As you look for ways to break from the hectic pace of everyday life, look no further than Vancouver Island’s Saanich Peninsula. Bordered by the Saanich Inlet to the west and the Salish Sea to the north and east, this lush strip of land extends north from Victoria toward Sidney and the Swartz Bay ferry terminal. The Peninsula provides the stage for a vast array of outdoor activities augmented by spectacular scenery, blending rural with urban. Country roads snake through the area, providing glimpses of beaches and bays, framed by rich farmland and tranquil forests. The seaside villages and towns of Cordova Bay, Brentwood Bay, Saanichton and Sidney offer up urban riches and rituals—shopping, galleries, dining, hotels, B & B’s, activities and the like—all ensconced in beautiful surroundings.
Hike John Dean Provincial Park. Situated atop Mount Newton, the park overlooks the picturesque Saanich Peninsula, the Gulf Islands, and the Cascade Mountains. The park houses (and protects) one of the last stands of old-growth Douglas fir and Garry oak while providing visitors with hiking trails of varied degrees of difficulty that weave through a pristine wilderness environment. For those with a spirit of adventure, take-in the panoramic views from Pickles Bluff, a ledge-like viewing platform located off Lauwelnew Trail. Note: The Park is closed to vehicle traffic from November through March.
Bike around the Peninsula on quaint and quiet country roads passing roadside fruit, vegetable and flower stands, farms and pastures with animals grazing, and scenic marine vistas. A virtual cycler’s paradise, the Peninsula trail system, when combined with the Galloping Goose Trail, offers cyclists and hikers over 100 kilometers of scenic pathways to discover. If you arrive on the Peninsula ‘bikeless’, head over to Russ Hays The Bicycle Shop on 2nd Street in Sidney. Their knowledgeable staff will put you on the right rental and get you on your way.
Kayak the waters off the Saanich Peninsula, launching from either the boat ramp or the wharf in Sidney. Ease your way across the waters to Sidney Spit Marine Park or explore the coastline with its inlets and islands. Take in all that nature has to offer– clear pristine waters, varietal marine life, scented air and pure tranquility. Few areas in the world are as rich with natural beauty to explore by kayak. For rentals and lessons contact Sidney Whale Watching.
Stroll leisurely, taking in the magnificent scents, sights, and sounds of the Saanich Peninsula. Discover the natural beauty and get a feel for the coastal culture of this scenic area. Meander through the beauty of The Butchart Gardens. While the gardens are in their peak through the summer months, I love the freshness after a spring rain, or the plethora of colours and sounds of autumn. A full 4-season experience, winter at The Gardens is equally beautiful, where natural blends with new growth at this National Historic Site.
As another alternative, wander along the Seaside Walkway in Sidney or the Sidney Sculpture Walk. Snaking around from the Port of Sidney to Tulista Park the walkway is a bustle of activity as runners, bikers, inline skaters, baby strollers and leisurely pacers enjoy their surroundings. The walkway continues past the town to Island View Beach, Cordova Bay and beyond as it joins up with Lochside Regional Trail.
Explore Booktown, one of only a few in the world and Canada’s one and only. Sidney’s Booktown is a haven for book aficionados as well as casual readers at all levels. Home to nine bookstores including a Children’s Bookstore, each has a unique identity and area of specialization. The bookstore owners are experts in their fields and have amassed special collections with thousands titles and categories to choose from. To quote Charles W. Eliot, “books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.
Experience the creatures of Sea and Sky. Shake hands with an urchin and be tickled by a sea star at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, an aquarium and marine education centre located on the waterfront in Sidney. With breathtaking views of the Gulf Islands, the Salish Sea and Mt. Baker as the backdrop spend some time with the Discovery Centre Oceaneers as they introduce you to colourful aquarium habitats teeming with marine life from the Salish Sea. – OR – Welcome to the Jungle! Victoria Butterfly Gardens was created to illustrate the lifecycle and free flight of over 3,000 tropical butterflies and moths. The 12,000 sq. ft. atrium also houses tropical ducks, flamingos and other tropical birds. A barrage of colour and sweet scents of tropical blooms await.
Shop Beacon Avenue in Sidney or Matticks Farm in Cordova Bay … prepare for a distinctive outdoor browsing experience. Featuring unique shops, each offers a wonderful window-shopping stroll. Mattick’s Farm is home to 15 specialty shops, a garden centre, a tea-room/restaurant and a market, Matticks Farm is neighbor and partner to one of the Top Five Golf Destinations as named by Golf Canada magazine. Cordova Bay Golf Club is an 18-hole course with spectacular views of Haro Straight and Mt. Baker. Together, Mattick’s Farm and Cordova Bay offer a unique and blissful ‘couples’ day out.
Note: Cordova Bay Golf Club is just one of six golf courses located on the Saanich Peninsula. To enjoy year-round golf check out Golf Courses in Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce directory.
Savour the culinary delights of the Saanich Peninsula. Home to local farm markets, wineries, a distillery, a brewery, a cidery, cafes, bistros, bakeries, restaurants and nosheries, culinary tourism is thriving along this Vancouver Island flavour trail. Whether you are interested in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour or a ‘front-of-the-house’ dining experience, the Saanich Peninsula offers a year-round growing season. Local producers, owners and culinary teams are ready to tantalize taste buds featuring an array of local seasonal ingredients. Check out Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse , Muse Winery , de Vine Vineyards, and Church & State Wines .
Surrender to the aura of the spa….relax and rejuvenate … with a visit to the Haven Spa in the Sidney’s Pier Hotel or Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa. With several day and long- stay spas located on the Peninsula an ‘ah-ha’ moment is waiting just for you. Local spas offer a truly west coast experience, making use of the abundant natural marine and plant life so rich beneficial to one’s skin. Spa practitioners and estheticians provide a holistic experience, creating a sense of well-being and tranquility. Take advantage of the many services and treatments available and say “ahhh.”
Salute, Sláinte, Skol or Cheers! Kick back and relax at one of the many local public houses on the Saanich Peninsula. Mary’s Bleue Moon Café still rocks as it did for many WWII servicemen stationed on the Island. Flyboy memorabilia adorns the walls. Lift your spirits and sing-along with local musicians – usually of the “Celtic” persuasion. Local BC and Island wineries and microbreweries are featured at Beacon Landing Pub & Restaurant. During the summer relax on the waterfront patio, enjoy the summer sun and cool off with local Beacon India Pale Ale or a cold Merridale Cider. In the winter months, cozy up to the fireplace, enjoy a steaming specialty coffee and join the ranks of the local storm-watchers. Pure joy…..
Article by Dale M. Ryan
Dale Ryan is well respected in the arenas of public relations, sales and marketing, serving in senior positions with a number of major Island-based corporations.
Her appreciation of and interest in the Saanich Peninsula is apparent in her articles.
Photos Are © Steve Duck – All Rights Reserved