Road trips are my thing – as it is with anyone craving a healthy break from the hustle of city life.
I spilled the details of my drive up north along the Sea to Sky Highway. Well, guess what? We’re eager for more so we’re hitting the road again!
So, here’s a rundown of destinations where the drive serves up some of the best views in and around Vancouver. We also dive into the most scenic road around Vancouver, and some tips on having an unforgettable scenic road trip.
Best Scenic Drives in Vancouver
Road Length: 12.4 kilometres
Time: 30 minutes
Embarking on the scenic drive to Grouse Mountain, just north of Vancouver, promises breathtaking views of the city’s skyline as you ascend.
Once at the summit, 1250 metres above the city, the panorama expands to include the coastal mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
The drive itself winds through lush forests, gradually revealing glimpses of the stunning scenery that awaits atop this iconic peak.
Pro tip: During the winter months, the landscape transforms into a winter wonderland, with snow-covered trees adding a magical touch to the journey.
Road Length: 121.2 kilometres
Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
The drive to Whistler is a journey through a postcard-perfect landscape. As you leave Vancouver, the Sea to Sky Highway unfolds, treating you to stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean and coastal mountains.
Approaching Whistler, the landscape becomes a winter sports enthusiast’s dream, with snow-capped peaks and alpine meadows.
In the warmer months, the drive is equally captivating, showcasing vibrant wildflowers and the turquoise waters of several lakes along the route.
Pro tip: You can stop along the way and access some of the viewpoints, such as the Cypress Mountain Lookout, Stawamus Chief, and Brandywine Falls.
Road Length: 229.5 kilometres
Time: 2.5 to 3 hours
Venturing south across the border to Seattle, the drive encompasses diverse scenery. Leaving Vancouver, you’ll traverse through evergreen forests (hence its moniker Emerald City) and charming towns before reaching the international border.
Crossing into the United States, the landscape transitions into the lush surroundings of Washington state.
The drive culminates with the iconic cityscape of Seattle, where the Space Needle and Puget Sound welcome you to the city.
Pro tip: If, like many, you want to go shopping south of the border, you should visit Pike Place Market, for locally sourced food and artisanal food, and the Seattle Premium Outlets, for luxury brands.
Road Length: 64 kilometres
Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
The road to Garibaldi Lake takes you on a picturesque journey north of Vancouver through the Coast Mountains.
As you approach the trailhead, dense forests gradually open up to reveal the stunning alpine scenery.
The drive offers glimpses of glaciers, towering peaks, and pristine lakes, setting the stage for the awe-inspiring beauty that awaits those who venture on foot to Garibaldi Lake itself.
Pro tip: From the trailhead, you’ll need around six hours to conquer 18 kilometres of trail, with an elevation gain of 800 metres. The reward is not only a nice dip in the glacial lake but the magnificent views from the Black Tusk.
Road Length: 15.4 kilometres
Time: 20 minutes
For a more local escape, the drive to Burnaby Mountain provides a convenient yet stunning route.
The road winds through Burnaby’s residential neighborhoods before ascending the mountain, offering panoramic views of the city and beyond.
At the top, you’re treated to a breathtaking panorama of the Burrard Inlet, downtown Vancouver, and the North Shore Mountains, making it an ideal spot to enjoy both sunrise and sunset.
Pro tip: Explore the massive area with 576 hectares of conservation area, a great spot not only for hiking but also birdwatching. Check out the public art installations, too, like the eco-sculptures and Kamui Mintara or “Playground of the Gods.”
Road Length: 441.6 kilometres
Time: 4 hours and 30 minutes
Heading east from Vancouver towards the Okanagan Valley, the landscape transforms from coastal rainforests to arid, sun-soaked vineyards and orchards.
The drive along the scenic Highway 97 showcases the beauty of British Columbia’s interior.
Rolling hills, expansive lakes, and vineyard-draped slopes define this journey. In the summer, roadside fruit stands beckon, offering a taste of the region’s bounty.
Pro tip: One of our recommended getaways for the weekend (vancouver weekend getaways) is Kelowna and Big White. In Kelowna, you can enjoy a wine tour against the backdrop of picturesque vineyards.
Road Length: 153.4 kilometres
Time: 2 hours
Venturing north along the Sea-to-Sky Highway towards Pemberton unveils a landscape of rugged mountains and fertile farmland.
The drive passes through the stunning Pemberton Valley, surrounded by snow-capped peaks. Pemberton itself is nestled in a picturesque valley, offering a peaceful retreat and a gateway to outdoor adventures.
Pro tip: If you’re staying in Pemberton for a night or two, you can check out Pemberton Valley Lodge or plan to camp at Nairn Falls Park Campground.
Road Length: 702.1 kilometres
Time: 8 to 9 hours
A drive to the Kootenay region unfolds a tapestry of diverse landscapes. Departing from Vancouver, the route takes you through winding mountain roads, dense forests, and alongside pristine lakes.
Along the way, you can allot some time to see Revelstroke, Yoho National Park, and Osoyoos. If you’re taking the trip in summer, you can check out Spotted Lake, considered by many as the most magical place in the country.
Pro tip: There’s also a lot to enjoy in the Kootenays. It has charming small towns, hot springs, and opportunities for outdoor activities amid the stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
Road Length: 29.9 kilometres
Time: 1 hour
A short ferry ride from Vancouver, the journey to Bowen Island is a delightful escape. The ferry itself offers stunning views of the city skyline and the surrounding mountains.
Once on the island, the scenic drive takes you through a mix of coastal forests, seaside cliffs, and quaint villages, providing a tranquil respite from the urban hustle.
The island’s laidback atmosphere is also one to enjoy, as you travel from the mainland to this island in Howe Sound.
Pro tip: Enjoy the outdoor activities on Bowen Island from mid-July to August. If you don’t want to catch the crowds or you want to get cheaper accommodations, plan your visit from October to March.
Road Length: 283.3 kilometres
Time: 5 hours and 12 minutes
Driving to Tofino on Vancouver Island is an adventure through coastal rainforests and along the rugged Pacific coastline.
The journey includes winding roads with glimpses of the ocean, making it a prelude to the spectacular scenery that awaits in Tofino.
As you approach the town, ancient cedar trees and expansive beaches create a natural spectacle that epitomizes the wild beauty of the West Coast.
Pro tip: Aside from being one of our recommended spots for an awesome weekend getaway, Tofino is one of the places where you can chase after bioluminescence.
Swing by Chesterman Beach – one of the best beaches in the world according to The Guardian. If you can’t catch the elusive natural lights show, there’s still surfing, beachcombing, and kayaking to do here – not bad at all!
What is the most beautiful drive in Vancouver?
Road Length: 162 kilometres
The most beautiful drive in and around Vancouver is along the Sea to Sky Highway or Highway 99. The portion of the highway from Vancouver to Whistler is 121 kilometre long and has unparalleled scenic diversity and breathtaking views.
Beginning in Vancouver, the highway traces the coastline, offering panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean and coastal mountains.
As the road winds its way north, travelers are treated to a dramatic transformation in landscapes, from lush rainforests to towering cliffs.
Notably, the drive passes through the iconic Shannon Falls Provincial Park, where cascading waterfalls create a mesmerizing spectacle.
Approaching Whistler, the highway reveals snow-capped peaks and alpine meadows, completing a visual journey that seamlessly blends coastal beauty with mountain grandeur.
This route is a photographer’s dream, with every turn presenting a postcard-perfect snapshot of the stunning natural scenery that defines the Pacific Northwest.
What side of the road does Vancouver drive on?
In Vancouver, one drives on the right-hand side of the road.
This traffic arrangement is a historical shift, making Vancouver the last city in North America to transition to right-hand driving. The city’s road system initially adhered to the British left-driving system until January 1, 1922.
This change aimed to harmonize traffic patterns with the majority of North America, enhancing road safety and streamlining transportation across the region.
Today, navigating Vancouver’s streets aligns with the common right-hand driving practice observed throughout the continent.
Tips for an Unforgettable Scenic Drive
- Check vehicle readiness. Before hitting the road, ensure your vehicle is in top condition. Verify tire pressure, fluid levels, and brakes to prevent breakdowns and ensure a smooth journey through Vancouver’s diverse terrains.
- Plan for the weather. Vancouver’s weather can change rapidly. Stay updated on forecasts and pack accordingly. Rain gear, snow chains (in winter), and sunglasses can be crucial for a comfortable and safe drive.
- Plan stops strategically. Break up your journey with planned stops at scenic viewpoints, attractions, and rest areas. This not only enhances the experience but also helps combat driver fatigue on longer drives.
- Drive defensively. Vancouver’s roads can be busy, especially in and around the city. Keep a safe following distance, use mirrors consistently, and be prepared for sudden stops.
- Follow speed limits. In BC, cars can go up to 120 km/hr (75 mph) on major highways and expressways. Along rural roads, you have to drive at a maximum of 80 km/hr, and in built up areas, 50 km/hr.
- Emergency kit essentials. Pack a well-equipped emergency kit, including a first aid box, flashlight, jumper cables, and basic tools. Vancouver’s remote areas may have limited services, so being self-sufficient is crucial for any situation.
- Research road conditions. Check DriveBC to see road conditions through webcam videos, especially if heading into mountainous regions or during winter. Check for closures, construction, or any advisories that may affect your route.
- Respect wildlife. Vancouver is home to diverse wildlife so drive cautiously. Be prepared to yield to pedestrians, cyclists, and wildlife, especially during dawn and dusk, when animals are more active.
- Immerse in the experience. Designate specific stops for photography, allowing you to savor the beauty of Vancouver’s landscapes without the distraction of documenting every moment.