If you’ve never had your butcher offer you a free bag of bones for your dog, or had your barista warmly welcome you by your first name, you’re missing out on that neighbourhood that everyone should be searching for. We’re here to help you find it.
Bringing the backcountry front and centre.
If you live in one place for over a decade or two, it’s easy to become desensitized to out-of-the-ordinary settings, happenings, and local activities. Routine has a way of making the unusual, usual. Anyone who’s moved to Coal Harbour can attest that you quickly move from, “Why in the heck does a cannon go off every night in Stanley Park” to “Oh, there’s the cannon, it must be 9 pm already.”
There is one place, though, where the unique setting and daily routine are truly never forgotten. Where breathtaking views continue to be breathtaking, where it’s impossible to forget that you’re living in a desktop background.
In Series One of RealTours, host Stephen Tadgh guides us through Squamish, BC. This mountainside town has seen a huge uptick in search traffic on REW.ca, and an even bigger uptick in population growth. With a population increase of over 22% from the last census year, Squamish is the fourth fastest-growing B.C. subdivision - an attractive destination to say the least.
Let’s unpack Squamish in all its glory.
Lay of the land.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more aptly named piece of infrastructure in BC than the Sea to Sky Highway (okay, the “SkyTrain” is pretty accurate, too—the name always gets a smirk from out-of-towners). And when you make a pit-stop along the Sea to Sky in Squamish, it’s truly hard to tell whether the town is more sea or sky, which is what makes it pretty darn perfect.
Located on the north end of Howe Sound, you’re not overstating the natural beauty of Squamish to call it jaw-dropping, show-stopping, or more dramatic than a Vancouver Park Board meeting about bike lanes in Stanley Park. Squamish delivers in every way, especially its main attraction.
Adjacent to the town, the Stawamus Chief is the backdrop to every home, every business, and every outdoor adventure in Squamish. Towering more than 700 metres above the waters of Howe Sound, the Chief is one of the largest granite monoliths in the world (and it’s next to some pretty cool company on that list). You can hike to all three summits, or test your rock-climbing efforts on the Grand Wall. It’s no wonder the Chief has earned its prestigious nickname: Yosemite North.
Squamish and the Stawamus Chief have even seen Hollywood call numerous times, featuring in films like Insomnia, Walking Tall and every moody vampire's favourite series, The Twilight Saga. There’s a line linking Squamish’s real estate boom with the filming of Free Willy 3: The Rescue, which can’t be a whale of a coincidence…can it?
Hardwired for adventure.
Much of BC is known for mountain biking and hiking, but Squamish puts other towns to shame in terms of quality trails. Whether it’s the Chief, nearby Shannon Falls, Murrin Park, the Malamute or the Smoke Bluffs, there are over 1,500 rock climbing routes in the Squamish area to take your weekend adventures to new heights. And if climbing isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry, there’s often an easier way up.
River rafting, kite surfing, snowmobiling - there are endless outdoor activities to explore in this incredible town. Don’t be surprised if a move to Squamish keeps you moving long after you’ve settled in.
Just south of the town, the Sea to Sky Gondola offers sweeping views of Howe Sound, fitting up to eight passengers in each cabin (they’re wheelchair and stroller accessible, too). The 10-minute journey ascends 850 metres, providing views of Shannon Falls and the Stawamus Chief climbing area. Once at the top, the adventure continues with looping trails, the Sky Pilot Suspension Bridge and backcountry routes all just steps from where you disembark the gondola. Or just have a beer at the top and enjoy the views - there’s no shame in the relaxation game in Squamish.
If mountain and valley views are what you’re after, the real estate in Squamish won’t disappoint. The majority of available listings in Squamish are detached homes, with townhomes and apartments making up the remaining inventory. The price for a detached home in Squamish is 16% less than the going rate in Greater Vancouver (at time of writing), and with those kinds of savings, it’s no wonder why search interest on REW.ca is through the roof, so to speak.
In this season of RealTours, Squamish real estate professional and new development expert Angie Vazquez shows us around the up-and-coming neighbourhood of University Heights, featuring a beautiful property with stunning mountain views. She walks us through downtown Squamish before introducing us to Bosa Properties' prestigious SEAandSKY collection of homes, located adjacent to the city’s downtown core.
Take a closer look at the details in our episode guide to get a feel for what’s available in the area.
Down to business.
Need a local watering hole? How about an after-hike meal to recharge? Squamish’s local business community is as lively as the wind-surfers on Howe Sound. Here are a few of our favourite local businesses.
As they say at Backcountry Brewing, “Never hit the backcountry alone.” Bring a friend with you to this incredible tasting room and kitchen, featuring some of the best beers in BC. The Widowmaker IPA has won countless awards and is tasty enough to make its relatively pricey four-pack feel like a steal of a deal. Their beers are big, their branding is loud and their limited releases are worth coming back for again and again.
Oh. And there’s pizza. Really, really good pizza. Enough said.
Chef Harry shares more than 25 years of expertise and culinary prowess in Korean and Japanese cuisine to make your meal special, and make your “one day” (the Korean translation for “Haru”) at Haru an experience you’ll never forget. Signature dishes include Flaming Korean Bulgogi, Spicy Seafood Yaki Udon, Salmon Sashimi Ceviche and Creamy Lemon Shrimp. Open from Thursday to Monday, this is sure to be your next favourite restaurant.
Lil Chef Bistro
Your mom might have told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but your mom is wrong. It’s brunch, and we’re willing to die on that hill.
There’s no better place in Squamish than Lil Chef Bistro when it comes to that incredible meal between breakfast and lunch. The MSM Bagel includes homemade Montreal smoked meat, mustard, pickles and homemade crispy root chips, and the Lil Bennies are served on a homemade English muffin with free-range eggs and (you guessed it), homemade hollandaise. Choose from homemade smokey bacon or homemade hollandaise. Choose from homemade smokey bacon or homemade peameal bacon. Did we mention Lil Chef takes a lot of pride in scratch-made dishes?
Rock solid education.
Living in the mountains doesn’t mean that outdoor education is the only kind of learning available. Squamish has six public elementary schools, two public high schools, two universities, a Montessori school and a Waldorf school to choose from - a fantastic offering for families interested in moving to this mountain town. There’s no rule that says you can’t learn math on the weekdays and mountaineering on the weekends.
Here’s a list of schools in the Sea to Sky District for your review.