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Views from the cafe on the Sidney pier
Views from the cafe on the Sidney pier

9 BEST Things to Do in Sidney BC

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The seaside town of Sidney BC, located just five minutes down the road from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal on Vancouver Island, offers a surprising number of things to do. Judging by the stream of ferry traffic on the highway, most people give Sidney a pass and head straight for Victoria. But the town is worth a stop, especially in the summer.

My mother lived in Sidney BC for many years so I was a frequent visitor. Over the 10-year period I lived in Vancouver, I loved to drive over and spend the day with her checking out all the local nurseries in spring. On many occasions I brought my bike and did some terrific biking on the Lochside Trail and the back roads of the Saanich Peninsula. And wine tasting – though not of the calibre of the Okanagan, was and still is one of the best things to do in Sidney.

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Location map once you arrive on Vancouver Island
Location map once you arrive on Vancouver Island – note Sidney location

Here are 9 of the BEST things to do in and around Sidney, BC

Walk the pretty main street in Sidney

The pretty main street in Sidney is ideal for walking. Park your car and walk from one end all the way down to the ocean and back again. Stop in one of the many bookstores where you could easily lose yourself for an entire day.

Did you know that there are more bookstores per capita in Sidney than anywhere else in Canada? There are galleries to browse, chocolate stores to try as well as loads of locally owned retail shops to check out including the fantastic Muffet and Louisa, a great kitchen and bath kind of store.

Eat in some of the local Sidney restaurants

When you’re hungry, you’ll find numerous cafes and restaurants in town. Two I really like include Sabhai Thai and 10 Acres at the Pier, located in the hotel by the water. And Riva offers good value.

Sidney's main street early in the morning
Sidney’s main street early in the morning

Visit the local Fish Market on the pier

Don’t miss a stop at the Fish Market to see what the local catch is for the day. A restaurant on the pier, the Pier Bistro is the perfect place to enjoy the views across the Georgia Strait. The seagulls will keep you entertained as well.

Sunrise in Sidney BC
Sunrise in Sidney BC
Views from the cafe on the pier in Sidney
Views from the cafe on the Sidney pier
Gulls will keep you entertained by the water in Sidney BC
Gulls will keep you entertained by the water

Take a hike in nearby John Dean Provincial Park

Enjoy several forested hiking trails, rated easy or intermediate, in John Dean Provincial Park, located at the north end of the Saanich Peninsula. The trails loop around Mount Newton, with some offering excellent views. Look for groves of old-growth Garry oak trees and old-growth Douglas fir trees. You won’t miss those ones!

You can make your own loops easily enough but allow a few hours to enjoy the experience.

Hike past massive trees in John Dean Provincial Park
Hike past massive trees in John Dean Provincial Park

Rent a kayak and explore the nearby islands right from the wharf in Sidney

Kayak for a day or a week. One of my favourite kayaking trips of all time included a few nights out on Rum Island overlooking Washington’s San Juan Islands. Just watch out for boat traffic, especially the Anacortes Ferry. In Sidney you can also sign up for a kayaking tour with A Paddle in the Park Kayaking.

Many people take the seasonal ferry over to Sidney Spit ($19 round trip) but you can easily kayak over to the spit and then spend many happy hours exploring. Sidney Spit is in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada. We did that one Thanksgiving weekend and kicked ourselves for not doing it on one of our previous visits.

The Anacortes ferry - with Mount Baker in the distance
The Sidney – Anacortes ferry – with Mount Baker in the distance
Loading my kayak for the return paddle from Sidney Spit
Loading my kayak for the return paddle

Walk for kilometres along the shoreline in Sidney 

Not only is it a pretty walk, but the bird life can be excellent. And don’t forget to check out Beacon Park for its sculptural pieces. The trail is 2.5 km long one way – and its both flat and barrier free. Along the trail, avail yourself of benches and picnic tables so you can stop and take in the view of Sidney Island.

Lovely walking trails along the water in Sidney give you views like this
Lovely walking trails along the water give you views like this
Having fun along the Sidney waterfront
Having fun along the Sidney waterfront

Visit the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea in the Sidney Pier building, just up from the water. It’s an aquarium and marine education centre with a focus on the Salish Sea – an area between Vancouver and Washington State. It’s open daily at 10 AM – and there is a charge for admission. Allow between 30 minutes and an hour to visit.

Go whale watching out of Sidney

Go out with Sidney whale watching where the odds are high that you’ll see orca, grey, humpback, minke, and occasionally fin whales. Dolphins and porpoises are also regularly sighted as are seals and sea lions. The tour on a 30-foot boat weaves through the Gulf Islands Archipelago – where you’ll enjoy lovely views and many seabirds too.

They proclaim that they have a “95% whale sighting rate!” If you don’t see a whale another tour is offered free of charge.

Hop on the Lochside Trail and go for for a bike ride 

Sidney is located on the Lochside Trail, 29-kilometre bike path that was formerly a rail line. It stretches from the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal to Victoria where it connects with the Galloping Goose Trail.

Rent bikes in Sidney and head off through farm country. There are some places where you must share the road with cars. If you’re not into biking you can walk, run, skateboard or even ride a horse on the trail. The trail travels past beaches, gardens, wetlands and farms. It goes down country lanes and along roads in suburban neighbourhoods. It’s mostly flat and easy.

Biking on the Lochside Trail
Biking on the Lochside Trail

Visit the Butchart Gardens as a day trip from Sidney, BC

Visit the Butchart Gardens at any time of the year to get inspired. Gardens are impeccably kept and change with the seasons. Enjoy high tea or a meal but it’s best to reserve ahead. They gardens are just an 18-minute drive from Sidney. Allow at least a few hours to wander about.

You might like: An April Visit to the Butchart Gardens 

The Butchart Gardens in October
The Butchart Gardens in October
The famous Sunken Gardens in spring
The famous Sunken Gardens in spring in the Butchart Gardens

Location map of things to do in Sidney, BC

                                             

Where to stay in Sidney, BC

If you’re looking to book a stay in Sidney I’d recommend these spots.

Sidney Pier Hotel and Spa Great location, excellent food at the onsite restaurant; have personally stayed here three times and love it.

Corbett Guest Suites offers free bike and kayak rentals along with a very convenient location.

The Sidney Pier Hotel and Spa
The Sidney Pier Hotel and Spa

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

9 best things to do in Sidney BC - located just minutes from the Swartz Bay Ferry terminal

 

 

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