The long weekend getaway is a Canadian Institution, when holiday deprived Canucks load up their vehicles with as much stuff as possible and hit the road.
However, anyone who has lived in the Lower Mainland on Canada’s West Coast for at least one summer knows that the key to an enjoyable extended weekend break is long term planning! If you to wait to the week before, the campsites are full, the ferry reservation spots are gone and the hotel front desk can only provide a sympathetic ear rather than a room. Don’t be caught with your proverbial pants down – here are my favourite 5 long weekend getaways to help you plan ahead!
Nestled on the West Coast of Canada where the Pacific Ocean meets the mountains, is the idyllic surfer town of Tofino. With pristine beaches, breathtaking scenery, excellent surfing and a fantastic variety of eateries, Tofino has everything you could want in a long weekend destination. Even the 3 hour drive from Nanaimo is spectacular, with Cathedral Grove (an ancient forest of giant Douglas fir trees) and Kennedy Lake being must-see stops!
In terms of a plan, I would recommend:
- Staying a couple of nights at the cosy Middle Beach Lodge
- Hiring some surf boards from the super friendly Storm Surf Shop and hitting the famous Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park
- Hiking the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet which follows the Pacific Ocean coastline
- Getting lunch at the original Tacofino food truck
- Dining at either Shelter or Spotted Bear!
The Okanagan Valley is about a 4 hour drive from Vancouver, and is the perfect summer long weekend location due to its consistent sunny weather, warm lakes and abundance of wineries (over 120).
For a long weekend itinerary, I would suggest:
- Camp or rent a house in laid back Penticton which provides a great central base to access the rest of the region
- Visit the wineries on the Naramata Bench (Lake Breeze is my personal favourite)
- Enjoy a spectacular lunch at Burrowing Owl winery just south of Oliver
- Spend the day at the beach in Penticton, and swim in the warm waters of Lake Okanagan
- Ride the Kettle Valley Trail over historic trestles and through 2 tunnels (starts in Kelowna)
- Enjoy a casual but tasty dinner at Salty’s (Penticton)
Whilst Whistler is famous as a winter ski resort, it makes for an ideal long weekend summer retreat. The four lakes provide ample playgrounds for your water toys, while a variety of cross country and downhill biking trails offer plenty of options for those that enjoy exploring on two wheels. The alpine hiking is spectacular, and the Village supports a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene!
I would suggest any trip includes:
- Camping at either at Riverside Resort, Alice Lake, Whistler RV Park or Nairn Falls
- Paddleboarding on Alta Lake
- Hiking the High Note trail on Whistler Mountain, taking in spectacular views of Cheakamus Lake
- A day at the Scandinave Spa to rejuvenate the body and mind
- Paddling down the River of Golden Dreams between Alta and Green Lake
- Dining al fresco style at any of the restaurants on the Whistler Village Stroll
If fun, adventure and hanging out with your extended family or besties is how you like to spend an extended weekend, then houseboating on the pristine and undeveloped Shuswap Lake is a must! The houseboats come with everything you need including a fully equipped kitchen, hot tub on the upper deck and a water slide to ensure you enter the warm waters of the Shuswap in style! The evenings are spent moored up on a beach around a glowing campfire enjoying s’mores! Remember if you run out of food or drinks, you can visit the floating shop in the middle of the lake!
I would advise that you:
- Book early as availability is limited given the popularity of houseboating
- Bring twice as much food and drink as you will think you need (why ration when you’re on vacation?)
- Avoid Nielsen Beach if you want to get some sleep before 6am
- Pack your inflatables for endless hours of floating on the lake under sunny skies
Banff is a serious 900km haul for a long weekend from the Lower Mainland, so you may need to extend a few days, but for those looking for adventure and Mother Nature at her splendid mountain best there can be no better place in Western Canada! There are probably 2 months’ worth of activities I could recommend you try in Banff National Park, but if you have a few short days I would suggest:
- Camp at Tunnel Mountain which can be booked through Parks Canada
- Paddle on the Bow River (make sure you go upstream to avoid Bow Falls)
- Hike the Plain of the Six Glaciers starting at Lake Louise
- Have your breath taken away by a visit to postcard perfect Moraine Lake
- Drive the Icefields Parkway making sure you stopping at Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon and Athabasca Glacier
- Dine at Park Distillery which blends traditional cuisine with the campfire!
- Enjoy a craft ale at the Banff Brewing Company
- Relax in the mineral waters of the Banff Hot Springs