48 Hours In Vancouver, Whistler And Tofino

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Vancouver is a west coast port city filled with ethnic diversity and stunning natural scenery. It’s no wonder the Canadian metropolis, nicknamed Gastown, was chosen as the best place to live in North America (and No. 5 in the world).

Not far north of Vancouver is Whistler, a resort town praised for its Whistler and Backcomb Mountains — the continent’s two greatest vertical-rise ski mountains — which have earned the city its standing as one of the best places to visit in Canada.

Tofino, the city of Vancouver’s ocean-surrounded counterpart, sits on postcard-worthy Vancouver Island, just close enough to the action of the city but far enough to offer those much-needed moments in nature.

While it would be easy to spend weeks exploring all three areas, we know not everyone has that much time to burn. That’s why our Flight Network team put together a 48-hour plan that will cover as much ground as possible in a short amount of time, allowing you to soak in the vibe, culture, adventure and beauty that contributes to the area’s standing as one of the best tourist destinations in the world.

Day 1

Morning

You’ve made it to one of the most beautiful cities in the world, now what do you do?

To start the day, we recommend heading straight to one of the best breakfast places around — Medina Café on Richards Street. It’s a snug spot for a traditional breakfast, coffee, and the best waffles we’ve ever tasted. cafe-medina-breakfast photo credit: medinacafe.com

Afternoon

Now that you’re fueled by a sweet and unforgettable breakfast, head over to the Grand Tour, one of Vancouver’s most popular bike tours, which starts at 10 a.m., and is hosted by Cycle City Tours & Bike Rentals. Hop on a stylish bike and get ready to explore the best parts of Vancouver.

A bike tour is one of the best ways to experience Vancouver, because it allows you to take in the city’s food, history, ecology, culture and major sites, like the seawall, rainforest in Stanley Park, Granville Island Public Market (where you can grab lunch), Olympic Village, Chinatown and historic Gastown. The tour takes roughly five hours, with two hours of riding time, and is a great way to work up an appetite, because dinner is just around the corner.

cycle-city-vancouver photo credit: cyclevancouver.com

Or, for an especially adventurous afternoon away from it all, take the ferry from the city to ruggedly beautiful Vancouver Island. Drive west across the island, and you’ll find yourself in the picture-perfect beach town of Tofino. Flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side and mountains on the other, the opportunities for exploration on sandy beaches in this area are endless.

Spend a night on the island and discover Tofino through the only resort on Chesterman Beach — the Wickaninnish Inn, where you can relax from a long day of travel and exploration. This inn offers magnificent views of the open ocean set against a backdrop of old-growth forest. Uncompromising service and a range of in-house amenities, such as Ancient Cedars Spa and The Pointe Restaurant, create experiences you’ll never forget.

Cedar Sanctuary View

Dining

After a day of exploring and working up a sweat, you’ll want to unwind with a delicious Vancouver meal. Head over to the Blue Water Cafe on Hamilton Street to taste some of the ocean-side city’s freshest seafood.

blue-water-cafe photo credit: bluewatercafe.net

Play

It’s now time to unwind and venture to North Vancouver for an evening at the Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. Canyon-Lights-Drone-Dec-2015-Gallery photo credit: capbridge.com

While the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a great place to visit year-round, a festive display of glittering lights takes place in the winter months, making this one of the top times to visit. Access includes the suspension bridge, Treetops Adventure, Cliffwalk, and the opportunity to see the world’s tallest living Christmas tree. Open until 9 p.m., it’s one of the best places in the area to venture after dark.

Day 2

Day two is for experiencing what is known as one of the most beautiful places in the world, Whistler.

Grab a quick bite to eat (most hotels offer a continental breakfast bright and early), because you’re about to head out on a tour that loops from Vancouver to Whistler and back.

Morning

The Whistler & Shannon Falls Tour, with the 360 Peak 2 Peak Gondola Experience, begins at 8:30 a.m. The shuttle will pick you up at your hotel and will take care of the entire day for you (about 10.5 hours total).

The tour drives along the scenic Sea to Sky Highway, so you can snap photos of the stunning views at various stops, including Shannon Falls, the third highest waterfall in British Columbia.

peak-2-peak photo credit: whistler.com

Afternoon

The tour stops in Whistler Village, which is a Canadian gem of a town. Towering mountains and sprawling forests encompass this quaint village, which offers scenery, shopping, delicious eats and even more adventure.

whistler-village

photo credit: flickr.com

You’ll have four hours of free time here to explore (which won’t seem like enough), so we recommend grabbing a quick lunch at world-famous Zogs Dogs and heading to the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. You’ll be blown away by the views, and there will be an opportunity to grab a larger lunch when you reach the peak.

zoggs-dogs photo credit: flickr.com

After the Gondola experience, you’ll have a little time to shop and explore a few stores in the village. You’ll also have the option of visiting the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and Museum, which is included with the tour.

squamish-museum photo credit: vancouvertours.com

At this point, you’ll want to start heading back to board the bus for a 45-minute scenic, fjord-side return trip, where you’ll get one last sunset view of the harbour and Lions Gate Bridge before you’re dropped at your hotel.

Dining

After a day of touring and adventure, you’re going to want to wind down with a great meal, checkout The Sandbar Seafood Restaurant on Granville Island for exquisite food, live music and one last beautiful view of Vancouver.

sandbar_gallery_6 photo credit: vancouverdine.com

Alternative: Day 2

If you have your own vehicle and you’re feeling a little more adventurous, this alternate day 2 plan would be a great option for anyone wanting to spend more time focusing on activities in Whistler.

Morning

Grab a quick breakfast at the hotel and head through the scenic Sea to Sky Highway towards whistler, where you can stop over and see Shannon Falls.

shannon-falls photo credit: flickr.com

Now is the perfect time to swing over to Moguls Coffee and Snack Bar to grab a bite before adventuring throughout Whistler Village

Afternoon

You’ve got some time to kill before the real adventure begins, so take a break and shop one of the most unique retail collectives in Canada. No matter what you’re into (trendy fashions, household wares, or one-of-a-kind finds), Whistler Village has it all.

Once you’ve got your shopping fill. Head over to Splitz Grill for one of the best hand-crafted burgers you’ll ever eat.

splitz-grill photo credit: splitzgrill.com

Once you’ve taken in your fill of the village and have a full belly, it’s time to embark on an epic Black Comb Mountain Safari adventure with Whistler Snowmobile Tours.

This tour offers an unforgettable way to experience the mountain after hours.  The three-hour journey will take you up the snow-dusted trails of Blackcomb Mountain to viewpoints where you can watch the last bit of daylight slip behind the Coast Mountain range. snowmobile-tours photo credit: canadianwilderness.com

The light of your sled will guide you as you travel 6,000 feet up the slopes with a stop at the top, where the warm Crystal Hut awaits. Here, you can sip hot chocolate while admiring the Whistler Village lights below before being led back down to reality.

Dining  

Wind down from your epic Whistler adventure at the Rim Rock Cafe & Oyster Bar, rated the No. 1 restaurant in Whistler.

rimrock photo credit: rimrockcafe.com

Play

Whistler has a great vibe and even better people,  so it’s no surprise the city is known for its nightlife. If you’re going to be spending the night in Whistler, check out the underground, after-dark fun at Garfinkel’s.

garfinkels photo credit: https://www.flickr.com

This action-packed plan for visiting Vancouver, Whistler and Tofino will ensure you get the most out of your 48 hours on the west coast, but we can’t help but recommend that you extend your stay.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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