From Sunday-morning drives to an overnight island loop route, a journey to suit all tastes.
To help you make the most of summer vacation season, we’ve turned to our in-house experts for their tips and recommendations. Biking enthusiast Kevin Griffin highlights five unique pedalling tours. Driving editor Andrew McCredie suggests five scenic summer drives. Food writer Randy Shore shares 10 tried-and-true barbecuing tricks he swears by. And avid reader Dana Gee recommends 10 titles to enjoy in a hammock or deck chair near you.
Summertime in B.C. is synonymous with road trips, so in celebration of our great country — and with one nod to our southern neighbour — here are five road trips to consider this summer.
Whistler to Vancouver (the long way around)
Distance: 456 km
Duration: 7 hours
The drive: Yes, there is an alternative route connecting Vancouver and Whistler. Granted, it takes about four times longer than the well-travelled Sea to Sky, but if you’re looking for a memorable day drive that goes through a number of different landscapes and provides a taste of what lies just outside the Lower Mainland, this route is a must-do. Head north out of Whistler, turn right at Pemberton and you begin a stunning and meandering drive along the Duffey Lake Road, with majestic mountains all around and skirting Joffre Lake, Duffey Lake and Seton Lake during the 90-minute drive to Lillooet. From there it’s south on Highway 12 along the east bank of the mighty Fraser River to Lytton, where you meet up with Highway 1 and continue south to Hope through Boston Bar, Hell’s Gate and Spuzzum. Plenty of eclectic lunch stops along this stretch, along with some spectacular photo ops of the Fraser. Turn right at Hope onto the Trans-Canada and 90 minutes later you’re in Vancouver.
Crowsnest Highway: Hope to Osoyoos
Distance: 247 km
Duration: 3.5 hours
The drive: Though this historic east-west highway goes all the way to Medicine Hat, Alberta, the section between Hope and Osoyoos provides an ever-changing landscape through your car window that is a tranquil alternative to the white-knuckle Coquihalla and Kelowna Connector. The first section is known as the Hope-Princeton Highway, and includes such roadside attractions as the Hope Slide, the Allison Pass, Manning Provincial Park, Copper Mountain and Sunday Summit. At Princeton, the Crowsnest Highway heads southeast along the Similkameen River and through the beautiful farmlands and wineries of the Similkameen Valley and onto Keremeos, dubbed the fruit stand capital of Canada. From there it’s south to very near the U.S. border, then east again on to the desert-like town of Osoyoos, nestled beside a lake and at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley. Great journey; better destination.
Mt. Baker Highway: Washington state
Distance: 94 km
Duration: 2 hours
Highlights: This unique trip just south of the border takes you from the Pacific Ocean to the edge of a volcano in about 90 minutes, but as you’ll want to stop for some of the best pizza in the Pacific Northwest, call it two hours. The Mt. Baker Highway (No. 542) starts in the shadow of Bellis Fair mall in Bellingham, but quite quickly the modern trappings of consumerism give way to verdant ranch lands and pristine farmlands as the two-lane blacktop winds its way toward its namesake, a 10,781-foot active stratovolcano that is the second-most thermally active crater in the Cascade Range after Mt. Saint Helens. For much of the drive the road follows the Nooksack River, through such wonderful little places with equally lovely names like Welcome, Maple Falls and Glacier, the latter being just inside the massive Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the last outpost of civilization before the road’s end at Artist’s Point parking lot. Just a short hike from here are incredible views of Mt. Baker. Now, about that pizza. The North Fork Brewery is on the highway in Deming and is a classic rustic place that doubles as a pizzeria and triples as a wedding chapel. Be sure to ask to see the photo binder of the many nuptials that have taken place here. And note that it doesn’t open until noon. And, yes, the homemade pizza and home-crafted beer are exceptional.
Pacific Marine Circle Route on Vancouver Island
Distance: 289 km
Duration: 5 hours
The drive: This Victoria-to-Victoria loop is a one-day trip, but can also be broken up into a relaxing overnight or even two-night road trip thanks to the many B&Bs along the way. Described as a “coast-to-coast journey on Vancouver Island,” the clockwise route provides amazing views of the Juan de Fuca, Haro and Georgia straits and the Saanich Peninsula. The first leg, less than an hour’s drive, takes you north out of Victoria on Highway 1, then west along Highway 14 to Sooke. Then it’s along the ocean coastline to Port Renfrew, passing the surfer paradise of Jordan River and a number of trailheads of the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. The third leg takes you east from Port Renfrew onto Lake Cowichan, the island’s second largest lake and home to recently restored railway trestles on the Great Trail. From here it’s a short run down to Duncan, followed by the final leg of the loop down the Malahat Drive. Or, to mix things up a little, hop aboard a B.C. Ferries vessel for the 25-minute ride from Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay followed by a short dash down Highway 17 back to Victoria.
Highway 7: Vancouver to Hope
Distance: 150 km
Duration: 90 minutes (depending on traffic)
The drive: You’ve most likely driven part, if not all, of this route without realizing you were on a historic B.C. highway. Highway 7 begins at the corner of Granville Street and Broadway, heading east along Broadway where it turns into Lougheed Highway at Burnaby. Then it’s on through Coquitlam, where it follows the north bank of the Fraser River through Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Mission. At this point you start to get a good idea of the original highway, with much of the urban sprawl in your rear-view mirror. The stretch from Mission to Hope is extremely scenic and historic, taking you through Harrison Mills, Agassiz and Ruby Creek before its terminus point near Hope at Highway 1. A great Sunday-morning drive, as urban traffic will be light and by the time you get to Harrison Mills there are plenty of wonderful family-run roadside cafes to enjoy a leisurely lunch.