Is The Drive From Vancouver To Whistler Safe? (By A Local)

Are you wondering is the drive from Vancouver to Whistler safe?

As a local to Vancouver and someone who has travelled along the Sea to Sky Highway multiple times, I can give you all the information and details about the Vancouver to Whistler Drive.

While the drive from Vancouver to Whistler is generally safe, the highway offers stunning views of the ocean and mountain ranges and is rated as one of Canada’s best scenic highway routes.

This blog post shares details and more information about driving along the Sea To Sky Highway, other local tips, and stops along the way.

Is The Drive From Vancouver To Whistler Safe

While accidents are inevitable overall, to answer your questions, is the drive from Vancouver to Whistler safe? Overall, yes. But regardless, always exercise caution while driving.

For many locals from Vancouver, including myself, the Sea to Sky Highway was known as a dangerous highway to drive before 2010. You would hear on the news about tragic accidents on the highway every so often.

Since the 2010 Winter Olympics were going to be held in Vancouver, Whistler was chosen as an important location for skiing events and bobsledding. Major highway upgrades were needed to withstand the constant flow of people and team buses travelling to and from Whistler.

Since the major upgrades, the Sea to Sky Highway has been much safer overall to drive, with wider areas and fewer sharp corners. But there are a couple of spots where there are tight turns around rocks.

Drive with caution and slow down when those turns do appear. There’s also one section of the highway where there’s a steep hill. Be especially careful when driving down it during the winter.

Moreover, the Sea to Sky Highway has been well maintained since then because many locals and tourists travel to Whistler or to Vancouver daily, especially for skiing, hiking, or work.

Overview of a winding highways  with cars and on it. It has trees surrounding it and the ocean with moutains in the distance.The Sea To Sky Highway is one of the best and most scenic highways to drie in British Columbia.

Safety Tips To Drive From Vancouver To Whistler

From October 1st until March 31st, snow tires are required to drive the Sea To Sky Highway.

The drive from Vancouver to Whistler in winter requires your car to have the proper winter tires. All seasons or all weather without the snow icon can be dangerous while driving on the highway.

Even though the roads may not look like they are covered in deep snow or have been plowed recently, black ice is possible while driving the highway and will be slippery.

Driving towards the mountains could also mean sudden weather changes. So be mindful and check the news or the weather online before you head up to Whistler.

How To Get To Whistler

There are three ways of getting to Whistler. Whistler is a year-round destination, so they will be open no matter when you travel.

Car

The easiest way of getting to Whistler is by car. So, your car or renting a car from Downtown Vancouver will be your best bet.

There’s also a rental car-sharing company called Evo. You can rent the car for the day and drive it to Whistler. However, you’ll need to sign up and get approved before you go.

Even if you have the Evo membership (you can always cancel after) only for the day or drive to Whistler, you can continue using an Evo in Vancouver for however long you stay, whether a week in Vancouver or three days.

Shuttle

Now taking a shuttle to Whistler is an excellent option if you don’t own a car or choose not to rent one, as you might only want to visit as a day trip or stay in Whistler.

Skylynx

If you’re directly coming from Vancouver International Airport (YVR), there’s a shuttle service called Skylynx. Skylynx, however, is a direct shuttle between the airport and Whistler. One-way or round trip is available.

There are stops that are between the airport and Whistler. If you’re not coming from Vancouver International Airport, that is okay; there are stops in Downtown Vancouver where you can be picked up by the Skylynx Shuttle Bus.

For more information on Skylynx.

Whistler Connection

Another shuttle company is the Whistler Connection. It’s the most popular shuttle company that travels to and from Whistler to Downtown Vancouver and the airport.

However, the significant difference between Skylynx and Whistler Connection is that the Whistler Connection shuttle will be able to pick you up from certain hotels in Downtown Vancouver.

For more information on Whistler Connection.

Tips For Planning Your Road Trip To Whistler

Here are a couple of tips to make your road trip from Vancouver to Whistler easier.

Bring Snacks & Water

Bring snacks and water in your car if you decide not to make stops along the way. You never know what could happen along your drive.

Download A Map

Google Maps has a feature where you can download your map for offline use. However, if you need a map, download one before you go.

Also, even if you don’t need a map, the Vancouver to Whistler drive is a direct drive where you drive straight the whole way through.

Vancouver To Whistler Drive – Stops Along The Way

Now that you know that the drive from Vancouver to Whistler is overall safe, tips, and how to get there. These are notable stops along the way on your Vancouver to Whistler drive. I will be skipping through the main areas of West and North Vancouver.

Horseshoe Bay

Horseshoe Bay is an optional stop on your journey up. In the small neighbourhood, you can grab a quick coffee or a bite to eat, hang around the marina, and watch the ferries come and go.

Whyte Cliff Park is also located in Horseshoe Bay. It’s also a well-known scuba diving destination.

It’s also Vancouver’s other primary ferry location to get to the Sunshine Coast. However, discovering the different places on the Sunshine Coast, for example, Gibsons, Sechelt, or Halfmoon Bay, is another trip of its own.

Lions Bay

As you continue on the Sea to Sky Highway, approximately 20 minutes later, you’ll enter Lions Bay. Most people drive right through Lions Bay because it’s a residential area.

However, if you decide to stop in Lions Bay, you can check out its beaches, Lions Bay Beach Park, Kelvin Grove Beach, or Marina Park.

Hiking Trails In Lions Bay: If you’re an avid hiker, a couple of trails from Lions Bay eventually end and connect to Cypress Mountain. The Erin Moore Trail on Oceanview Road and The Lions (Binkert) Trailhead on Sunset Drive.

Porteau Cove Provincal Park

A 10-minute drive after Lions Bay, the next stop is Porteau Cove. Many people like to stop at Porteau Cove for its beautiful views of Howe Sound.

It’s also like Whyte Cliff Park, a well-known scuba diving spot. You can camp on-site in an RV or tent. Porteau Cove also has beautiful log cabins called the Olympic Legacy Cabins.

You can also walk onto the old marina dock, which is the face of Porteau Cove. There’s also a picnic area if you want to stop for a quick lunch break.

Porteau Cove Provincal Park was used as a ferry port for ships. The ferry dock has wooden railings with three lookout spots. Two on the right and one on the left. There's also the stunning backdrop of the mountains in the background with the ocean at the bottom.

Britannia Beach

A white staircase looking building up the side of a hill with many windows around it and a couple of buildings in the front. The Britannia Mine Museum along the Sea to Sky Highway is a popular stop for their mine tour.

Less than a 10-minute drive from Porteau Cove is Britannia Beach. Britannia Beach was an old mining town in the 1800s to mine copper. Now it has become an outdoor museum that offers a mine tour that will take you into the mine, panning for gold and more.

The Britannia Mine Museum is an excellent location for children. Their tour of the mine is excellent and informative. I went once when I was younger and recently a couple of years ago. Personally, the quality of the tour only improved!

At the end of the tour, they will also show their award-winning theatrical production, multi-sensory, live-action BOOM! It will give you the inside scoop on the Mill’s purpose, mechanical information and more.

➡️ Check Prices & Availability for the Britannia Mine Museum Tour

Shannon Falls

Right around the bend from Britannia Beach is a popular tourist day trip known as Shannon Falls. It’s also the entrance point for entering the town of Squamish.

You can see the towering 335-metre waterfall from the Sea to Sky Highway or take a short trail hike to get closer to the waterfall.

During the summer, Shannon Falls is a busy and popular location where locals and tourists like hanging out. Which means parking can be tough to find.

Sea To Sky Gondola

Right beside Shannon Park is one of the most popular tourist spots along the Vancouver to Whistler drive. And that is the Sea To Sky Gondola.

You can ride up the mountain and explore all the activities on the mountain top. The panoramic view of Howe Sound is incredible.

A trail connects the Sea To Sky Gondola and Shannon Falls. However, I suggest parking in the location where you intend to spend more time.

Stawamus Chief

A large granite rock off the side of the highway. The Stawamus Chief along the drive to Whistler from Vancouver is something that is super noticable and a landmark.

The most iconic landmark you’ll see as you approach closer to Squamish is the Stawamus Chief. A massive monolithic rock that many avid hikers and locals love to hike. Not only can you hike the Chief, but you can also rock climb.

The hike will take the entire day, so come back again and experience the beautiful Stawamus Chief hike. However, summer can be busy, and there’s potential rain during the fall months, so be mindful when you decide to hike the Chief.

Squamish

Squamish is the halfway point between Vancouver and Whistler. And because Squamish has many things to do, I recommend taking a day trip to Squamish to explore what the town offers.

Alice Lake

Alice Lake is just outside Squamish as you leave, heading Northbound. Many people drive past Alice Lake; however, it’s a popular campground among families. You can also paddle board, canoe and kayak on Alice Lake.

There’s a trail that loops around the lake called Four Lakes Trail

A stretch of empty road going around a bent with trees on either side and a clear sky. A road trip to Whistler is a great way to spend the day but is the drive from Vancouver to Whistler safe?

💡 Note: There are no towns after Alice Lake until you reach Whistler. From there, the drive to Whistler will be approximately an hour.

Garibaldi

Garibaldi is a famous hiking trail and camping spot in British Columbia. It’s a stunning mountainous provincial park with the highest peak reaching 2,678 metres.

Year-round Garibaldi is one of the favourite locations for backcountry enthusiasts. Garibaldi Lake is one of the most popular hikes people like to hike to and an excellent proposal location near Whistler.

It’s also home to one of the most scenic and iconic landmarks among locals, but the most challenging trail to do is the Black Tusk. I recommend checking out this trail if you’re an experienced backcountry hiker.

On a clear sunny day, you can see the sharp and pointy black rock in the distance on your drive home from Whistler.

Brandywine Falls Provincial Park

Another waterfall along the way is Brandywine Falls Provincial Park. It’s not as big as Shannon Falls; however, the waterfall falls over volcanic rock. There are trails and picnic areas throughout the park.

Tunnel Point

Tunnel Point is one of the earlier viewpoints along the way further up from Lions Bay. Most people like to stop and take a look here.

Tantalus Lookout

A beautiful view of mountains, tree, and a river flowing on the distance from the Tantalus Lookout, one of the Sea to Sky's viewpoint

The Tantalus Lookout Point is a popular spot looking out onto mountainous views. There are a few picnic tables to sit on and an information area.

People like to stop here the most to take Instagram photos because of the gorgeous view of the mountains and the river below. It’s chilly when the wind starts to blow, however.

Pull-Off

Pull-Off isn’t a well-known location for people to stop. However, if you decide to stop at Pull-Off, you can see rushing river rapids.

Reaching Your Destination

After Brandywine Falls, you’ll see the Welcome to Whistler sign as you reach the area of Whistler. However, you’ll need to drive another 15 to 20 minutes to get to Whistler Village.

There are five large paid parking lots. They can be filled quite quickly if there’s an event or a busy summer day.

Where To Stay In Whistler

Whistler is a great weekend getaway. The village is small, so getting around by walking from any hotel to the village is pretty straightforward.

Whistler is a popular destination in the winter for skiing. There are excellent ski in and ski out hotels in Whistler.

Four Seasons Resort Whistler 💎

✅ Outstanding & Friendly Staff
✅ Excellent Facilities

The Four Seasons Resort Whistler is a luxurious mountain getaway in British Columbia, providing outstanding dining choices, a renowned spa, and family-friendly facilities. Visitors can unwind by the outdoor pool and hot tubs or engage in the fitness center for recreation.

The Crystal Lodge ⚖️

✅ Excellent Location
✅ Family-Friendly

The Crystal Lodge in Whistler Village is an ideal choice for skiers and snowboarders due to its proximity to the Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains ski lifts. Amenities such as an outdoor pool and fitness center cater to families focused on comfort and convenience.

Pangea Pod Hotel 🎯

✅ Budget-Friendly
✅ Free WIFI

The Pangea Pod Hotel is an affordable lodging option. It presents individual sleeping pods with convenient storage. Complemented by communal spaces like a lounge, bar, and rooftop patio, this contemporary urban hotel appeals to budget-conscious travellers, delivering a unique and central Whistler experience.

About The Vancouver To Whistler Drive

The Vancouver to Whistler drive is the most well-known in British Columbia. If you’re a local or speak to any local, they will always call this section of Highway 99 the Sea to Sky Highway.

The Sea to Sky Highway section runs from Horseshoe Bay (Sea Level) to Pemberton (Sky, high elevation mountain ranges). It’s about 122 km or 75.8 miles from Downtown Vancouver to Whistler.

Vancouver To Whistler Road Trip – FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about is the Vancouver to Whistler drive safe.

How Long Is The Ride From Vancouver To Whistler?

Whistler is 122 kilometres away from Vancouver. It will take approximately an hour and 40 minutes long. Not including traffic or stops along the way.

Is It Worth Visiting Whistler In The Summer?

Is Whistler worth visiting, especially in the summer? Yes, it is! However, Whistler is busy in the summer. Tourists, locals, and mountain bikers love coming to Whistler during the summer. Prices are also much higher for hotels and resorts.

What Is The Best Time Of Day To Drive To Whistler?

Typically the best time of day to drive to Whistler is as early as 6:00 AM. However, if you want to avoid the traffic going to Whistler (usually around the North Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay area), you can wait until after 10:00 AM.

On weekdays, there are usually fewer people travelling to Whistler. Sometimes even in mid-summer, there are people, but it’s not overall crowded unless there’s an event. The weekend will be the busiest time.

How Hard Is It To Drive From Vancouver To Whistler?

It’s not hard to drive from Vancouver to Whistler on a clear day. It will be harder to drive during snow and rain but nothing crazy out of the ordinary. You may hydroplane during the rain. Either way, drive with caution in the rain, clear days, snow, and everything in between.

Driving From Vancouver To Whistler In Winter

As I mentioned, you must have snow tires to drive the Sea to Sky Highway between October 1st and March 31st.

Again, accidents can happen on any highway, and it’s unfortunate that many accidents have occurred on the Sea to Sky Highway in the past. Occasionally, some have occurred recently. So be safe, slow down when you need to, and pull over if need be when and where it’s safe.

The highway may be slippery in certain areas, so be prepared for anything to happen along your drive. Sudden weather changes may also occur.

However, Whistler is beautiful in the winter, so if you get a chance to spend a weekend there during the winter, I recommend doing so.

How Do I Get From Vancouver Island To Whistler?

Depending on where you’re travelling from on Vancouver Island, there are two different ferry routes to take.

From Nanaimo

Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay is the best route if you travel to Whistler from Vancouver Island. The reason being is that it’s already along the route toward Whistler.

The distance from Horseshoe Bay to Whistler is 102 kilometres away, which will take approximately an hour and 20 minutes (without stops and not including traffic).

From Victoria

Another option is from Victoria. After you have arrived at Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, head along Highway 99 towards Trans-Canada Highway/BC-1 West. From there, it will take you back to Highway 99.

However, this route is much longer and could take approximately two hours and 30 minutes or three hours. But, again, depending on traffic and stops along the way.

Highway 99 goes through downtown Vancouver. However, driving is a nightmare if you have never driven in the downtown core before. So I would not recommend driving through that route.

Conclusion

As you can see, driving to Whistler is safe from Vancouver. While it’s always a good idea to exercise caution when driving, accidents are inevitable. They can occur on any highway, so drive safe and enjoy the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway.

Have a good day 🙂