Sidney

POPULATION: 11,600 (2011)

MUST DO: Walk around Sidney Spit Marine Park; Take the kids to Mineral World; Visit the Aquarium

sidney-fishing-pierBegun as a farming community in 1858, Sidney, a town of about 11,000, is a charming seaside community on the Saanich Peninsula, a thumb of land north of Victoria. Offering everything associated with a seaside location, Sidney has two marinas, marine hiking trails, great shops and accommodations.

SCUBA divers are flocking to Sidney following the sinking of two ships as artificial reefs. If you’re not a diver but enjoy marine life, Sidney Spit Marine Park, accessible by ferry from May until mid-October, offers beachside hiking trails, wilderness camping and tiny Fallow deer. For bigger wildlife, hop aboard any number of charter boats for killer whale watching. Three resident pods live in the area year-round.

Sidney is near Victoria International Airport and its intriguing museum on aviation history in British Columbia. For the family, Sidney Days offer fun activities and entertainment the Canada Day (July 1) long weekend.

One of Sidney’s main assets is its close proximity to Swartz Bay, the location of B.C. Ferries terminal for South Vancouver Island.

While you’re in the Sidney area, check out some of the other communities that call the Saanich Peninsula home. Brentwood Bay and the Saaniches (North and Central), are small bedroom communities north of Victoria. The peninsula is also where you’ll find the Institute of Ocean Sciences, a federal government facility that studies coastlines, oceans, lakes and rivers. The Institute is immediately west of the airport. And you can look up – way up – at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, just west of Elk Lake.

The peninsula is still largely a farming community, and every fall the Saanich Fall Fair, held Labor Day weekend (Sept. 1), features livestock, produce, entertainment and a host of family fun.

Of course, no visit to the Saanich Peninsula would be complete with a visit to the world-famous Butchart Gardens. Located just south of Brentwood Bay on the west side of the peninsula, the gardens were created in 1904 in the quarry of the Butchart family cement business. Today, Jennie Butchart’s garden covers over 50 acres.

IF YOU GO

BY ROAD: Sidney and the Saanich Peninsula basically start where the Patricia Bay Highway begins north of Victoria. Sidney is 26 kilometers north of Victoria, about a 20-minute drive.

BY FERRY: Ferries out of Tsawwassen, south of Vancouver, sail into Swartz Bay, the north end of Saanich Peninsula.

BY AIR: Scheduled airline connections are out of Vancouver to Victoria International Airport, adjacent to Sidney. Floatplane service is also available.