage therapy and combining a massage with the baths is beyond decadent.
After a thrilling day of ziplining or unwinding at the spa, it’s time for dinner and Whistler does not disappoint. The restaurants easily rival Vancouver with nearly every cuisine represented – you really can’t go wrong with any choice.
Aprés is almost an activity in itself and, starting around 3:00 p.m., bars and restaurants start to fill with happy patrons excited from their day.
Spring and summer means open patios and the Village will be lively with chatter and camaraderie. Find a seat, order a drink and take it all in. I highly recommend Caramba! for their legendary Happy Hour with $6 tapas and the best sangria (try the rosé!) in Whistler.
When it comes to breakfast, Elements in the Summit Lodge can’t be beat. This tapas restaurant serves innovative and seasonal specialties like baked frittatas and their signature smoothie shooters along with a variety of benedicts including Haida Gwaii Dungeness crab and Montreal smoked meat.
For a coffee fix and baked treats, head to purebread bakery next to Olympic Plaza. The caramelized banana brownies and pudgie pies (among others!) are over-the-top delicious. Unfortunately for your waistline, you’ll start finding reasons to swing by this bake shop throughout your stay.
Whistler literally has so much to offer that you can have a different experience every visit and every season. As a non-skier, I think spring and summer are the best times for a getaway; the roads are clear, the weather is warm, the days are long and there is always an open-air patio with your name on it.
Just leave some sangria for me.