48 Hours in Squamish, BC
Sorry, Whistler—there’s a new Sea to Sky hot spot.
Squamish didn’t have a bad reputation—it had no reputation. In times past, a mention of it to any Vancouverite would result in a vague memory of stopping for gas on the way to Whistler. Oh, how times have changed: now, the town has become a destination in its own right. (The boom is true for residents as much as day trippers—Squamish is currently experiencing a zero-percent vacancy rate.) It’s not hard to see why Squamish is having a moment. It’s filled with a whole lot of friendly faces and a never-ending to-do list of outdoor activities that take fitness buffs from the churning river to the mountain peaks; a rapidly developing local food scene doesn’t hurt, either.
Check in to the Logger’s Shack at Sunwolf, a reclaimed historic cabin just north of town filled with rustic wood beams and plenty of sunlight. The lodge is run by a charming British couple and their adorable baby, and the personal touch gives the property a homey vibe—when you’re en route to the hot tub, you’ll likely find them ladling homemade stew into bowls for rafting groups (the lodge offers whitewater adventures, as well as mellower eagle-watching tours come winter) or chatting up the regulars at the on-site Fergie’s Cafe.
And they’re not the only young entrepreneurs flocking to Squamish. Award-winning sommelier and mixologist Kelly Woods (the wizard behind La Mezcaleria’s stellar bar program) recently opened up her own distillery, Gillespie’s, with partner John McLellan. Make their tasting room (a really hidden gem tucked into an industrial park) your next stop. The pair serves up samples of handcrafted limoncello, spruce-tip-infused gin and craft vodka that’s good enough to sip and savour. You’ll want to linger in the tiny, speakeasy-cool lounge, but grab a bottle, too, to enjoy on ice back at the cabin, along with an Indian-fusion pie from Pizzalicious down the way. It may look like any other buck-a-slice joint, but trust us and pick up a butter chicken pizza to go—creamy butter sauce is slathered onto a naan-like crust and topped with fresh tomato and cilantro—because a night in with your cozy wood stove and some good company awaits. BYO board games, though: with no wifi or TV, Sunwolf is proudly off the grid.
Snag a maple walnut scone and North Vancouver-roasted coffee from Zephyr Cafe for breakfast, and stock up on picnic essentials for the afternoon from Black Market Cheese, located in the vestibule of Be Clean Naturally Soaps, while you’re on Squamish’s main drag. It may seem odd that cave-aged Emmental and truffled boschetto occupy a counter among locally made scrubs and salves, but these sort of team-ups aren’t uncommon here—just down the street, the former Newport Market (now Gelato Carina) used to sell wool and gelato side by side.
Take your provisions with you for an easy hike on the Four Lakes Trail, a gentle eight-kilometre walk through red cedar and Douglas fir trees that winds around, surprise, four lakes (Alice, Stump, Edith and Fawn, if you were wondering). June is still early enough to avoid the beach crowds, so grab a choice spot on the shore for your picnic after exploring the sun-dappled forest paths. Or, if a simple nature stroll isn’t daring enough for you, the team at Squamish Adventure will help book your excursion of choice, from horseback rides to kiteboarding (though, unfortunately, no horse kite-boarding at this point in time).
Sneak into the Executive Suites Hotel and Resort after your busy afternoon of hiking/cheese-feasting for a surprisingly excellent poolside massage that overlooks the Garibaldi mountain range, and then gear up for a big Saturday night spent at the Howe Sound Inn and Brewing Co. It’s the best brew pub in Squamish—never mind that it’s the only one—run by one of B.C.’s stalwart craft brewers. Plot out a tasting menu of your own (the regular menu is composed of elegantly executed pub fare: think burgers piled with caramelized onions or chorizo flatbread) or pick up tickets to one of the monthly beer-pairing dinners and gather around the long table in the big, buzzing space for four courses of smartly crafted dishes and brews. Try the fruity Super Jupiter Grapefruit ISA or the dangerously strong Woolly Bugger barley wine. And if you’re having way too much fun to drive back to your cabin? Sleep it off in the attached 20-room hotel.
Fergie’s is the best breakfast in Squamish—and, lucky you, it’s just steps away from your cabin at Sunwolf. On sunny weekends, the three-table café fills up in a snap, but locals happily set themselves up around the picnic tables that spill out from the patio onto the lawn. Chef Tom Giblin, formerly of Araxi, serves up a seasonally influenced menu packed with locally sourced produce and house-smoked meats. Order the corn beef hash (we love the smoked potatoes) and make sure to grab a homemade brownie for the road.
The Sea to Sky Gondola has been open for only a year, but already it’s an icon of the region, and a perfect last stop on your way back to Vancouver. Take the scenic 10-minute ride up (keep an eye out for bears ranging below) and then spend the morning exploring the pretty walking trails and sweeping viewpoints available at the top. The brave can take in a perfectly framed vista of Howe Sound from the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge; the thirsty can do so from the sunny lounge patio, a glass of wine in hand.