British Columbia’s west coast is renowned for its outstanding beauty. The sprawling city of Vancouver is nestled in between several prominent mountain ranges and the wild, rugged coast, meaning that you are never more than a few hours’ drive from epic scenery and wildlife at its finest. Whether you live here or are just passing through, there are plenty of weekend getaways from Vancouver to fulfil your next adventure.
I have lived in BC for the past few years and have made it my mission to explore every nook and cranny. I hope you’ll find this guide informative and will join me on the mountain trails, city strolls and ocean jaunts that give BC its grand reputation!
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The 12 Best Weekend Getaways from Vancouver, BC
Weekend Trips from Vancouver for Outdoor Adventure
If you are always drawn to the great outdoors, here are some of the best weekend trips from Vancouver for adventurers.
Distance from Vancouver: 75 miles / 1 hour 30 minutes
How to get there: From downtown Vancouver, head north on Highway 99 and follow that route until you hit Whistler. Enjoy panoramic mountain vistas the entire way.
What to Do in Whistler
Whistler is a historic place, dating back through the ages to the modern day. The Coast Salish First Nations often used the area as a waypoint on their trading routes, and some of their traditional routes are still in place today as hiking trails. Since the 1960s it has been a hive of winter activity, and even hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
- Ski the legendary Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains. These are the most iconic peaks in the area, overlooking Whistler Village at near 7,000 and 8,000 feet respectively. The routes and trails are very well-signposted, and many start and end in the village itself. Alternatively, the Peak 2 Peak 360 glass-bottom gondola will give you incredible views of both mountains, without the downhill tumble.
- Hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park, offering world-class views of mountain lakes, glaciers, alpine meadows and towering peaks. Hike up to Garibaldi Lake for a more moderate 12.5 mile out-and-back or test your strength and summit the infamous Black Tusk to 7,600 feet. All overnight camping requires a permit, so you must register with BC Parks before your trip.
- Head to Whistler Mountain Bike Park for some intense downhill rides on Whistler Mountain itself, or try your hand at the extensive network of cross-country biking trails to really put you through your limits. Fall is the best season for biking, with fewer hikers on the routes and more moderate temperatures.
- Immerse yourself in old growth forest, wildflower banks and mountain vistas with a canoe trip down the River of Golden Dreams, which links Alta Lake and Green Lake just to the west of Whistler. Canoe, kayak and SUP rentals are available from several operators in the village – try Backroads Whistler. Guided tours are also offered.
Where to Stay in Whistler
Whistler Village is the place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the action, surrounded by incredible vistas.
Pangea Pod Hotel is an affordable option for groups or solo travelers, with pod-style beds giving more of a quirky hostel feel.
Summit Lodge is a mid-range option for couples or families with stylish rooms and suites, right in the heart of the village. It even has a pool, hot tub and sauna.
These Benchlands Cabins offer modern, affordable cabins ideal for couples and families, complete with a balcony and cozy wood fireplace for those chilly winter nights.
This Village Townhouse is exceptional value for groups, with room for you and five of your mates! Have a beer in the private hot tub or grab a bike and head to the trails.
Want to explore Vancouver? We’ve got plenty of detailed Vancouver travel guides to help you explore!
The Sunshine Coast
Distance from Vancouver: 18 miles / 2 hours
How to get there: From downtown Vancouver, take Highway 99 north to the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. Take the 75-minute ride with BC Ferries to Langdale: the beginning of Sunshine Coast.
What to Do on the Sunshine Coast
This area of British Columbia really is a place to Choose Your Own Adventure, as they say. The oceanside route stretches for 80 miles from Langdale up to Powell River, with loads of interesting stopping points on the way. It is ideal for all types of getaways, whether an activity weekend with the kids, as a romantic retreat, or a spot for some solo excursions.
- No coastal getaway is complete without a visit to the beach – and there’s a whole 80 miles of shoreline to choose from. Bonniebrook beach in Gibsons is a favorite for sunset strolls and kite surfers, while Palm Beach in Powell River is an excellent swimming spot as the water warms quickly on an incoming tide. Kayaks and SUPs are available to hire at almost every town along the coast.
- Hike a section of the Sunshine Coast Trail; a 112-mile backcountry experience. A popular and accessible choice off the main highway is the Saltery Bay and Rainy-Day Lake Loop which is a strenuous 11-mile round-trip, leading you up along the coast and down through old growth forests. Alternatively, the 30-minute jaunt up Pender Hill might suit you better – the views are still amazing! There are endless trails to explore, and it is definitely worth picking up the trail guidebook before you hike.
- Book a boat tour with Sunshine Coast Tours and head to the famous Skookumchuck Narrows where the whitewater rapids clock some of the fastest tidal currents in the world. You might even catch people surfing or kayaking in the rip, or whales and sea lions cruising by.
- Soar up in the air and feel the expanse of the coast beneath your wings. Sunshine Coast Air offers float plane tours May through October, departing from Sechelt. Visit Della Falls, one of Canada’s tallest falls, or the snow-capped Coast Range mountains that surround Glacier Lake.
Where to Stay on the Sunshine Coast
This stretch of the coast offers endless options for a good night’s sleep: hidden cabins, lakeside resorts, and charming rentals for all group sizes.
Pender Harbor Resort is a totally unique experience in one of the most sought-after spots. They offer cabins, chalets, a motel and even yurts to suit all groups and budgets.
Oceanfront Home at Sechelt: This cozy rental is the ideal getaway for two. Enjoy the ocean and mountain views with a glass of wine on the gorgeous cedar deck.
Seaside Cottage at Roberts Creek: A beautiful family home only three-minutes’ walk from the beach, with farm-fresh eggs for breakfast and a quaint outdoor picnic area.
Rustic Cottage at Secret Cove: This is the ideal hang for large groups with beds enough for eight people. BBQ, Nintendo Wii, fire pit, and wood burning stove – all right on the waterfront.
North Cascades National Park
Distance from Vancouver: 125 miles / 2 hours 30 minutes
How to get there: Head south on the 99 until you reach the Pacific Highway port of entry to the US. From there, continue on I5 south until you reach the turn off for Sedro-Woolley. Keep east on Highway 20 and you’ll land in the heart of the North Cascades.
What to Do in North Cascades National Park
Don’t forget your passport! Vancouver is ideally situated just an hour’s drive from the border with the United States.
North Cascades National Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty and often underrated. With a huge density of glaciers, lush forests, and abundant wildlife, there is certainly something for every outdoor lover.
- Undoubtedly the best way to experience the North Cascades is to get out and hike. For those wanting the ultimate challenge, try the 14-mile hike to Desolation Peak. After a scramble of 4,500 feet, an old fire lookout sits proudly and greets your arrival, offering iconic views of the best of Pacific Northwest. For a more modest hike, the Blue Lake Trail is a continued favorite: a 4.6 mile out-and-back with a brilliant sapphire lake as your reward. Pssst! We have a whole guide to the best hikes in North Cascades National Park to help you find the perfect hikes for your trip!
- There is only one main road through the park – Highway 20 – and it serves as an excellent road trip. This winding 127-mile route stretches from Sedro-Woolley and Winthrop and is best enjoyed slowly, with plenty of stops at vistas and trailheads along the way. The best part is that you get to see the views in reverse to get you back to Vancouver! You’ll want to stop at Washington Pass, Ross Lake, and Diablo Lake Overlooks, among several others.
- A remote mountainside town only accessible by boat, plane or foot. Sound like your cup of tea? Meet Stehekin: a small town, nestled in the mountains at the northern end of Lake Chelan. From Chelan, you can choose a multi-day hike into Stehekin and catch a boat or plane back out. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available in the town for you to experience the lake close-up.
Where to Stay in North Cascades National Park
You can choose to stay on either the west or east side – with the east being closer to the major hikes and viewpoints in the park. Check out our North Cascades itinerary for the lowdown.
Newhalem and Colonial Creek are your best bet, offering a mix of tent spots and RV sites. These are hugely popular, especially in summer and fall, so make sure to reserve well in advance! More info on camping in the park here.
Rolling Huts. Probably the coolest glamping experience you’ll ever have. Enough said!
Skytop Cottage at Winthrop. 360 degrees of pure wilderness surround you at this secluded, chic cottage. Perfect for couples or small groups.
George’s River House on Methow River is an excellent choice for groups. The house itself is a pure work of art with a rustic, open-plan interior, and river views.
Artemisia is a new zero-energy home perched on a hill above Winthrop that has four bedrooms – perfect for a larger group looking for a mountain getaway.
Distance from Vancouver: 90 miles / 3 hours 30 minutes
How to get there: Head south to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and ride the 2-hour ferry to Swartz Bay, Sidney. Head south on the 17 and turn onto Highway 1 west just before you enter Victoria. Turn off onto the 14 heading southwest and half an hour later you’ll be in Sooke.
What to Do in Sooke
Sooke is a fascinating town only 40 minutes from Victoria and is a gateway to the wild west coast of Vancouver Island.
With so much at your fingertips, it is best suited to long weekend trips from Vancouver. The town sits at the mouth of the salmon-spawning Sooke River in historic T’sou-ke First Nations territory. On a clear day, expect stellar views over the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Olympic Mountains beyond.
- Catch a wave at one of the area’s best beaches. Here, Pacific storms kick up some great surf and this slice of the coast is highly rated by surfers – especially in the winter. It is only a short hop to Jordan River, Gordon’s Beach and Sombrio Beach where you’ll find the most epic waves. Be sure to pack your wetsuit or even drysuit, as the water can reach as low as 42°F!
- Don your hiking boots and hit the tracks. The East Sooke Regional Park has miles and miles of trails through the rainforest and along the rugged western shores. You can try to tackle the entire 7-mile East Sooke Coast Trail with lots of strenuous ups and downs. The Sea-to-Sea Regional Park Reserve is another great backpacking destination, just north of Sooke. Just make sure to prepare for mud if you are hiking outside of summer because the area is prone to downpours – it is a rainforest after all!
- Charter a fishing tour with Warrior Fishing Charters and catch yourself some supper. Sooke is legendary for its abundance of salmon and halibut. Local guides really know the best spots to drop a line, and you’ll have unencumbered views of the Strait, Olympic Peninsula, and Vancouver Island shore all in one.
- The plentiful Strait of Juan de Fuca is the perfect location for whale watching tours. Here, migrating humpbacks and transient killer whales are considered ‘locals’; not to mention the dolphins, porpoises, sea otters and sea lions that frequent the area too. The whales are so plentiful that Sooke Whale Watching offers a second free tour if you don’t see any on your first.
Where to Stay in Sooke
The winding coast and forested paths of Sooke are home to many secluded spots for the perfect getaway.
Sooke Point Resort is a little bit of luxury right on the coast. Watch whales from your bedroom in stylish cottages which sleep up to six people.
Owl’s Perch Treehouse. Did somebody say… treehouse?! This gorgeous treetop extravaganza is a one-of-a-kind stay for two. Treat your other half or best bud to a most unique experience!
Guesthouse at Galloping Goose. An ideal location for active families looking to explore the famous Sooke Potholes or Galloping Goose trail. Pet-friendly alongside the resident cats, dogs and chickens.
Weekend Trips from Vancouver to Nearby Cities/Towns
Distance from Vancouver: 142 miles / 2 hours 30 minutes
How to get there: Take Highway 99 south out of Vancouver to the Pacific Highway port of entry. Once in the US, ride the I5 south until you reach Seattle (you can’t miss it!).
What to Do in Seattle
Seattle is a sprawling city with endless energy. Its daring architecture is ensconced in surrounding natural beauty, with Mount Rainier standing sentinel over the city and waters of the Puget Sound beyond. A myriad of museums, city parks and historic markets make this the ideal city to explore – no matter your interests.
- Arguably one of the best viewpoints in the entire city is from the Space Needle. This impossible-looking icon has towered above the city for nearly 60 years, and you can ride right to the topmost platform. I would wholeheartedly recommend booking a sunset trip, as Mount Rainier glows a spectacular pink under the last of the sun’s rays. Another great view is from nearby Kerry Park, which looks over the Space Needle, downtown Seattle, and the waterfront. And it’s a public park, so it’s free!
- Pike Place Market is one of the most famous spots in Seattle. Dating back to 1907, an extraordinary number of traders come here to sell their goods; ranging from fish, local produce, and specialty foods to artisan crafts and vintage stores with endless trinkets to peruse. Consider booking a tour if you want to dive deep into the underbelly of the markets for those secret gems.
- Art, culture and history are prevalent throughout the city. The notable Museum of Flight walks you through the history of aviation with Seattle and Boeing right in the center. The Seattle Art Museum, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Museum of Pop Culture will keep art-lovers content, while the Center for Wooden Boats is ideal for those interested in traditional boatbuilding.
- Take a seaplane ride from Lake Union with Kenmore Air and get a bird’s-eye view of the city and surroundings. The very first seaplane flight took off from the lake in 1916, in Bill Boeing’s ‘Model 1’ aircraft, so there’s no better place to appreciate this incredible feat than right in the heart of Seattle.
- Stroll through one of the city’s many picturesque parks. Flocks of waterfowl gather in Green Lake Park in north central Seattle. You can rent a canoe, kayak or rowboat or meander the 3-mile path as you please. The Washington Park Arboretum is a 230-acre patch of all kinds of trees and open free-of-charge all year. It is most spectacular in the spring as the buds and blossoms begin to burst.
Where to Stay in Seattle
There are plenty of enticing options in Seattle for those who want to be in the center of city action, or retreat to the suburbs for a cozier vibe.
CitizenM is a funky, modern hotel at surprisingly affordable rates. Located at South Lake Union you’ll be right in the heart of the action.
State Hotel. A stone’s throw from Pike Place Market, this boutique hotel has stunning water views and super comfy beds.
Distance from Vancouver: 71 miles / 3 hours
How to get there: Head to Tsawwassen ferry terminal and take the 2-hour ferry to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. Drive south on Route 17 for 30 minutes to take you right into the heart of Victoria.
Things to Do in Victoria
As the name might suggest, this city was named after British Queen Victoria and is British Columbia’s capital.
With impressive stonework, a bustling harbor, beautiful gardens, and even a castle – it certainly does have a regal feel. This warm, charming city is an excellent escape from the colossal Vancouver sprawl and well worth a visit.
- Craigdarroch Castle was built from 1887 to 1890 by a wealthy Scottish immigrant, Robert Dunsmuir. The stunning architecture and elaborate interior are a step back in time, right in the heart of the city. The self-guided tours are only 60 minutes and very reasonably priced. Book in advance if you’re travelling in the summer or fall as it is a popular attraction.
- Another poignant attraction is the Butchart Gardens. What started as a cement plant in the early 1900s has been transformed over time into a world-renowned flower display, with over 900 varieties of bedding plants.
- The Dallas Road Waterfront Trail is the city’s best location for a stroll, run or cycle. Over 4 miles of ocean road stretches before you, with views to the signature snow-capped mountains of the Olympic Peninsula. Dip into Beacon Hill Park midway. The park features maintained gardens, wild spaces, and is home to the Garry Oak ecosystem – among Canada’s rarest and most endangered habitats.
- Head to the Inner Harbor and cruise along Fisherman’s Wharf for an afternoon of shopping, dining and perusing around the many waterways. Watch the seaplanes and boats come in and out or take a tour on a ‘Pickle Boat’ – the quaint and quirky water taxi run by Victoria Harbor Ferry. Here, Eagle Wing Tours offer daily whale and wildlife excursions all year round.
- Take a walk down Fan Tan Alley, Victoria’s narrowest street and the gateway to the oldest Chinatown in Canada! The brick-lined street is teeming with over a dozen local shops, satisfying your every need for artisan crafts, vinyls, matcha teas and other trinkets.
Where to Stay in Victoria
There are a myriad of downtown condos, deluxe hotels or great rentals in charming Victoria. It’s pleasantly easy to find a great view of the mountains at not-so-steep prices.
Hotel Rialto is an Italian-inspired boutique hotel. Charming and quaint; right in the heart of downtown Victoria.
Penthouse at Inner Harbor. A treat for two at this stunning penthouse apartment, overlooking the harbor. A great spot to cozy up together or soak in the luxury tub.
Ocean Suite at Clover Point. Ideal for a group of young adults who want to experience Victoria in style. Situated right on Dallas Road overlooking the Juan de Fuca and Olympic Mountains beyond.
Friday Harbor + San Juan Island
Distance from Vancouver: 116 miles / 3 hours 30 minutes
How to get there: Head down Highway 99 and cross into the US. Take the I5 south until exit 230, then head west on Route 20 until you reach the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Ride the ferry for 90 mins to Friday Harbor.
Things to Do in Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor lies on San Juan Island and is arguably one of Vancouver’s best weekend getaways for those seeking something a little different.
It is a small but busy place in the height of summer and is full of quirks to explore. The island offers the perfect romantic getaway with fine restaurants and secluded sunset spots; or bring the whole family and learn about whales and wildlife galore.
- Lime Kiln State Park is an absolute must for anyone mad about wildlife. It is a world-famous viewpoint for orcas and humpbacks, with the best season being June-September. I have seen orcas cruise by the shore mere meters away from the rocks – possibly one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had! Don’t forget your bin-orca-ulars and have those cameras ready.
- Take a culture trip at the San Juan County Historical Museum or visit the American Camp and learn about the ‘Pig War’. The Whale Museum is a fantastic, interactive place for the whole family. On a rainy day, you can catch a movie at the Palace Theatre or check out the latest concert at the San Juan Community Theatre.
- There is possibly no better way to relax than taking a stroll through the fields of Pelindaba Lavender Farm. Admission is free, and the farm is in peak purpleness during July and August. Don’t forget to check out the gift store for some expertly-crafted essential oils, wellness lotions, food, or even some jewelry – all crafted with lavender! I can feel the stress melting away already…
- Take a bus tour of San Juan Island with Jolly Trolley. The bus drivers are excellent local tour guides and know how to crack a joke or two! Or you can ferry-hop for free to Lopez, Shaw and Orcas Islands.
- There are an impressive number of eateries packed into the layered streets; unsurprisingly delicious seafood is somewhat of a Friday Harbor spéciale. The Hungry Clam is a fun 1950’s style diner known for their classic fish and chips, or you might fancy instead the San Juan Island Brewing Company for their good old pub grub and selection of island ales.
Where to Stay in Friday Harbor / San Juan Island
Even in the center of Friday Harbor, the accommodation has a relaxed, family feel. There are also some incredible rentals dotted around the island for a more luxurious break.
Bird Rock Hotel. A snuggly boutique hotel with rooms to suit a range of budgets. A great place to treat your special someone.
Fancy-Pants House at West San Juan Island. Okay, I made up the name, but this rental deserved it! Private beach, stunning interior, west-facing ocean view, whales passing by; celebrate your love in serious luxury.
Westcott Bay Waterfront. A charming cabin ideal for groups or families, situated right on the water.
Distance from Vancouver: 116 miles / 3 hours 30 minutes
How to get there: Head west out of the city along Highway 99 to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry terminal. Take the 2-hour ferry to Departure Bay, Nanaimo and drive north along Highway 19 for an hour to reach Courtenay.
What to Do in Courtenay
Situated in the Comox Valley, Courtney has become an urban and cultural hub teeming with artisan shops, boutiques, and innovative pop-ups.
The town is encapsulated by the vast expanse of the Strait of Georgia along its eastern shore, and the Vancouver Island Ranges to the west. Rivers, lakes, and beaches render this town another signature British Columbia beauty.
- Peruse the local wares with a boutique-hopping spree on 5th Street. Old bookstores, adventure outfitters, artisan coffee shops, zany fashion stores, and everything in-between. Head to Mudsharks Coffee for an artful espresso Blue Toque Sport Swap for those thrifty second-hand must-haves.
- If city stress has seeped into your bones, then you should certainly consider booking in for a day at Kingfisher Spa & Hydropath. Delve into the underwater sea caves, wellness pools, and mineral baths – the bracing glacial waterfall is optional!
- Sample the best of local goods at Wayward Distillery. This artisan craft distillery is so good that it has earned the accolades of BC’s favorite vodka and second favorite gin. All spirits are distilled with 100% BC honey and, before you ask, they do have a taproom open daily for you to frequent.
- Rent a kayak from Comox Valley Kayaks next to the Courtenay Marina Park. From here, you can simply cruise the shoreline or the more ambitious can head out for the day to nearby Tree Island. Keep an eye out for the mammal-eating orcas who are often seen along this stretch of the coast.
Courtenay is increasingly popular with adults of all ages thanks to its mélange of high-class spa hotels, budget backpacker hostels, and everything in between.
- The Seal Bay Nature Park lies in K’omoks First Nations territory and is an excellent place for a stroll. Second-growth forests line the many trails, and the diverse, vibrant birdlife draws in many birders and photographers each year.
Where to Stay in Courtenay
Riding Fool Hostel is a short hop away from Courtenay, but an excellent stay for solos, groups or couples on a budget. This quirky, down-to-earth hostel greets travelers from all corners of the globe.
Copper Fern Guest House. An idyllic cottage set back from the hubbub. A great spot for couples looking for a little privacy, comfort, and style.
Red Propeller Guest House. This grand property is set on five acres with private beachfront access just outside of Courtenay, suitable for up to ten people.
More Great Weekend Trips!
Not satisfied with the eight options above? Here are even more weekend trips to fuel your wanderlust-filled daydreams.
Did somebody say wine tasting? The Okanagan region of British Columbia is a 4.5-hour drive from the city. An impressive swathe of vineyards spans the valley and lakeside, and there are a seemingly infinite number of wineries for you to sample the local goods.
It is the ideal romantic getaway, under the vibrant sunset skies of a late summer’s eve. The nearby cities of Kelowna and Kamloops offer some excellent choices for accommodation, or you can choose from a number of lakeside properties for that extra special touch.
Salt Spring Island
Salt Spring Island is the largest of the Gulf Islands and is easily accessible via ferry from Tsawwassen. The main town, Ganges, is the perfect place to browse art galleries and boutiques and watch the boats in and out of the picturesque little harbor.
Don’t miss the family run Salt Spring Island Cheese Company with their mouth-watering local cheeses, or Salt Spring Coffee with fair-trade organic coffee roasted in-house. The island is peppered with neat little cabins, rentals, and hotels to suit your perfect getaway.
Squamish gets a mention in any weekend getaway to Whistler, but it really deserves a trip of its own. As a prominent First Nations town it is full of culture and history, and the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center should be top of any to-do list.
It is less than an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver, and boasts impressive mountain-biking trails, windsurfing, and hiking galore. The town hosts plenty of cool hostels – such as the Squamish Adventure Inn. It is the ideal getaway for solo travelers, young couples and adventure seekers.
Ucluelet is a charming little town, nestled in a safe harbor against the wild west Pacific coast of Vancouver Island. It is not as famous as its nearby cousin – Tofino – but offers much of the same allure.
To get a feel for the wildness of the place take a hike out to the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse, which has been battered by Pacific swells for over 100 years. Great surf, epic hikes, boutique cafes, and verdant rainforests are matched with hidden cabins and natural hot pools for you to unwind.
More to Explore in British Columbia
Want to explore the best that British Columbia has to offer? We’ve got plenty of detailed travel guides to help you explore!
Vancouver BC Travel Guides:
- How to Spend a Perfect Weekend in Vancouver, B.C.
- Where to Stay in Vancouver, B.C.: A Complete Neighborhood Guide
- 14 Incredible Day Trips from Vancouver, B.C.
- 12 Great Weekend Getaways from Vancouver B.C. to Plan Now
- 15 Unbelievable Hikes near Vancouver, B.C. (Hiking Guide)
Vancouver Island Travel Guides