These places are your best bets for short road trips from Vancouver
If you are looking for a short road trip from Vancouver for a weekend getaway, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you just have a weekend or are looking for somewhere amazing to go on just one tank of gas, there are so many amazing options for places to visit near Vancouver.
With this list, you can leave the city on Friday after work and return home Sunday night feeling like you had a mini-vacation. And without spending tons at the gas station.
With gas prices at all-time highs, here are some local ideas to keep you busy without going broke. If you’re looking to escape the city, read on for five of the best short road trips you can take from Vancouver, BC.
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The places I’m including are all within approximately a 2-hour drive from downtown Vancouver, making them suitable for a weekend getaway. No car? No problem! There are lots of Vancouver car rental companies that can help you out.
I have done weekend trips to the Interior to visit Okanagan wineries, but this is much more enjoyable with an extra day or two. It’s a lot of driving for just a weekend so I haven’t included The Okanagan in this post.
Top five weekend trips from Vancouver
I had to start with the obvious choice because Whistler is an amazing place to visit year-round. This outdoor paradise has something for everyone. Whether you prefer to be playing on the mountain or enjoying the spa and après, Whistler has you covered.
Whistler is by far my favourite weekend getaway destination, no matter what season it is. I have written several posts about adventures in Whistler. In the winter, it’s all about snowboarding, while in the summer months, I highly recommend going ATV’ing as well as checking out the unique Train Wreck hike.
If you are into downhill or mountain biking, you already know that Whistler is the mecca for this. I tried downhill biking and it wasn’t for me. If you want a first-person perspective of my wild ride down the mountain, check out my reel on Instagram.
While downhill biking isn’t my thing, there’s still lots to do in Whistler during the spring and summer months. There’s even a disc golf course right next to Scandinave Spa. Whistler is the ideal choice for your weekend trips from Vancouver no matter what season it is.
Driving the Sea to Sky to Whistler
Since there is no way I could write about short road trips from Vancouver and not include Whistler, I am going to try and mention some activities you may not have done yet. For starters, I highly recommend making the scenic 90-minute drive along the Sea to Sky Highway part of your road trip. There are quite a few noteworthy places along the way to stop.
Furry Creek Golf Course
First up is Furry Creek Golf Course. Furry Creek is known as BC’s most scenic golf course but you don’t have to golf to come here. Nor do you have to be a member to enjoy a round of golf. Its restaurant is open to the public and both the food and scenery are amazing. If you’re a fan of Adam Sandler and the movie Happy Gilmore, some of its iconic scenes were filmed on the picturesque Furry Creek golf course.
If you like waterfalls, then you’ll definitely have to make a pit stop or two along the Sea to Sky. Two stunning waterfalls are on your drive, Shannon Falls and Brandywine Falls. You can read more about them, and how to get there, in this earlier post about waterfalls a short drive from Vancouver.
A lesser-known activity that I highly recommend in Whistler is checking out Vallea Lumina. I wasn’t too sure what it was when I went, but I was blown away by this multimedia night walk. The lights are spectacular and the way they project images onto smoke is amazing.
This night walk tells a story with its stunning lights and imagery. Definitely check this out next time you’re in Whistler. I can’t say enough good things about it!
Once in Whistler, there’s no shortage of activities to keep you entertained. There’s bungee jumping, ziplining, walking trails, renting e-bikes, canoeing, throwing axes, chilling at Scandinave Spa and more. In the summer, the mountain gondola is open for downhill biking. In the winter, it’s all about skiing and snowboarding.
No matter what the season, Whistler has something going on. In the spring and summer months, the mountain is full of downhill bikers while the village is alive with people shopping and dining on patios. In the winter, skiers and snowboarders reign during the day, but the village is equally vibrant. Patio dining is year-round here with heaters and fire pits warming patrons.
Less than two hours from downtown Vancouver, this is one road trip that never gets old. The drive is one of the highlights of heading to Whistler. The incredibly scenic Sea to Sky highway is one of my favourite drives. On a clear day, the views cannot be beaten. Ask any Vancouverite, and I guarantee that Whistler is one of their favourite weekend getaway destinations.
2. Bowen Island
Next up on our list of weekend trips from Vancouver is Bowen Island. A short, twenty-minute ferry ride from Vancouver will bring you to this quaint island. If you’re looking for nightlife, this isn’t the place for you. But if you want solitude surrounded by nature, this is it.
Bowen Island is so close to downtown Vancouver that some people will take a day trip over. I suggest staying at least one night to really get a feel for the island. It’s much more relaxing when you know you don’t have to rush to catch the last ferry.
I recommend staying at an Airbnb or VRBO so you have a kitchen and can cook some of your meals. Bowen is a very small island with limited restaurant options. If you’re looking for a quiet or romantic getaway, this is the place for you.
The last time I took a weekend trip from Vancouver to Bowen Island, I stayed in the cutest cabin at Wildwood Cabins. I highly recommend staying there. The wood cabins are not only adorable, but they are also well-stocked with everything you need for a weekend away. Their wood fire-burning stoves make for very cozy evenings. The absolute highlight, however, is their circular, cedar sauna, shown above.
Bowen is a small island, just shy of 50 square kilometres with a population of fewer than 4,000 people. As with most islands near the city, the popular activities revolve around water. There’s always canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. If you’d rather stay dry, there are lots of hiking and biking trails.
3. Harrison Hot Springs
A 90-minute drive east of Vancouver, you will find this city known for two things: the lake and its healing hot springs. While Harrison is usually considered to be more of a spring or summer destination, it is also an ideal spot for a winter getaway because of the hot springs. The natural hot springs will warm you up on a chilly winter’s day.
There are two ways to enjoy the natural hot springs. If you have a 4-wheel drive, you can off-road up to the public natural hot springs. You will find hot tubs outside with pipes to fill them up with natural spring water. The more popular, and accessible, way to soak in these healing waters is to stay at the Harrison Hot Spring hotel. Access to their mineral pools is included with your stay.
Before or after your healing soak, there are numerous outdoor adventures to participate in. Not surprisingly, many of these activities revolve around Harrison Lake. Boating tours are a popular activity in Harrison and BBQ boats can be rented in the summer. Fishing tours are held year-round as Harrison is a great place to catch sturgeon, salmon and trout.
Harrison Lake Water Park
A floating bouncy castle-like water park is available for your aquatic adventures on Harrison Lake every summer. This inflatable, floating water park is fun for all ages and is open from late June until Labour Day weekend. Lifejackets must be worn, which is great because they will also help keep you warm in the glacier-fed waters.
Two more ideal weekend trips from Vancouver
For our fourth weekend trip from Vancouver, we head to Victoria. The capital city of British Columbia is either a short seaplane ride or a scenic ferry ride away. Should you take the ferry, a 90-minute scenic ferry ride will transport you to the capital city of BC. Be sure to make reservations for the ferry or you risk sitting at the terminal waiting for the next one.
There is so much to see and do here that you could easily make this one a longer trip, but it also makes for the perfect weekend getaway from the city. Outdoor adventures are endless in Victoria, but whale watching is a top activity for tourists.
Another great way to spend an afternoon is by wandering around the gorgeous Butchart Gardens. With 55 acres to explore, you could easily spend the day here. One of my favourite evening activities is enjoying a meal in one of the pubs down by the water. Once inside, you feel as though you’ve been transported to Europe.
Fairmont Empress Hotel
Well worth a visit, Victoria is a vibrant coastal city famous for the Parliament buildings and iconic Fairmont Empress hotel. And speaking of The Empress, if High Tea is your jam (pun intended) be sure to indulge in a scrumptious afternoon tea at The Empress.
The Fairmont hotel chain is well-known for its afternoon tea service. I highly recommend enjoying one at The Empress. You will not be disappointed, I guarantee it. Their scones and heavy cream are to-die-for.
No visit would be complete without an evening stroll along Government road. The Parliament buildings are beautifully lit at night and definitely something you’ll want to see. I suggest trying to see these both during the day and at night.
5. Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast
For our final weekend trip from Vancouver, we head to Gibson’s. Located just shy of 2 hours from downtown Vancouver, Gibsons is a ferry ride away even though it’s still on the mainland. From the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal, Gibsons is a 40-minute ferry ride.
If you ever watched the Canadian TV Series The Beachcombers, then you’ll be familiar with Gibsons. Located on the Sunshine Coast, Gibsons is where The Beachcombers TV show was filmed from 1972 to 1990. The infamous restaurant Molly’s Reach is still standing today. Not to worry though, if you didn’t watch the show, there’s still lots to do in Gibsons.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, Gibsons has lots of trails and hiking for you. There’s also biking, canoeing, kayaking, golfing and more. As with any destination in BC, there is always an adventure to be found outdoors.
Looking for something less active, or something to do post-activity? A stop at one of the three breweries is always a great idea. The 101 Brewhouse, Persephone or Tapworks Brewing should be on your to-do list. On a rainy day in Gibson’s, taking cover in a brewhouse is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Other indoor activities include checking out the Gibsons Public Art Gallery, wandering through the Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives, or visiting the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre.
More ideal weekend trips from Vancouver
While these places didn’t make the top five, it doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it. In fact, I adore Salt Spring Island! I just find it to be too far away for an ideal weekend getaway. If you have a long weekend or can take an extra day or two, these places are equally great for a weekend trip.
- Salt Spring Island
- Gabriola Island
- Langley (for the wineries)
To ensure you have a fantastic road trip getaway, check out how to plan an epic road trip. If you decide to visit one of these places, tag me on Instagram so I can enjoy your travels with you. I’ll even share it in my IG stories. Happy travels!