Sidney, a charming seaside town of 10,000, is the largest community on the Saanich Peninsula and the commercial centre for the District of North Saanich. The town is aobout 25 kilometres north of Victoria, and just 2 kilometres south of Swartz Bay on the eastern shore of the Saanich Peninsula. Sidney got its start in 1894 when the Victoria-Sidney Railway began service (it stopped in 1924).
The “downtown’ has lots of shops, marinas, and diving facilities all protected by its breakwater. Beacon Ave is the town’s commercial centre, with a plaza. The more touristy shops tend to be closer to the waterfront. Serious shoppers, though, head down the Pat Bay Highway into Saanich to the Town & Country Shopping Centre.
Sidney is also the stop for Washington State Ferries to Anacortes and the San Juan Islands. Just 3 kilometres offshore (and accessible by passenger-only ferry) is the Sidney Spit Marine Park. For those looking for a closer-in marine adventure, take the Sidney Harbour shuttle (250-385-1998) which connects downtown Sidney with the Blue Peter Pub in Tsehum Harbour (on Harbour Road) and then continues to Canoe Bay to the north.
Sidney’s recreation is centred around the water, with a number of beaches and anchorages. Pretty well anytime a street comes year water, there’s a great beach. The best beaches are along Lands End, Deep Cove, Ardmore and Bazan Bay. The best parkland is offshore: you take a short passenger ferry ride to Sidney Spit Provincial Park.
North Saanich has a couple of great parks including (from north to south) North Hill Regional , McDonald Provincial, Blue Heron, and the largest, John Dean Provincial Park which is home to Mount Newton. Just south of town is the Panorama Leisure Centre, which is the recreational hub of the Saanich Peninsula. The town is home to the Sidney Marine Mammal and Historical Museum. Just west of town is the Sandown Raceway, the Victoria area’s harness racing track. Golfing is west on McTavish Rd at Glen Meadows or Ardmore on the other side of the Airport.
Sidney & North Saanich Attractions
British Columbia Aviation Museum
1910 Norseman Rd
This museum on the eastern edge of Victoria International Airport houses a number of World War II planes and bush planes, along with a model airplane exhibit and lots of photographs. Open daily 10 am to 4 pm, mid-April to mid-October, and 11 am to 3 pm the rest of the year. Closed major holidays.
Coles Bay Regional Park
9324 Inverness Rd, North Saanich, BC V8L 5G1
(Inverness Rd, off Armore Drive (North Saanich)
This park, on the western coast of the Saanich Peninsula is mostly wooded parkland, including some 30 metre tall Douglas firs. You can also find other species including salal, Oregon grape and sword fern. The protected beach offers warm summer swimming.
McDonald Provincial Park
10740 McDonald Park Rd, North Saanich, BC V8L 5S5
This park is just a bit shy of the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal (second traffic light from the Ferry), . It has 30 campsites and is a good spot for those arriving on the Island on a late ferry, or for those wishing to catch an early one.
Sidney Marine Mammal and Historical Museum
2538 Beacon Ave, (Sidney, near the wharf)
This museum has Coast Salish and early pioneer artifacts and photos, plus exhibits and animal skeletons discussing the evolution and ecology of local sea mammals like whales, sea lions, seals and sea lions. Open daily in summer, call for winter hours.
Sidney Spit Provincial Marine Park
This 177 hectare park, on Sidney Island 3 km offshore from Sidney, is accessible by foot-passenger ferry from the Sidney Marina at the foot of Beacon Ave. The park features sandy beaches and a pretty lagoon. Its open meadows and forests are home to eagles, herons, waterfowl and herds of fallow deer. The park is open mid-May to late September and has 27 campsites. To the east is Mandarte Island, an important seabird nesting site.
Heritage Acres , Saanich Historical Artifacts Society
7321 Lochside Dr, Saanichton, BC V8M 1W4
(just off Island View Rd)
Heritage Acres’s buildings contain a collection of artifacts, blacksmith shop, woodwork shop, sawmill, planer mill, school, church, mechanical shop and a variety of other buildings, one of which is believed to be the oldest building in British Columbia. The farm seen from the Pat Bay Highway grows oats to fund the operation and maintenance of the society. Open September through May 9:30 AM till 12:00 PM daily; June through to the Labour Day weekend 9:30 till 4:30 PM daily.
Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal
11300 Patricia Bay Hwy, Sidney, BC V8L 3S8
Over 7 million passengers a year drive, cycle, or walk on the ferries leaving from here to the Mainland or the Gulf Islands. The road from here to Victoria is the four-lane 80 km/hour Patricia Bay Highway. For a more leisurely drive to (or from Victoria) take the West Saanich Road, which winds along the west coast of the Saanich Peninsula.