Whistler is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada. – with well over 3 million visitors vacationing here annually. It’s popularity lies in the fact it is breathtakingly beautiful (think looming mountains and bright blue lakes) and of course its proximity to Vancouver – just an hours drive away!
I’ve been living in Whistler and renting in Whistler for a few years and I’m here to tell you that there’s much more to Whistler than skiing and partying. In fact, did you know Whistler is home to the USA and Canada’s longest zipline and it’s the only place in Canada that the public can try their hand at bobsledding (yep, the sport made famous in Cool Runnings).
So, if you’re lucky enough to visit Whistler I want you to know all of the best and unique things to do here. I’ve put together this incredibly detailed list of 21 best things to do in Whistler. I’ve sectioned it into Winter activities and Summer activities to make it an easier read, but, of course a lot of these activities you can do in both seasons.
Read Next – the ultimate guide to the drive from Whistler to Jasper including 12 awesome stops and great places to stay!
Here are the 21 best (& unique) things to do in Whistler, Canada!
From a bucket-list worthy private helicopter tour over the snow-capped mountains to the super-unique sport of axe throwing. There’s definitely an activity for every type of traveler in Whistler, Canada!
Another fantastic thing to do from Whistler is to take a road trip some of my favorite road trips I’ve taken whilst living here include driving from Banff to Jasper and driving from Whistler to Banff!
If Whistler is at the top of your bucket list, then you need to read this blog today!
Unique things to do in Whistler in Winter
Snowmobiling in Whistler is a true Canadian past-time – and there’s a tour for all levels of skill. Imagine cruising down wide groomed trails and deep into Whistler’s back country on a high-powered top-of-the-range snowmobile. For beginners I recommend the 2-hour tour whereas the 3-hour tour is suitable for the more adventurous and confident traveler. The 3-hour tour includes lunch at a cozy back country cabin.
Sit back in your cozy sled and let your ‘Musher’ (guide) and sled dogs takes you through snow-covered forests and less-explored trails. Dog-sledding in Whistler is a magical adventure with the dogs at the center of the operation!
The base is located in Callaghan Valley – a 20 minute drive from Whistler CBD. You will be treated to the history of ‘mushing’ and learn some basic instructions as to how to use the dogsled before embarking on the magical journey. Your sled dogs may reach speeds of up to 32 km/h. It’s a 2.5 hour tour and finishes in a cozy hut with hot apple cider and cookies.
Did you know – dog sledding originated over 4,000 years ago. It’s true that life back then, in Northern Canada would never have been possible without sled dogs. These sled dogs have been bred to withstand cold temperatures and endure pulling sleds over long distances.
3. Sunrise skiing
Get up super-early to go up Whistler mountain between 7.15 and 8am for the popular Fresh Tracks. We did this several times during our ski season in Whistler and have to agree it’s an awesome experience!
This ticket includes a yummy buffet breakfast at Roundhouse Lodge on the mountain before getting to ski in fresh powder and perfectly groomed corduroy before anyone else. Fresh Tracks is limited to 650 people max. so tickets can sell out very quickly especially on weekends or during school holidays.
4. Ice skating on a frozen lake
Skating on Whistlers frozen lakes can only be experienced on a limited number of days in Winter. The temperature and ice conditions on the lake need to be just right – think temperatures of -15 celsius (5 fahrenheit). Ask at the Visitor Information Center on Gateway Drive if you’re unsure if conditions are safe. The best lakes to ice skate on in Whistler are Alta Lake and Nita Lake.
If you don’t fancy skating on a frozen lake you can try the outdoor ice-skating rick in Olympic Plaza.
You could also try out Ice Fishing on this very unique 3-hour experience!
5. Scenic flight over the snow-capped mountains
See the jaw-dropping beauty of Whistler from high up above on a bucket-list worthy scenic helicopter flight. You’ll see Whistler like you’ve never seen it before – spot ancient glaciers, hidden lakes and cool ice formations from the comfort of a top-class helicopter. One of the most popular flights is the Whistler Explorer Tour which is reasonably priced and lasts under 15 minutes (perfect if you’re short on time).
Some other helicopter tour options in Whistler include the BC Experience Tour (includes a landing on a glacier) and the Blackcomb Signature (40 minute flight).
If you’re after a luxury getaway Whistler is the perfect place – there’s lots of luxurious hotels (my favorites are Fairmont Chateau and Four Seasons) as well as plenty of fine dining restaurants (Bearfoot Bistro and The Grille Room to name but two).
If you’re after another truly unique experience this Whistler Seaplane Tour fly’s over glaciers, mountains and Garibaldi Lake. It’s a 30 minute tour. This Whistler Grand Circle Tour by Seaplane is also highly recommended!
6. Try bobsledding
The sport made famous in the hilarious movie Cool Runnings – bobsledding is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Whistler. In fact, the Whistler Sliding Centre (above Blackcomb mountain) is the only place in Canada that you can try bobsleigh.
The passenger bobsleigh experience gives you the chance to drive in a real bobsleigh (driven by a trained driver). You will speed through twists and turns at super-fast speeds – 125km/hr! You will feel the acceleration of up to 4 g-forces. This is definitely an activity for the more adventurous traveler.
7. Check out an ice cave
To get to the ice cave deep in Whistler’s backcountry you can either ski there (only recommended for highly experienced and confident skiers) or book a helicopter tour there.
The helicopter and ice cave tour is 4.5 hours total and includes a scenic helicopter flight as well as the chance to explore the ice cave with a guide.
If you wish to ski to the ice cave – take the showcase t-bar lift, from there hike up until you get to the lip, ski down from here to the glacier and then to the left. Follow the well-trodden tracks and people and you’ll see the ice cave on your right before a flat section.
Inside the ice cave you will see icicles stretching from floor to ceiling as well as cool sunlight reflections called the kaleidoscope effect.
As mentioned, if you do decide to ski to the ice cave use caution as avalanche risks are common in this area. Worth noting too is the ice cave is off-boundary of the ski slopes so you need to be comfortable with that.
8. Have drinks in an ice bar
The Bearfoot Bistro in Whistler village is home to the coldest vodka tasting room in the world. The room is set to a freezing -32C (-25F) but don’t worry you’ll be given a warn Canada Goose parka to keep you warm. The in-house vodka expert will explain all about the distillation and filtration of vodka and you’ll be given the chance to taste 4 vodkas of your choice.
The Bearfoot Bistro restaurant attached to the ice bar is one of the best restaurants in Whistler, if not B.C. Try their 4-course tasting menu for date night!
Heli-skiing in Whistler is the perfect activity for ski obsessives – think 432,000 acres of big mountain terrain all to yourself (and a handful of others). It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that’s for sure. That whopping 432,000 acres includes 173 glaciers and 474 runs. Would you believe the heli-skiing area is 50 times the size of Whistler Blackcomb mountain.
10. Cross-country skiing
Head out to Callaghan Valley to experience the charm of nordic skiing or cross-country skiing. It’s very different to traditional skiing and it’s something not a lot of people have tried before. Firstly, the skis are long and very narrow and you have to almost walk/glide through the snowy forest terrain. Watch out for the icy parts – I fell far too many times!
Afterwards enjoy a hot cup of chocolate or a beer, whatever you fancy at the onsite Cafe/Restaurant.
11. Visit Keyhole Hot Springs near Pemberton
Keyhole Hot Springs is an amazing natural gem, featuring several natural stone tubs with running hot water near Pemberton.
The Keyhole hot springs aka Pebble Creek hot springs have become less accessible recently due to closure of access to access road. They are located 100 km from Whistler village, most of the road into the Springs (after Pemberton) is on a logging road and is driveable by most cars without any trouble.
Getting here – At 33.1km turn right onto Prospect Street. At 55.2km turn right, cross the bridge over Lillooet River and onto Lillooet River FSR. At 100km look for the roadside parking and trailhead for the Lillooet River Trail to Keyhole Hot Springs.
Important information – crampons are recommended on the trail as some sections of the trail are icy. The Springs are closed from Apr 1- Nov 15 due to Grizzly Bears habituated to humans in the area.
Unique things to do in Whistler in Summer
12. Axe throwing
I’m almost certain that most people have not heard of the sport of axe-throwing but once you try it you won’t believe how much fun the sport of throwing axes is! Spend the hour session getting the hang of throwing an axe correctly and then participate in some fun axe-throwing games with the guidance of an experienced coach. Forge Axe Throwing is located in Function Junction and they sell beer and other alcoholic beverages for you to enjoy after.
A mountain horse riding experience through the Coast Mountain range near Whistler, climb through epic scenery up to 2,000 feet. Spot Fowl River Falls and Sun God Mountain on your way as well as native wildlife. Lunch is included and you will get to enjoy this at a breathtaking scenic viewpoint.
14. Offroad buggy
Learn how to drive your very own 4×4 offroad buggy and drive up backcountry mountain roads and narrow thick-forested tracks. You will even get to power through creeks (don;t be afraid to get wet) and drive your vehicle over boulders if you’re confident enough. It;s easy to get carried away, I went hell-for-leather and managed to puncture my tyre! You may even be lucky enough to spot native wildlife like deer and grouse on your drive. Each trip is 3 hours total.
Important information – drivers must be at least 19 years of age with a full, valid driver’s license equivalent to a BC Class 5 license.
Ziptrek Ecotours offers 4 distinct zipline tours, and the TreeTrek canopy walk. It’s also home of the Sasquatch – the longest zipline in Canada and the USA. The Sasquatch is 2km in length! There are several tours to choose from the Bear Tour (4 ziplines); the Eagle Tour (5 ziplines) and the Sasquatch one monster zipline.
16. Hike the SkyWalk Trail
Completed in 2014, the Skywalk Trail is a true valley to alpine hiking experience. Hike up to Iceberg Lake (over 1000 meters of elevation gain) and take in the breathtaking views.
This is a loop trail that passes through rainforest, Iceberg Lake and several other smaller lakes. It’s definitely one of the most scenic hikes in Whistler and if you’re doing the whole track I recommend having a high level of fitness. You can choose to do shorter sections of the trail if you wish.
Did you know – the trail was completed by a group of volunteers from the Alpine Club of Canada .
17. Go wild bear spotting
Whistler is certainly a hot spot for bear sightings. With lush green landscapes and crisp mountain air, it is unusual not to spot a black bear. Would you believe – both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are home to more than 100 black bears.
Here are the best places to go bear spotting in Whistler during the Summer months –
- Callaghan Valley
- At the base of the mountain in Creekside
- Whistler Olympic Park
- Fairmont Golf Course
With so many bears in Whistler, it is so important to practice bear safety. Check out Bear Smart BC’s, Bear Smart brochure before going wild bear spotting in Whistler.
18. Go strawberry picking in Pemberton
At North Arm Farm in Pemberton you can pick your own delicious strawberries in the Summer months. They are typically available to pick for only four weeks. Bring your own containers and pick your strawberries from your designated patch. You will pay at the end and price is dependant on weight.
There’s also a great Cafe here and a farm store to pick up some homegrown supplies.
19. Walk the snow walls on the mountain
Buy a PEAK 2 PEAK sightseeing ticket and get the gondola up Whistler Mountain to see the snow walls before they melt from the sun. These snow walls were formed thanks to the abundance of snow the mountain receives during the winter months. Some are well over 12 feet tall. The best time to visit the snow walls is from late May to early June.
The walls are located just above Pika Traverse.
20. Walk to the train wreck
Head out to Cheakamus Crossing to do one of Whistler’s most famous short hikes to the Train Wreck – a set of abandoned rail cars turned art installation. It’s a very easy mostly flat walk and the main feature is of course the brightly colored graffiti train cars but you will also be treated to gorgeous views of the Cheakamus River.
The track is approx. 1 km each way and starts from Jane Lakes Road car park near Cheakamus Crossing.
21. Hike to Brandywine Falls
Brandywine Falls is a spectacular 70-metre waterfall that can be seen from the viewpoint, a short walk from the car park. Or if you’re fit you can do as the locals do and hike to the base of the falls.
To get to the base of Brandywine Falls – from the viewing platform pass the fence on the far left side. Walk straight through the forest following the edge of the cliff until you reach a rocky area. Make your way down a makeshift set of steps. Continue on the trail until you come to a white rope you will need to use this to carefully climb down. Follow the track over the boulders until the track turns left into the forest. After this, the track is well-marked and follows through the forest until it meets the stream that goes into the falls.
Brandywine Falls is a great stop on the drive between Whistler and Vancouver, another must-stop along the way is the Horseshoe Bay Lookout, which is just a short drive from downtown Vancouver. In fact, it’s one of my favorite places to photograph in B.C.
Where to stay in Whistler
Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa – right in the center of Whistler Village and very close to the gondola, this large hotel is very popular with families
Nita Lake Lodge – located in Creekside, a 10 minute drive from Whistler Village and looking onto stunning Nita Lake this is one of my favorite hotels in Whistler
The Westin – is a nice luxury option in Whistler’s lower village, it’s right next to the gondola and the rooms are spacious with great views
Four Seasons Resort – this is probably the most luxurious hotel in Whistler, located in Whistler’s Upper Village and close to Blackcomb Gondola this hotel is frequented by celebrities
Thanks for visiting my blog, Aimee x
Didn’t that end up being a long blog post, I hope I’ve helped you narrow down the activities you must try in Whistler, Canada. I’ve also written a detailed blog post about the best things to do in Seattle, I’d love if you could check it out!
Whistler is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I just know you’re going to enjoy your time there!
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