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Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

Ulladulla, Australia
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Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

My wife and I are planning to drive from Vancouver to Whistler in June next year (Saturday 28th). It has occurred to me that we will be driving on the inland half of the highway as we travel up the Sound while the scenery will be off the other carriageway.

Is there any access from the Northbound carriageway to turn-offs and lookouts on the Southbound side? Or are the Northbound lookouts better since we are higher up the slope? Is it worth taking an exit from the Northbound carriageway onto the Southbound at any point to improve the view?

We are planning to stop and take photos, spending most of the day on the journey.

Any advice for "must-see" locations etc. would be appreciated.

Thanks

Tony

Vancouver, Canada
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1. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

The part of the highway you will be on between Horseshoe Bay and Squamish does not lend itself to much in the way of pull outs. There are cliffs up on the land side and cliffs down to the railway tracks on the water side. There is even a cantilevered section that sticks out over open air.the highway is wide with 4 lanes, and divided for most of the way. Howe Sound ends at Squamish, then you are driving overland. You may want to stop at Porteau Cove. There is a turning lane there. And you could stop at Britannia Beach for views of the sound. Shannon Falls is a scenic stop, but not on the Sound. Are you driving back to Vancouver from Whistler? You will want to stop at Tantalus Lookout which is in the southbound direction and north of Squamish.

Here is an article from the Top Questions to the right outlining things to see on the way to Whistler:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g154922-c91086/Britis…

Vancouver, Canada
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2. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

Are you just going one-way?

Ulladulla, Australia
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3. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

Yes, we will be going one way - intending to catch the train out of Whistler on the Monday.

We don't need to be in Whistler before mid-afternoon, so we are quite happy to back-track to see things.

Thanks for the advice so far

Tony

Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

You can certainly make a day of it. Here's an article that outlines just a few of your options.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g154922-c91086/Britis…

On one of our trips up to go skiing this past winter, I paid close attention and decided that, IMO, the views are much better heading south (sorry). Its not so much the side of the highway that you are on, but just that the view descending down towards Howe Sound is so good. In particular, the Tantalus viewpoint is a complete mystery when you approach from the south. It doesn't look like anything at all, and you drive up on the side of the highway and have no idea what you might be pulling over for. On the southbound side, those peaks are quite spectacular (on a clear day) and you are admiring them already when the viewpoint comes up.

I think the one place where the northbound view is the best is when you come around the corner and get your first view of the Chief which lords over Squamish. This area is worth spending some time. On our most recent trip up, we took some time to try and find the Estuary Park and boardwalk trails in Squamish. We were unsuccessful, although apparently we were in the right area. However we did discover a fantastic view of the Chief from over there. Its worth spending a bit of time in this area.

Its hard to know if its worthwhile to actually drive south at any point in order to make the most of the view. You'll have to make that decision as you go based on weather, priorities and time.

Vancouver, Canada
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5. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

You are going to catch the train out of Whistler, so you are going south again? Are they running a passenger service north? In which case, you'll get the southbound views on the train, which runs right beside the road.

Vancouver, Canada
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6. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

I think you must be going to Quesnel and on to the Rockies? and not the train back to Vancouver.

Tony, just open the link in either post 1 or 3, they are the same article.

Tony, this street view is going to spook you. The Google camera is heading southbound toward Vancouver in the correct lane, but showing the image out of the back window. You are going to ask, "Why are they driving on the wrong side of the road?" But imagine yourself over on the right side of the highway, close to the cliff and then see the left turn lane into Porteau Cove. This is a nice place to stop for a view of the Sound. Don't minimize the street view, you can minimize the road map. And you can click on the chevrons, either direction, to scoot up and down the road.

http://goo.gl/maps/2zQsj

And here's a pretty good representation of what the Sea to Sky is like. Cliffs up the one side, cliffs down the water side, long stretches of that concrete divider and 4 lanes of traffic. There are ancillary roads leading to private properties but those don't allow you access to the water as people's homes are right on the water. Drag the map around 180°.

http://goo.gl/maps/3UVgm

Here's the map of the stopping points that are doable on the Sea to Sky. Are you familiar with google maps? What I suggest you do is zoom in close to get a balloon in centre screen. Then click on the balloon and choose the photo for street view. Have a look around. You can also click on satellite view up to the top right. Satellite is great for seeing the lay of the land. You don't want to be making your way across 4 lanes of that highway. Drivers don't mess around on that highway, so you want to think about getting that photo in a safe manner.

http://goo.gl/maps/oK4Yp

Ulladulla, Australia
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7. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

Thanks for all that information.

As you thought, I am going to Quesnel and Jasper by train, so I won't be going back to Vancouver (at least, not for a couple of weeks).

I'm involved with the game of Geocaching, and I've been able to locate caches in all the main stopping points along the highway. That way I can let the GPS do the work - especially useful for Tantalus Lookout. I will get plenty of warning that it is coming up.

Thanks for the warning about not crossing the highway. I'm not planning to do so, except at properly marked exits. Coming from Australia, I'll have enough to think about trying to drive on the "wrong" side of the road so I don't need any unnecessary risks. I expect that the highway will be particularly busy on a Saturday?

We will have about 6 hours to do the drive, so we don't have to hurry. Our target is to be in Whistler around 3pm.

Thanks again for the advice

Cheers

Tony

Vancouver, Canada
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8. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

I think the highway on Sat June 28th will actually be quite busy. School's out on the 26th, teachers are out on the 27th and it's Canada Day long weekend (July 1st), so I do think you're going to find some volume on that highway on that day. Porteau will be chock-a-block with campers from Squamish. They head down on Thursday noon, report cards in hand, to "get" a spot for the weekend. If you find the highway not too busy, because people have done the heavy driving on the Friday, then count it a bonus.

Vancouver, Canada
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9. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

I highly recommend Portage Cove. It is easy to access/leave going in either direction with lots of parking. It is a provincial park with an old ferry pier converted into a walkway, so you can go out over the water, climb and old tower, and have some amazing 360 degree views. There are also walking trails along the water and through the forest. If you walk far enough you can get a good view of one of the most impressive parts of the Sea-to-Sky highway construction (a real engineering marvel).

I also really like the Britannia Mine (also easy to access). It's a fairly new museum inside a restored copper mine and smelting facility. As a geocacher, you will probably love the train ride through the tunnels of the old mine.

And if you want to take photos, don't miss Shannon falls. It's on your side going up (but easy to access going the other way too). The falls are only a 10 minute walk from the parking lot (right off the highway) and simply magnificent any time of year. And the trails in the park offer several different vantage points for amazing photos.

And seeing as you are taking a train, you probably like them, so in Squamish is the West Coast Heritage Railway Park: home of the Royal Hudson (one of the most beautiful steam locomotives in North America) among other artifacts.

Ulladulla, Australia
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10. Re: Sea to Sky highway, Northbound.

Thanks for the extra info BCPhil.

I had originally planned to do the Mountaintop BBQ in Whistler on our first evening, but that means getting there by 3pm and I suspect that this journey will take more than the 6 hours I would have available. Looks like we will have to do the BBQ the second night.

From an earlier post, Portage Cove will probably be jammed, so I may have to give that a quick glimpse as I go past. I will stop there, for certain, but I may not be able to give it the attention it deserves.

The Falls (both Shannon and Brandywine) are on my definite list. and the Mine sounds interesting. Not sure of the connection between Geocaching and enjoyment of mine tunnels, but I'll be sure to give them a go. There is an earthcache at the mine, so I should tick that one off the list.

I may have to pass on the rail museum as their site suggests 3 hours for the visit. I won't be able to spare that. Shame, though, I do enjoy old trains.

I'm looking forward to the Sea-to Sky. It will be interesting to compare it with the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia. It sounds like the scenery is more accessible on the GOR, but more spectacular on the S2S.

Someone mentioned a cantilevered section of the highway. Whereabouts is that? Is there somewhere you can stop to see it and take photos? Sounds spectacular.

Thanks again to everyone for sharing your knowledge with me.

Cheers

Tony

Edited: 11:54 pm, August 26, 2013