Whytecliff Park, West Vancouver

(Alex Strohl photo)

Vancouver, Coast & Mountains

Sea to Sky Country

Sea to Sky Country begins just 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver and follows Highway 99, better known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway, all the way to Lillooet.

The drive from Vancouver to Pemberton, which passes through Squamish and Whistler, offers spectacular ocean and mountain views and an abundance of outdoor adventure.

Towering rock faces plunge to the sea, rivers cascade in bubbly plumes off sheer cliffs as small coastal communities such as historic Britannia Beach and Porteau Cove are passed. Howe Sound glitters deep blue as brilliant white glaciers and jagged black peaks framed against the sky. Alpine meadows freckled with red, yellow and purple wildflowers, lead to turquoise lakes and old growth rainforest.

Activities in the Sea to Sky Country

Starting in picturesque Horseshoe Bay, site of a BC Ferries terminal, the road winds through mountain communities that started as logging, mining, ranching and farming outposts. Today, they have also become welcoming havens for lovers of every manner of outdoor recreation ­ from winter and water sports, to hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing. This country is also rich in archaeological and historical lore. Salish First Nations have lived here for thousands of years, and prospectors streamed north for the Fraser River gold rush back in the 1850s.

Don't miss the Britannia Mine Museum, about 45 minutes north of Vancouver. What was once a working mine is now an award-winning, National Historic Site. Take a ride on a mine train and discover what life was like for miners 100 years ago. There is also a museum with interactive exhibits, a chance for you to strike it rich while panning for gold and a kid's area.

Meaning "Mother of the Wind" in Coast Salish, Squamish is known to be the "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada." Climb the Stawamus Chief, wind-surf in Howe Sound, spot bald eagles and hike up Shannon Falls. Not up for a hike, but still want to experience the alpine? Ride the Sea to Sky Gondola 885m/2,900ft above sea level for sweeping views of Howe Sound and the surrounding mountains.

Whistler Blackcomb, one of the world's top ski destinations, hosted the 2010 Winter Games. Try skiing or snowboarding at Whistler, or go mountain biking, hiking and kayaking in the summer.

In Pemberton, go horseback riding against a stunning backdrop of soaring mountains, rushing rivers and fresh, sparkling lakes. Or browse gold rush exhibits, a settler’s home, and two hand-hewn cedar log houses originally belonging to the First Nations, in the Pemberton Museum.

Read about travelling the Sea-to-Sky Highway in British Columbia Magazine.