The Saanich Peninsula is a goldmine of hidden gems. While these may not be hidden – or won’t be for – here is a list 10 things to do on the Saanich Peninsula.
1. Discover a garden like no other
In 1904, when Jennie Butchart directed workmen to start lugging topsoil into her family’s limestone quarry, no one imagined that she would transform the site into a spectacular sunken garden, famous the world over.
Spread over 55 acres, the display gardens are now a National Historic Site that provides a spectacular array that is unparalleled anywhere in Canada.
This attraction is a treat, not only for gardeners but for everyone in every family.
2. Discover the heartbeat of the sea
The Salish Sea is showcased in Sidney’s amazing Shaw Centre.
The centre allows visitors to get up close and personal with a giant Pacific octopus, watch schools of salmon as they circle in displays of aquatic gymnastics, or marvel at the undulating jellyfish.
Visitors can touch a sea urchin or be tickled by a sea star at one of the touch pools and learn all about the undersea wonders of the Salish Sea from one of the many Oceaneers on site to answer all your questions.
3. Explore the jungle
Imagine yourself trekking through a tropical jungle. At Butterfly Gardens the sounds of water in the background and the rich earthy scents of nature surround you as you marvel at the giant tortoises, flamingos, and tropical birds that fly overhead, and there on the rocks, an enormous iguana that is watching your every step.
But the real treat is yet to come as you watch thousands of tropical butterflies fly through the gardens that stretch over an area equivalent to three basketball courts.
Moving on, you enter the Insectarium, where tiny (and not so tiny) creatures from around the globe combine to fascinate and sent the odd shiver up your spine.
4. A glimpse of past flights
It’s a trip back in time when you enter the hangers of the BC Aviation Museum.
This museum has consistently earned a spot on the top attractions on Vancouver Island as it gives visitors the chance to take the stick on the cockpit of a WWII warplane, marvel at classic (and decidedly sketchy looking) helicopters, early floatplanes and more.
At the museum, visitors can take a stroll through the passenger cabin of the Vickers Viscount and wonder at the leg room and comfort of that early passenger aircraft. It could reasonably leave one longing for the good old days of air travel.
The museum recently acquired one of the last remaining Lancaster Bombers and visitors can learn about that aircraft and the plans to bring it back to life and into the skies.
5. Take the train for a ride into the past
At Heritage Acres visitors can take another trip into the past of the Saanich Peninsula on a miniature railway that circles the park.
But the train ride is just the beginning. Visitors can stroll through the village-like historical displays and can visit the two-storey museum on the site to marvel at the antique cars, and curiosities or make their way to Newman’s boathouse where small historical boats are on display. Newman, by the way, was a boat builder and Olympic rower almost 100 years ago and his boats are there for all to see.
And we haven’t even mentioned the tractors and antique steam threshers … but you’ll have to visit the site to learn all about them.
6. Wine, cider, and gourmet food… Oh my!
The rolling pastures set on the backdrop of ocean views and majestic mountain vistas make a self-guided tour of the Saanich Peninsula’s wineries, cideries, and distilleries a must for any wine or liquor enthusiast.
Most of the small wineries and cideries have, not only fabulous sipping rooms where folks can taste the fruits of the region’s vines but some pretty spectacular food options.
There are self-guided tours, of course, but options for guided tours and even cycling tours are also available.
7. Get out and active
Sure, there are all kinds of great attractions on the Saanich Peninsula, but to truly explore the region, you should really get out on the water.
There are a host of kayak tours and rentals available on the Peninsula that offer an active and up-close look at what has made the area famous.
8. Take a hike
No trip to the Saanich Peninsula would be complete without taking advantage of the many trails and paths available in the region.
John Dean Provincial Park and the Gulf Island National Parks both offer a return to nature that’s sure to stir a love of the outdoors in even the most citified visitor.
Walk through the ancient forests of Douglas fir that were alive before Europeans even dreamt of a new world.
9. Enjoy the small town vibes
There’s something about the small town feel of some communities that sets them apart from the visitor experiences of larger centres.
Beacon Avenue in Sidney is a classic example of that special feel.
There’s a wide array of every sort of shop along this scenic walk as well as an eclectic offering of dining possibilities.
10. Take in a show
It takes a little planning, but Sidney also offers some amazing entertainment at the Mary Winspear Centre.
This amazing little theatre offers a chance to see an astounding variety of entertainment that ranges from Beatles tribute bands to mystery theatre.
Special guest appearances by world famous personalities round out the season’s playbill for an incredible offering of fun and entertainment.
With plenty to do and see on the Saanich Peninsula, there’s no shortage of adventure.