I first fell in love with the west in Jasper, Alberta when I called its Canadian Rockies home for the better part of a year.
For a few summers throughout my college years, my sisters and I would fly to Edmonton, take the bus from Edmonton to Jasper, Alberta, and park there working for the summer.
One summer, I worked at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and lived in a room inside one of Canada’s longest log cabins (see below). The whole summer staff combined to 750, so it was a huge operation, and staff kind of made their own town. We had The Bean, our cafeteria where you could get full-course meals for $2.50, with unlimited coffee, juice, and chocolate milk. It was the kind of place where running into an elk was a valid excuse for being late to work. It was a fun, adventure-filled summer to say the least. Jasper also remains the reason I can’t drink whisky sours. *shudder*
Since then, my only trip back west was to Calgary when I spoke at The Calgary Renovation Show–until now! Just this past week, we took a trip to beautiful British Columbia, and it was the best.
We flew into Vancouver on an overcast, Friday morning and spent two hours waiting for our rental vehicle (do not use Budget rentals. It’s far away from the airport and we definitely fell for the noob trap). However, the car we ended up getting was a Jeep, which I quickly fell in love with. As the clouds broke ahead, we put on Mountain FM and slowly made our way North on the Sea to Sky highway.
The drive is stunning, even locals enjoy their commute in and out of the city north. On one side, you see sheer mountain ledges all covered in lush moss, misty ferns, and trickling water. A glance the other way and ferries are weaving around the islands through turquoise water.
Our final destination was Whistler, but before checking into our Airbnb, we stopped for a late lunch at The Copper Coil in Squamish, kicking off the vacation with jambalaya and local cider. Yes, that’s fire-grilled cornbread and a fresh mound of basmati rice. Cheers!
We were only in Squamish for a few hours, but I quickly fell for it. It reminded me of Jasper, but offered an additional dose of variety (in shops and stores, neighbourhood flavours, amenities, and nature) and adventure everywhere you looked, in any variety you like: mountain biking, climbing, hiking, kite surfing…
Nestled inside the granite monolith that is the Stawamus Chief mountain, Squamish is an old logging town that is quickly transitioning into a place to live for young families, young business owners, and city-commuters. the last Northern stop of Howe Sound, so spotting orcas and whales in the sound is not uncommon.
With rainbow intersections and dozens of small, local businesses and eateries, Squamish is also home to lots of wildlife. Hundreds of bald eagles call Brackendale home—it’s actually the bald eagle capital of North America—and spotting an orca isn’t out of the question if you’re at the southern tip of town facing Howe Sound.
I could go on about Squamish (and I will later because holy crap we’re moving there!), but for the sake of detailing the trip, let’s hop back into the Jeep and head North another half hour to Whistler!
We stay at the loveliest Airbnb (Sunpath 12): a 2-bed, 2-bath townhome which had a lovely fireplace, a private hot tub and two balconies. Everything from the kitchen to the bathrooms were recently renovated and stocked with all the things you’d need and want on a trip, but wouldn’t bring or buy. Things like olive oil, salt and pepper, shampoos and conditioners, dishwasher detergent (aaas laundry machines), towels, and umbrellas.
Sunpath 12 was tucked away across the street from Whistler Village, which was ideal! It was protected from the noise and populated walkways, but was close enough to be able to walk a few steps to grab a snack or dinner at the plethora of amazing restaurants in the village.
Now onto our main reason for staying in Whistler for the first leg of the trip: to bike!
I got into mountain biking this year (thanks to my guy) and caught the bug hard. But up until Whistler, my downhill experience involved zipping around Kelso and Blue Mountain in Ontario. Going from that to riding down Whistler Mountain was… crazy! Bigger, steeper, but cushier, wider, and less rocky. It was night and day! Fun, but kind of scary, especially considering I just got my cast off only days before leaving for this trip. Exhilarating fo sho!
The views on the descent were insane (we even passed some bears!) and you’ve never had such a good mental workout while having fun. At the bottom of each run, we’d grab tots and a beer and do it again. And again.
When we weren’t biking or spending time in Whistler Village, we headed north to Pemberton (which had a whole different feel than Whistler). A highlight for me was North Arm Farm. I was literally speechless as we walked through the barn to spot Mt. Currie rising above fields upon fields of fresh berries, beans, lettuce etc., ripe for the picking. And an apiary!
We filled two, massive tubs with raspberries and blueberries (for just $2), enjoyed the swings, and sampled some berries while we watched staff set up for a wedding happening later that afternoon.
That night, we enjoyed dinner at the tiny Bar Oso in the village. We shared a charcuterie board, garlic prawns, Wagyu ribs and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and called it a night.
The following day, we headed north again to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. And it was awesome! Although I’ll admit that the first quarter of the hike sucked. Imagine climbing steep stairs for a good 20 minutes, shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists. But by the time we got to lake one, the crowds thinned out significantly. And by the second and third lake, the few people left thinned out significantly.
Immediately, we sprawled out on some rocks and unpacked a little picnic: berries from our North Arm trip the day before, a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie from Camp, and some kettle chips.
Hot from the sun and the hike, we stripped down and took the plunge into the nearly-frozen glacier lake. The water was shocking but it felt so good and was so refreshing. And drinking it was pretty awesome. Freshest water you’ve ever tasted. We filled our Yeti bottle with glacier water and enjoyed it as we hiked our way back down.
Outside of Whistler, we spent some short and sweet time in Vancouver where we spent a night at the cutest Airbnb in Lynn Valley. Homeowners Tibby and Peter (along with their pup) greeted us with chilled champagne and homemade chocolate (holy cow Tibby, I need the recipe)!
Outside of great hospitality, our unit was totally private with its own terrace, kitchen, dining, living bedroom, laundry and bathroom. It was also decorated with decor and pillows made from her daughter’s illustrations.
We only wish we could have spent more time here, but I’d highly recommend it for those who don’t want to stay in downtown Vancouver! It was a little more remote (a half hour to drive from Yaletown), but if you’re looking for a quieter stay in North Vancouver, it’s a great spot. In the area, you could still grab a bite or shop for trinkets at End of The Line General Store, go swimming in Lynn Canyon (follow the locals) or hike/bike Mount Fromme.
We capped off our trip in Victoria where we met up with Mike’s friend, Spencer. The capital is super quirky and a world apart from the vibe in Vancouver/Squamish/Whistler. It’s like Ottawa meets New Orleans meets a beach town.
It’s a very celebratory city that you can only access by ferry and it was absolutely fascinating. We were there for one night, but some of our must dos include hitting a bar and getting initiated with some shaft (a local drink of vodka, Kahlua, Baileys, and coffee reduction served on ice), taking a water taxi through the canal to check out the Parliament building from the water, driving along the coast and through Rockland Ave, and parking on Broad Street downtown and popping in and out of shops.
All in, we had the best time. And we’re super-pumped to only continue the adventure in November when we officially become BC locals! Check out a whole post on that shortly 😉