On the northern end of the Saanich Peninsula lies a small, seaside sanctuary fondly known as Sidney-by-the-Sea. In contrast to the nearly 90,000 people living in Victoria, Sidney’s population reaches about 12,000. Far from a boring small-town however, Sidney is riddled with things to do. In fact, it’s practically an outdoor lover’s paradise. For those fonder of the indoor things in life, the town is also known for its great shopping, books, restaurants, cafes and aquarium. As quaint as it is rich in activity, there is plenty to be discovered in this small, harbour town set on the Salish Sea.
Just a few paddle strokes away from some of the Gulf Islands and islets; a kayaking adventure out of Sidney is almost a necessity. Day trips aren’t the only ones calling from Sidney’s pier, however. The nearby Sidney Spit and islands make for the perfect locations to camp and extend the adventure into a multiday kayaking excursion. The small town has plenty of kayak rental companies. Beginners don’t have to worry either, as many will provide lessons and tours.
Being beside the sea, it’s only natural that the staple of the West Coast diet is seafood. It also means there are more than a few fishing charters that will take guests out onto the water. Try your hand at catching dinner for yourself. Lingcod, Salmon and Halibut are on the list for prized fishing possessions and make for a great meal. For those keen on trying out fishing, but who would like to keep both feet planted firmly on shore, crabbing off of the Bevan Pier is always an option. It’s located right in the heart of the coastal town. With a lot of patience and a dash of luck, fresh crab legs could be on the dinner menu. Just be sure to have the proper fishing licenses. If fishing isn’t your thing at all, you can always pop by the fish market near the pier and pick up the catch of the day.
The waters around both Victoria and Sidney are home to a number of pods of Transient Orcas; they call the place home all year round. Pick a charter and prepare for a day of adventure on the water, while searching for these ocean beauties. Sidney boasts the title of Vancouver Island’s highest concentration of Orca sightings. Aside from Killer Whales, there are plenty of other whale breeds and marine life to be seen. Any day on the water is a day well spent.
Labeled as some of the best cold water diving that can be found, the waters surrounding Vancouver Island are rich in marine life. Sidney is not afraid to take advantage of these claims, and numerous dive charters and schools exist in the tiny town. Nearby wrecks and man-made reefs are home to numerous of these marine creatures, and they make for a fantastic day of underwater exploration.
If the idea of being cold, wet and below the waves all day doesn’t sound appealing, there is also the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. Don’t let this small ecological center fool you by its size – it is loaded with specimens and information about the Salish Sea. Conservation information, plenty of exhibits, touching pools and even a Coast Salish art collection wait to educate visitors. There, you’ll not only learn about the area’s waters and wildlife, but also about the land, culture and people as well. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of Silvia, the resident octopus.
As far as leisurely activity goes, Sidney is a hotspot. A sculpture and historical walking tour take guests along the waterfront. A trail of new facts and the stunning view lead the way. The Lochside Trail runs nearby, which is a perfect destination for those on two wheels, or who are looking to enjoy a scenic jog. As a bonus, the Sidney Spit is another local gem just 25-minutes away by boat. Once there, you will find yourself inside a unique National Park with pristine beaches and a number of hiking trails to enjoy.
Sharing the same temperate climate as Victoria means the numerous gardens and golf courses the two areas share are constantly open and in blossom. Visit any of the golf courses for a round nearly any time of the year. If you prefer greenery in the form of gardens to golf courses, the Butchart Gardens are a quick, 20-minute drive away from downtown Sidney. Well worth a visit, the Butchart Gardens always have something on display and are an infamous, household name.
While quaint and quiet by day, the town turns into a bustling festival hotspot on summer Thursday nights during the Sidney Night Market. With 150+ local vendors selling anything and everything your heart could possibly desire, there’s something for everyone. Wander Beacon Avenue to the sound of music, the scent of tasty artisan goods, bask in the glow of the lights and taste test to your stomach’s content. The night market is a summer highlight that demands to be attended should your trip overlap with the season. You may not have a choice; after all, it completely shuts down the main street.
Unleash your inner bookworm in Sidney’s Booktown. Twelve bookstores exist within a four-block radius, right in the middle of the quaint town. Each is unique and you’re guaranteed to find the perfect read for your traveling downtime. Booktown was established in 1996 and is one of just a few that exists in the entire world! It also has the title of Canada’s only booktown in existence. Aside from books, the two main streets, Bevan Avenue and Beacon Avenue, are riddled with cute boutiques and other options. They’ll surely satisfy any desire to shop-till-you-drop.
Sidney is tucked into the coast of the Saanich Peninsula, which is called home by more than a few local wineries, breweries, a distillery and even a cidery. Their tasting rooms are constantly open, coaxing visitors in to sip their day away to some of the finest artisan products the area has to offer. Not to mention, most have a stunning view of the ocean. Hop onto a winery or brewery tour to ensure you can kick back and try it all.