Whistler Day Tour From Vancouver [Our Experience + Tips]

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Want to go on a Whistler day tour from Vancouver? You’ve come to the right place! Although Vancouver is packed with great things to see and do – hopping on a day tour to Whistler from Vancouver is a popular activity.

Whistler was a popular all-season destination before Canada hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. These days, highway improvements combined with stunning natural beauty continue to draw in visitors from all over the world.

We wanted to go on a day trip from Vancouver to Whistler but initially weren’t sure which tour to choose because there are many good options that focus on slightly different sights along the way.

We ended up doing this Whistler and Sea-to-Sky Gondola Tour and had a really great day. We saw Shannon Falls, went up the Sea-to-Sky Gondola in Squamish, had lots of time in Whistler Village, and more. Our guide, Leslie, was also great – so we’d recommend it.

Here’s our Whistler day tour experience and a longer guide on how to choose a tour from Vancouver to Whistler!

Whistler Day Tours

There are a few other day tours from Vancouver to Whistler that you’ll come across as you research online or walk around Vancouver. They often differ by seeing a different waterfall or another attraction so it’s important to read the itinerary carefully.

In the busy summer season, it’s best to book a tour in advance so you get the tour you want on the date you want. The tours are quite reputable – you can check out these Whistler tour options:

Friendly Disclosure: We spent our own money on our tour, didn’t notify the company beforehand that we were coming and weren’t told to include them in an article.

Whistler Day Tour From Vancouver – Our Experience

Here’s a detailed breakdown of our tour up to Whistler from Vancouver over the course of a full day. Again, this tour might differ slightly from another tour so be sure to read the description to make sure it’s for you!

stunning landscape of mountains in background with rocky cliff and trees in front.
This is what you can experience if you go on a Whistler day tour!

We also, admittedly, had pretty good weather on our day trip to Whistler – but even in the rain, it would have been a nice adventure into the mountains and nature.

So, consider a trip to Whistler as a solid tour choice whenever you visit Vancouver!

Before the Tour

Navigation Address for Pick-Up Varies

Before the tour even began, we received a number of emails from West Coast Sightseeing about the pick-up location in Downtown Vancouver.

This was helpful because the pick-up time and location are important to get right. Don’t be late because the tours often cannot wait!

The tour operators often have mini-buses to gather people and then bring them to one bus to leave the city – that is what happened in our case.

We had a smaller bus – with only about 20 seats – for our day trip and the size of the tour group was perfect for us. 

black mini tour bus in parking lot with sidewalk beside.
Our trusty mini bus for the day!

We waited at our pick-up location provided to us (the Sandman Hotel at 180 W Georgia St, Vancouver) because it was the closest to our hotel.

Before we knew it, Leslie pulled up in a mini-bus, greeted us, and off we went to gather more people!

Once we drove around the city for about 30 minutes, we met another small bus of tour-goers who hopped onto our bus.

Leslie properly introduced himself and addressed a few need-to-knows – and off we went leaving Downtown Vancouver!

On the Day Tour

Trying to leave the city took a while because of morning traffic but Leslie told jokes and lots of interesting commentaries so it was fine.

Once we got through Stanley Park and across the famous Lions Gate Bridge, it was smooth sailing heading up Highway 99 – also known as the Sea-to-Sky Highway.

shot of city and forest with water beside from tall bridge with railing in front.
See ya, Vancouver – as we crossed the Lions Gate Bridge!

The highway runs right along the edge of Howe Sound. This means you get stunning shots of the water, islands, and nearby peaks from the bus. For great photos, sit on the left side of the bus if you’re facing the direction the bus travels!

That said, no matter where you sit you are going to see stunning nature all day so don’t be too caught up in where you sit on the bus!

Leslie told us lots of information about the things we were seeing along the highway so that was handy and helpful.

Our first stop was Shannon Falls Provincial Park where – after a very short walk into the park from the parking lot – you get to see Shannon Falls!

waterfall cascading down rocks seen through green trees on either side.
We could have photographed Shannon Falls all day.

The third largest waterfall in BC is over 1,100 feet tall and it’s quite a sight to see. We had enough time to quickly go up the second set of steps to get a little higher and closer to the Falls. It was worth it!

This was just a short stop but there were washrooms near the car park, if necessary. 

After getting back on the bus, we drove for about 5 minutes to our next stop – the famous Sea-to-Sky Gondola in Squamish!

large granite mountain covered in green trees with blue sky above.
The Chief looking grand in the sunshine!

From the parking lot for the gondola, you can see the beautiful Stawamus Chief – a massive granite dome that is over 700 metres high. If you look closely, you’ll even see rock climbers scaling it. 

Our adventure, however, took us up the gondola – complete with full glass walls and ceiling! Leslie got us off the bus and went to gather our tickets, then distributed them.

He actually came up the mountain with us to make sure everything was taken care of. We then had some time at the top to explore. 

The gondola ride itself took about 10 minutes and it was honestly incredible. Watching the landscape change as you get higher and higher is something we will not forget – we even had a gondola just to ourselves.

view from rising gondola with blue water and mountains in distance.
Up, up, up we go on the Sea-to-Sky Gondola!

This might not be the case in the heart of summer, but there are lots of 8-person gondolas so there’s no long wait to get up there.

The top of the Sea-to-Sky gondola (at 2,900 feet/ 880m) has a variety of hiking trails – some long, some short.

There’s also a large chalet with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. We had a time that we needed to be back down at the bus – but had enough time for a short hiking loop and a sit down in the sun.

long suspension bridge between two rock cliffs with green trees and mountains behind.
The classic suspension bridge at the top makes for a good photo!

The top attraction up there is the suspension bridge which takes you from the chalet building to another small observation point on a nearby cliffside. It’s an incredible spot for photos but might be a little challenging if you have a fear of heights!

Overall, everything up there is very family-friendly. The gondola is easy to get on and off of, and – on another adventure – we’d love to hike to the top and take the gondola back down (it’s about two hours from the trailhead at the parking lot).

snowy capped mountain seen at distance with green pine trees in front and blue sky above.
Sometimes the simple mountain moments are the prettiest!

We then continued on and this time we went all the way from Squamish to Whistler. This was the longest part of the drive – but we did make a short stop just off the highway at the Tantalus Lookout to catch a glimpse of Tantalus mountain in the distance.

We even spotted a black bear along the highway!

Once in Whistler, our driver actually drove us around both villages – Whistler and Blackcomb – to orient ourselves before letting us off in the bus parking area at Whistle Village.

whistler village buildings with people walking through sunny public square.
There is a lot to explore in Whistler Village!

At this point, we had three hours to explore. Usually, you would have enough time to take the Whistler Village Gondola, take the Peak-2-Peak Gondola across to Blackcomb Mountain, and back down the Blackcomb Gondola (all on one ticket).

However, the Peak-2-Peak was one day from opening when we visited (in late May) and didn’t run. Eric has been on the Peak-2-Peak Gondola before but we will be back so Lisa can experience it, too!

There are other activities to do in Whistler but check with your tour guide about timing and availability because of the season you’re in.

pub table of veggie pizza and fries beside pop and beer glass.
Our lunch was really good – and the beer was tasty!

So, we ended up just taking our time in the Villages by walking about, shopping, and getting something to eat. We had a good pub lunch at Beacon Pub and Eatery right in the hustle and bustle of Whistler Village. 

Afterwards, we found a nature trail and crossed the Covered Bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek. Before walking back to the bus, we also had coffees at Moguls Coffee House which were pretty good – the giant cookie made things even better! 

wooden covered bridge looking out over rocky steam below.
The “Covered Bridge” which you can check out.

Overall, it was a good sampler of the area so we’d like to come back and stay longer. At the designated time, we headed for the bus park and reconnected with Leslie. We then headed back down the highway. Sitting down on the bus was nice after lots of walking.

On the way back south down the highway, Leslie asked if the group wanted to see some black bears and another waterfall – to which the group – other Canadians, Americans, and Europeans – said “absolutely”! So, off we went down a well-travelled side road. 

one black bear standing on ride of road with green forest behind.
Saw quite a few black bears from a safe distance – cool!

We ended up seeing 5 or 6 black bears from the bus which was very cool. Shortly thereafter, we arrived at Alexander Falls viewpoint where we had a few minutes to check it out. This final road was a little bumpier but Leslie drove it like a pro. 

cascading waterfalls seen with tall green pines on either side and valley below.
Alexander Falls was equally as pretty – and not too busy!

We can’t say that your tour will include this because apparently this was an add-on but this was our experience so we’re telling you about it!

We continued down the highway towards Vancouver with a drive through Squamish to check out where the bald eagles hang out at Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park (seen from across the Squamish River from the bus).

blue shoreline waterfront with sandy shore and tall green cliffs in the distance.
The perfect views lasted right until the end of the tour.

As the day was getting late – and with Vancouver coming back into view in the distance – we made one final stop at Porteau Cove to stretch our legs, see Howe Sound, use the washroom, and even see marine animals (a seal).

Back on the bus again one last time, we headed for the city! There was quite a bit of traffic close to the Lions Gate Bridge but otherwise it was smooth sailing!

After the Tour

With the tour done and just the drop-offs to do, our numbers dwindled as people were returned to their drop-off points.

Overall we would recommend this tour. It was a good way to see lots of nature and to take many photos if you’re short on time.

There was a family up from Seattle and they remarked that the tour was the perfect kind of day trip where they got to see a lot but didn’t have a ton of logistics like renting a car and navigating to deal with.

man and woman taking selfie in green gondola with water and mountains behind.
Just a rare gondola selfie from us!

We really liked the Sea-to-Sky gondola. It was probably the highlight because it is quite an experience – but there’s also lots to explore in Whistler and along the Highway.

The tour provided us with a perfect little sampler of possibilities so we will definitely be back!

Whistler Day Tour Packing List

back of man wearing jacket and backpack crossing suspension bridge.
Eric wearing our Osprey Daylite.

If you’re planning to book a Whistler day tour, here’s a list of things that you might want to consider packing so that you are prepared for the day!

West Coast weather can be a little unpredictable – depending on the time of year, less so in summer months – so you’ll pretty much always want to have a wind/rain jacket ready to go. Here are some of the things we had on us for the day trip:

  • Rain/wind jacket (like Eric’s North Face)
  • A small daypack to put everything in (like our Osprey Daylite)
  • Sunglasses
  • Good shoes for light walking
  • Water bottle and snacks
  • A sweater/layers
  • A hat
  • Camera/smartphone – we’d recommend a neck or wrist strap, if possible.
  • Money – cards are fine. Cash is good for tipping the guide.

Read More: For more help with packing, here’s our Canada packing list with tips!

How to Choose a Whistler Day Tour from Vancouver

There are a number of day tours to Whistler that you can choose from. While many of them are similar, they differ in a number of key ways. Here is what we learned about how these day tours differ.

We hope that this information is useful and helps you make the right decision about the best Whistler tour for you!

Tour Length + Type

Obviously, how long the tour is and what’s included will be important factors in determining which one you choose. There are some that are as little as 7-8 hours while others can be 10 or even 11 hours (which would be a long day).

Our tour was around 9 hours and that doesn’t include the pick-up and drop-off time. This was a good amount of time – especially when the tour is well broken up into chunks of driving, walking, or exploring.

There aren’t too many tours shorter than 5 hours because these are half-day tours and – to be fair – the time it takes to drive up to Whistler and back down wouldn’t make sense for a shorter tour.

Another thing to consider is what the tour focuses on. As in, which attractions do you visit and what stops do you make? Some prioritize waterfalls and nature, while others ensure you get up the Peak-2-Peak Gondola in Whistler.

scenic shot of mountains in distance with rolling green trees in foreground and blue sky above.
Even the shots through the bus window were amazing.

Our tour emphasized the Sea-to-Sky Gondola as a stop on the way to Whistler and that was what we wanted to see.

One tour we know of makes a stop at First Nations Centre to learn about Indigenous culture. So, have a read through the possible itineraries to make sure the tour stops align with your interests!

Many of the tour options cater to most ages and physical abilities. The walking isn’t too strenuous, the stops or driving times aren’t too long, and the gondolas or villages are generally accessible (from what we could assess). You can always inquire ahead if you have any concerns.

Starting Location & Time

This factor isn’t too different across bus tours that leave from Vancouver.

This is because many of the top tours (and the companies behind them) either have one central departure point for early in the morning or they do a good job of getting you at a predetermined pick-up point. 

You’ll likely be contacted by your tour provider to confirm your pick-up location. Wherever you get picked up, it’ll usually be early in the morning (often between 8 and 9 am) to ensure lots of time out on the road!

One thing about starting locations that you should consider is that some tour companies do not pick up from hotels outside the Downtown Vancouver area. We’ve seen some advertisements that they pick up from Richmond (just south of Vancouver) but we can’t confirm this.

So, read the pick-up instructions for any tours you go to book. You can also just try to stay Downtown when you book your Vancouver accommodations if you want to try and avoid this issue before it becomes an issue!

Company Ratings/Quality of Tour

Many of the tour operators and tours listed in this article have very good reviews but you can always do more research about the companies before you book.

User ratings – like those who booked that tour before – are generally a solid indicator of the overall quality and experience.

black mini tour bus parked under shade of tree with leaves on branches above.
The company we went with was great from start to finish.

It should be noted that this article focuses on the bus tours to Whistler from Vancouver. If you’re looking for something a little different (and more exhilarating), you can always book a seaplane to Whistler from Vancouver!

The flight would be faster than driving and you’d have a very different – and still very scenic – experience!

Lastly, the quality of the buses is important for safety and also for enjoyment. Our bus was in great condition with nice leather seats and was temperature-controlled.

Price

The price of the tour is usually somewhat correlated to the length of the tour – but this is not always the case. The price might be an indication of what tickets are included in the base price (or not).

Our Squamish Sea-to-Sky Gondola tickets were already included in our base fare for the tour. So, Leslie just went up and got them printed and then distributed them. Easy peasy.

You should compare the different Whistler tours – usually, they are pretty clear about what is and is not included in the price. 

Essentially, you need to consider the value for money and determine if it’s for you!

Indigenous Recognition

Another thing to mention is that our tour guide made an effort to integrate Indigenous topics into the tour. 

Whether it was the explanation of the language on the road signs, a story, or a history lesson here and there, we liked that our guide mixed in these topics with all the other equally important information.

We aren’t sure if every guide does this but this is something we experienced and thought was important. We haven’t been on it but this tour makes a stop at Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center which would be very interesting, too. We’re going to stop by next time we are there.

Related Articles

If you’re planning a trip to Canada’s West Coast, here are some more helpful guides on Vancouver and beyond!

And there you have it – our experience on our Whistler day tour from Vancouver. Overall, we had such a great day out on the road and in the mountains and would recommend the Whistler day tour we did to anyone visiting who is short on time!

As always, Happy Waddlin’,

-L&E

Booking Your Trip Soon? This Is How We Do It:
  • Compare flights on Skyscanner
  • Check for Hotel Deals or Book A Hostel
  • Get A Rental Car (depending on the destination)
  • Look Into Travel Insurance
  • Research plug types and possibly get a travel adapter
  • Go over our packing list