We'd like to give you 20 reasons to visit Whistler, but apparently you don't need them. There are so many Australians in Canada, and at Whistler in particular, the mountain resort has been named 'Little Australia'. Or 'Whistralia' if you prefer.
They come for the town's notorious nightlife, the excellent skiing, the outdoorsy lifestyle, and hell, because there are a bunch of like-minded individuals already there (otherwise known as other Australians).
Here's 20 things that keep Aussies visiting in droves.
1. Ride the Sasquatch zipline
Make no mistake, this is the highest, steepest, fastest, scariest zipline you've ever been on and it will scare the crap out of you. Your guide takes you to the top of Whistler Mountain via a firetrack – you'll keep going higher, the "road" gets steeper, rougher and grows conspicuously, increasingly quiet until there is no mountain left, at which point you'll reach the take-off platform. From here you'll plummet at breakneck speeds that plateau over Whistler valley – undoubtedly the best view in the vicinity. Enjoy it while it lasts for about a split second, after which you'll smack into a bone-shattering reality on the platform at Whistler Blackcomb. Adrenaline-pumping fun for all ages. ziptrek.com/whistler-canada/
2. Ride the Superly zipline
Satiate your taste for ziplining with The Adventure Group's series of more cruisy rides that won't make you feel like you're walking a plank to terror. No, it's not as high, long or fast as the Sasquatch, but just as fun, traversing Cougar Mountain over the space of a couple of hours. tagwhistler.com/activity/superfly/
3. Take a RZR tour
This ain't no dodgem ride, baby. Resting somewhere between an APT and a jeep, RZR are a small, solid vehicle for two designed for serious off-road action. You'll be largely encouraged to rip through huge puddles at great speeds and manoeuvre over rocky terrain, while being rewarded with spectacular views of Cougar Mountain's alpine surrounds. If you dare to look down. tagwhistler.com/activity/rzr-tours/
4. Go mountain biking
Bikes rule the mountains at Whistler, where locals are more likely to have heavily invested in something with two wheels than four. The suspension on these things is killer – think monster truck on two wheels – getting you over the smooth trails to the tough, which thread cobweb-like everywhere you go. Really keen offroaders can chairlift bikes to the top of Whistler Blackcomb and ride right to the bottom. There's dozens of specialist bike trails around as well to suit a wide variety of experiences.
5. Hike to the Whistler Train Wreck
In 1956, along the train tracks that run by the Cheakamus River, a train derailed, apparently spilling carriages downhill towards the river. The carriages were deemed too expensive to move but remain – albeit well hidden. The hike has become a rather infamous one in Whistler – unmarked, notorious, and best taken only by those who understand the signs directing you there or know the way. Mountain bikers have turned this into a park of sorts, adding ramps to the carriages, with artists covering the carriages in graffiti – some of it very good. The easy three-kilometre trail follows the Cheakamus River through some spectacular BC scenery. whistlerhikes.com/train-wreck/
6. Eat at Araxi
For a true taste of Pacific Northwest cuisine, head to Araxi for locally sourced food, matched to spectacular local wines and service. Oyster lovers will love the oyster bar, but there's plenty of other options from the seafood-heavy menu; opt for the tasting menu for the full experience. For dessert, do not miss Elephant Island's Framboise, a decadent raspberry dessert wine – one of the many you'll sample from the sensational Okanagan region. araxi.com
7. Relax at Scandinavian Hot Spa
For the ultimate splurge, head to this bathhouse for some post-hiking/zipling relaxation. In a gorgeous alpine setting, the bathhouse has a series of pools at different temperatures – from freezing to sizzling – and a sauna. Do several laps of each pool for maximum health benefits, then relax on a sunlounge or hammock with a cup of tea in the sunshine to while away another hour. scandinave.com/en/whistler/
8. Stay at the Fairmont
The creme of the crop, Fairmont has prime position at the base of Whistler Blackcomb, but it also possesses some of Whistler's best restaurants, heated pools and spas, has excellent service, and is within easy reach of Whistler Village and great hiking. For the ultimate splurge book a room at Fairmont Gold which has its own concierge, lounge that serves breakfast plus drinks, snacks and desserts throughout the day, with tremendous views from big comfortable chairs alongside a welcoming fireplace. fairmont.com/whistler
9. Not staying at the Fairmont? Eat there instead
Guests must find it hard getting an excuse to leave the hotel when their restaurants are this good. Choose between the upmarket Wildflower or Grill Room, to the more casual Portobello, Clubhouse (at the golf course) or Mallard Lounge & Terrace for outstanding signature cocktails you can enjoy fire or poolside. The restaurants specialise in Canadian cuisine with old-school service being part of their charm. fairmont.com/whistler
10. Hike at Lost Lake
A 10-minute walk from Whistler Village, the Lost Lake is a spectacular hue surrounded by bike and walking trails – you can easily grab a perch on a fallen tree and take in the beauty of its surrounds, or you can chill on the "beach" where there's picnic tables.
11. Ride the Peak to Peak '360 experience'
Holding three Guinness World Records for being the highest and longest lift in the world, this is Whistler's most famous attraction. It has saved skiers oodles of time by escorting them from Whistler's peak to Blackcomb's in a matter of minutes. During summer, the gondola operates on weekends to offer extraordinary views of BC from the top of the mountains. Come for the views, or stay for the 50-odd kilometres worth of hiking or mountain biking trails. whistlerblackcomb.com/discover/360-experience
12. Drive the Sea to Sky Highway
One of BC's most spectacular drives stretches over 80 kilometres to Whistler. Highway 99 whisks you out of Vancouver city, past dramatic coastal scenery with plenty of stops from which to enjoy the views along the way. Spend time drinking in the views on the Sea to Sky gondola at Squeamish; visit Porteau Cove, set on an enormous fiord; and Shannon Falls, the third tallest in BC. Add some bling to your trip and drive an exotic car up to Whistler for a luxury experience.
13. Shop at Whistler Village
OK, so there might be a lot of snow, ski and other sports apparel such as Lululemon, but the village has a good range of hip boutiques, galleries, spas, hairdressers, outlets, plus a decent chunk of Aussie brands for the homesick or holidaying Aussie such as Quicksilver, Roxy and Billabong, as well as numerous bars, cafes and restaurants.
14. Bobsleigh at Whistler Sliding Centre
A legacy of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, this is the fastest ice track in the world for bobsleigh, luge and skeleton, and you can ride on it. This is still used as a professional racing centre, but visitors can tour the centre or ride on a pilot-driven bobsleigh on wheels along the 1450-metre track at speeds of 80km/h. In winter, things get hardcore when a bobsleigh ride reaches speeds of 125km/h with accelerations of up to 4G forces. whistlerblackcomb.com
15. Watch out for wildlife
You're unlikely to see grizzlies at Whistler, but black bears are very common and it's hard to hike or cycle Whistler without encountering at least one (although somehow I managed). If you don't care for bears, Whistler was named after the noise the marmots that inhabit the mountain make. They like to stretch out on rocks in the sun and, errr, whistle, so if you listen carefully, you can hear their call throughout Blackcomb and Whistler mountains.
16. Picnic at Green Lake
This huge green lake resides at the northern end of Whistler Village. About 10 times larger than nearby Lost Lake, this glacier-fed body of water is perfect for picnicking on summer days and is well equipped with walking and bike trails and barbecue sites. You can also rent kayaks, canoes and SUPs. The myriad bike trails leading back to Whistler Village are fun to get lost in on bike or foot.
17. Hike to Brandywine Falls
Situated in the Brandywine Falls Provincial Park, the Brandywine Falls tumble 70 metres seemingly in a dreamy slow-motion as viewed from the nearby observation deck, which is a easy walk from the car park. Find Brandywine 20 kilometres south of Whistler Village, where you could easily spend a day hiking or mountain biking its trails.
18. Visit the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre
Learn about the art history and culture of the First Nation people of Whistler, the Squamish and Lil'wat. At the innovative cultural centre, you can try your hand at their arts and crafts, take a guided tour and, in the summer months, enjoy evening barbecues. slcc.ca/
19. Tour Whistler Brewing Company
No trip to anywhere in Canada is complete without sampling a local brew, and it's conveniently near the take-off point for the Train Wreck walk. After a hike, take a tour of the brewery's craft beer, brewed in British Columbia since 1989. Tours include a tasting flight, or you can grab one afterwards from the Taphouse. whistlerbeer.com/brewery/
20. View Alexander Falls
Situated 30 minutes from Whistler in the Callaghan Valley, Alexander Falls is a 43-metre tiered cascade and, being slightly off the beaten track, the least visited of all the surrounding waterfalls. It's an easy stroll from the car park, but if you want to make a day of it, the valley itself is worth further exploration with great hiking, nature tours, horseriding and an end-of summer Huckleberry Festival.
Kylie McLaughlin was a guest of Destination British Columbia. For more information on visiting, see www.HelloBC.com.au
See also: The best cities to visit in Canada
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