Vancouver is a bustling metropolitan city surrounded by natural beauty. While the lively downtown core offers no shortage of things to do, sometimes you need an escape from the concrete jungle. Luckily, a wealth of remarkable road trip destinations lie just beyond the city limits, offering adventure, stunning scenery and a breath of fresh air.
From mountain towns to lush provincial parks, you can uncover some of British Columbia’s treasures just a short drive from downtown Vancouver. So rent a car, pack your bags and get ready to hit the open roads to these fabulous destinations perfect for a quick getaway.
1. Squamish: The Outdoor Playground
Just a 45-minute drive north of Vancouver along the spectacular Sea to Sky Highway lies the adventure town of Squamish. Nestled against the soaring granite cliffs of the Coast Mountains and the meandering Squamish River, this paradise for outdoor enthusiasts has something for everyone.
Hikers will find over 50 kilometres of trails winding through ancient forests, past gushing waterfalls and leading to panoramic mountaintop views. Test your legs on the steep hike up the Stawamus Chief, a towering 700-meter granite monolith. The challenging ascent rewards you with breathtaking vistas over Howe Sound and Squamish below.
Opt for the Sea to Sky Gondola for a more leisurely, family-friendly hike. The 10-minute ride whisks you up to trails and suspension bridges overlooking the lush green valleys and shimmering waters.
Mountain bikers flock to Squamish for its epic single-track trails like Half Nelson, a white-knuckle descent through the forest. Or ride the lift up Whistler Mountain Bike Park’s downhill runs, earning your turns before bombing back down.
After working up an appetite, refuel with coffee and snacks at Rocky Mountain Chocolate or Fresh Local Wild. Then, stroll through sleepy downtown Squamish, peppered with cafes, shops and art galleries.
With its abundance of outdoor activities set against spectacular scenery, Squamish makes for an active and rejuvenating quick escape from the city. Take advantage of cheap car rentals in Vancouver to head north to the outdoor mecca of Squamish and experience incredible rock climbing, hiking trails and more.
2. Whistler: Canada’s Mountain Playground
Canada’s renowned mountain resort, Whistler, lies just 2 hours from Vancouver, making it an easy weekend getaway. While its ski hills attract travellers in winter, Whistler transforms into an outdoor playground in summer with activities galore.
Zoom down the mountains by renting a dual-suspension bike and taking the lift to Whistler Mountain Bike Park’s epic downhill runs. Swoop down trails like A-Line, pumping berms and catching air. Cross-country riders can pedal the mellow Valley Trail from the village to serene Green Lake.
When your legs need a break, stroll through Whistler Village and enjoy patio dining, boutique shops and art galleries. Learn about First Nations history at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre. Or relax those sore muscles with a spa treatment at Scandinave Spa’s steam rooms and hot pools.
Just 10 minutes south of Whistler, ride the record-breaking PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. Suspended 436 meters above the valley, the 11-minute journey provides a bird’s eye view of the rivers and glaciated mountains beyond.
With limitless options for recreation and entertainment, Whistler delivers an energizing shot of mountain culture and adrenaline. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to rent a car in Vancouver and make the scenic drive up to Whistler for adventure in the mountains.
3. Britannia Mine Museum: Journey Into the Past
Travel back in time to the gold rush era at Britannia Mine Museum, just a 60-minute drive north of Vancouver. Don a hard hat and headlamp before descending into the dark tunnels of this once-bustling copper mine. Learn the history and technical aspects of mining while seeing the original equipment and mine workings firsthand.
Ride the underground train down ten stories and walk through mile-long tunnels blasted through solid rock. Marvel at the engineering feats required to mine in mountainous terrain and imagine the working conditions of early 20th-century miners.
Back above ground, take a nostalgic ride on the mine’s old copper trains. See the remaining buildings of the Britannia Beach town site and visit the exhibits in the museum. Panoramic views over the Coast Mountains and Howe Sound.
After uncovering the region’s mining past, stretch your legs on the surrounding trails and breathtaking beach boardwalk. Spot bald eagles fishing and blue herons wading as you reconnect with nature. The perfect mix of heritage, scenery and adventure: rent a car downtown Vancouver and take a fascinating trip back in time exploring the historic Britannia Mine Museum less than an hour away.
4. Golden Ears Provincial Park: Escape the Concrete Jungle
Nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Golden Ears Provincial Park offers the perfect nature escape just 90 minutes east of Vancouver. Lush old-growth forests, alpine meadows and two stunning lakes provide endless options for outdoor recreation.
Pack a picnic and stroll around shimmering Alouette Lake, stopping to swim at a sandy beach. Hike through mossy woods past thundering waterfalls on the Mike Lake Trail or the more challenging West Canyon Trail. Climb the trailhead at Edge Peak for far-reaching mountain views.
Pitch a tent at one of several campgrounds, the perfect basecamp for adventures. Rent a canoe and paddle across Gold Creek and Alouette Lake, keeping your eyes peeled for turtles basking in the sun. As night falls, cozy up around the campfire under a dazzling canopy of stars.
With over 100km of hiking trails, calm lakes and serene forests, Golden Ears Provincial Park lets you truly reconnect with nature. Escape the concrete jungle by renting a car in Vancouver BC and retreating into the serene wilderness of Golden Ears Provincial Park!
5. Sunshine Coast: Seaside Adventure
Escape the city for the laid-back vibe of the Sunshine Coast, just a 40-minute ferry ride from Vancouver. This 180km stretch of coastline boasts quaint seaside towns, sandy beaches, lush rainforests and endless activities for adventurous spirits.
Try stand-up paddleboarding in Gibsons, known as the ‘Paddleboarding Capital of Canada.’ Rent a board and cruise the calm waters of Gibsons Harbour and Plateau Channel, waving to harbour seals and blue herons along the way.
In Roberts Creek, wander down meandering trails through Cliff Gilker Park’s ancient groves of cedar, fir and hemlock. Search for gnomes and fairy doors said to hide along the path. Drive further up the coast to see the massive old-growth trees in Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park.
Adrenaline junkies can tackle the Sunshine Coast Gravity Park’s downhill mountain bike trails, winding over wooden bridges, rocks and roots through coastal forest. Catch air on jumps as you zoom down runs like Top Gun and Sidewinder.
With road-tripping being one of the best ways to experience the Sunshine Coast, rent a car in Vancouver and take the adventure into your own hands.
Looking for a Cheap Car Rental in Vancouver?
Vancouver’s surrounding areas offer no shortage of remarkable road trip destinations to discover. From mountain towns like Squamish and Whistler to serene nature escapes like Golden Ears Provincial Park, you can uncover breathtaking scenery and adventurous activities just a short drive away.
Renting a car opens the doors to impromptu weekend getaways on your own timeline. With car rental companies in Vancouver like Expo, you can choose from an extensive line of vehicles to suit any adventure. Grabbing the keys to escape the city is easy!
Pack your bags, fill up the tank and hit the open roads to create unforgettable memories. Fresh air, stunning vistas and exciting new experiences await just beyond the city limits.