JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH JORDANA MANCHESTER FROM SQUAMISH, CANADA !
Jordana Manchester is a 30 something year old Canadian travel blogger, globetrotter, mom and dog lover. Born and raised in Vancouver, she now calls Squamish home. Inspired by her degree in Anthropology, Jordana passionately writes and photographs her travels to more than 70 countries, imploring her readers to open their minds and dive deep when they’re on the road. She also writes about motherhood, mental health and her life with an autoimmune disease. In between play dates, music classes, and dog walks, she runs her own travel consulting business, specialising in adventure and culturally focused experiences.
Squamish is a beautiful little town with a modest population of just over 19,000, located an hour’s drive north of Vancouver, British Columbia. Surrounded by mountains, nested in the shadow of the spectacular Stawamus Chief, home to countless cascading waterfalls, endless hiking trails and jaw-dropping view, Squamish also happens to be Canada’s outdoor recreation capital and the world’s eagle capital.
When is the best time to visit Squamish?
Nestled at the most northern tip of the Howe Sound, and surrounded by mountains, despite being only an hour from Vancouver, Squamish has its own microclimate of sorts. It could be raining cats and dogs in Vancouver, but a beautiful sunny day here in Squamish. And while Summer is teeming with tourists, if you are a true blue adventurer who thrives in the outdoors, Squamish is absolutely an all-year-round destination.
Spring & Summer : Because it’s located in a valley, summers in Squamish can be hot. Several degrees warmer than Whistler to the North and Vancouver to the south. You are spoiled for choice when it comes to activities, from adrenaline pumping options like world-class rock-climbing, windsurfing in Howe Sound, mountain biking, dirt-biking and rafting, to softer adventures like kayaking, hiking up the Chief, stand-up paddle-boarding at Pitt Lake or taking a ride up the Sea-to Sky Gondola for breathtaking views of the Squamish Valley and surrounding glaciers. For train enthusiasts, a trip to the West Coast Railway Park is a must. And for those interested in learning about our rich and proud indigenous history and culture, a visit to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is highly recommended, any time of year.
There are Farmers Markets every weekend that begin in the early spring as well as artisan fairs, street festivals, music festivals and if you just want to laze around a patio, sipping one of the many locally crafted brews, you can do that too.
Fall & Winter : You definitely don’t want to discount visiting Squamish in the fall and winter months because you would miss flocks and flocks of very important feathered guests. Starting in late October, eagles descend on Brackendale Provincial Park and all along the Squamish River in the thousands. And if I can suggest you do one thing here in winter, it’s to take a rafting float tour down the Cheakamus River to view the eagles up close. We’re not talking about hair-raising rapids, but a gentle float down calm waters, and all along the river banks you’ll find tree after tree, bursting with majestic eagles. So bring your camera because you’re almost guaranteed to go home with some epic shots.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Squamish?
Squamish is located about an hour’s drive from Vancouver and unfortunately, is not connected to the public transit system so if you are coming from the airport, it can be a bit tricky. There are taxi’s that will take you from YVR Airport, but they are incredibly expensive.
I would strongly suggest renting a car for the day, or taking Vancouver’s Sky Train downtown and hopping on the Squamish Connector. This small commuter bus picks up guests from a number of downtown locations, and drops them off here in Squamish. This service runs 7 days a week, but has a limited number of seats so you’ll want to book ahead, especially in peak summer season.
There is also a company called Squamish Rides that departs from Burrard Station downtown Vancouver, and has more departure and arrival time options than the Squamish Connector.
What are the must visit places in Squamish?
Squamish is perhaps best known for its beloved Stawamus Chief, a towering granite monolith that stands at an awe-inspiring 700 metres or 2,297 feet above sea level (that’s a whopping 1,155 feet taller than Australia’s Uluru, and only 700 feet shorter than Yosemite’s El Capitain). The local Squamish people consider Stawamus (or ‘the Chief’ as it’s colloquially known) to be a place of significant spiritual importance. This gargantuan rock attracts climbers from all over the world, and is not for the faint of heart.
If keeping both feet on the ground is more your cup of tea, all three of the Chief’s main summits are accessible by hiking trails behind its face and offer spectacular views up the Sound and down onto the town of Squamish below. And if you just want to sit back, relax and enjoy it’s grandeur from a distance, head to the Garibaldi Café at the Squamish Adventure Centre, grab a seat by the window and enjoy a cup of Moja coffee.
Peeking over my laptop the Chief from the Squamish Adventure Centre
Fancy a trip into the clouds? Just off of Highway 99 on the way into town you’ll find the incomparable Sea-to Sky Gondola. Sweeping you up off the valley floor and ascending 885 metres (or 2900 feet), this ultra-smooth, 10 minute gondola ride presents stunning views of the deep blue Howe Sound below, and surrounding amphitheater of the west coast mountain range above. Make sure to look for bears and other wildlife scampering below as you glide along! This epic journey takes you up to the Summit Lodge where you’ll find more jaw-dropping views, a series of trail systems to explore, and the 100 metre Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge. If you’re travelling with little ones, there’s an excellent playground at the top, and on those warm summer days, you’ll find plenty of locals like myself, soaking in the rays, sipping a local brew and fully enjoying life on the the expansive outdoor patio – Honestly, I think it’s the absolute best place to be in all of Squamish.
Another local and tourist favourite and National Historic Site is the Britannia Mine Museum located about 20 minutes outside of town in Britannia Beach. If you’ve ever wanted to pan for gold, take a ride on an authentic mine train through dark tunnels and learn more about what life underground was like at the turn of the century, this is a fun stop for people of all ages. I recommend giving yourself at least 2 hours for this museum, and remember to bring something warm to wear, even in the warmer months.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Squamish?
There are a number of excellent daytrips you can take from Squamish because of its close proximity to Vancouver. It all depends on how adventurous you’re willing to be.
A beautiful 45 minute drive north will take you to one of North America’s premier ski resorts and home to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Whistler/Blackcomb. There is no end to what you can do in Whistler, and even more so than Squamish, this truly is an all-season destination.
Naturally, in the winter months, you have some of the best skiing and snowboarding anywhere in the world as well as snowshoeing, sledding, and heli-skiing. Not to mention awesome après-ski culture, plenty of cozy pubs to enjoy a pint, the nearby Scandinave Spa to pamper your sore bones, and tons of unique shops filled with Whistler made goods. And in the summer, a world class mountain biking park, food and wine festivals, music festivals and fine cuisine bring visitors from all over the world.
It’s also here that you will find the Squamish Lil’ Wat Cultural Centre, a stunning gathering place to learn about both the Squamish and Lil’Wat Nations, and to gain an understanding of the significance of our Indigenous People’s.
Head about 40 minutes south down the Sea to Sky highway to beautiful Horseshoe Bay and hop on a 40 minute ferry ride to one of British Columbia’s most beautiful, yet underrated seaside treasures. If you look at a map, the Sunshine Coast is actually attached to the mainland, but is only accessible by air and sea. This 180 km (112 mile) stretch of ruggedly beautiful coastline is dotted with quirky, eclectic, friendly seaside towns. A favourite with locals because of the milder climate, secluded beaches, lush rainforest hikes, local art galleries and fresh local cuisine, the Sunshine Coast offers up a different kind of West Coast experience. There are hundreds of quaint little B&B’s, award winning hotels and sweet seaside cabins available at very affordable rates.
Now, call me biased, but as a home grown BC girl, I don’t think you can visit this part of the world without making the trip to Tofino. This trip is a little bit of a trek from Squamish, but trust me, there are few words to describe how beautiful this journey is. Start off by taking a 2 hour ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to the seaside town of Nanaimo. Make sure to keep an eye out for pods of Pacific Dolphins and our resident orcas. When you make landfall, start your three hour drive to Tofino stopping in quirky Coombs to have lunch with goats on roofs (for real). Then be sure to pull over in Cathedral Grove, walking amongst these giants brings the term ‘forest bathing’ to a whole new level. Pop through Port Alberni, and take the Pacific Rim Highway all the way to what I like to call Heaven on Earth. This is an outdoor playground, home of some of the most adrenaline-thumping storm watching on Earth, a surfer’s paradise and beaches so pristine, wild and seemingly endless, you won’t want to come home. I can’t say much more, because I want you to see it, taste it, explore it and experience it all for yourself.
What is the most celebrated holiday/event of the year in Squamish?
There is always something being celebrated in Squamish, be it the arrival of the salmon run and eagles, Santa Claus up at the Summit Lodge, the Squamish Farmer’s Market in early April, the new Constellation Festival in July, or the various street markets throughout the spring and summer months. Squamish has its own unique way of celebrating local and international holidays and events.
What is the most loved local food, savoury and sweet of Squamish?
For its modest size, Squamish has a surprising number of excellent eateries, cafes and pubs to sate any palate or preference. For an upscale but super casual experience, make a reservation at the Salted Vine and don’t forget to try the twice-baked, Avonlea cheddar, maple mustard Soufflé or because you’re dining by the sea, make sure to order the Ling Cod with warm dashi broth, braised shimeji mushrooms and baby bok choy. Getting hungry?
For those passionate about eating sustainably, The Joinery caters to its beloved locals, and features dishes that are either “off the farm, out of the sea or off the bone.” The menu is undeniably West Coast with one of my favourites, being the West Coast Bowl (either seared tuna or shitake mushrooms with gomae, a light miso dressing, sesame and daikon). Their expansive menu of locally inspired cocktails, and local craft brew make this a uniquely Squamish dining experience.
There’s a funky little spot is located right on the main street along Cleveland, and I fell in love with it immediately. Why? Because the cuisine here is inspired by one of my absolute favourite American cities: New Orleans. This menu is the perfect marriage between the West Coast’s incredible seafood varieties and robust flavours of Louisiana. The Copper Coil Still and Grill is a great place to catch a game, munch on some Louisiana Popcorn Cauliflower, order up a half rack of slow-smoke ribs complete with winter slaw and fries and wash it all down with a Surrey-based Red Racer Beer.
Is Squamish vegetarian friendly?
Being the outdoor and adventure capital of Canada, it makes perfect sense that Squamish would be a Vegetarian and Vegan friendly town. Stop in at the Green Moustache Organic Café and try any (or all) of their nutrient-rich, plant based masterpieces. With a focus on homestyle cooking, no preservatives, all-natural, non-processed, gluten and dairy-free options, this a haven for clean eating. Another great vegetarian option is Zephyr Café located along Cleveland and Fuel + Forest, located in Garibaldi Highlands serves up delicious and locally sourced options.
Where to head for shopping in Squamish?
There are a few areas to shop in Squamish, and you may want to start off on our main street, Cleveland Avenue.
If you enjoy hunting for bargains and want to support a great cause while you’re doing it, Pearls Value and Vintage is a fun local favourite.
A browse around Billies Flower House is a floral inspired Pinterest page come to life, filled with exquisite macramé hangings, unique gift baskets to bring home to friends and loved ones, and of course, stunning floral arrangements.
If you’re in the mood for tea and chocolates, head to XOCO for mind-blowing handmade artisan chocolates. Salt and Pepper Mango, Madagascar Vanilla and Blueberry Jasmine are a few of my favourites.
Then, with your chocolates in hand, pop into Lucas Teas and snag yourself a steaming cup of Buttered Rum Rooibos, Ginger Choco Bourbon or whatever your exotic palate desires.
Squamish Farmers Market is a fun-filled Saturday affair starts in April and ends in October. With a regular rotation of local produce and meats from surrounding farms, handmade local gifts, artists, distilleries, food trucks, musicians and a great deal more, you definitely want to make it to Squamish over a weekend.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of your city?
Squamish is known for its craft beer, indigenous culture, our wildlife and our thriving artisan community. Most of the local shops will have any number of Squamish made handicrafts and gifts. The gift shop at the Adventure Centre is a great stop for locally inspired gifts.
Nootka and Sea is a modern day Apothecary and plant shop, and probably one of the most beautifully appointed little shops in Squamish.
And the Hive on Cleveland Ave is an eclectic shop that stocks locally designed t-shirts, jewelry, knitted crafts and just about anything you’ll need to impress friends and loved ones back home.
Which are the best streets of Squamish worthy of taking a stroll on?
What people may not know is that while Squamish is the mountain biking capital of Canada, it’s also one of the most well equipped road-biking towns in British Columbia, and it’s one of the best ways to get around.
With cycling paths connecting just about all of the major neighbourhoods, you could rent a bike from the Adventure Centre, check out downtown, then head on over to Garibaldi Highlands and University Heights, check out Brackendale and anywhere else the day takes you.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
The best part about my town is spectacular views just about everywhere you look. You can literally be in the drive-through at Tim Horton’s, and off in the distance, you’ll see a cascading waterfall.
Out my livingroom view you’ll find views of the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls. We are spoiled.
But to truly have your breath stolen, head up the Sea to Sky Gondola for expansive views of Howe Sound. Or hit the Chief trail and find yourself on top of it all, looking down at the Squamish Valley below. It doesn’t really matter where you go, you’re surrounded by awe-inspiring natural beauty.
Would you suggest any shows in Squamish to drama, music or art lovers?
Squamish is brimming with local artists, and you’ll often find local works proudly displayed in our local cafes, and coffee shops. The Adventure Centre theatre sometimes screens unique, locally produced films.
For art lovers, check out the Brackendale Art Gallery in Brackendale, right along Cleveland Avenue in downtown Squamish, you will find the Sea to Sky Arthouse, the Squamish Native Art Store and the Art Garden, all within walking distance of each other.
How about doing a self-guided outdoor art walk? Check out a few of these colourful representations in our vibrant community:
- Sea to Sky Art House: New Jessica Gilbert Mural
- Squamish Youth Centre: Mural by Squamish Arts Council Program
- Next to Corsa Cycles: Mural from the Squanderer Mural Festival
- Cleveland and Main: “Eye of the Creator” mural
- Second & Winnipeg: Stawamus Chief, train and bear mural (my personal favourite!)
Would you recommend any local apps for food or transport in Squamish?
The Tourism Squamish App is a great tool to find out what’s going on, where to stay and what excursions you should try when you’re up here.
If you’re up here to do some serious hiking, cycling, dirt biking or off-roading, TrailMapps Squamish is a fun map to help you navigate your way around.
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Squamish?
Squamish is a town perched not on the edge, but in the middle of the wilderness. We love and respect our sometimes overly curious neighbours and that includes some 50 resident black bears, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, and the odd cougar. It’s important to be “Bear Aware” and that means never leaving your garbage out anywhere, and never approaching them, especially the cubs because Mama Bear is always just around the corner.
My second tip would be come prepared for the weather and geography. We are so fortunate to have an endless number of trail systems just outside our front door, but sadly, we read far too many accounts of tourists attempting to hike trails they simply haven’t prepared for. Be it inappropriate clothing and footwear, not enough supplies, no GPS or no means of communication, many of these trails are not for amateurs. Research the hike ahead of time, pack the necessities (and extras), dress properly and always, ALWAYS tell someone where you’re going and when you left.
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