Whistler had been high on my list of places to visit ever since I can remember, so when the opportunity arose to be able to live and work there I jumped at it with my arms and wide open. Whistler is a small town located approximately 2.5 hrs away from Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. It is one of North America’s most prestige ski villages attracting almost 2 million people from all over the world annually. The Winter Olympics were also hosted here in 2010. It has not only one, but TWO amazing mountains right on the front door step with some of the world’s best terrain for skiing and snowboarding in the winter and downhill mountain biking in the summer. I often get asked if it’s best to visit in the summer or the winter and to be honest, the answer is: BOTH!
Whistler attracts it’s fair share of the rich and famous so naturally there are plenty of luxury hotels and fine dining options to reflect that lifestyle, but for the average, budget conscious traveller like myself there are plenty of dining and accommodation options and reasonably priced activities to turn your Whistler experience into an experience of a lifetime, without breaking the bank. After reading and implementing this guide you will never want to leave! (trust me, I went for four months and ended up staying four years).
Where to sleep:
The HI hostel would be my first pick for a well priced accommodation in Whistler. This isn’t your average hostel either. Before it became the HI hostel it was the athletes village for the Winter Olympics in 2010, so it is very modern and quite fancy as far as hostels go. The only small downfall is it is not located in Whistler village, but in a surrounding suburb called Cheakamus which can be easily reached by the public bus system in around 15 minutes from the main village. You can find a four bed dorm for around $25 a night and a private room for $65.
The Whistler lodge hostel
The Whistler lodge is a clean and cosy hostel located in a quiet area in a suburb called Nordic which is reachable via public bus in 10 minutes from the main village. The wooden floor boards, comfy lounge area, hot tub and sauna, forrest views and the curtains on your bunk beds (hello privacy!) are enough to make you want to take advantage of their “stay 9 nights and get the 10th night free” deal. A dorm bed will set you back around $32 and a private room around $73.
The Listel hotel
If hostels really aren’t your thing but you don’t want to break the bank, then the Listel hotel is the perfect match for you. This three star hotel is located right in the main village, close walking distance to the mountain, shops, restaurants and nightlife. The beds are insanely comfortable, the pool is heated and the fine dining restaurant (the Barefoot bistro) has an ice vodka room! It’s best to look around for a good deal online (I recommend Expedia or booking.com) but a standard room should cost you from anywhere around $80-$230 a night.
Where to eat:
El furniture warehouse
I ate at the El furniture warehouse (or ‘el furny’ as the locals call it) more times than I care to admit whilst I lived in Whistler but how could you pass up a restaurant where all main meals are $4.95 everyday of the week. Yep, you read that correctly! The vibe is awesome, the beers are cold and the food is delicious.
Although Three below is located downstairs in the movie theatre which is a little random, it makes up for it with its affordable, homestyle comfort food and ridiculously cheap drinks. You’ll find plenty of locals ‘pre drinking’ here before a night out, but with four shots for $14 and double shot house spirits for $6.95 how can you blame them?!
I still haven’t been able to find sushi that beats the sushi at Sachi (maybe I’ll have to go to Japan?). It is fresh, affordable and served with a smile. You can’t go there without ordering the spicy agadashi tofu, pork gyoza, a sachi roll and a rainbow roll. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about it!
What to do:
I feel like I could write a book about what to do in Whistler due to the vast range of different activities with various price ranges to suit everyone. Your Whistler experience can honestly become whatever you want it to be. It was really tough to choose, but these following things might just be my favourite activities to do in Whistler.
Utilise the mountain
Whistler is so blessed to have two amazing mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb, literally right on the front door step. Most ski resorts require a bus to get to the mountain, but if you are staying in the Whistler village you can walk to the base of the mountains in just a few minutes. Whether it be summer or winter, the mountains are definitely worth checking out for various activities. These activities can include but are not limited to; Skiing/ snowboarding, snowmobiling, hiking, downhill mountain biking, eating at one of the mountain top restaurants and taking in the views from the peak to peak gondola. What is the peak to peak gondola? you ask. The peak to peak gondola is an experience like no other. A cable connects the top of Whistler mountain to the top of Blackcomb mountain. It holds a record for the World’s longest unsupported span crossing 3 kilometers (or 1.8miles) and takes around 11 minutes for the cabin to get from one side to the other. You are completely suspended in mid-air between two monstrous mountains in a gondola cabin attached to nothing but a cable. It’s terrifying, exhilarating and heart-stopping-ly beautiful all at the same time.
Partake in the many different patio sessions around town
Again, being winter or summer doesn’t matter when it comes to the patio scene in Whistler. After everyone has finished their activities on the mountain or finished up a hike or a lazy day at the lake, it’s time to find the best patio in town to drink some cold beers, eat some 20 cent chicken wings and socialise with all the other like minded tourists, expats and locals. My favourite places would have to be The longhorn, Earls and Merlins. The view of the mountains, the live music, the good vibes, the amazing people you meet and the delicious food and drinks are enough to make you want this to be your everyday routine.
Relax at the Scandinave spa
The Scandinave spa experience is really unlike anything else. Nestled right in the heart of nature is a Scandinavian spa that uses the hydrotherapy technique. Basically, you first need to warm your body for 15 minutes in either the thermal baths and waterfalls, the steam room or the sauna. Next, comes the tricky part! To get the full effects of mind and body relaxation and circulation, you then need to submerge yourself in the cold baths and waterfalls for 20-30 seconds. This is so hard to do, especially in winter but you will feel AMAZING afterwards. Trust me! The final step is to take part in relaxation which you can do in the solarium, hammocks, deck and wood fire terrace. They also have amazing massage packages. The views are outstanding and you will be so relaxed after this experience that you will literally float out of there feeling like a better version of yourself. For a bath access pass you are looking at $60 and to add a 60 minute Swedish massage to that it will cost you around $152.
Whistler completely and utterly stole my heart from the moment I set foot in the beautiful village that looks fit to be a movie set. I, and many other people often refer the Whistler as the ‘bubble’. It’s like it’s own little world where dreams come true, friendships form, personalities blossom and people visit and never leave. Whistler is a reminder that life doesn’t need to be an endless parade of bills to pay, traffic jams and mind numbing 9-5 jobs. Here, the air is fresher, the people are happier, the vibes are better and the views are so beautiful everywhere you turn that it makes your heart stop and leaves you breathless. My life has been enriched beyond words since visiting the wonderful place and I only hope yours can be too.