In February 2018, Swoop Airlines launched as Westjet’s new ultra-low-cost carrier. The day they released their first seats, they priced it $7 total, one way. It was unbelievable. Traveling between Toronto and Vancouver was usually some of the most expensive flights to ever buy… but not that day. We jumped on booking a one-way flight from Abbotsford back home to Toronto (Hamilton airport) for only $7!
In September 2018, we traveled to New York for a weekend, then hopped on a flight from Newark to Vancouver to spend a week finally discovering Canada’s 2nd biggest city. I had always wanted to go and thanks to Swoop, we did! Landing at Vancouver International Airport, we took the Canada Line and a bus to arrive downtown at the Burrard Hotel. (Read our review of this fantastic hotel here)
We started our trip by taking a whale watching trip with the Prince of Whales. The 4-hour boat ride was a good way introduction to Vancouver because we were able to see the beautiful cityscape as we were departing and arrive into the harbor, as well as pass under the Lions Gate Bridge and see pretty North Vancouver. This was my second time going whale watching, the first being a little disappointing in Southern California where we followed only one grey whale that seemed a little shy to come to the surface. Our experience with Prince of Whales surpassed all my expectations! We had a fantastic crew on the boat with Sandy leading the tour and Roman as our captain. It was all you can drink coffee and hot cocoa. It was our first time seeing wild Orcas, swimming alongside each other. They are such beautiful creatures! We were also lucky to see Stellar Sea Lions, Orcas Southern Residents, and endangered White Sided Dolphins.
We checked out the Vancouver Lookout and highly recommend going at sunset. The harbor/mountainside was breathtaking. We sat up there for a while taking it all in as the city turned to night.
A must-do activity in Vancouver is biking through Stanley Park. At the Burrard, they offer free retro-styled bicycles to use as long as you want! We were able to use their bikes to explore the city and the park. Vancouver is great at marking which streets have bike lanes and it was a simple 10 min ride to Stanley Park. The ride was so much fun and it was incredibly scenic. We stopped at Prospect Point to admire the Lions Gate Bridge and even saw some seals in the water!
There’s Third Beach on the west side of the park which looked so peaceful with logs to sit on; it was in great condition and a great place to have a picnic. We checked out the Vancouver Aquarium which is located inside the park. It was an okay experience. After being to the Georgia Aquarium, nothing really compares.
After Stanley Park, we picked up our car rental and headed to Capilano Suspension Bridge. The attraction was packed with tourists. If you are looking to get good photos, I recommend going as soon as it opens for fewer crowds. It was a great learning experience of BC’s First Nations culture. It’s a great spot for families as they have scenic easy walking trails in the woods. We enjoyed the Treetop Adventure and the Cliff Walks. It’s amazing that only 15 mins out of downtown, you can be in the middle of the forest!
We checked out Grouse Mountain and went up the SkyRide. It arrives at a huge lodge that has lots of dining options. We had a bite to eat at the Altitude Bistro which has breathtaking scenic views from all tables. I highly recommend eating here since the view is so nice!
We were walking around finding a good happy hour spot after the tour and came across Chewies Oyster Bar. Their food was delicious and it was a great atmosphere. The staff were very friendly; one of them recommended to us that we have to check our Red Door Bistro in Whistler, which we immediately reserved a table since they get booked up. It’s so much better to get a personal recommendation that looking it up on Tripadvisor.
We had dinner at One Under Golf which is a spacious bar resto where they have separate booths of gold simulators with dining tables. I loved their decor inside and they had a great selection of food and drinks.
We had lunch at Kingyo. We cleaned our plates. Their food was fresh and very delicious. Their decor was beautiful with bamboo trees lined up everywhere. We are definitely going to come back to eat here next time. Another spot that was recommended to us was BHK Jerky on Fraser St.; we devoured it. It was the most delicious jerky we’ve ever had!
We headed directly to Whistler after Vancouver and drove on the beautiful Sea to Sky highway.
It was 1hr and 45 min drive which didn’t feel long at all since it was so scenic. We arrived in Whistler and were surprised that I was thinking it was going to be similar to Banff. It was not at all like Banff. Banff is bigger with lots of traffic lights and different sections. Whistler was best experienced by parking in one spot for the whole day and walk. I would compare it to Blue Mountain and Mont Tremblant.
Where to Stay
We stayed at Evolution Whistler which was located outside of the Whistler Village, about 5 mins drive away. They had indoor parking which is always good in cold weather. The room was the size of a small apartment. It had a full kitchen. The living room and bedroom were separated by a huge fireplace and the bathroom was very big and modern. The room had a great balcony with a mountain view where we enjoyed our morning coffee. It was a great stay and very comfortable.
Hosted by TAG Whistler, Vallee Lumina was one of the most unique nighttime hikes I have ever done. We were picked up by a shuttle bus at the Whistler bus depot and driven to Cougar Mountain. The experience starts there which is a trail that is enveloped in colorful lights and music. A beautiful story was told as we walked along, stopping for beautiful art installations told by a narrator. It felt like we truly were in another world. None of my photos and videos did it justice. You need to experience it for yourself and I highly recommend bringing the whole family.
One of the best more extreme activities in Whistler is driving a RZR (pronounced “razor”) at TAG Whistler. It’s a 2 or 4 seater ATV type vehicle that we took a guided tour of Cougar Mountain. They picked us up from the Whistler Bus Depot and shuttled us to the vehicles. They provided pants, jacket, helmet, and goggles so you don’t get dirty. Rishi and I both had the chance to drive by stopping midway at a remote scenic location. It was very safe and easy to drive, especially with the help of our guide, Kylie, who explained everything clearly. I would recommend if you like a lot of adventure!
We booked with Ziptrek Ecotours to experience some ziplining. They are located inside the Whistler Resort. They have the longest zip line in Canada and the US called the Sasquatch which we didn’t do. We did the Eagle Tour which consists of 5 insane ziplines. There are also other zip line tours options available as well. Rishi and I have ziplined a few times in our past but this was by far the best one we’ve ever done. Amanda and Connor were our guides and made us feel safe and comfortable, even if some of us were scared of heights. Every zipline was had great views of the mountain valleys.
Peaked Pies specializes in Australian meat pies. They have only 2 locations; one in the Whistler Village and the other in downtown Vancouver. The Whistler location is very small and busy. It’s best to eat the pies by dining in adding the “Get Peaked” option where they plate the hot meat pie with toppings of mashed potatoes, mashed green peas, and gravy. It was incredibly delicious and highly recommend it. I’m craving it right now… hmmm
If you have a sweet tooth, you need to go to Purebread. Also located in the Whistler Village, they have a huge variety of baked goods on display for you to choose from as well as delicious fresh coffee drinks.
Red Door Bistro
This unique restaurant was a verbal recommendation from a staff member at Chewies. He told us it was his favorite restaurant in all of BC and we become incredibly curious. It also looked like a good spot to celebrate Rishi’s birthday. Reservations are hard to get as there are only 40 seats in an intimate setting. They are located outside the Whistler Village and share a building with a lively pub. The food was incredible.
We had the Duck Confit Spring Rolls, West Coast Bouillabaisse and Braised Chuck Flats. The service was impeccable. We want to pass it forward and recommend this spot to you all!
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Executive Suites. They have plenty of room for indoor parking as well as outdoor. The room was a huge suite with the full-size kitchenette, dining area, living room, and separate bedrooms. The bathroom has a washer and dryer in it which is useful. We felt the room was a little dated. We experienced some issues with the water temperature and the towels looked a little ripped. Breakfast is not included. The hotel has Norman’s Pub attached to it which has a great atmosphere and good happy hour specials. The room has a great view of the mountains. We noticed some wildlife in the green space outside our balcony.
Sea to Sky Air
The biggest highlight of our trip was going on a sightseeing flight with Sea to Sky Air. We boarding the tiniest of planes and flew all over Squamish. It was truly beautiful. It is nothing like being on a commercial plane. We were able to closely see mountains and lakes that are either hard to access or not accessible at all by foot. The most incredible moment was when we were flying near a glacier! We could see all the deep fractures. We were both in awe. We also flew over the Stawamus Chief and could see all the people on the peaks. David was our pilot and even though he had done this same flight a thousand times, he shared the same enthusiasm and excitement that one would feel seeing it all for the first time. If you have the chance, please go for a flight. You will remember it for the rest of your life!
Hiking the Chief
The most popular hike in Squamish is hiking up the Stawamus Chief. The Chief can be seen from every corner in Squamish as it sits right in the middle of the city. It has this incredible presence within the city and is a must-do hike if you’re in the area. We hiked to the first peak only. I’ll be honest, it was a tough hike for us but very fun. There are moments where we had to climb ladders and hold on to chains to prop ourselves up to the next level.
At the peak, it flattens out and gives a beautiful view of all of Squamish and Green Lake. We couldn’t spend a lot of time up there as some heavy fog quickly came in making the visibility difficult. I would definitely hike again on a clear sunny day!
Sea to Sky Gondola
On last day, we experienced the heavy BC rain. It didn’t stop us from checking out the Sea to Sky Gondola. It was very foggy with low visibility but we still had a lot of fun. They have a great suspension bridge once you reach the stop. There are also a few hiking trails as well. It was definitely still worth it going in the rain.
Visiting the Britannia Mine wasn’t on our radar for things to do initially, but it was raining hard on our last day and we thought it would be a good indoor activity to do. The attraction ended up being extremely interesting which I recommend for everyone.
The tour starts with taking a mine train into the mine where we learned all out how mining has evolved through the years. Having never been inside a mine, it was eerie and fascinating. Our guide did many demonstrations of sounds and lights inside the mine. The tour does go outside for a little while but it was fine during the rain.
We checked out Backcountry Brewing for lunch and drinks. It’s a great spot to relax and refresh. They’ve got a great menu for wood oven pizza and a variety of home-brewed beers. The atmosphere is clean and new.
On our last day, we drove to Abbotsford to spend the night since our $7 Swoop flight was first thing in the morning. Abbotsford is about an hour out of Vancouver. The Abbotsford airport is a small airport; we were able to quickly go through security and toward our gate. Boarding is similar to Hamilton, where you have to walk outside and climb the stairs to get to our seat. The flight felt short and sweet as the service on Swoop is amazing.
Overall, our trip to finally see the West Coast of Canada was great! They’ve got some breathtaking scenery and delicious food that every Canadian has to experience. Next time, we want to check out Victoria and the surrounding islands!
If you have any questions about our trip or need help planning yours, feel free to contact us anytime at [email protected]