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Saanich Peninsula

November 10, 2015 by Martin Vernon

The city of Victoria lies at the southern end of the Saanich Peninsula, a narrow 30 km (20 mile) north-south neck of land jutting out on the south eastern corner of Vancouver Island. At the north end of the Peninsula is Sidney, Victoria International Airport (YYJ) and the BC Ferries terminal. In between lies a pastoral land of rolling hills and scattered communities and attractions which should be explored on a visit to the Victoria area.

  • The Butchart Gardens is at Brentwood Bay on the west side of the Saanich Peninsula Relaxing at Beaver Lake on the Saanich Peninsula
  • Nearby is Butterfly Gardens, a tropical jungle delight
  • Stroll through the quiet the themed Gardens at HCP
  • The warm waters of Brentwood Bay are a good place for kayaking
  • Numerous provincial and regional parks for gentle strolls or tougher hikes: Gowlland Tod, Mount Work, John Dean Park, Mount Douglas
  • Or there’s the Lochside Trail down the easterly side of the peninsula, connecting with the Galloping Goose Trail
  • Walk around the freshwater lakes of Elk / Beaver Lake or Durrance Lake, a popular swimming spot
  • Stroll along coastal beaches at Cordova Bay or Patricia Bay with their driftwood and shells, or discover a quiet cove
  • Agriculture surrounds you, past and present. Even a lavender farm
  • Savour the flavours at wineries and farm stands with wines, fruit and local produce
  • Play a round of golf year-round on our many courses
  • Tackle a world-class climbing wall
  • Browse through the Sidney bookshops or the Thursday evening street market.
  • Also in Sidney: visit the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre or take a ferry trip to Sidney Spit.

… there really is something for everyone!

You’ll see some unique aspects of life here such as local distinctive trees: the Arbutus with its rust-coloured peeling trunks and the twisted branches of the Garry Oak, both growing on rocky ground. Driving around the Saanich Peninsula you become aware that Coast Salish people lived here, and still do on reserves mostly overlooking the Saanich Inlet on the west; the Tsartlip, Tsawaout, Tseycum and Pauquachin first nations. Their names can be confusing but so can others, with such municipalities as Saanich, Central Saanich and North Saanich, and the roads named Saanich Road, Central Saanich Road, East Saanich Road and West Saanich Road. But you can’t go too far wrong on this little self-contained strip of land.

 

The two faces of Sidney BC

June 20, 2015 by Martin Vernon

For many years I considered Sidney to be a quiet seaside town full of seniors, having a pleasant ocean-side walk and plenty of bookshops but where the greatest excitement was dodging electric scooters. While there’s some truth in all this I had failed to see that there are two faces of Sidney BC.

Sidney BC

The town of Sidney is near the northern tip of the Saanich Peninsula, close to Victoria International Airport  (YYJ) and the BC Ferries and Washington State Ferries terminals, 30 minutes from downtown Victoria. It’s true that its population of 12,000 is dominated by seniors but it is a thriving self-contained friendly community that offers interesting attractions for visitors.

Enjoy a walk along the 2.5 km (1.5 mile) waterfront walkway passing the fishing pier and small fish market, looking across to Sidney Island from the Sculpture Walk. A concert or play may take place at the bandshell. Yards away is the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. It is not surprising that you can enjoy whale-watching, kayaking, fishing and boating here but there’s also lawn bowling or a bowling lane. Beacon Avenue and side streets has all the shopping services you’re likely to need, punctuated by numerous bookstores in Canada’s only Booktown.

All this, set within a calm relaxing atmosphere is what you’d expect in a town with so many retired people. But the best aspect of Sidney is experienced on summer evenings.

Sidney Street Market

My favourite street market in the Victoria area is enjoyed on Thursday evenings, May to August at the Sidney Street Market. The sleepy town bursts into life as Beacon Avenue, the main street, is lined with booths and packed with crowds of happy people of all ages. Artisans predominate, with food and good musicians adding to the mix. It is a joy!

Sidney Days, during the Canada Day (1st July) weekend celebrates with happy faces at the parade, build-a-boat competition and fireworks. If your visit is at other dates there are special Sidney BC annual events.

Sidney is also handy as a venue of a British Columbia Tourism Information Centre.

Victoria markets

August 10, 2013 by Martin Vernon

Victoria markets have a vibrant buzz and provide a great opportunity to meet the locals as well as enjoy their wares.

Travel books are my favourite reading genre but I find chapters of area descriptions dull until local characters and conversations are introduced. So it is when doing real travel: you can see the places but they only come to life when you interact with the residents. Markets are a great place to do this – the vendors are proud of their products and the wandering locals chit-chat with passing friends; suddenly you are part of the local community.

Visit Victoria markets

… where you’ll enjoy local farm-fresh foods, hand-made crafts and clothing. Most Victoria markets feature local musicians too.

For 18 years the Bastion Square Market has showcased Bastion Square Market, Victoria marketslocal artisans presenting their crafts.  It is open Wednesday to Saturday 10.30am to 5.30pm. Here is jewellery made from old knives, forks and spoons displayed on a motorcycle booth – everything collapses into the sidecar and off he rides: creative!

Government Street is the central shopping street for most visitors so on Sundays from 11am to 5pm you will find yourself in a street market in the 1600 block selling a wide variety of local wares.

 

Ship Point is adjacent to the Causeway in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Ship Point Market in Victoria's Inner Harbour On Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 to 10.30pm catch artisans and milling crowds admiring and purchasing Vancouver Island crafts at the Night Market. It has a great ambiance overlooking the Harbour and the Parliament buildings.

Moss Street Market in Fernwood, just east of downtown, is now in its 22nd year. Saturdays 10am to 2pm.

James Bay Community Market is a short walk south of the Inner Harbour. It operates on Saturdays 9am to 3pm.
A little further afield are two Saturday morning community markets with a rural appeal.
– I enjoy the little North Saanich Farm Market (do hunt out the trail through some peaceful gardens) on Saturdays from 9.30am to 12.30pm. Afterwards you might like to drive around Saanich Peninsula wineries and fruit stands.

– The Peninsula Country market at the Saanich Fairgrounds in the centre of the peninsula offers goodies from over 60 vendors from 9am to 1pm.

Also on the peninsula is my favourite, the Thursday evening Sidney Street Market. Sidney Street Market along Beacon Avenue on Thursdays Beacon Avenue, the main shopping street, buzzes with life on summer Thursday evenings from 5.30 to 8.30pm.
There is one other market to consider when you’re visiting Victoria. Take BC Ferries for a day trip to the Salt Spring Island Saturday Market and to explore this largest of the Canadian Gulf Islands. It has a fine reputation for its crafts with the requirement that its 140 vendors “must make it, bake it or grow it” themselves.

Sidney Street Market music - Victoria markets musicians


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