Often overlooked by travelers en route to Whistler, Squamish is a hot destination in its own right. Only 45 minutes from Vancouver, the adventure capital of Canada boasts stunning natural beauty and a young, hip population. As more Vancouverites relocate here, the urban culture in Squamish is swiftly catching up with the endless opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Here are five cool things to do, see and eat /drink in Squamish, B.C.
Image: Tourism Squamish
The best way to enjoy the overwhelming natural beauty of Squamish is to get out into the middle of it. No matter what sport you’re interested in, the best place to gather intel for your trip is the Squamish Adventure Centre. Use their stash of resources to plan and book everything from a wild winter back-country ski trip on Garibaldi to snowshoeing Callaghan Valley. When the snow is gone, rafting, climbing, biking and hiking are the focus. Feeling tame? No worries. The staff can direct you to an easy walking path along the gorgeous downtown Squamish oceanfront.
Start your day at the buzzing Zephyr Cafe on Cleveland Avenue, the main drag in downtown Squamish. Written up by The NYTimes and beloved by TV host George Stromboulopoulos, Zephyr is the place to get a tasty espresso beverages and comfort food, which comes big-boned and bacon-laced or vegan and gluten-free. Sip a green smoothie and listen to locals debate about 90s rock bands while you await your organic breakfast rice bowl.
Just down the street, Campfire Grill barbecue is your best bet for refueling after a day of vigorous outdoor exertion. Feasts consist of tender BC meats smoked to perfection and piled high in various formats including sandwiches, tacos and poutine. If you’re really serious, opt for a full rack of ribs or a whole roast chicken. Choose from homemade bbq sauces including a masochistically hot chipotle and a sweetly dark bourbon. Don’t forget to save room for a side of sweet mash.
Homegrown in Squamish in 1996, Howe Sound Brewery has steadily ascended in the Canadian craft beer market to become one of the big players. With a sweet new export deal to 23 US states, our neighbours south of the border are also on to this BC brewery’s sudsy appeal. Sample their 12-year-round brews and the seasonal beers on offer in their downtown brewpub. Our favourite for winter? The rich, malty Father John Winter Ale. Best session ale? The HopRaiser West Coast IPA. The tempting pub grub uses the beer in their recipes whenever possible. You can even buy soap made from the spent grain.
If you feel like overindulging, and you likely will, grab a room in the charming 20-room inn above the pub. Awake to the stern granite monloith known as The Chief, situated directly across from the inn.
From charming independent boutiques to cool gear start-up companies, Squamish shopping has a lot to offer its young and energetic population. Wild and Heart, a gypsy-meets-urban fashion “cabin,” just opened on Cleveland and carries edgy international and Canadian brands including Stone Cold Fox and Lifetime Collective. Owners Sarah Johnson and Diane Rudge fell in love with Squamish while shooting style look books in town.
Onsight Equipment is a Squamish gear start-up that makes good-looking and environmentally-sustainable travel products from recycled materials. 60% to 100% of the materials used their products are produced from recycled plastic water bottles, or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). You can pick up their back-packs and other gear at the Squamish Adventure Centre.
Image: Sunwolf credit branded visuals
The congregation of wintering bald eagles in Brackendale (15 minutes from downtown Squamish) are one of the most awe-inspiring natural phenomena you can see in Western Canada. Attracted by the spawning salmon, the eagles return en masse to the area from November to February. In 1994, Brackendale set the world record for the highest concentration of bald eagles with 3,769 birds spotted in one day. While you can spy the majestic, metre-tall predators feeding on chum salmon from the banks of the Squamish River, the way to make the most of the experience is to take a Sunwolf Eagle Viewing Float Trip.
Getting there: Squamish is 45 minutes north of Vancouver by car on the Sea-to-Sky highway. If you don’t have your own vehicle, check a Vancouver rideshare board.
What’s your favourite thing to do in Squamish? Leave a comment below!
Feature image: Graham Osbourne – Vancouver Coast & Mountains; Tourism Squamish