Get Out of Town: There’s Lots to Love on the Saanich Peninsula

Need a break from the city? How about a trip outside of Victoria to the Saanich Peninsula? You’ll be amazed to learn just how many great attractions lie within an easy day trip of downtown Victoria. Out here, you’ll find fascinating museums, beautiful beaches, quaint villages, rolling hills, lush farmland, and plenty more to delight the senses. So get in the car, hop on the bus, or get on a bike, and come see all that the peninsula has to offer.

Morning: Butterfly Gardens

Victoria butterfly Garden

Victoria’s ecosystem is part of a temperate rainforest, but step inside Butterfly Gardens, and you’re immediately transported into a tropical paradise. This 12,000 square foot building was constructed specifically to house tropical plants and animals. Inside, you’ll encounter exotic butterflies, tropical ducks, stunning flamingos, rare birds, chameleons, geckos, poison dart frogs, tree frogs, sulcata, red-footed tortoises, giant koi, and many paradise-dwelling creatures.

Butterfly Gardens is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. in the summer. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $5 for children ages 5 to 12.

Butterfly Gardens is located at 1461 Benvenuto Avenue in Brentwood Bay. To get there by car, follow Blanshard Street out of town as it turns into the Pat Bay Highway. After about 15 kilometers, turn left on Keating Cross Road. Once you cross West Saanich Road, you’ll see Butterfly Gardens on your left. Parking is available on-site.

On the bus, the number 72 (Swartz Bay) will take you out to the Pat Bay Highway. At Sayward Road, get off and transfer to the 75 (Saanichton). After about 10 minutes, you’ll cross West Saanich Road and see Butterfly Gardens to your left.

A trip to the peninsula is also a great opportunity for a bike ride. If you follow the Galloping Goose trail out of town (see the Hidden Gems Itinerary), you can exit the trail onto Interurban road (after the Uptown junction). Heading north (away from the highway), this will lead you to West Saanich Road, which in turn will lead you to Butterfly Gardens at the corner of West Saanich Road and Benvenuto Avenue. All in all, this ride should take about one hour to one hour and a half.

Bicycle rental is available from a number of locations, including Cycle Treks in the inner harbour, who also offer a number of guided and self-guided tours, which include tours of the Saanich Peninsula.

Insider's Tip: If you’re already visiting Butchart Gardens this summer, take CVS Sightseeing’s FREE Peninsula Attractions Shuttle to see what else the Saanich Peninsula has to offer. You might even want to split your visit to Butchart Gardens up with an early morning visit, and then head out on the shuttle to see the rest of the peninsula before returning to the gardens for dinner or afternoon tea.

Mid-Day: Wine Lover's Paradise

A visit to Butterfly Gardens is a perfect excuse to enjoy some wine tasting at one of Canada’s finest wineries. Right next door to Butterfly Gardens is Church and State Wines, an award winning winery, which is housed in a beautiful location on the Saanich Peninsula. Their tasting bar is open every weekday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

And while you’re out on the peninsula, why not visit some of the other great wineries in the area? At 6130 Old West Saanich Road, you’ll find Dragonfly Hill, located on a beautiful historic acreage. Then, way out at the end of the peninsula at 11195 Chalet Road, you’ll find Muse, another local purveyor of fine artisan wine. And for something a little different, mix things up with a visit to the Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse at 2487 Mount St. Michael Road, just off of the Pat Bay Highway.

Insider's Tip: If you happen to be in the area on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, be sure to stop at Church and State for lunch at the Bistro. They serve fine culinary selections, specifically chosen to pair with their own wines.

Afternoon: Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre

Shaw Discovery Center

If you’ve ever wanted to know more about what goes on under the sea, then you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney. Here, you’ll discover what it’s like to live under the Pacific Ocean as you explore the centre’s 28 different ocean habitats. You’ll see fish, octopus, plankton, jellyfish, and all other sorts of sea life in this interactive marine centre.

The Ocean Discovery Centre is open every day from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Admission is $15.00 for adults, $8 for youth ages 7 to 17, and $5 for children ages 3 to 6. 

Insider's Tip: Book lovers should be sure to leave some time to stroll through the streets of Sidney. This quaint little town is home to one of the largest collections of used bookstores in all of Canada. 

From Church and State Wines, or anywhere else on the peninsula, you can get to Sidney via the Pat Bay Highway heading north. To get to the Ocean Discovery Centre, turn right off of the highway at Beacon Avenue. At the very end of Beacon Avenue, you’ll find the Ocean Discovery Centre at 9811 Seaport Place. Free parking is available on-site.

On the bus from Church and State Wines, take the number 75 (Royal Oak / Downtown), back out to the Pat Bay Highway. Get off at Sayward Road and transfer to the 72 (Swartz Bay). This will take you into Sidney. Once you’re in Sidney, get off at the corner of Beacon and 5th Avenues, and head down Beacon Avenue towards the water until you find the Ocean Discovery Centre at the end of the road.

If you’re on a bike, head east along Keating Cross Road, across West Saanich Road, and take a left on Willow Way. This will connect you to Wallace Drive. Turn right on Wallace Drive, and follow it for a few kilometers until you reach Amity Drive. Turn right, cross the highway, and then turn left onto Lochside Drive. Stick as close to the waterfront as you can, following Lochside Drive and then Ocean Avenue, and you’ll arrive right in front of the Ocean Discovery Centre. In total, this ride should take somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes.

If you’re heading back to downtown Victoria after your trip to the Peninsula, you can return by vehicle via the Pat Bay Highway, take bus number 70 or 72 (Downtown), or cycle back along Lochside Trail.

A trip to the peninsula also works well if you’re planning on heading to Vancouver via the BC Ferries, as the ferry terminal is only a few minutes away from the town of Sidney.

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