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Connecting the City of Vancouver with the world-renown alpine resort of Whistler, it's no wonder that the Sea to Sky Corridor provides much more than just a pleasant drive through the mountains...
The Sea to Sky Highway (or Highway 99 as most maps so mundanely label it), is the name of the winding route that meanders along the Pacific coastline connecting the Fraser Valley with its northern and less populated cousin, the Pembroke Valley. This historic stretch of British Columbia has seen action since prospectors travelled through here on their way to the Cariboo Gold Fields in the mid Seventeenth Century but it wasn't until the 1960's that the growing allure of Whistler Mountain gave rise to the need for a public rout. Soon, fledgling communities emerged and now, the region includes Lions Bay, Britannia, Furry Creek, Howe Sound and Bowen Island. With sparkling oceans, soaring mountains and lush, green, mist-shrouded islands it's no surprise that this is one of the most spectacular areas of the province.
But for those traveling the Sea to Sky Corridor, other, more alluring means of transportation exist apart from the highway. Although the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Winter Olympics has brought early and necessary improvement to the roadways connecting the two venues, the train provides a romantic and visually stunning alternative to reaching these communities. In fact, of all the thousands of kilometers of tracks criss-crossing Canada, the 800 kilometers between Vancouver and Prince George are some of the most beautiful - a journey whose first leg snakes along the shimmering Howe Sound and through some of BC's most idyllic, albeit unsung vacation destinations.
The Howe Sound itself has been central to the community long before the arrival of Westerners on Pacific shores. The villages of the Indigenous Peoples of the Squamish and Shishalh tribes originally peppered this coastline, much of the lands and islands of the area still used for First Nations cultural practices. It wasn't until 1972 that Captain George Vancouver discovered the Sound, naming it after Admiral Earl Howe. The eventual large-scale mining operations that centered around Brittania Beach brought the initial population to the area and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, of the small towns that thrive up and down Corridor, the island community of Bowen Island is one of the most recognizable.
On the southern end of Sea to Sky, the island Municipality of Bowen Island is 6 kilometers west of the mainland and easily accessible from Vancouver via the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. With less than 4-thousand permanent residents, the population increases by almost half again during the summer months. Small businesses abound with a concentration around Snug Cove that includes a marina, a bank, gift shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and grocery stores. A surprisingly extensive cultural life exists here too, including choral ensembles, a public art gallery and a kids' theatre school. More sun-worshipper than art-appreciator? Bowen Island has several popular beaches including Bowen Bay, Tunstall Bay and Sandy Beach (yes, it is). Kayak rentals are available from Snug Cove but land-lubbers can also enjoy a day out courtesy of a hiking trail that begins at the ferry dock, leading to Killarney Lake and eventually Mount Gardner, the highest point on the island.
Halfway along the Sea to Sky, you'll find the town of Lions Bay. A unique, steep mountainside community. The northernmost municipality of Greater Vancouver is best known for the Search and Rescue team that services the region, particularly The Lions, the two nearby mountains that are popular with Vancouver hikers.
The tiny 400-person strong Brittania Beach is home to the British Columbia Museum of Mining on the grounds of the now-closed Britannia Mines. Visitors are always struck by the relics, oddities and tragedy-ridden history of this once-booming mining town.
Named after trapper-turned-prospector, Oliver Furry, Furry Creek is a steadily-growing community of over 2-thousand - a number that will surely change as new development increases in this vibrant oceanside community. With easy access to both ocean and alpine activities, it's no wonder this area has received such positive recent attention. Horseback riding, boating, bird-watching, scuba diving and white water rafting are all an easy quarter-hour drive away, but it's the golfing that attracts visitors here. Furry Creek Golf and Country Club boasts amazing coastal views from every one of their expertly-designed holes.
The natural geography of the region makes for some of the finest 18-hole course in the province. Other favourites include Big Sky Golf and Country Club, Chateau Whistler Golf Club, Nicklaus North Golf Club, Pemberton Valley Golf & Country Club, Squamish Valley Golf & Country Club, Whistler Golf Club and Garibaldi Springs.
Bring the family! There's more to see in Sea to Sky Country...