Travellers to Canada’s Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Coast know just how well nature and modern infrastructure can co-exist. The West Coast embraces its surroundings, and does well to incorporate its beauty into daily life. Nowhere is that more evident than driving the Sea-to-Sky Highway – or more technically, Highway 99. It’s hard not to feel equally in awe and insignificant amongst the immense mountain ranges as you drive with the Pacific Ocean and Squamish River at the road’s edge.

The Sea-to-Sky Highway is how you get there, so it’s more about where you’re going to. Highway 99 is 409 kilometres from end to end, but it’s where it meets up with Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and into the Squamish River where this drive really begins to show its charm. The main, most direct and easily most scenic route from Vancouver to Whistler (and beyond), it’s simply gorgeous and made for pure enjoyment.

If driving isn’t your thing – or you want to get the full experience of the trek without the work – you can even take the train directly to Whistler station or beyond. If you are the driver, make sure to make a stop or two to really take it all in.

As a large, year-round tourist hotspot, there are plenty of accommodations at the major stopping points along the highway. Assuming most people will be starting their trip from Vancouver, here are some well-recommended accommodations northward.

 Nita Lake Lodge (Whistler) – Located not far from the Olympic athlete’s village, I can attest to the quality of food, service and amenities that reviewers rave about. Backing on to a picturesque setting of the lake after which it’s named, each of the 77 rooms (from $239 a night) are finished in stone and slate, glass, and wood trims and warm finishes reminiscent of the Northwest Coast, with a king-sized bed and gas fireplace to keep things warm and cozy all year, whether you’re biking, hiking, skiing or enjoying a good read.

Legends Whistler (Creekside) – Up to three bedroom suites, this is a ski-out, ski-in hotel located at the base of Whistler Creekside. It offers quick access to the Creekside Gondola and excellent shopping and dining experiences with fewer crowds than the main Whistler Village. Legends’ fine dining and casual eateries are complemented by those in the surrounding area. Rates average from $175 per couple (one bedroom) to $370 (three bedroom), with activity and travel packages.

Cedar Springs Bed and Breakfast Lodge (Whistler) – This highly-recommended BnB is for those wanting a comfortable, home-like base for their adventures without spending their budget on accommodations. Eight rooms with a West Coast feel range from the single twin-bed room (with shared bath) to kings and double-queens with two twin rooms (and private bath) – perfect for the travelling family. Hot tub, guest living room and concierge service for activity booking/complimentary shuttle services. Rates from $125 to $259 per couple in high season.

Medina Café (Vancouver) – Before you embark on your journey to the white caps of Whistler and Blackcomb, Vancouver offers a host of great breakfast options. Medina is a trendy café in the Library District where you’ll get a hearty starter before your trip, ranging from in-house cured peameal bacon, saumon fume, merquez sausage and chimchurri AAA flatiron beef. Be prepared to show up early though as lines tend to run out the door!

Beavertails (Whistler) – You’ve probably already heard – but if not, you have to try a Beavertail! Though it actually originated in Ottawa, these delicious sugar- and cinnamon-covered pastries have become a staple in Whistler. SKOR, chocolate, banana, M&Ms, Reeses Pieces, Oreo, maple, cheesecake, apples or the classic cinnamon and sugar topping – they’re a great treat while you venture through the north country!

Rimrock Café & Oyster Bar (Whistler Creekside) – Operated by chef/owner Rolf Gunther, the food and wine- award-winning restaurant lives up to its hype. It has a rustic yet elegant atmosphere, extensive wine selection and expert service. Try the seared scallops with roasted pork belly and the oysters with salmon, béchamel and gruyere cheese. Dinner only.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (Whistler) -- A snack or dessert for the road or a slope-side treat, this is the company’s original village location circa 1988. It has since grown to over 40 locations nationwide. Watch skilled chocolatiers hand-make fudge, or treat your four-legged family member to a special dog treat. From truffles to bark, fudge and even sugar-free chocolate and toffee, it’s the perfect indulgence.

Stopping points on the wayShannon Falls in Squamish offers free parking while you watch the water carve its way through the rock for that perfect postcard picture. The Brackenridge Eagles Provincial Park offers a good opportunity to see hundreds of bald eagles feed on local salmon (weather & season pending). If you have a few hours to kill and golf clubs in tow, Furry Creek Golf & Country Club offers astounding water and mountainside views.

Hiking & Biking – If you plan to stop during your Sea-to-Sky trip, Stawamus Chief Park near Squamish offers a massive trail system and 700 metre granite cliffs that overlook Highway 99 and 530 hectares. Following the highway up to Whistler, Garibaldi Provincial Park offers numerous entry points and transports you to another world covered in snow-capped mountains, dense rainforests, glaciers and lakes with various routes and lengths along the way. Experience the world’s best cross country, downhill and recreational biking and hiking trails, all open to explore. 

Sea to Sky Gondola (Squamish) – A unique, year-round experience (from $32.95 per adult) with new amenities to carry you through the mist and above the clouds. In the winter it offers backcountry ski access on and around Sky Pilot Mountain (experienced skiers only), tubing and snowshoeing; while summer offers rock climbing, hiking and a future mountain bike trail system. At the top is a 9,000 square-foot lodge, restaurant, café and tea house, a suspension bridge and a spectacular viewing platform.

Peak 2 Peak Gondola Ride (Whistler) – Combat your fear of heights! Travel over four kilometres in 11 minutes from peak to peak from Whistler to Blackcomb in the longest and highest lift in the world –  a must-experience whether you ski or not. Make sure to bring your camera (and zoom lenses, if you have) for some of the most incredible photography you may ever capture. One-day regular season lift tickets start at $49.95. There is hiking, viewing galleries, an open-air chairlift, a 2010 Vancouver Olympic display and even fine dining all waiting at the top. If you’re really brave, try one of the two glass-bottom gondolas.

Horseback Riding (Whistler) – Horseback riding in Whistler (from $79 a person) ranges from one-hour novice rides to three-hour waterfall trips and full-day backcountry trips. Adventurers might even try the Historic Li-lik-hel Mine Expedition, a three-day, two-night trip into early-1900s coal mining trails (from $1,199 per person).

Whistler Sliding Centre – I can attest that this is for brave, fit thrill-seekers only. This is the tallest and steepest sled course in existence, and will require all of your courage before you bobsled down the course at 120 km/h – 30 km/h slower than the top Olympic speed. But at that point, does it really matter? A trained professional pilots the sled while you hang on for the thrill of a lifetime