Buro city guide: Whistler
This pretty town at the base of the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains is not only home to one of the biggest ski resorts in North America (it was a key venue for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games) but also a slew of incredible eating, drinking, staying and doing options catering to everyone from the outdoor summer adventurer, to the dedicated spa goer to the serious powder hound to the après-skier.
And us Aussie's love the place. Every second accent on the street is from home, with half the staff hailing from Down Under and most of the visitors holding an Aussie passport, it feels like a little slice of Australia half way around the world.
On a recent trip to Whistler I was lucky enough to experience unbelievable skiing (so much snow!) plus standout spa action, fab dining, amazing accommodation (thank you Four Seasons Resort Whistler) and uncover insider secrets from the charming Canadian locals I met.
Start planning now, because this is one town everyone should visit at least once (we're already planning trip two). Here are my best trip tips to get the most out of Whistler, Canada:
Top 3 coffee shops
1. Lift Coffee Co.
Located right next to the gondola this is the go-to for a proper caffeine fix prior to hitting the slopes, during a daytime refuel or in the afternoon to warm up on your way back in from a day on the powder.
4239 Mountain Square, Whistler, BC Canada
2. Mount Currie Coffee Co.
They say they're 'coffee geeks and mountain lovers' and it's 100 per cent true. Serving up some of the best coffee in the mountains right in the heart of Whistler's Main Street.
4369 Main Street, Whistler, BC Canada
3. Pikolo Espresso Bar
A local fave serving killer coffee and pastries - this cute coffee shop is a must-visit.
111-8200 Bear Paw Trail, Whistler, BC Canada
Breakfast and lunch
1. Garibaldi Lift Co. Bar & Grill
At the base of the Whistler gondola this pumping hot spot is the place to be seen come the midday hour. Tons of seating indoor and outside (with fire pits to keep you toasty if you choose the al fresco option) and a huge menu stacked with all the usual comfort foods like nachos and pizza along with knockout #cleaneating options like their famous superfood salad.
4165 Springs Lane, Whistler, BC Canada
2. Ollie's Grilled Cheese
Maximise ski time with a pit stop for lunch at this on-mountain gourmet grilled cheese hut located at Olympic Station on Whistler Mountain. Featuring a small menu of various grilled/toasted sandwiches and fresh daily soup - nothing beats a perfectly grilled cheese sandwich with a side of crisp mountain air.
4545 Blackcomb Way (outside Olympic Station), Whistler Mountain, BC Canada
3. Portobello, Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Recently renovated the Portobello takes the crown for the best hot chicken sandwiches and baked goods in town. The chicken goes directly off the rotisserie to your sandwich (or soup or salad bowl) and the cookies come straight out of the oven at the in-house bakery (along with doughnuts, muffins, scones and pastries). Also serves up some of the best coffee, tea and hot chocs in the 'hood.
Fairmont Chateau Whistler, 4599 Chateau Blvd Unit 110, Whistler, BC Canada
This high-end seafood diner is booked out every night in winter, for a reason. Exceptional menu filled with local produce making it very hard to choose... Luckily everything on the menu is incredible so no matter what entrée, main and dessert you select, you'll be in for a mouth-watering dining experience.
110-4222 Village Square, Whistler, BC Canada
2. Sidecut, Four Seasons Resort
Often restaurants in hotels underwhelm but not this buzzy fine dining steak house - it's one of the best tables in town. Come for the wagyu, stay for the salmon. Top tip: save room for dessert, the pear and cranberry crumble is a must-order.
Four Seasons Resort, 4591 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC Canada
If you like wine, cheese and cured meats you'll love Basalt. Pick 'n' mix from their extensive selection of cheese (think: manchego from Spain, herbed labneh made in-house) and cured meats (like: Italian salami, chicken liver mousse made in-house) to create your perfect meal.
#13 - 4154 Village Green, Whistler, BC Canada
Top 3 bars
1. 21 Steps
This relaxed bar and casual eatery has a very strong après scene - go directly there post-slopes for a warming beverage, comfort food and good time vibes.
10 - 4433 Sundial Pl, Whistler, BC Canada
2. Ketel One Vodka Room at the Bearfoot Bistro
You're already at the snow but this chill room (the coldest vodka tasting room in the world) is next level. Zip up your goose down jacket, hit the ice room and throw down a vodka shot or five.
4121 Village Green, Whistler, BC Canada
3. Bar Oso
Although Bar Oso is not technically just a bar (it's got fantastic tapas), the inventive drinks and cool atmosphere earn its place on the best of bars list.
150 - 4222 Village Square, Whistler, BC Canada
Top 3 places to stay
1. Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler
If budget is no issue book one of the Four Seasons residences. They're worth every cent and are some of the luxiest on-snow accommodation in the world: designer décor, impeccable service, chef-baked treats with your name on them. Both the residences and the main Four Seasons hotel have state-of-the-art gyms, outdoor heated pools and the main resort also has a stunning spa. Plus extras like hot choc and cookies served every afternoon as you come in from the snow, ski concierge to whisk your boots and skis away, Mercedez Benz car service and an elite team of hotel staff that all hotels should take notes from, they're that fantastic.
4591 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, BC Canada
2. Fairmont Chateau Whistler
Another top Whistler accommodation option offering ski-in/ski-out and all the bells and whistles you would expect from a Fairmont like health club, pool, delicious dining and ski valet. The Fairmont is also a top summer stay with an award-winning 18-hole golf course and tennis courts. It's also very easy on the eye - resembling a fairy-tale castle.
4599 Chateau Boulevard, Whistler, BC Canada
3. Hilton Whistler Resort & Spa
The Hilton Whistler has a lot going for it from the prime location (right at the Whistler ski school), to reasonable pricing (if you get an early-bird deal), in-room dining, pool, gym and fab day spa.
4050 Whistler Way, Whistler, BC Canada
This is a mountain town geared towards outdoor winter and summer sports (think: skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, canoeing) and the retail reflects this. Most of the shops are located in the pedestrian walk around Whistler Village Square and include stores like Canadian activewear brand Lululemon and outdoor adventure shops like Whistler Village Sports. There are a handful of cool local stores including 3 Singing Birds which stocks a tightly edited collection of fashion, skincare and luxe lifestyle pieces from sustainable and fair trade international labels along with local BC labels.
For more elevated fashion and beauty shopping, the locals regularly do the hour and half drive into Vancouver to stock up at the huge range of stores in the city (Nordstrom, Hudson Bay Co. etc).
Insider tip: if you're basing yourself in Whistler but planning to do as the locals do and day trip into Vancouver for some retail therapy book a shuttle or a car - there's no Uber in BC as yet.
3 other must-do experiences
1. Ice skate, tube park, Olympic bobsled experience
Hit the outdoor ice rink at the Whistler Olympic Plaza right next to the Olympic rings and channel your favourite Olympic figure skater. Or ride the tube park (hours of fun) or for the adrenaline junkie, take it next level and do the Olympic bobsled experience.
2. Scandinave Spa
The Scandinave Spa is spa-ing at its very best. Multiple hot and cold areas (sauna, spa, steam room, cold pools, hot pools) mean a program of 15 minutes warming up then 10-15 seconds in a cold area, then repeat and repeat again. Your circulation and body will thank you. Insider tip: no phones are allowed in the spa which is a killer because it is one of the most Instagrammable places in Canada.
3. Dog sledding
This is a true Canadian mountain experience - speeding through the wilderness on a sleigh pulled by super fit hounds.
Best places to hangout in winter and summer:
On the slopes: winter
Winter is best spent on the snow - boarding, skiing - your choice. Whistler ski resort is HUGE and the two mountains the resort covers, Whistler and Blackcomb, are connected by one of the most picturesque gondola rides in the world (the Peak 2 Peak Gondola).
Hiking, biking, fishing, watersports on the surrounding lakes: summer
Locals say Whistler is even better (and busier) in the summer with all of nature's bounty available. Bike or hike around one of Whistler's many beautiful lakes, Green Lake or Lost Lake, and then take a dip in the crystal-clear alpine water to cool down.
Best places to drop in for an exercise class:
Most of the hotels have gyms in-house so if you want to train before or after a day on the mountain it's just a short elevator ride to the hotel gym. The Four Seasons Resort also has a studio with a great line up of classes (you can pay to drop in even if you're not a guest there) including yoga and spin.
Whistler Core Climbing and Fitness Gym is the non-hotel option to go to offering personal training, excellent classes like cardio circuit, HIIT, strength, spin, pilates and a climbing wall.
Best day spa and salons
Spa: The Scandinave Spa and The Four Seasons Resort and Residences are the top picks in town. But the Fairmont, Hilton and Weston also have great spa-ing options
Hair: Get your tresses tamed, cut or coloured by the divine staff at Elevation - best blowout on the mountain.
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