The Britannia Mine Museum is an award-winning museum and national historic site located on the grounds of what was once the largest copper mine in the entire British Empire.
Visitors can soak in the history, ride a train through an underground tunnel and even pan for gold as they experience life first-hand in one of the last remaining gravity-fed mills in North America.
So get out those hard hats and lets get going!
Britannia Mine Museum
The Britannia Mine Museum is located 55 kilometres North of Downtown Vancouver near the town of Squamish. The museum has become one of the most popular things to do in the Vancouver area and is a great excuse for a quick day trip.
Furthermore, the mine is located halfway between Vancouver and Whistler in the stunning Sea to Sky Corridor. So a visit to the museum is also a popular way to break up the drive.
From 1904-1974 the museum functioned as one of the most important mines in the Commonwealth. Over that period an incredible 60,000 people called the site home and over 50,000,000 tons of ore was extracted!
This number included over 15 tons of gold, but more on that later!
The mine helped Canada through two World Wars during its 70 year lifespan. Unfortunately, it also experienced its fair share of tragedy. An estimated 98 workers perished in its massive 210 kilometre network of underground tunnels due to slides, fires, floods and accidents.
A year after closing in 1975 the BC Museum of Mining opened its doors on the site. After two significant upgrades the facility was rechristened the Britannia Mining Museum in 2010, in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Today the museum’s grounds contain 23 historic industrial, administrative and domestic buildings. The most notable of which is the massive Mill No.3 facility which can be seen from the highway.
Inside you’ll encounter over 7000 artifacts, 9500 archive photos and 3000 archival documents spread out across a variety of interactive exhibits. You can learn about the site’s history and the importance of mining in the modern era.
But most importantly, you can have some fun!
Enjoy a signature Canadian experience by burning through the tunnels in an underground train. Take a photo in-front of an 800,000 lb giant haul truck. Or experience the thrilling new BOOM! sound and special effects experience.
So lets drill a little deeper!
Britannia Mine Museum Directions
The museum is located about 45 minutes North of Vancouver along the famed Sea to Sky Highway near the town of Squamish. On a clear Summer day the picturesque drive is almost worth the price of admission alone. You’ll experience breathtaking views of Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains at almost every turn.
Just be sure to keep your eyes on the road!
The mine marks the halfway point in the drive from Vancouver to Whistler, so it’s a perfect way to break up the drive. Alternatively, if you’re just doing a day trip I also highly recommend hitting up the nearby Sea to Sky Gondola.
If you’ve got a rental car then the easiest way to get to the Britannia Mine is simply to drive. Just be cognizant of the fact that traffic on the Lions Gate Bridge into North Vancouver can be miserable. So time your departure outside of peak hours if possible.
Once you’ve passed the village of Porteau Cove you’ll be confronted with what will likely be the biggest truck you’ve ever seen! This behemoth will cue your arrival. Then simply follow the signs and exit the highway on your right. There is plenty of free parking on-site.
If you don’t have any wheels then you have the option of taking a shuttle from Downtown Vancouver.
- The Squamish Connector-Offers daily shuttle buses between Vancouver and Squamish for $30. Will stop at the mine by request.
- Benz Tours-Offers round trip packages to the Britannia Mine Museum for $39.98 from May-September.
Britannia Mine Museum Exhibits
The Giant Haul Truck
The first thing that’ll catch your eye from the highway is the enormous Giant Haul Truck. Measuring at over 20-feet tall and weighing in at over 800,000 lbs, this Wabco Ultra-class monster was specifically engineered to carry massive amounts of ore material in a mining environment.
However, for visitors it serves as the museum’s most popular photo-opp. So seize the opportunity and grab your family for that crucial snap for Instagram before you head inside.
Beaty Lundin Visitor Centre
Your first stop once you walk through the doors will be the mine’s brand new visitor centre. The room’s notable contrast with the historical buildings on site seeks to connect the mine’s past with the present.
Consequently, you’ll find a variety of films, touchscreen displays and interactive exhibits that seek to convey the importance of mining to our everyday lives in the information age.
Quick hint-you’re iPhone would still be but a distant dream.
The Britannia Story
The Britannia Story Exhibit outlines what everyday life was like in the mine and the adjoining town of Britannia Beach. It’s here where you’ll find the bulk of the museum’s archival photos and documents.
As you walk inside the walls of a beautifully restored heritage building you’ll learn about the lighter side of the Britannia Story. View pictures from the mine’s swimming pools and tennis courts and view the contestants from the annual Copper Queen Pageant.
Children are free to sit on the Queen’s throne for another photo-opp and crawl into a child-friendly tunnel.
Historical Buildings and Artifacts
Once you’ve learned a little bit about the museum’s history I recommend that you take a bit of time to wander around the site’s 10-acre grounds. There are 17 historical buildings that remain from the mine’s heyday, and you can explore them all.
The most important structure is Mill No.3, also known as the Concentrator. This iconic 20-storey building dominates the site on the Northwest side of Mt. Sheer. It has also appeared in Hollywood productions such as the X-files, MacGyver and Scooby Doo 2.
The building contains an innovative inclined gravity mill that was constructed in 1923 after a fire damaged the previous units. The mine soon became the most productive copper mine in the British Empire, in addition to producing large amounts of silver and gold.
As you explore the buildings you’ll come across a variety of artifacts that document the lives of those who worked their for over 70 years.
The Mineral Gallery
In addition to Copper, the mine produced a whole host of minerals such as gold, silver, zinc, lead and cadmium. In the Mineral Gallery you can get an up close look at these and many other minerals of all shapes and sizes.
While gold is always popular, be sure to have a look at the stunning fluorescent minerals — including azurite and selentite. They aren’t just for show though, so pay close attention to learn about the unique uses for each product.
The Underground: A Canadian Signature Experience
If you’d like to truly experience what it’s like to work in a copper mine then here is your chance. This museum highlight allows visitors to board a small mine train in order to rumble through an old haulage tunnel.
As stated earlier, the Britannia Mine was formerly home to 210 kilometres of tunnel networks. And many of these tunnels burrowed as much as 650 metres below the surface.
An underground tour will give you a quick taste of what it’s truly like to work far below ground where, as the saying goes, the sun don’t shine.
After a quick climb up around 50 steps you’ll be provided with a hard-hat and a quick safety briefing. You’re then free to board the small haulage train before setting of on a journey deep into the tunnels. While it’s quite dark for much of the trip, you do eventually stop in a well lit area where you’re free to explore the mine.
The 45 minute tours are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, this can be subject to change during slow periods. Nevertheless, it’s recommended to show up 15-20 minutes early during high season to ensure that you can board at your desired time.
The tour’s schedule can be found below
And quick tip. You may want to bring a light hoody or sweater, as I found it quite cold once I got underground.
BOOM! A Live-Action Experience
Britannia’s newest exhibit is a thrilling light, sound and special effects experience inside historic Mill No.3. This national historic site is magically reawakened to its former glory via this new fully-interactive “Disney-like attraction”.
Video screens and a few dozen speakers combine to demonstrate the seat-rumbling roar of the giant machines that powered the most productive copper mine in the British empire.
Launched in the Summer of 2019, this informative and exciting adventure promises to be a hit with visitors of all ages.
The Gold Panning Pavilion
Surely everyone has fantasized about striking it rich in a gold mine. Well now you’ve got your chance!
Before you hit the road you can embrace you’re inner prospector by panning for gold in the Gold Panning Pavilion.
And the best part is, whatever you find you get to keep!
The mine’s panning troughs are set at a variety of heights, meaning visitors of all ages are free in their attempt to get gilded. Unfortunately, I came up empty. But you never know.
After all, almost 16 tons of gold were hauled out of these very hills during the mines lifetime.
Britannia Mine Museum Amenities
Britannia Beach was a fully functioning company town. This meant that all amenities including restaurants, recreational activities and shopping had to be available on-site.
This approach continues at the museum, which contains a full range of amenities in order to amplify your visit.
The Chatterbox Café
The mine’s relatively isolated location means that you’ll likely want to grab a quick bite to eat before you get back on the road. While nearby Squamish has many options, the museum’s own Chatterbox Café is perfect for a light snack.
The café has an extensive selection of sandwiches, snacks, cold drinks and specialty coffees that’ll hold you over just fine. Movie and TV buffs will enjoy the collection of autographed pictures from cast members of the numerous productions that have been filmed on-site.
The Company Store
If you’re looking for a memento of your visit to the mine or the Sea to Sky Corridor then the Company Store contains a wide variety of souvenir and gift items.
From t-shirts, books and toys honouring the mine’s history to art work and souvenirs from the local Squamish First Nation there is bound to be something for everyone.
Britannia Mine Tickets
We’re thrilled to be able to offer you skip the line tickets via our partners at Viator. The prices are as follows:
- Adults (19-64)-$36.70
- Seniors (65+)-$33.55
- Youth (13-18)-$30.40
- Children (5-12)-$20.95
- Toddlers (>5)- Free
For more information and to purchase your tickets click on the button below.
Britannia Mine Museum Hours
The museum is open year round with guided underground tours offered at set intervals throughout the day. I’d recommend budgeting about 1.5-2 hours for your visit.
This will give you plenty of time to hit all of the exhibits, take an underground tour and strike it rich at the Gold Panning Pavilion!
- Chatterbox Café–9:00am-5:00pm
- Gift Shop–9:00am–5:00pm
Underground Tour Times
- Monday-Friday–11:00am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm
- Weekends/Holidays–10:00am-3:00pm (hourly)
*Tours are conducted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Times are subject to change in times of low attendance.
What is the Britannia Mine Museum?
The Britannia Mine Museum is a national historic site located on the site of what was formerly the largest copper mine in the British empire. The museum now hosts a variety of interactive exhibits, galleries and tours that serve to educate visitors on the history of mining in BC and its importance in the modern world.
Where is the Britannia Mine Museum Located?
The Britannia Mine Museum is located 55 kilometres North of Vancouver near the town of Squamish.
How do You Get to the Britannia Mine Museum?
The easiest way to get to the museum is to simply make the 45 minute drive along the famed Sea to Sky Highway. However, if you don’t have a vehicle the Squamish Connector and Benz Tours offer shuttle service from Vancouver.
Well we’ve just about mined all of my Britannia Mine Museum knowledge deposits.
But if you feel that I missed something feel free to pick my brain on our Facebook page or in the comment section below.
We’re always here to help you with all your Vancouver related travel needs.
Good luck with the gold panning 🙂