It was a gorgeous, clear morning up in the sky and on the open road as we headed for Squamish.
“Did you really need to take four pairs of shoes, three purses and all those clothes,” teased Jason.
“You know we’re only going for two nights, right?”
Yes, I’ll admit I packed more than I needed to, but the last thing I wanted was to be unprepared.
Neither of us had ever been to Squamish, so we had zero clue about what to expect. We were also pretty excited about this child and puppy-free weekend away together.
Here are just 7 highlights of our mini vacay.
1. It’s Closer to Home Than We Realized
Located halfway between downtown Vancouver and Whistler’s high alpine, Squamish is only an hour from where we live in ‘the Valley.’
“I can’t believe we’re already here… I’m not even done my coffee yet,” I said as we approached the big sign on the highway welcoming us to our destination point.
It’s also a good thing I did pack as many clothes as I did, especially since I spilled said coffee on my sweater.
2. Sea-to Sky Gondola
Did you know that Squamish is known as the ‘Outdoor Recreation Capital’ of Canada? From hiking trails and snowshoeing to adrenaline-filled adventures by mountain bike, there’s no shortage of world-class outdoor recreation opportunities.
While the extent of my outdoor enthusiasm stops at patios and the occasional camping trip, I did fully enjoy the 10-minute gondola ride to 85m above sea level that provided sweeping views of the Howe Sound fjord and the famous Squamish Chief climbing area. We were also joined by Daddy Blogger Ricky Shetty, his lovely wife Anne and their two little ones.
Once at the top, we discovered that many other adventures await. One has access to a wide array of outdoor experiences, including two different interpretive loop walking trails with cantilevered viewing platforms, numerous hiking trails, rock climbing, access trails to back country routes and much more.
Since I had recently hurt my knee from a jogging incident, we stayed behind while the Shetty’s braved a one-hour trail with kiddies — without a stroller.
“The only thing that would make this more perfect is a Caesar!” I said, as Jason and I sat hand-in-hand soaking up the view.
3. Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge
Adjacent to the Summit Lodge and the top station of the gondola, is the iconic “Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge,” which connects the Spirit Trail/Spirit Viewing Platform to the Summit Lodge Viewing Deck.
“Come on, we have to do it,” urged Jason, full-well knowing my intense fear of heights.
I decided to take the plunge — not literally, of course– and throw caution to the wind.
The Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge offers amazing 360 degree views of the area, both up to the high alpine of the mountains above and down to the fjord below. The bridge is open year-round and is one of the many adventures that is available to you with your day ticket or season pass!
4. The Town Has Some Serious Charm
Every downtown core has its own unique charm — Squamish is no exception.
If you’re a huge thrift store fan like myself, you’ll be in Heaven. I think I spotted four on one street alone. There’s also an eclectic mix of boutiques, cafes, groceries stores, etc in this vibrant community with spectacular mountain views in the backdrop.
Downtown is also home to the local youth centre and public outdoor skateboard park, as well as the marinas on the waterfront for access to sailing, kayak & jet ski rentals.
After our journey up the mountain, we were all feeling rather famished. It was time for lunch so we headed to the Howe Sound Brew Pub for a tour and tasting experience.
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5. Howe Sound Brewing
Rated one of the best pubs for food and beer in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada, the brew pub has become known as the meeting place in Squamish for locals and tourists alike. With high ceilings and post and beam construction, the brew pub offers a unique venue to show off the Stawamus Chief rock climbing face, and the rest of the fantastic local natural scenery. It’s also home to live entertainment and events.
Inside, you’ll find framed news articles of the famous Stawamus Chief’s first ascent by the famous climbers by Jim Baldwin & Ed Cooper and artwork of local recreational activities. At the bar, you’ll find all of their handcrafted, micro-brewed ales and lagers on draft brewed right here.
We were also give a behind-the-scenes tour of the brewery and learned about this history of this popular ‘hop spot.’
I’ll admit that I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I fully enjoyed taking my taste buds on a flight. One of my choices was a honey ale that used Fraser Valley honey.
6. The Britannia Mines
The pouring rain almost prevented us from visiting this popular tourist destination, but I’m so glad we didn’t miss the opportunity. It was only a century ago that it was an actual working mine — today, The Britannia Mines is a multi-award winning interactive museum.
“We actually get to go inside?” I asked, while fastening a hard hat.
“This is so neat… we need to bring the kids next time.”
After climbing aboard the mine train, we were whisked away in the dark into an early haulage tunnel. While inside, our tour guide described what life was like as a miner using actual working drills and a mucking machine. We were advised to plug our ears several times when the drill was in action. This was such a great experience, but I wouldn’t advise bringing children under the age of four unless they’re fearless of the dark and loud sounds.
After our tour, we headed off on our own to pan for gold, explore the 1908 machine shop, as well as my personal favourite — the Britannia A to Z Historical Exhibit.
Within the walls of this lovingly restored heritage building were so many amazing stories and archives. We learned that the community was geographically isolated, yet all the families were active and innovative. After flipping through photos, I took a seat on the original copper queen pageant throne. Fun fact: The Brittania Mines are on our B.C. Summer Bucket List.
7. Best Roof Top Patio
One of the perks of staying at the Sandman Squamish was the free shuttle to the Chances Community Gaming Centre. Attached to the casino is a Match Eatery & Public House — a British-style gastro pub that features traditional eats while offering everything from live entertainment to shuffleboard.
We loved sitting on the roof-top patio, under the heat lamps next to the flaming fire pits. And would you check out the gorgeous view?
After two days of soaking up the sites and hops, it was time to head back home to reality. We definitely plan to return to Squamish soon — the next time around we’ll bring our two little Valley girls.
With COVID-19 hindering travel plans for the summer, B.C. residents are encouraged to get out and explore all the amazing hidden gems and hot spots in their own backyards. Check out our travel section for staycation inspiration for families, couples and girls’ getaways.