Region of British Columbia
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A gentle, beautiful, quietly understated place, the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, is a land full of the informal pleasures of country life and incredible views across picturesque valleys out to the ever-changing ocean. Hamlets and small villages sit amidst farmlands and forests.
Saanich is a Salish word meaning “fertile soil” and this tranquil thumb of land, minutes north of downtown Victoria, is certainly that! Thirteen million daffodil blooms are shipped out each year from Saanich alone. On country roads, farm markets and roadside stands are bounteous with local produce.
Born out of a limestone quarry, the world-famous Butchart Gardens is an astonishing wonderland of colour and fragrance. Close by, you can indulge in the collections of fascinating flora and fauna at the Horticultural Centre of the Pacific and Butterfly Gardens.
In Brentwood Village, sit on the sun-drenched dockside with a cup of your favourite coffee or rent a kayak or boat to explore the richness of Saanich Inlet. For golfers there are six courses, from the championship level oceanside Cordova Bay Golf Club, to the friendly, rural grace of woodland Prospect Lake Golf Course.
Elk and Beaver lakes are a summer playground for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, and sunbathing. Elk Lake is also home to Canada’s Olympic rowing team. Hiking trails ring the lakes and nearby stables offer horseback riding.
Just south of the lakes is Saanich Commonwealth Place, which boasts an Olympic-sized pool, water slide, wave pool, dive tank, exercise rooms, and sauna and steam room.
If your interests lie in the stars, a visit to the "Centre of the Universe" at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, is a must. Sitting on a hilltop the Observatory offers an incredible almost 360 degree view of the area. The Centre offers interactive displays and on-going programs for children and adults. You can view the 1.8-metre Plaskett Telescope, the largest optical telescope in Western Canada, and sneak a peek at the on-going projects into asteroids, nebulae and distant stars. On Saturday evenings visitors are welcome to view the stars.
For an incredible panoramic view of the greater Victoria area drive to the summit of Mount Douglas. This magnificent, densely forested 500 acre park is laced with walking trails. Under towering Douglas fir trees, the picnic grounds look out on Cordova Bay and the Haro strait.
Part of the Trans-Canada Trail which stretches all the way across the country from the Pacific to the Atlantic, the 125 km Galloping Goose hiking and cycling trail runs from Swartz Bay north of Sidney to Leechtown north of Sooke. Along the way, stop at Mattick’s Farm, an imaginative, and inviting outdoor mall filled with one-of-a-kind gifts and outstanding artwork.
Near the northern tip of the peninsula the little town of Sidney by the Sea offers many delightful gift shops, bookstores, restaurants and cafes. At nearby Victoria International Airport you will be amazed at the aircraft displays, artefacts and restoration projects on view at the BC Aviation Museum. Don’t forget to visit the Pacific Geosciences Centre on Pat Bay where you will learn about the unique and fascinating geology of this region.
Just south of Sidney is Heritage Acres, home of the Saanich Historical Artefacts Society. The first thing you see is a large field, brilliant with yellow mustard in spring and dotted with old-fashioned stooks of golden oats in late summer.
Behind a line of trees, you can visit a blacksmith shop, sawmill, woodwork shop, planer mill, old school, church, and mechanical shop. There are lots of hands-on exhibits to entertain children from 2 to 92 and, best of all, a model steam train to ride!
The beaches on the east side of the peninsula are expansive and wonderful for an afternoon’s lazy stroll. Shift the rocks and search for crabs and sculpins. Island View and Cordova Bay beaches are just two of the favoured spots. With eastward views across Haro Strait to the San Juan Islands and Mount Baker in Washington State, this is the ideal place for unforgettable sunrises and sunsets.
This is just a light scratch to the surface of this idyllic, gentle place. Dig deeper and find treasures untold. This must be the place where the sky, the earth, and the sea all come together.