Today I’d like to share a guest post from Canadian freelance travel writer and photographer, Johanna Read. Last year I visited Canada for the first time and discovered two wonderful cities on the edge of nature, Victoria and Vancouver. Here Johanna tells us more about another town surrounded by nature. Next stop, Whistler.
As a Canadian, I am spoiled in that all our cities - yes, even big, bad Toronto – are on the edge of nature. I live in Vancouver, a city surrounded by gorgeous mountains and ocean. But in any Canadian city you’re never more than an hour (and often far, far less) from a river, lake, or forest, or even prairie, tundra, cliffs, beaches, deserts, ravines, glaciers, or volcanoes. It isn’t hard to get out in nature in this vast country.
As a Vancouverite, I have many options when I need to escape urbanity. The simplest is to jump in a kayak or on a standup paddleboard and keep an eye out for seals and even the occasional orca or dolphin swimming within shouting distance from shore. Or I just stroll over to Stanley Park, 1001 acres of greenspace almost entirely surrounded by a seawall built for cycling, inline skating, walking, and jogging. And then there are my choices that require a bike ride, a drive, a ferry, or even a seaplane ride. In my opinion, Vancouver has the best nature on the edge of its city limits, but the whole of Canada is wonderful for cities on the edge of nature.
Enjoying the great outdoors in Whistler, British Columbia
Just two hours north of Vancouver, Whistler is one of my favourite places to escape to nature.
Whistler is a small village with big city amenities smack dab in the middle of more nature than you can experience in a week. Whistler village is in Canada’s Coast Mountain range. The town is surrounded by lakes, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, volcanoes, and forests supporting an incredibly diverse ecosystem of plants and animals, not to mention fantastic summer and winter activities.
It’s hard to snap a photo of a bear when it surprises you!
The nature comes right into the village too - a bear crossed the street about 20 meters from me during my last visit. Even up on the mountains, nature isn’t too concerned with the presence of citydwellers. A whistling marmot (for which Whistler is named) happily munched grass at Blackcomb Mountain’s Peak2Peak gondola station while snowboarders, mountain bikers, hikers, and site seeking tourists happily snapped photos of him.
The whistling marmot, after which Whistler is named.
You can even forage for wild food in Whistler. Forager Foundation leads tours to show visitors and locals alike how to find and safely identify delicious foods like cattails, fir shoots, and sorrel. Several local restaurants, like Aura at Nita Lake Lodge, will even serve you dinner featuring wild foods.
Wild — and edible — Johnny Jump Ups.
Foraged food at Nita Lake Lodge’s Aura.
The best way to see the abundance of Whistler’s nature is to go up - up the mountains. And the ways to admire nature when you’re up there, both winter and summer, are incredible.
Still lots of snow in June on Whistler Mountain
July snows on Whistler Mountain
Skiing and hiking are probably the first activities that come to mind. Whistler’s gondolas are open year round, so you can get up top and admire the views no matter when you visit.
In July I was able to take two gondolas and then a chairlift to the glacier atop Blackcomb Mountain to watch the snowboarders, and a different chairlift to the peak of Whistler Mountain to admire wildflowers and the views over to Black Tusk, an elephantine point of lava formed 170,000 years ago.
Wildflowers atop Whistler Mountain
You can even take a mountain bike up the lifts and have as many adrenalineraising rides down as your body can handle. Whistler’s Mountain Bike Park has 4900 vertical feet of terrain and is considered the number one lift accessed mountain bike park in the world.
More sedate? Just watch the jumps from two of the best viewing locations: the Dubh Linh Gate Irish Pub or the pool deck of Pan Pacific Mountainside Hotel.
If you’re not afraid of heights (or if you’re willing to overcome that fear!), you can admire Whistler’s nature via zip line with Superfly Ziplines, flying over gorgeous valleys and down the slopes of Cougar Mountain. Try it in every season to watch how the views change as the leaves turn colour and the snow falls.
Getting ready for a winter flight at Superfly Ziplines
Prefer to be closer to the ground? Tour the forest in a RZR (pronounced “razor” a type of all-terrain vehicle) in summer or in a snowmobile in winter, with The Adventure Group. Or if you want to get wet, I loved the views from the Green River while whitewater rafting with Wedge Rafting (when we weren’t in the middle of the rapids, at least!).
View from snowmobiling with Whistler’s The Adventure Group
Rafting on the Green River. Photo courtesy of Wedge Rafting Whistler
After admiring nature all day long, you can still take a little nature into your hotel room with you. At Summit Lodge & Spa Whistler, you can foster a betta fish during your stay. Mine was named Beau, and he happily listened to all my stories of my time in Whistler’s wilderness.
Night arrives late in Whistler in June Nita Lake at 10-30-p.m
Johanna Read is a freelance travel writer and photographer who’s lived in six Canadian cities on the edge of nature, and visited more of them than she can count. She now spends much of her time travelling abroad. She hopes to repeat her 2014/15 feat of visiting six continents in twelve months, but Canada’s incredible natural environment will always be her first love. Johanna posts links to all her writing and photography on TravelEater.net. You can follow her on Twitter @TravelEater and check out her Facebook page, Instagram and Flickr.
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This place is awesome <3
Excellent post! I’ve been to Whistler sooooo many times – but all for snowboarding. I’ve never made it up there for the summer, but I’m definitely going to make it a point to do so this summer! Thanks!
Thanks! Whistler is, I was surprised to learn, even more popular in the summer than in the winter! You should ry the RZRing and mountain biking if you like boarding. Enjoy! Johanna
We want to ski Whistler, and visit British Columbia. We have heard that the skiing is amazing there and the people too nice. This post has just shown that we are on the right track. What beautiful photos of an amazing part of the wonderful Canada.
Many thanks Paula
Yes, I like to think Canadians are too nice -)
The skiing is pretty good too!
Please feel free to visit my website, http://www.TravelEater.net, for more tips on visiting British Columbia, and feel free to ask me any questions there. 🙂
There’s so much outdoor activity in Whistler – I’d love to ski there as I’ve only skied in Europe til now. Love the look of that zip-line too!
Thanks Suzanne – I’m sure you’d love it!
Wow there is a lot of fun adventure and recreation year round. I would love to explore the area some day and do some of these activities including that unusual zip line experience.
Thanks Noel — lots of great photo opportunities for you too 🙂
Yeah BC! Really great write-up and photos! British Columbia is totally worth the trip. The huge variety of things you can do there are amazing! I’m a big skier and BC and Whistler in particular are some of the best places in the world.
Many thanks Jim – you’re so kind! I’m glad you’ve had the opportunity to see lots of BC. See you on the slopes? 🙂
I’ve been thinking of visiting Canada for a long time now, and hopefully 2016 will be the year. Being a huge country, I was planning to focus on BC and the Rocky Mountains, so this post is a good inspiration.
Will let you know if I make it to Canada this Summer 🙂
Awesome Simon. You’re smart — many people make the mistake of trying to see too much of Canada on a short trip. I’m biased, but I think the corridor from Whistler to Calgary (the Rockies are the mountain range nearest Calgary) is the most spectacular in the country, so it makes good sense to focus your trip there. Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday next year, and the Prime Minister is giving us free access to national parks — so coming in 2016 would be wise because Jasper an dBanff are busy enough as it is!