Saanich Peninsula & Sidney
The Saanich Peninsula is a long promontory north of Victoria comprising North and Central Saanich. Once primarily a farming region, the peninsula is a beautiful pastoral area with rolling hills and water on all sides that has become known as the "Provence" of Vancouver Island.
There are several small towns here, such as Brentwood Bay, Saanichton and Sidney, a seaside village known for its quaint shops and bistros. Sidney is also the town closest to the BC Ferry Terminal, gateway to the Lower Mainland and the Gulf Islands (Salt Spring, North and South Pender, Mayne, Saturna and Galiano islands).
The floral wonders of The Butchart Gardens, a National Historic Site, wow nearly a million visitors annually. Enjoy the themed Japanese, Italian, rose and sunken gardens, catch some live music, stop for afternoon tea, then stick around to see the evening illuminations or Saturday night fireworks in the summer months.
And don't miss the peninsula's hidden gems: the serene rhododendron and Zen gardens at The Gardens at HCP, the hundreds of free-flying butterflies at Victoria Butterfly Gardens and the bird-rich marshlands at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary.
The back roads of Saanich are dotted with small wineries, such as Church & State Wines, as well as a traditional cider maker and an artisanal gin distillery. Stop for an al fresco winery lunch, or bring a picnic basket to fill up at farm stands along the way.
Sidney by the Sea
Be sure to stop at the small seaside town of Sidney. Here, budding oceanographers can find inspiration in the luminous jellyfish and sea life of Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. Book lovers will find heaven in Canada's only Booktown. Each of the over a dozen bookshops has a very unique identity and focal point. Pick up a good read and then browse the dozens of craft and food stalls at the Thursday Sidney Summer Market.