Epic Drives: Explore the Sea-to-Sky Highway in British Columbia

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British Columbia’s Sea-To-Sky highway just outside Vancouver is officially the new king of iconic, bucket list driving.

You know the type of drives we’re talking about: Route 66, the Swiss Alps, the Cote d'Azur and even the Nullarbor Plain.

All of these have earned a reputation over time of dramatic scenery, old world charm and of course the appropriate opportunity to unleash your inner Daniel Ricciardo on some pretty chaotic corners.

But these drives belonged to the old guard. A way of iconic, scenic driving that your parents were most likely used to. Thankfully there’s officially a new kid on the block that our parents still don’t know about. A drive that combines scenery, locals, hiking, swimming, food and wildlife so effortlessly you may as well be travelling through a series of Canadian postcards.

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We’re talking about the Sea-to-Sky, a 377km stretch of highway which rises out of Vancouver like the entrance to a real world Jurassic Park or King’s Landing.

This is the start of pristine Canadian Rockies country and as you drive in a loop from Vancouver, through Whistler and Pemberton, on to Lilloot and then to Hope, do your best to keep your eyes on the road because the sheer grandeur of these mountains will keep you always looking sky high.

Choosing a car for a trip like this isn’t easy. Versatility is important. As is comfort. But paramount is practicality. A mountain car that can handle the steep climbs as effortlessly as the open road, with enough space to store luggage, tents, sleeping bags, a kayak and a bike.

Here in the mountains in the Summertime, it’s obligatory to sleep under the stars.

Our chosen chariot all the way from Sea-to-Sky for this trip was the 2018 Toyota RAV4. Here’s how we cut a swathe through a part of the world that needs to form part of your next Summer vacay.

The Sea

True to it’s namesake, this iconic drive starts at sea level in Vancouver. But we’d recommend not setting off from the more traditional part of the city like Gastown or Kitsilano. Instead, there’s a small haven paradise in North Van called Deep Cove which simply belongs to the locals. Pick up a SUP or a Kayak here and sojourn out into what’s known as the ‘Indian Arm’ and you’re half a chance to glimpse a pod of whales and seals breaching alongside your boat. There’s also a series of islands scattered further inland up the Arm and for the more adventurous, free overnight camping as well.

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The Sky

Before the elevation starts to climb dramatically, you’ll first hit the mountain adventure (and party) town of Squamish. Fast becoming a more affordable satellite alternative to upmarket Whistler, here you can wander the streets, jump into a local brewery, climb the Stawamus Chief- the second largest free standing granite formation in the world - or even take to the water at the local kiteboarding school.

Just a little further up the highway past Squamish is the more well-known Winter paradise town of Whistler. This is the heart of the Sea-to-Sky and While it’s better known for it’s world class skiing,

In the Summer BMX riders from all of the world descend on these peaks for some of the most intense riding on the planet.

Pemberton is a your next sleepy stop-over in these mountains. A quiet, historical hamlet tucked beneath giant granite cliff faces and propped up against a series of mountain riverbeds and blue lakes. You’ll want to get a good night’s rest here either under the stars in one of the RV parks or even upstairs the local pub, because tomorrow you’ll hike to a glacier, revealing why the water here looks the way it does.

Above-The-Sky

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is a series of three stepped-glacial fed lakes that form the backbone of a 7-hour return trail to the Matier Glacier. This is a big one-day hike and over the last few years, this once undiscovered ascent into heaven has grown in popularity.

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But that doesn’t mean you should skip it.

In fact, most people only hike the Lower and Middle sections of the trail and if they do get to the Upper Lake, very few decide to hike to the Glacier itself.

Skip this last push at your own peril, in fact, pull your tent out of your RAV4, strap it to your backpack and spend the night with your backs up against a glacial waterfall.

Thanks to Toyota for sorting us out with the 2018 Toyota RAV4 for the journey.

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