How To Spend A Summer Weekend In Whistler – 4-Day Itinerary
Welcome to Whistler, nature’s playground and home to North America’s largest ski resort. During the months of November through to April Whistler is a winter wonderland, and in the summer it becomes a Mountain Paradise. Since moving to Canada three years ago I’ve tried Skiing, Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing & Ice Fishing during the winter months. I’ve discovered although I enjoy all those activities, my body simply doesn’t! I get cold – like really cold during the winter months due to bad blood flow. So once the summer rolls around I get super excited for all the hiking, sunbathing, camping and lake time! Most people come here for the pow – but for those who don’t enjoy winter or simply don’t ski, Whistler still has tons on offer! The skiing may be what the town is famous for, but Whistler is so much more than that.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had people say “So why are you here?” when I tell them I don’t ski. Seriously? It’s not about skiing all the time, there is something here for everyone.
Did You Know?
Here are a few fun facts about Whistler!
- Whistler used to be known as “Alta Lake”
- Whistler Mountain used to be known as “London Mountain”
- Whistler Mountain and subsequently Whistler itself was named after the “whistling” sound the marmots make on top of the mountain
- Whistler Blackcomb ski resort was first opened and operated as the Garibaldi Lift Company
- Whistler was originally set up as a fishing resort with the establishment of Rainbow Lodge
How To Get To Whistler
Whistler is usually one of the stops most people add to their Canadian Rockies road trip, whether starting in Alberta or B.C. Whistler is accessible via The Sea To Sky Highway (Highway 99). Most people will no doubt be driving North from Vancouver, so this particular post will be aimed more towards this – but you can amend the itinerary anyway you like!
Vancouver Airport services most major Airlines including Air Canada, WestJet, Air New Zealand, Qantas, Air France, British Airways and American Airlines. I always find the best flight deals using Sky Scanner!
Vancouver Airport is approximately 2-2.5 hours from Whistler depending on traffic. Once you arrive at the Airport there are several shuttles that will being you straight into Whistler, including, Sky Lynx and Whistler Connection. The shuttle will drop off at Village Gate bus shelter which is in the heart of Whistler Village. Most hotels are walkable from here, however if you are staying in the Upper Village you can walk to the Gondola Transit Exchange and take the number 5 which is free. If you are staying in the Creekside area of town, most shuttles will drop off here first before making their way to Village Gate – always make sure to ask the driver as some won’t automatically stop at Creekside!
If you’re hiring a car then you’re all set! Whistler is generally easy to navigate, but if you’re using public transport you may need to plan ahead. The public transport in Whistler is fairly easy to use, you can pick up a pamphlet from the visitors centre or use their website and nextride app. The buses here will cost $2.50 per ride and must be paid with exact change. Alternatively you can purchase bus tokens from the visitor centre. If you require two buses and will be changing at the GTE (Gondola Transit Exchange) then you can just ask for a transfer once you board the first bus, and only have to pay the one fair! Buses generally run every 15-30 minutes. Some hotels in town will also offer a shuttle service.
In the summer months, public transport is free on weekends, and certain holidays.
Where To Stay
Pangea Pod Hotel
If you are looking for a budget option but don’t quite want to stay in a hostel the Pangea Pod hotel is an affordable alternative. This is Whistler’s newest hotel – opening in the fall of last year – so it’s still very shiny and new.
This hotel is situated in the heart of Whistler Village, a mere 2-minute walk from the Whistler Gondola. With lots of bars and restaurants on it’s doorsteps, you’ll never be bored. Not only this, but it’s totally fun and unlike any other hotel in Whistler. The average nightly cost of this hotel will set you back between $65 and $140.
They also have an awesome rooftop cafe that has live bands play! So check it out even if you aren’t staying here.
Nita Lake Lodge
Opening in 2008 Nita Lake Lodge is one of the newer properties in Whistler. It’s located in the Creekside neighbourhood, meaning you’ll also get to experience the peace and quiet you might not do in the main village.
Why stay here?
Nita Lake Lodge is Whistler’s only lakeside hotel – meaning this is the only place in Whistler where you can get views like this:
While Nita Lake Lodge may not be in the main area of Whistler Village, this does not mean you’ll have difficulty getting there. Nita Lake Lodge offers a free shuttle to and from the Village and there are bus routes that will get you there in ten minutes. Creekside is also a somewhat more local side of town, so you’ll get a completely different experience, and one that is a tad more laid back. There are small shops and eateries this side of town that you might not get to experience if staying solely in the main village.
The hotel features a restaurant, lounge, coffee shop and spa. This is by far my favourite hotel in Whistler – it was one of the first places I ever came, courtesy of my amazing fiancé. I think part of the reason is that it reminds me of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – except it actually is in the wilderness!
The Fairmont Chateau
The fairmont Chateau is one of Whistler’s high-end luxury hotels. Nestled at the base of Backcomb in the Upper Village, The Fairmont Chateau is a 5 star rated hotel that just screams grandeur as soon as you enter it’s lobby.
What are the reasons to love the fairmont?
The Fairmont is a leader in hotels and guest service, the moment you enter the building the opulent lobby makes you feel like Royalty. If you want the best of the best this is it.
The hotel features the Mallard Lounge which has one of the best patios and has “Fairmont Fridays” where every Friday they have free appetizers and drink deals. The hotel is complete with several fine dining options, a spa and fitness rooms.
The Upper Village of Whistler is kind of an in-between area, while it’s substantially quieter than the village it also has it’s own vibe going on. So you get the best of both worlds. If you find yourself craving the ambience of the main Whistler Village, it’s a short ten-minute walk – alternatively you can take the number 5 shuttle bus for free.
Day 1 – Sea To Sky Gondola & Squamish
If you’re coming up from Vancouver make sure to stop in Squamish. Squamish is packed with outdoor activities and incredible view points.
If you have enough time to stay the night there are some really cool hikes in the Area including the Stawamus Chief. The Chief has three peaks and each one has varying hiking times and elevation gains. I hiked to the third peak this summer which involved 4 hours of actual hiking time at an elevation of 702 metres. The hike is considered an intermediate hike, but parts of the hike will require a certain level of fitness as it involves a lot of steep climbing.
Sea To Sky Gondola
If you’re just passing through make sure to stop at the Sea-To-Sky Gondola, this is the easy way to do the Chief! Once at the top, there is a suspension bridge and several hiking trails. Some are fairly short and will lead you to some of the most stunning viewpoints of Howe Sound.
Shannon Falls Provincial Park
Next door to the Sea-to-Sky Gondola is Shannon Falls Provincial Park. This is a great area to sit and have a picnic. The roaring Shannon Falls sits at 335 metres high and the falling mist is a great way to cool down on a hot day.
If you are planning on buying any food/snacks while you are in Whistler, Squamish is the place to do it instead! The Independent is cheaper than most grocery stores in Whistler and has a much wider selection.
Brandywine Falls Provincial Park
On the way into Whistler, you’ll pass Brandywine Falls Provincial park. Brandywine Falls is another magnificent waterfall. There are a few viewpoints that allow you to see the Falls from above, or if you’re feeling brave you can hike to the bottom.
Dinner At Sachi Sushi
When it comes to Japanese restaurants Whistler has a good selection to choose from. My personal favourite and popular among the locals is Sachi Sushi, voted best Sushi restaurant is Whistler by Pique Magazine. This particular restaurant has a smaller seating capacity and fills up fast. If you’re heading here for dinner, the earlier the better!
After arriving in Whistler you’ll probably want to unwind with a cocktail (or, at least I would!)
The Cure Lounge & Patio is located on the ground floor of the Nita Lake Lodge, overlooking the Nita Lake. This patio doesn’t get much sunshine during the day so if you want somewhere to cool off this is a good option. The lounge is pretty casual and has bar style food on the menu, as well as an ever changing craft cocktail list.
If you’re looking for something closer to the Village, the Raven Room is a new cocktail lounge inside the Pan Pacific hotel. Their Empress Sour is amazinggggg!
Day 2 – Ghost Towns & Scandinave Spa
Start the morning with a cup of amazing coffee from CAMP coffee in Function Junction. This local coffee shop features coffee from Vancouver’s 49th Parallel and their store sources items from companies that support sustainable, ethical or humanitarian initiatives.
Explore A Part Of Whistler History
Parkhurst Ghost Town is located behind the train tracks along Whistler’s Green Lake. The history of Parkhurst goes all the way back to the 1926 when it operated as a small logging town. During the 1960’s the town was abandoned, and remnants of past residents can still be seen today. Up until recently all the empty houses were standing – now just the one remains intact. You’ll find burnt out cars and old household items scattered all around the area.
Brunch At Stonesedge
Stonesedge is a popular spot for brunch and can get busy on the weekends. They’re menu offers a variety of breakfast & brunch options including waffles, granola and Eggs Benedict. If you’re looking to try something new try their chicken benny – a mix of waffles, fried chicken, breakfast potatoes and poached eggs topped with hot hollandaise- YUM!
Lil’Wat Squamish Cultural Centre
Take time to learn about the native past of Whistler before it even became Whistler! The Squamish & Lil’Wat territories overlap in what is now the town of Whistler. The Cultural Centre was opened to celebrate and educate on the cultures, customs and rich ancient traditions of the first nations people. This museum is unlike any other as it focuses specifically on cultures local to Whistler. The museum is a great way to learn about Canada’s first nations people and an important part of Whistler history. I’d recommend taking a tour as you’ll get to experience a native song as well as craft activities. There are several tour options on the website, including the “First Nations Feast Tour” where you’ll get to experience powwow performances and an Indigenous-inspired menu.
Spend the afternoon pampering yourself at the Scandinave Spa. After a day of hiking and exploring, take some time out to recharge, enjoy the sounds of nature, and relax in the hydrotherapy pools.
A cycle is recommended of 15 minutes in the hot pools, 5-20 seconds in the cold pools followed by relaxing by the fire or in one the solariums. This cycle can be repeated as many times as you like and will sooth muscles and eliminate toxins.
Dinner At Hunter Gather
Hunter Gather is one of Whistler’s newest restaurants and prides itself on it’s locally sourced food and craft beer. This is a causal counter-service restaurant with a laid back vibe. The menu is relatively varied and features beef brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs as well as several vegetarian and fish items.
Their Pemberton potatoes are the BEST.
Summer Concert Series
Bring a blanket and your favourite picnic snacks and chill out to one of Whistler’s free concerts. Every Saturday during the summer, Whistler hosts a Summer Concert Series. Local bands play from 7:30pm at the Olympic Plaza stage and it’s completely free!
Day 3 – High-Note Trail & Cloudraker Bridge
Have a refreshing start to your day with an Acai bowl from Confetti. This new coffee/gelato/smoothie bar just opened this summer and is a great addition to the Creekside neighbourhood. Their Acai bowl will make sure you’re ready and fuelled to go for a day on the mountain!
Hiking In The Alpine
The Alpine Hiking on Whistler Mountain features some of the most breath-taking views you’ll ever see. Tickets for a sight-seeing & Hiking pass are currently $69 CAD (summer 2019). The Mountain opens at 8:30 AM and lines can be long for tickets, so I’d recommend purchasing at least the day before to save time!
The ride up the Whistler Gondola gradually rises above the mountains and you’ll slowly get a birds-eye view of Whistler. From the Gondola Car you’ll be able to spot Alpha, Nita, Alta, Lost Lake and Green Lakes. We were even able to see our house from the Gondola!
Cloudraker Bridge & Raven’s Eye Lookout
Once you arrive at the Roundhouse, you can pick up snacks for the hike if you haven’t done so already.
Head to the Peak Chair express to Access the peak of Whistler Mountain. I have done this journey twice now and the only word that ever comes out of my mouth is “Wow”. The views will make you lost for words. (Children under a certain height are not permitted to ride the Peak Chair.)
Get your Insta photos at the Inukshuk and head for the Cloudraker Bridge!
The Cloudraker Bridge and Raven’s Eye lookout debuted last year, they are included in your ticket price and a must do on the mountain. Suspension bridges always make me nervous, and as high as this one was, it was pretty stable. Even people afraid of heights will find this okay. The Cloudraker Bridge is one-way traffic, so make sure you do this first before heading to the High-Note Trail.
Just after the exit of the bridge you’ll find a small sign indicating the beginning of the High-Note Trail. This is a popular hike on Whistler Mountain and for good reason – the Incredible viewpoints of Cheakamus Lake! This hike starts off with some steep rocks and chains but eventually evens out into wide spaces. You’ll want to spend your time savouring the views from up here. There are mountains in every direction!
My favourite part of the hike had some stunning wildflowers growing, this one in particular caught my attention – it looks just like the Lorax!
Eventually, you’ll reach this beauty. Matt and I first hiked into Cheakamus Lake last year, although it was still beautiful, it was December 1st, hence not as blue as it is during the summer with the glacial run-off.
If you are a little short on time, or tired from the sun, you can opt to take the “Half-Note Trail” which essentially cuts through half of the High-Note Trail, cutting your hiking time in half. Most people come for the lake views so decide to take this route. This will also lead you into Pika’s Traverse which, if you are early enough, will be lined with giant snow walls. Pika’s Traverse is still a great hike even if the snow walls have melted. It will also lead you back to the Roundhouse lodge.
Peak 2 Peak Gondola
Included in the ticket price is the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. The gondola connects the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains at a length of 1.88 miles and at 436m it is the world’s highest lift of it’s kind. The Peak 2 Peak features 360 views of the valley below, and some cars even have a glass floor, giving you a unique perspective.
On select weekends during the summer the Whistler Gondola is open until 8:00pm. Whistler Blackcomb offers a “Mountain Top Summer Feast”, the first seating is at 5:30pm and the last at 7:00pm.
After the hard work of hiking all day, rest your feet and grab some drinks at the Umbrella Bar, located just outside of the Roundhouse Lodge.
Dinner At The Rim Rock Cafe
The Rim Rock is, in my opinion (and almost everyone else’s!), the best restaurant in Whistler. This fine dining restaurant opened 33 years in what used to be the Highland Lodge and is famous for it’s seafood and game menu items.
Day 4 – Soak In The Sunshine & Paddle Boarding
After a long day hiking in the Alpine, take an easy day relaxing at one of Whistler’s many lakes.
Paddle Boarding At Alta Lake
Although Canada is famous for it’s snow and winters, it can get pretty hot in the summer! Do not underestimate the Canadian summers. Spending time at the lake is something you’ll see most locals doing every weekend. We have some stunning lakes here in Whistler and there’s a few to choose from. My personal favourite is Alta lake, it has access to two beaches, Rainbow park & Lakeside park. Lakeside park is where you’ll find Backroads Whistler, this is where you can rent canoes, kayaks and paddle boards. Alta Lake is generally warmer than others so it’s a good place to cool off.
Meet The Other Locals
One of the things on everyone’s bucket list when they come to Whistler is to see a bear. The bears in Whistler can be seen just about anywhere, always keep an eye out as these guys will pop up when you’re least expecting it. Be it outside Starbucks at 6am, or on the Valley Trail at 2pm. If you are lucky enough to spot one of our furry friends, always remember to keep a safe distance!
There’s far more wildlife in Whistler than just bears too! You could come across Mountain Grouse, Marmots, Ospreys, Deer, Beavers and Bald Eagles.
Forged Axe Throwing
Channel your inner Canadian with some Axe Throwing! Forged Axe Throwing is located in the Function Junction neighbourhood of Whistler. This was by far one of the funnest things I’ve done in Canada – how could throwing an axe not be? The instructors are great, and find fun ways to get you hitting those targets.
Whistler Brewing Company
There’s no better way to finish a session of axe throwing than with some Canadian craft beer. While you’re in Function Junction, why not check out Whistler’s Craft Brewery scene? Whistler Brewing opened in 1986 and is a firm favourite among the locals and throughout BC.
Dinner At The Bear Foot Bistro
Finish your trip to Whistler by indulging at the Bear Foot Bistro, one of Whistler’s fine dining restaurants. The carefully curated menu from head chef Melissa Craig takes you on a culinary adventure. The dining experience is completed with an open kitchen and resident piano player.
Ketel One Vodka Ice Room
Notice how each day ends in alcohol? That’s the Whistler spirit! (No pun intended)
The Ketel One Ice Room is the coldest vodka tasting room in the world at a temperature of -32C. Sample a diverse range of vodka’s from around the globe. One of the vodka’s we were able to sample was “Reyka” from Iceland. The Vodka is handmade and uses water drawn from a lava field. During your tasting your guide will give you the background of each vodka including it’s country of origin and the methods in which it is distilled.
Watch The Sunset & Soak In The Alpenglow
With the sun setting so late in the summer there’s no better way to end your time in Whistler than watching the sunset and the mountain tops turn pink. Just after the sunsets you’ll experience the short but magical time of day that gives the mountains a pink glow – known as alpenglow. It’s not something you get to experience everyday so soak it in while you can!
What else is good To Do in Whistler?
These are just some of my favourite activities here in Whistler – you could spend 2 weeks here and still not get through everything. Here are some other ideas for your trip or vacation to Whistler.
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