GETTING TO WHISTLER
When I think of places in the world that captivate my sense of adventure, it’s Whistler (and the surrounding areas). No matter what time of year, Whistler is always beautiful. After leaving Victoria we headed straight to Whistler, it took a little while because we had to catch the ferry but it’s such an enjoyable journey that you just take it slow and take in the sights.
One of the best things about being able to hire a car is that you can stop wherever you like, whenever you like to take in the sights. The issue with the UK is that our roads are so narrow and there’s never anywhere for you to stop. We aren’t very good at encouraging people to slow down and enjoy the spaces around us but Canada smash that, it’s such a welcoming place that encourages people to enjoy the wildlife and the surrounding areas without barriers.
The drive from Vancouver to Whistler is probably one of the best drives (along with driving to Jasper) on the planet. The views are incredibly outrageous and just stunning, in every way. Mountains on top of mountains, lush green in every direction and rarely any traffic on the road allowing your mind to wander.
We stopped off at two places on our way to Whistler. Shannon Falls and Brandywine Falls – these are two of the most majestic waterfalls I’ve ever, ever seen. Shannon Falls is the third tallest falls in BC and drops at a whopping 335 metres. It includes a boardwalk and trail network that allows you to walk through towering trees and through the falls beautiful mist. It’s also a great location for rock climbing. There are so many rock slabs to the south of the falls and although very difficult, you can see why this is a popular climbing area. It is absolutely stunning and there are so many areas for picnics, great photo ops and lots of very kind people always offering to take a photo of you by the waterfall!!
Then we have Brandywine which for me, was one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. It’s a 70 metre waterfall that can be seen from the viewpoint which gives the best view, in my opinion but if you’re willing – there are ways in which you can get down to the base without putting yourself in danger to get more of a unique perspective. There are two viewpoints, one of the waterfall and the other that shows the surrounding area of Daisy Lake and surrounding mountains. When I was a kid, my favourite film was The Land Before Time and this view captivates my memory of that film – it’s exactly like that – a paradise that people forever search for. It’s untouched beauty that stretches for miles and it is such a beautiful place to witness.
CRYSTAL LODGE & SUITES
We stayed in the Crystal Lodge & Suites which was in the best location possible. Right in the middle of Whistler village which is great if you want to be right in the middle of the hustle and bustle.
The accommodation itself is simple in design, comfortable and affordable (even for Whistler). The location is certainly the best thing about this particular hotel as it is a bit dated. The carpets are a bit ‘The Shining’ and the rooms are all super small, but for this particular accommodation, it feels a bit more acceptable due to the fact it’s a ski village and you’re really not staying in Whistler to enjoy the hotel room.
That said, although very small and we did struggle to manage with all of our bags, it was a perfectly comfortable room with clean linen daily. We did also find that the parking here is also very expensive and of all the places we went to, this was the only accommodation that charged us.
The main excitement is the area you’re in. Whistler village is a toy town high on fun and excitement – it’s basically Disneyland for people wanting to ride bikes, go hiking and snowboarding. It’s got fabulous bars, restaurants and adorable little shops giving visitors and residents a ‘home-from-home’ environment. It’s really fun but… (yes, there is definitely a but), it’s SO expensive. I do not know how people manage to live here when the rent is so unbelievably extortionate; the food and drink is extremely pricey and the supermarket shop keeping everyone in one area is ridiculously overpriced for the items up for sale. It’s a catch-22 because people will always travel to work and live in Whistler but how many of these people are truly enjoying their time here? It’s tough. I spoke to a fair few people who were living in shared bedrooms on bunk-beds, some even sleeping in make-shift cupboards, earning very small amounts and working extremely long hours to make it all worth it and when I asked them whether they thought it would be like this, they all said no. Perhaps Whistler might be the place to go if you’re a tourist instead of somewhere for a potential resident? Who knows, but for me on my travels, Whistler really was wonderful.
There is SO much to see and do in Whistler it’s hard to ensure you get the best stuff done. We were lucky(ish) with the weather. We went at the end of May. It was cold, but springlike cold and it did occasionally rain but hey, we’re from the UK so more than familiar with that type of weather than anything else.
If you’re heading to Whistler, there’s one thing you’ll most certainly want to do and that’s heading up Blackcomb Mountain… If you don’t, you’re hugely missing out. Basically, Whistler and Blackcomb are two side-by-side mountains which offer over 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls, and 3 glaciers combined. In the summer, Whistler Blackcomb offers a huge variety of awesome activities including hiking and biking trails (the biking trails are incredible), the Whistler Mountain Bike Park, and sightseeing on the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola. The PEAK 2 PEAK is fantastic and the views are outrageous. There are a lot of wonderful trails you can do although some may be closed in the Winter due to avalanche warnings and poor weather conditions which often make it difficult.
There’s so much more than just glaciers and those breathtaking views though and as you know me… It’s food. The mountains both have wonderful little eateries in fabulously unique little locations such as Christine’s, Steep’s Grill and Wine Bar, Rendezvous Lodge and Crystal Hut (plus plenty more) so whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here.
WHITE WATER RAFTING
Then we have the activities. Well, Mark and I planned what we wanted to do as much as we could and that included a few excursions and one of which was White Water Rafting with Squamish River Rafting and I can safely say, throughout the whole of our trip to Canada, this was one of the most worth-while experiences I have ever done. It blew me away. There are SO many companies offering the same activity, some even on the same river and they’re roughly the same cost so when you’re looking online for the best deal – how can you tell them apart? Well, let me tell you. These guys stop off at a cliff allowing you to climb up and jump off into the ice cold and ice blue glacier water (which, I was utterly terrified of doing but after being cheered in by the guys sharing a raft with us, I swallowed my fear and jumped – SO MUCH FUN), they cook you a banging BBQ (and take in all of your dietary requirements) and being pescatarian they caught a fabulous salmon and cooked it on the BBQ – nuff said, they have so much banter and importantly, they are incredibly knowledgeable and have hours of stories to share. That’s what the difference is – it’s genuine.
We spent a good few hours enjoying this insanely exhilarating experience on a class 3-4 river surrounded by the most beautiful setting I’ve ever ever seen. All around you was hanging glaciers, huge towering mountains, waterfalls in almost every direction, sudden and exciting rapids, wildlife, lush green forests around you and not a single sound of traffic or anything to take you away from the moment. Oh and if it couldn’t get better, these guys pick you up from Whistler or from Squamish – allowing you to sit back and enjoy the ride!
One of the most important reasons I wanted to go to Canada was to see one of my best friends who I went to University with. She moved to Whistler and then to Vancouver and seeing her photos over the months she was living in Whistler reeeeally made me want to go so I was overjoyed when I got to see her in both Vancouver and in Whistler! When she arrived in Whistler, she drove Mark and I to this cool little place – The Train Wreck. This place is so so cool. The Train Wreck site is fairly close to the super pretty Cheakamus River and is only a short trail that goes over an awesome suspension bridge which gives you the stunning views of the Cheakakmus River rushing below. The ever changing colourful Train Wreck has sat in the forest since 1956. There isn’t a great deal of information about how all of these carts managed to become a local canvas point for local artists but it’s really cool and very different. The graffiti (and really cool graffiti) offers a unique perspective into the world of modernism and urbanism mixed with the world of nature and it’s these two often conflicting entities that intrigued me.
Whistler is truly special. It’s just constant fun, with so much to do and surrounded by absolute beauty. I couldn’t recommend this place more. It’s ideal for families, ideal for travellers and ideal for anyone passing through. The best thing about Whistler is the variety. There’s so many hotels, but also SO many AirBnb’s available too if you’re on a budget, there’s so many restaurants, bars and cafes for everyone and although pricey, it is possible to indulge a little here without breaking the budget (as long as you’re careful). It’s a wonderful place, so many areas to explore and you’ll never ever forget you went there.