Kelowna to Vancouver - which route to take?
July 23, 2014 7:23 PM   Subscribe

We're planning to drive from Kelowna to Vancouver in the middle of September, and we'd like to take a scenic route and perhaps stay overnight somewhere in the middle. Problem: we're getting conflicting advice about which "scenic" route to take!

Option 1: South from Kelowna and through the Okanagan valley/Princeton/Hope. (Wineries, fruit, etc.)
Option 2: North from Kelowna through Merritt, Lillooet, Pemberton, and Whistler. (Mountains, glaciers, etc.)

Any thoughts on which route might be more pleasant for two Torontonians? Anywhere in particular that would be a good place to stay for the night?

Thanks, all!
posted by greatgefilte to Travel & Transportation around British Columbia (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Option 2, hands down, unless you want to go wine tasting. The scenery is fucking spectacular.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:40 PM on July 23, 2014

The trip from Kelowna to Hope is pretty nice, but quite honestly my favourite part of the Crowsnest route is *east* of Kelowna. Manning is nice, but one you leave Hope you're on a very busy freeway, and it just gets busier after Abbotsford as you head into Van.

The northern route, on the other hand, is spectacular and majestic the entire way. And you can get off the Upper Levels highway and take the Lion's Gate Bridge right into downtown via West Georgia (if downtown is your destination).
posted by KokuRyu at 7:41 PM on July 23, 2014

Option 2. It's a great, great drive.
posted by miles1972 at 8:14 PM on July 23, 2014

Option 2. Not even close. Staying overnight in Whistler is the obvious choice. The Sea to Sky Highway alone is worth a whole days drive. Here is a PDF I made discussing the highlights of the Sea To Sky Highway, and some less well-known tourist idea for visitors to Vancouver that might prove useful.

The format is a bit confusing, as it's because its a discussion between myself and someone else that I saved and added the links too.

(You need to right click on the links, and open them in a new tab due to my lack of haxxor skillz)
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:17 PM on July 23, 2014

Option two all the way. The Sea to Sky is spectacular and there are some nice places to stop along the way and it makes getting into downtown Vancouver much easier than the other route. I like the mining museum which is just south of Squamish.

My only suggestion route wise is if you're coming in at rush hour to get off the highway at 15th street then go down to Marine Drive and take that to the bridge instead of the next exit (Taylor Way) as traffic going to the bridge to downtown can back up Taylor Way.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 8:27 PM on July 23, 2014

Another vote for option 2. The drive from Kelowna along the lake then Keremeos, Princeton, & Manning Park is beautiful but the stretch from Hope to Vancouver is nothing special. If you take the other route things just get better and better as you go along.

The good news is you can't make a wrong choice. Compared to Toronto driving either one of these routes will knock your socks off. If you do end up taking the Princeton route stop for Indian food in Keremeos. There's a family run place in that little fruit town that is pretty damn good! You'll see the signs, Samosa Garden I think it's called.
posted by Cuke at 9:14 PM on July 23, 2014

Option 2: You will drive along a gorgeous lake at one point (or several), sitting by that lake eating lunch and witnessing an eagle/hawk swoop in right beside us and grab a fish from below the surface only to take it into the tree beside us and start his own lunch... memories.
posted by Cosine at 9:25 PM on July 23, 2014

if you're coming in at rush hour to get off the highway at 15th street then go down to Marine Drive

Actually, the real trick when arriving during rush hour is to avoid the Lions Gate altogether, and take the Second Narrows. If you must take the Lions Gate, then the real hack is to take the Capilano Road exit past Taylor Way, and then enter from the East, via North Vancouver.

I can see why tourists would want to take the iconic Lions Gate Bridge however and the drive through Stanley Park. If you do choose to do that, then take the very first exit as soon as you get off the bridge and stop at Prospect Point, then take Stanley Park Drive, along the waterfront, instead of the Causeway through the middle of the park and stop at the Hollow Tree and then at Third Beach and the Stanley Park Teahouse.

If you're arriving at the Lions Gate during rush hour from Whistler though, then you're doing it wrong.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:47 PM on July 23, 2014

Nthing option 2. It's a gorgeous drive.
posted by gursky at 10:15 PM on July 23, 2014

We drove option 1 in a day, as we were pushed for time.

We stopped at a couple of wineries, which was nice, and it was a road with pretty scenery, but it wasn't breathtaking.
posted by Simon_ at 11:03 PM on July 23, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all for confirming my initial hunch! I'm thinking that we stop in Lillooet, sample the wineries, and then stay in Pemberton overnight to avoid the tourist rush in Whistler, then head back in the morning down the Sea to Sky. Does that make sense?
posted by greatgefilte at 5:42 AM on July 24, 2014

What time in the morning? You should be timing your arrival in Vancouver between 11 AM and 3 PM, or past 8 PM.

I actually highly recommend an evening drive down. A 6:30 or 7 PM departure from Squamish would do you nicely and get you into Vancouver at a decent clip. Plus you will be driving southbound at around sunset - pity the driver who cannot admire the scenery!

What you can do is take a ride up the new Sea To Sky gondola in Squamish and eat up there. The view is phenomenal. You would want to arrive around 4 or so to upload, wander around on the trail for an hour, and then eat. Downloading is a bit of a zoo on weekends, weekday is definitely preferred. On a clear day that view is a million bucks and you can eat outside on a panoramic patio with views all around.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:59 AM on July 24, 2014

And on second thought an overnight stay in Pemberton is just about perfect. It will take you a couple of hours to shut your jaws and stop gawking from Pemberton to Whistler. Lunch in Whistler, early dinner in Squamish, nighttime drinks in Vancouver. There are plenty of things to do between Whistler and Squamish for the afternoon depending on your interest.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:06 PM on July 24, 2014

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