British Columbia Circuit: Whistler, Shuswap, & Okanagan Valley – 5 Days

Main destination North Vancouver, British Columbia · About Escorted or Guided Tour

British Columbia Circuit: Whistler, Shuswap, & Okanagan Valley – 5 Days

Main destination North Vancouver, British Columbia · About Escorted or Guided Tour

After more than a year of lockdowns and restrictions, we are all anxious to get away! With the vaccine rollout picking up steam, we are all hopeful that by summer the worst of the pandemic will be behind us. That said, most of us will still prefer to stay closer to home for our summer vacation. Why not let Expedia Cruises help you to plan a road trip through our beautiful province. We can help you with accommodations, activities, car rentals, and places to eat – thus taking the stress out of planning your getaway. All you have to, do is sit back and relax. Call us today! We can’t wait to assist you.

British Columbia Circuit: Whistler, Shuswap, & Okanagan Valley - 5 Days

This trip features British Columbia's Coast Mountains and the wine region of the Okanagan. Starting and ending in Vancouver, you'll drive through Whistler, Sun Peaks, and then south through the Okanagan Valley to Kelowna and back to Vancouver. This route is relatively fast-paced and best suited for those who are short on time but want to cover the main highlights of the Coast Mountains and Okanagan.

Highlights

  • Search for bald eagles from Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park
  • Drink award-winning wines of the Okanagan on the Scenic Sip Trail in Lake Country
  • Cross wooden trestle bridges over Myra Canyon on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail

Brief Itinerary

Day
HighlightsOvernight
Day 1Sea-to-Sky Highway to WhistlerWhistler
Day 2Whistler to Shuswap Lake (5 h 30 min)Shuswap
Day 3Shuswap Lake to Kelowna (1 h 30 min)Kelowna
Day 4Explore around Kelowna
Kelowna
Day 5Drive from Kelowna to VancouverVancouver

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Vancouver!

Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler

Morning light over Squamish, one of British Columbia's most popular rock climbing destinations

Collect your rental car (keeping in mind Vancouver's rush hour is from 8-9 am) and begin your road trip north to Whistler along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, one of British Columbia's most iconic drives. A scenic route between the ocean and mountains, there are several great places to stop to break up the short drive.

Halfway to Whistler—and where the ocean, river, and alpine forest meet—there's Squamish, an access point for outdoor activities and adventure. Just before reaching Squamish, you can see the area's most famous peak from the highway, the Chief, a sheer granite rockface popular with skilled climbers. Pick up the Stawamus Chief Trail for a hike up the back to reach the summit (divided into three peaks and graded as an intermediate hike, it takes the average person 3-4 hours to reach the first—and most visited—summit). Or, take the Sea-to-Sky Gondola up the mountain for excellent views of Howe Sound from Summit Lodge at the top where you can also grab lunch.

You'll reach Whistler, an upscale, chalet-style pedestrian village (and venue for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics) in the early to mid-afternoon. Whistler is North America's largest winter sports resort worth a visit at any time of year. The village is built around Whistler-Blackcomb, twin peaks accessed by an ultramodern lift system that provides opportunities to hike, bike, canoe, kayak, rock climb, or zip-line in warmer months and ski or snowboard in the winter.

From Whistler Village, take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola up the mountain for an afternoon adventure. You can hike through the high alpine to Harmony Lake (1.6 miles / 2.5 km from the top of the gondola) or touch the toe of a small glacier on a similarly lengthed trek. For something unique, rent a pair of snowshoes to explore areas covered in year-round snow. Alternatively, there are hiking trails you can take from the village itself. Follow the Valley Trail to Lost Lake, where you can take a dip or enjoy a picnic in the summer months or cross-country ski along its shoreline in the winter.

If you're looking for something more relaxing, spend the afternoon exploring the village: people-watching from an outdoor café, hitting one of the great spas, such as Scandinave, visiting the Whistler Museum, or doing a little shopping. And if you arrive before 4 pm, head over to the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Center to sample First Nations cuisine and visit one of Whistler's best gift shops.

Driving time (Vancouver to Whistler): 2 hours (75 miles /120 km)


Day 2: Whistler to Shuswap Lake (5 h 30 min)

An old pioneer wagon

Today is a long day of driving. Head northeast, transitioning from the pacific coastal rainforest and mountains to the hot, dry interior of British Columbia's ranch lands. You'll pass through the small towns of Pemberton and Lillooet and cross the mighty Fraser River, entering into the Cariboo region of the province, famous for its gold rush history.

En route, stop at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park to hike to a series of turquoise lakes that are framed by hanging glaciers and mountain peaks. The first (lower) Joffre Lake is a short 5-minute walk from the parking lot and Upper Joffre Lake (6 miles / 10 km, return) takes more effort but is well worth the views (if you have the time).

From Lillooet, continue east along the Gold Nugget Route toward Kamloops, taking in the changing desertlike scene of sagebrush-covered hills and mostly-barren landscape. In Historic Hat Creek, you'll find buildings from gold rush times still standing—some dating as far back as 1861. Experience the western atmosphere as you tour the grounds, and if you're hungry, dine on suitably western dishes, like bison chili, at the Historic Hat Creek Ranch.

Reaching Kamloops, elect to carry on or stop for lunch in the downtown heritage center. Arriving in Salmon Arm, the "Gem of the Shuswap," you'll be out of the desert and surrounded by wooded hills, farms, and the Shuswap Lake-based provincial parks. A popular outdoor destination in the summer, check into your accommodation before finding your way to the Salmon Arm Wharf for lake views and to take in the birdlife on a late afternoon stroll.

Driving time (Whistler to Salmon Arm): 5 hours, 30 minutes (249 miles / 401 km)


Day 3: Shuswap Lake to Kelowna (1 h 30 min)Canoes moored in McGillivray Lake in the Shuswap Highlands

Save your appetite for the several upcoming food-and-wine related stops. South of Vernon brings you into Lake Country. Follow the Scenic Sip Trail and sample award-winning wines from leading wineries en route to Kelowna, the valley's unofficial capital. Taste pinot noir at 50th Parallel Estate or stop at Arrowleaf Cellars. Pass through the suburban sprawl to Kelowna's heart, a welcome respite of museums, culture, and park-lined lakefront.

After settling into your accommodation, take a late afternoon stroll along Okanagan Lake's shore following the 1.5-mile (2.4-km) Waterfront Boardwalk and be sure to check out Brower Hatcher's Bear sculpture (illuminated at night). Partake in a pre-dinner libation at one of the city's brewpubs—like Red Bird Brewing or Vice & Virtue Brewing—then have dinner at RauDZ Regional Table, a relaxed, downtown bistro with a hefty list of Okanagan wines.

Driving time (Salmon Arm to Kelowna): 1 hour, 30 minutes (70 miles / 110 km)


Day 4: Explore around KelownaTerrace overlooks Lake Okanagan and vineyards of Mission Hill Family Estate

Sample regional varietals from multiple wineries on an in-depth winetasting tour with Okanagan Wine Country Tours or designate a driver and discover the local wineries at your own pace. For something unique beyond traditional varietals, get yourself to Indigenous World Winery and try the Hee Hee Tel Kin white or red blends.

Next, enjoy a 45- to 60-minute tour of one of the area's grandest wineries, Mission Hill Family Estate, followed by a wine tasting. Stay for lunch with a view across the vineyards at Terrace and then sip sweet ice wine for dessert at Hainle Vineyards Estate Winery. On your return, stop to drink pinot noir at Quail's Gate and then check out downtown's 1932 Calona Vineyards, one of the province's oldest wineries.

Take time out of your winetasting for other fresh-air activities. Rent a bike or join a guided tour of one of the most popular sections of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. Drive the 25 minutes from downtown to the Myra Station parking area to gear up and begin the 7.5-mile (12-km) ride through Myra Canyon, where you'll cross 18 historic wooden trestle bridges high above the canyon as well as pedal through two tunnels in the rock cliffs.


Day 5: Drive from Kelowna to VancouverA vineyard in Penticton

Following Highway 97 south out of Kelowna toward Keremeos, you'll have the opportunity to explore more of the Okanagan before zigzagging your way across southern British Columbia back to Vancouver. En route, tour the lakeside hamlet of Summerland and pick up a bottle of wine from one of the valley's finest, Sumac Ridge Estate, before having breakfast at the Bench Artisan Food Market in Penticton.

In Keremeos, check out the historic grist mill where you can purchase fresh-picked fruit from any of the roadside stands (the perfect snack to take on a short alpine hike). If you have a few hours to spare, hike the Heather Trail (12 miles / 20 km) to Three Brothers Mountain in E.C. Manning Provincial Park. For something less ambitious, pick up any number of self-guided nature trails directly off Highway 3.

At Hope, check out the Hope Museum and its exhibits, like the comprehensive collection of pioneer artifacts, local First Nations crafts, as well as artifacts from the original Fort Hope and gold rush days. Beyond Hope's downtown lies spectacular wilderness and recreational attractions. Stroll through the popular Othello-Quintette Tunnels, carved out of solid granite of the Coquihalla Canyon, and admire the views below from the vantage of a wooden bridge on the other side.

Approaching the Pacific Coast, the scenery dramatically transforms from the bright sunlit rock faces of the Coast Mountains to misty coastal cedars and tall firs, drawing you in toward dynamic Vancouver. Have dinner in the suburb of Richmond for some of the best Chinese cuisine outside of China.

Driving time (Kelowna to Vancouver): 5.5 hours (283 miles / 456 km)

Map

Map of British Columbia Circuit: Whistler, Shuswap, & Okanagan Valley - 5 Days

Source: British Columbia Circuit: Whistler, Shuswap, & Okanagan Valley - 7 Days | kimkim

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