Squamish’s world-class attractions aren’t just for tourists.
Now that the peak tourism season is upon us, it’s time for locals to think about going on a “staycation” in their own community.
Staycations, which involve staying home overnight and visiting tourist spots during the day, are an affordable way to explore the best of what the Sea to Sky Corridor offers.
Heather Kawaguchi, with Tourism Squamish, has seen an increase in staycations this year.
“Our visitor numbers at the visitor centre have increased in the local, B.C., and U.S. visitor categories. These key markets are what Tourism Squamish would consider our ‘drive markets’ indicating that Squamish is a very desirable destination for ‘road trips’ and ‘staycations,’” she said.
“Visitors and locals are becoming more aware that when you stay in Squamish you can go from sea to sky and do everything in between: kiteboarding, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, river rafting, SUP’ing (stand-up paddle surfing), fishing, flight seeing and more, all within 10 minutes.”
With Squamish’s abundant natural attractions and unique destinations that can be difficult to find anywhere else, many residents are opting to stay in town.
To make picking an outing easier, here is The Squamish Chief’s Top 10 Staycations:
Shannon Falls Provincial Park
Ranking in at the third highest falls in B.C., Shannon Falls is 335 metres high and is located two kilometres south of Squamish along Highway 99.
The 87-hectare provincial park is a popular spot for picnicking and hiking among old-growth forest. The trail is relatively short, with the first view point just four minutes from the parking lot.
A second view point is located five minutes ahead, and the trail eventually joins the Stawamus Chief Trail, which winds its way to the three summits of the Chief.
A concession stand and information centre are located next to the parking lot.
Britannia Mine Museum
Get your hands wet with six interactive stations at Britannia Mine Museum’s new exhibit, Water: Beneath the Surface.
The attraction dives into the complex world of H20, the “incubator of life on our planet,” and how it shapes the land around us and its role in creating some of the most extreme environments on our planet.
Britannia’s history as one of the largest copper mines in the British Commonwealth in the 1930s is brought to life in the museum.
“Visitors can enjoy fun exhibits and crowd favourites like the underground mine train where we take you through an old mining tunnel, the historic 20-storey concentrator mill building, the visitor centre and Mineral Gallery, family play area and the ever popular gold panning area,” said Kirstin Clausen, executive director of the museum.
One of the largest granite monoliths in the world, the Stawamus Chief stands at the entrance to Squamish.
Hiking trails to The Chief’s three summits offer panoramic views of Howe Sound, surrounding mountains and Squamish itself.
The mountain, towering 700 metres above the water, also has opportunities for rock climbing and wildlife watching.
While not extremely difficult, the hike is challenging and goes straight up from the start. The first peak is four kilometres round trip from the parking lot, taking most groups three to four hours to complete.
The second peak is half a kilometre from a third stop up the first peak, which is perfect for a half-day hike and takes about six or seven hours round trip.
From her experience with Tourism Squamish, Kawaguchi said the Stawamus Chief is becoming more popular among locals and tourists alike.
“As the awareness of our destination and our assets increases, so do visits and inquiries for more information to our website and visitor information centre,” she said.
Sea to Sky Gondola
Located within a few minutes of downtown Squamish, the Sea to Sky Gondola is the perfect “staycation” to take in some of the best elements the Sea to Sky Corridor has to offer.
The day begins with a 10-minute ride 885 metres up the mountain, and can include a walk over Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge, hiking on several maintained trails and a range of summer activities such as Mountain Top Yoga, rock climbing and free guided tours.
In addition to more relaxing walks, the Sea to Summit and Al’s Habrich trails are two of the gondola’s most challenging trails, said Caitlin Mooney-Fu, with the Sea to Sky Gondola.
“These trails are challenging but you’ll feel like you accomplished something tangible during your ‘staycation.’ Plus, you’ll burn off some of your holiday treats and drinks,” she said.
West Coast Railway Heritage Park
Learn about the history of railways in Squamish and the surrounding area on a day trip to the West Coast Railway Heritage Park, which features 90 heritage pieces, including the Business Car British Columbia from 1890 and a rare Canadian Pacific Colonist sleeping car from 1905.
The site represents a typical mid-20th century railway facility and town centre, featuring a three-kilometre miniature railway, cabooses and locomotives, historical equipment and the only authentic railway post office car in Canada.
Visitors will have the chance to see Little Sparky, a 107-year-old locomotive that was recently restored to its former glory. It is the only surviving Pacific Eastern Railway steam locomotive.
Squamish Farmers' Market
Now that the summer season is here, Kawaguchi is noticing more locals and visitors making Squamish a destination in itself.
“Whistler is a strong tourism driver in the province and naturally Squamish benefits from this. We are still a ‘stop along the way’ for some; however, as the awareness builds for our own authentic assets, adventures and activities – visitors are choosing to spend more time here,” she said.
The Squamish Farmers’ Market, for instance, attracts people from across the Lower Mainland and is also supported by local residents.
With fresh, local produce and homemade treats from 60-plus vendors, this is the perfect spot to pick up dinner to cook at home during a staycation.
The market is held every Saturday in the summer from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the corner of Cleveland Avenue and Victoria Street.
Brackendale Art Gallery
Founded in the early 1970s by art advocate Thor Froslev, Brackendale Art Gallery, or BAG as it’s known locally, is a cultural hub and centre for the arts. The focus is on exhibits, artist workshops, live music, speakers and theatrical events held throughout the year.
The licensed Gallery Teahouse menu includes homemade soup and bread, Danish pastries, croissants, teas and espresso.
Indian Summer, an exhibition in August and September, features Coast Salish art from Squamish Nation artists. The work includes carved poles, figures, masks and plaques, as well as beadwork, writing and serigraph prints.
Squamish Estuary & Spit
Home to hundreds of species of birds, Squamish Estuary and Spit provides some of the best views of the Stawamus Chief.
Walking through the estuary’s salt marshes, mudflats and reeds makes for a relaxing day of “staycationing” close to town. The area is also known for its prime wind and kitesurfing conditions.
The spit is located at the mouth of the Squamish River as it enters Howe Sound, making the spit the first piece of land struck by the wind of the ocean.
Squamish Estuary and Spit is popular for both athletes and spectators, who stop by to watch the boarders and surfers who take advantage of the area’s perfect climate.
Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest
One of the Sea to Sky’s most popular summer spots, Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest is just 15 kilometres from downtown Squamish and is is an ideal lake for swimming, lounging and picnicking.
Ten kilometres of connecting trails circle the lake and climb to viewpoints overlooking the Cheakamus River and Paradise Valley. The 400-hectare forest provides an opportunity to learn how forests are managed and information about First Nations’ history in the area.
Fishing in the Sea to Sky
The Sea to Sky Corridor offers some of the best saltwater and freshwater fishing spots in B.C. – all within a couple minutes drive for Squamish residents.
The freshwater rivers, lakes and salty waters in Howe Sound provide a range of fishing areas. The Mamquam, Cheakamus, Squamish and Elaho rivers house four varieties of Pacific salmon, as well as bull trout and cutthroat trout. Rainbow trout is stocked regularly at Brohm Lake.