Whistler village is a famous Canadian destination, especially among skiers and snowboarders. But you don’t have to visit in the winter to experience Whistler; it’s a pretty great summer destination as well (with the bonus of also being more affordable!). So if you are thinking of visiting Whistler in the summer, here is my Whistler guide.
Getting to Whistler
Most people go to Whistler from Vancouver which does have a major airport for anyone flying into Canada or British Columbia. From there, it’s up to you whether you want to rent a car or if you would prefer to use public transit. Both have their pros and cons.
Renting a car obviously gives you a lot more freedom. Especially since the drive from Vancouver to Whistler will take you along the Sea to Sky highway which is one of the most stunning drives in the country. You also pass through Squamish while taking this route which is also known for outdoor adventure and has waterfalls, hiking trails, and the popular Sea to Sky Gondola which, in my opinion, is a must-do on a nice day. However, once you arrive at Whistler it might be tricky finding parking and most hotels that do offer parking charge a hefty daily fee.
Note: If you plan on renting a car in the summer in BC, book as soon as possible. Our trip was last minute and there was nothing available for us 2 weeks before departure.
You can choose to take public transit. YVR Skylynx offers a good bus service from Vancouver airport or city centre to Whistler. They only stop for pick-ups and drop-offs but it’s an affordable, clean, and safe bus service that gets you to Whistler from downtown Vancouver in about two hours. It’s also very affordable and there is a washroom and wifi on board. Tickets are $40 roundtrip (2023 pricing) from downtown Vancouver to Whistler and back. If you choose this route, book your ticket ahead of time as there are limited seats.
Getting Around Whistler
Once you arrive in Whistler getting around will depend on what you want to see and do. Whistler village is a pedestrian village so it’s very easy to walk around. If you are sticking to the nearby area and lakes you can also rent a bike for the day or, again, choose to walk.
If you want to venture out a bit further, there is a local bus company that goes to many of the main areas. We used public transit as we were too late to book a car and were easily able to get to the lakes as well as the trailhead for the Train wreck hike. The bus costs $2.50 each way (make sure you have exact change) and runs quite early in the mornings and late into the night.
If you plan on doing some major hikes in further, more secluded places from Whistler, then it’s definitely in your best interest to rent a car. Be mindful that some places only have tiny parking lots though which might mean you want to start your days extra early.
Where to Stay in Whistler in the Summer
When choosing a place to stay in Whistler note that Whistler Village is the central area. Ideally, this is where you want to stay. There are smaller nearby communities like Whistler Springs which are fine, but if you want to be in the heart of Whistler then ensure the place you choose is in the village itself.
That being said, Whistler village is incredibly expensive. Visiting Whistler in the summer means you can find cheaper accommodation than you will in peak ski season, but you will still end up paying a few hundred per night. Keep in mind though, as a ski village many of the resorts and hotels offer suites instead of just rooms and include full kitchens as well which can come in pretty handy and help you save money on eating out.
I stayed at Sundial Hotel which was fantastic. Central, friendly, very comfortable suites and it has the added bonus of a rooftop hot tub which you can book for a private 30-minute session. If you really want to splurge, some rooms have private hot tubs as well. I loved staying here and highly recommend it. You can book a room at Sundial Resorts here.
If you are looking for something a little more budget-friendly you can also try:
Other mid-range hotels in Whistler include:
Or, if you want to splash out and splurge in a hotel Whistler then look at:
Quick note: Whistler Village is small and while it seems like there are a lot of hotels in the area they all book up very quickly. Make sure to book in advance or else you might be out of luck!
Things to do in Whistler in the Summer
As mentioned earlier, Whistler is best known as a winter destination for skiers and snowboards. But there is plenty to see and do in the summer as well, especially if you love being outdoors. Here are my favourite things to do in Whistler in the summer
Peak to Peak Gondola
This is probably the best-known activity in Whistler in the summer and for pretty good reason. If you want some mountain top views- this is how to get them. The Peak to Peak Gondola is a series of Gondola rides that gets you up the mountains, and across them. The normal route is up Blackcomb mountain, then the actual Peak to Peak Gondola, which is the largest unsupported span in the world as well as the highest of its kind, and then you descend Whistler Mountain. Additionally, there is a chairlift on the top of Whistler to take you to the true peak for top-of-the-world views. Unfortunately, due to lack of staff and Covid, the full experience wasn’t open to us. Just the Gondola up and down Blackcomb then the Peak to Peak. However, it was still pretty spectacular.
Insider tip: Midweek prices are about $10 cheaper than weekend prices.
Take a Seaplane Ride Over a Glacier
This was originally on my list of things to do but got cut out thanks to a rainy bad weather day. However, I still think it’s one of the coolest things to do in Whistler in the summer, especially if you have never been on a seaplane. The ride leaves from Green Lake, which is a glacial lake, and takes you up over the mountains and above one of the local glaciers. The photos and videos I’ve seen from this flight look stunning. You can book a seaplane ride in Whistler here.
Go Bear Spotting
Ok, so while you probably don’t want to come across a wild bear on your hike it is very cool to see bears in the wild and you can do so safely and responsibly with Whistler Photo Safari bear tours. This private tour takes you to Olympic National Park (which you need special permission to enter) where you drive along the bumpy back roads in a soft-top 4×4 vehicle looking for local bears. There is a 70% chance of seeing bears and I’m so grateful that we got lucky and spotted a mama bear and her 3 cubs playing in a tree. They hung around and let us watch from a distance for about 30 minutes before they went deeper in the forest. The tour was fun and educational and we also got to go to some scenic spots including the top of the ski jump stands which offered beautiful panoramic views of the mountains, and Alexander Falls. The only downside to this tour is that it is not solo-travel friendly. If you are alone then you need to purchase the cost of an adult and child ticket.
Visit the Nearby Lakes
There are plenty of lakes around Whistler that you can walk or bike around and even swim in. Alta Lake is one of the biggest and where you can also find rentals for watersports. Lost Lake is the closest to Whistler Village and within easy enough walking distance. And again, there is Green Lake which is a glacial lake so it has that beautiful milky green colour. I went swimming in Green Lake just because I’d never swam in a glacial lake before. Yes, it was pretty cold!
Train Wreck Trail
Whistler and BC in general has tons of famous hikes. While I like to say I enjoy hiking, I enjoy short scenic trails. Not 13-hour mountain climbs. I’m too clumsy for that! That’s why I recommend the Train Wreck trail. You do have to drive/bus to get here and then it’s an easy trail through the woods and across a suspension bridge to the actual train wreck. The train derailed years ago (it was carrying food supplies) and the cars are scattered below the tracks. Today they are covered in graffiti and this trail is actually pretty famous and one of the best things to do in Whistler in the summer. Tip: Go early on a weekday (we were there by 7:30am) and you’ll have the trail to yourself.
Explore the Village
Whistler village is also worth some time to explore on its own too. It’s very picturesque and there are tons of little shops and souvenir spots where you can stop and pick things up, grab a drink at a patio, or a snack (Whistler has a Cows Ice Cream!).
Hit up the Spa
This was on our list of things to do but we left it too late to book, however, you can learn from our mistakes and book a spa appointment early. Many of the hotels and resorts in Whistler have on-site spas with everything from facials to massages to manicures. You can also visit Scandinave Whistler which have both hot and cold outdoor baths.
Where to Eat and Drink in Whistler
Whistler has plenty to choose from when it comes to food and drink. From high-end steak houses to fancy brunches and takeout pizza or even some grocery stores, you have lots of options. My favourites include the following:
Elements: Delicious brunch menus (including fancy mimosas). Try the eggs benedict with fresh BC smoked salmon! I’ve also heard really good things about the French toast.
21 Steps: My favourite spot that we ate. Cool atmosphere overlooking the village and delicious menu. The goat cheese and honey balls are a must as an appetizer! They also have a pretty impressive cocktail menu featuring several options with Empress Gin which is purple and made on Vancouver Island in BC.
Pure Bread: The bakery of my dreams. This spot has tables piled high with every baked good you could want. From scones and croissants to cakes, cookies, bars, meringues, and more. You can tell it’s all home-baked because it’s not designer-perfect treats which just makes it even better in my books. Things aren’t cheap, I paid $5 for a lemon blueberry scone. But it was one of the best scones I have ever had and it was huge. It was so good we went back twice and even waited about 30 minutes in line for our turn. Worth it!
The Dubh Linn Gate: Leave it to me to find the Irish pub! To be honest, this was the only spot we could get into on Tuesday night but it did not disappoint. A good variety of beers including some local brews, classic pub fare, and live music at 9pm made it a really fun atmosphere.
Other spots I was recommended but didn’t get to include: the Mallard Cocktail Lounge, Arazi, Bear Foot, and Bar Oso.
As for those looking to party, try Longhorn Saloon. I was told it’s the pace to go for an après-ski even when it’s not ski season.
Please note that restaurants in Whistler also fill up very quickly so it is in your best interest to book reservations in advance. We had a tough time out last night finding a place to eat and didn’t get seated until nearly 9pm. It’s also worth noting that a lot of restaurants were closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Whistler is a party town on the weekends so these are their days off.
Final Notes on Whistler in the Summer
Whistler in the summer is a lot of fun so if you are looking for a few days to escape to the mountains and enjoy some great food and beautiful Canadian scenery, then Whistler is a perfect pick. Just keep in mind that it is small and things do book up very quickly so it’s in your best interest to do some planning and book things early so you don’t miss out.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Canada
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.