Sweet genius Kevin Young has been quietly whipping up some of the province’s most intriguing chocolates for the past year in his compact chocolate shop, Xoco on Cleveland Avenue. Kevin lives by the idea that the first bite comes with the eyes, as he says, “You can have the nicest ganache in the world but it needs to look amazing too.” Gobble up his edible worlds of art which use local honey, and Gillespie’s Spirits. Coming soon he’ll be pouring flights of foaming hot single-origin hot chocolate.
For years people have told me that Squamish has one of the best sushi restaurants in B.C. and finally I headed to Sushi Sen and damn, they may all be right. I grabbed sashimi and rolls to go (all the better to watch the eagles swoop over the mountains) and it was some of the best I’ve ever tasted.
I was travelling with a vegan friend who adored Cafe Zephyr’s piled-high rice and salad bowls and I loved their organic chicken and avocado burger.
If you’re looking for pub grub and craft brews, then head on over to the excellent Howe Sound Brewery and Inn for their pleasingly spacious patio and freaking amazing pizzas and towering bowls of poutine.
Tackle the Via Ferrata
The launch of the Sea to Sky Gondola threw open pristine back- and front-country mountain trails to everyone, with multi-level hikes for all abilities. Once you’ve enjoyed the smooth trip up the mountain in the gondola and explored (and taken those all-important selfies on the suspension bridge and viewing platforms), try something new this summer and give the Via Ferrata a whirl. A facilitated climbing adventure in which you’re safely clipped to a line in a harness with your guide, you climb by way of steel rungs up an 80-metre vertical cliff. Throughout the 90-minute experience, you’ll see 600-year old Douglas Firs, and get astounding views of Howe Sound below and of Sky Pilot soaring above. Suitable for ages 7 and upwards.
Go flightseeing with Glacier Air
Possibly one of the best sightseeing deals in Canada, the second I landed I wanted to beg them to take me up again! Glacier Air is an absolutely excellent value at $77.70 for 25 minutes of flightseeing over Squamish. We soared above glacial lakes hidden on the tops of the mountains, over the Sea to Sky Gondola and Howe Sound, which glittered in the sun. I felt the chill in the air as we flew over the Alpha and Omega peaks, and stared with wonder at the incredible turquoise water in the glacial bowls. This is seeing the world through the eyes of an eagle and it’s an absolute must do.
Thrift shop for unique upcycled pieces at Empire of Dirt
Squamish doesn’t just boast great clothing stores, you’ll also find a ton of superb thrift shops selling everything from books and crafts to glassware and china at way less than you’d pay in VanCity. My absolute favourite store though is the brilliant Empire of Dirt which features mostly upcycled goods from local artists, along with custom-built furniture pieces for indoors and the patio. I’m madly coveting owner Laura Sharp’s Forked Over jewellery, which features cutlery and is as cutting-edge cool as it’s possible to be.
Snap up a consignment store bargain at Random
Stunning repurposed silk scarf dresses for under $20, cool vintage bowling shirts, racks of $5 to $10 specials—no, you haven’t dreamed it all, there really is a world of fantastic vintage, second-hand and consignment shopping tucked away on Squamish's main street, Cleveland Avenue. Frankly, the consignment shopping is worth the trip alone. In Random Clothing, you get a 40/60 split in your favour from the shop and can take it in money or store credit for the same amount. Along with the second-hand finds, you’ll also score gorgeous locally made undies, Whistler Kimonos and some über cool jewellery and accessories.
Gallop off on an adventure at Diamond Head
Enjoy a rare chance to go riding with one of the North America’s most experienced horsemen, Cowboy Jim, who teaches stunt riding to Hollywood’s finest at the Diamond Head Outfitters. Newbies can saddle up and head on out with Jim on a trail ride, or more experienced riders might chose to try a Western-style lesson. If you’re experienced in both archery and horseback riding, Jim’ll even teach you how to combine the two. Make it a longer stay in one of Diamond Head’s teepees and they’ll create a custom package for you so you can spend all day in the saddle and all night snoozing under the stars.
Sample Gillespie’s Fine Spirits
This is possibly the coolest tasting room I’ve ever seen, with squashy sofas and a dazzling view over the Tantalus Range (along with a pair of pretty kitty cats to play with). Look out for the Distillery signs which lead through the business park and check out Gillespie’s craft spirits made right in Squamish. You can try their products, including Sin Gin, Gastown Shine vodka and Lemoncello at the bar while chatting to makers Kelly and John, and also pick up a full range of their products (including Kelly’s excellent BoozeWitch shrubs) to take home and start mixing up in cocktails—try some of Kelly’s creations which are on the website.
Come for breakfast and stay for the weekend at Sunwolf
Pretty much one of my favourite places in B.C., Sunwolf resort is a year-round destination for guaranteed good times. Home to the famous Fergie’s Café, one of the best places you could ever go for breakfast (and with a jaw-clanging view of the mountains too), they’ve recently opened their new covered dining room so even on drizzly days they can seat everyone.
Away from the dee-lish food, there are the cozy cabins and well-equipped cottages to stay, where you’ll be lulled to sleep by the babbling sound of the Cheakamus river. Add to that the activities: summer brings whitewater rafting and winter is time for eagle float tours. You can see why Sunwolf is my go-to one-stop-shop for all things fabulous when friends come to visit.
Just an hour away from the city, Squamish is the perfect destination for outdoor adventures, and tons of fun for the entire family
For too long Squamish was seen as just somewhere you drove through on the way to Whistler from Vancouver. But thanks to the Sea to Sky Gondola putting this gorgeous town on the radar of every travel writer in the world, sleepy lil’ Squamish made The New York Times’ annual 52 Places to Go list in 2015.
If you’ve not explored Squamish, allow us to suggest it as the perfect destination for a close-to-home break with great food, wild outdoors adventure and some of the best thrift shopping (seriously!) in Canada.
Hook up with the fine folks at Squamish Adventure who can organize a fun trip for you or go solo with our suggestions. But seriously—make visiting Squamish part of your plans for the summer. Here's why...
Nikki Bayley is an award-winning travel writer, guide book author and spirits and cocktail journalist whose work appears in National Geographic Traveller, The Globe and Mail and the Difford’s Guide. A cheese fan, hula hooper and all-round word nerd, she writes regularly for BCLiving about food, drink, spas and everything else that makes life worth living.