Office Phone: 250-338-5466
Courtenay, British Columbia
North of Victoria, and most famous for being the home of B.C. Ferries' Swartz Bay Terminal, lies Sidney—a delightful seaside town with outstanding theatre performances, art galleries, great shops and restaurants, and very memorable book stores, restaurants and beautiful water views. A seaside resort town renowned for gorgeous views with many new developments along the waterfront, this pretty little town has great appeal. With peace, sunshine and truly the best weather in Canada, Sidney has grown to become an extremely sophisticated thriving center. "Sidney by the Sea" is just minutes from Victoria International Airport, Anacortes, WA and BC Ferries. The Sidney Summer Market holds an eclectic mix of local arts, crafts, organic goods and produce, while the enthusiastic Sidney Business Association plays an integral role in guiding the Town.
There are three major communities close to Victoria: the delightful seaside town of Sidney in the Saanich Peninsula, the beautiful district of Sooke, and the vibrant West Shore. The smaller communities of Saanich, Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, View Royal and the Highlands are also part of the Victoria communities.
The semi-rural Saanich Peninsula comprises the municipalities of North Saanich, Sidney, and Central Saanich, as well as northern portions of Saanich and northern and eastern portions of the highlands. The Region, lying as it does in the rain shadow of the Vancouver Island Mountains and Washington's Olympic Peninsula Mountains, offers the driest conditions on Vancouver Island—although rainfall is, nevertheless, abundant! Average annual rainfall is 84.2 centimeters; however, with 2084 hours of annual sunshine, it is second in Canada to the prairies! The 2006 census illustrates the population of Central Saanich at 15,745, North Saanich at 10,823 and Sidney at 11,315.
Nowhere on the Island is agriculture more evident than in the Saanich Peninsula area. A virtual cornucopia of fresh, wholesome foods are produced—luscious berries, fields of fragrant herbs, exotic meats like emu and ostrich, all kinds of vegetables and orchards of fruit trees. There are dairies, sheep farms, cheese makers, vineyards and even a cidery that uses apples from its own trees—a whole menu of agricultural enterprises on the Saanich Peninsula.
Heritage properties, small ornamental gardens, expansive gardens of international renown, educational and demonstration gardens, native plant gardens and English-style gardens can be found everywhere in this community. The unique growing conditions combined with the skills and talents of the resident farmers and gardeners have made this an agricultural and horticultural paradise. The community of Brentwood Bay overlooks the Saanich Inlet and has some great restaurants and shops, a pretty marina, and a BC Ferries' terminal providing service to Mill Bay in the Cowichan Region. Brentwood Bay boasts of one of the south Island region's most famous attractions: the Butchart Gardens. These splendid, world-renowned gardens are a designated national historic site that has been drawing visitors to the region since 1904. Other great stops on the Saanich Peninsula include Island View Beach, Coles Bay Regional Park, and John Dean Provincial Park.
Coast Salish First Nations have resided on the Saanich Peninsula for more than 10,000 years and archeological sites are numerous. The Tseycum, Pauquachin, Tsawout and Tsartlip First Nations reside on the four peninsula reserves.
Between BC Mainland and Vancouver Island lie a special chain of islands, known as the Canadian Gulf Islands. Each island offers a distinct and unique atmosphere, a bucolic mixture of rural farms and rare arts and crafts. The major islands of Salt Spring Island, Pender (North & South) Island, Mayne Island, Saturna, Gabriola, Galiano Island and the lesser-known, more remote Islands such as Texada, James, Thetis, Valdes, Hornby, Denman and Kuper are home to many well-known Canadians seeking peace and anonymity and an extraordinary number of artists and artisans. The stunning scenery provides maximum inspiration and the peaceful lifestyle nurtures the creative spirit. Annual fall fairs are an excellent way to taste the best Gulf Island goodies.
Victoria is loved for its diversity—a city where the youthful energy of the West Coast blends with time-honoured British, European and Asian traditions; where it is just as natural to picnic on a beach as it is to take tea in a formal tearoom; where you can explore on a bicycle or by a horse-drawn carriage; and where splendid historic buildings house galleries of contemporary art. Victoria is a city of beautiful contrasts, where the elegance of history mingles with the panache of modern life. It is a place to relax and restore your sense of balance and also a place to experience thrilling adventures.
When the gold rush started in 1858, Victoria grew into a wild frontier city almost overnight. The population increased tenfold in one year as businesses sprang up to serve the needs of thousands of miners of European and Asian descent who arrived daily, joining the British, French-Canadian, Métis and Hawaiians who were already working for the Hudson's Bay Company. The evidence of these cultural influences is everywhere in Victoria. The Gate of Harmonious Interest is a modern addition to Canada's oldest Chinatown, once a “forbidden city” of mystery and intrigue where few Westerners dared to enter. The architecture of St. Ann's Academy reflects the Québécois origins of the sisters of St. Ann who arrived in 1858 and played an important role nursing and teaching in the early days of the city.
In 2005, Victoria's vibrant culture won the attention of the country, and the city was awarded Cultural Capital of Canada status. Several new cultural projects that reflect the city's history, diversity, and artistic community have since developed.
As a city, Victoria loves its festivals and the community gathers for gala celebrations to honour all the things Victorians love: jazz music, ghosts, gardens, fine food, visual arts, literature, boats, theatre—and that's just the beginning. Check out the list of annual festival highlights at www.tourismvictoria.com/events.
Victoria's youthful spirit is also amply evident in its cuisine. In addition to Victoria's long-time affection for afternoon tea, Victoria and all of Vancouver Island are developing a reputation as Canada's Provence. The local bounty is exceptional. West Coast or "Island" cuisine is prevalent and includes specialties such as Pacific Seafood, Island-grown products and local cheeses. Many restaurants feature Vancouver Island and BC wines paired with local and exotic cuisines. For reviews and more information on brewery, culinary, farm, and winery/cidery tours and dinner cruises visit www.tourismvictoria.com/.
Naturally, with the Pacific Ocean right here, many of the most popular activities for the entire Island are marine-based. Whale and wildlife watching, yachting, kayaking, sailing, diving and fishing are all available. Victoria is famous for sailing and is an international marine racing gateway. From the yearly Floating Boat Show to the Swiftsure International Yacht Race, from the Classic Boat Festival in September to the Dragon Boat Festival, and this year, the Tall Ships Festival in June, boat enthusiasts are active. And don't forget the fish you'll catch!
Vancouver Island and Victoria are easily accessed by a variety of transportation services. You can fly to Victoria International Airport from many Canadian and American cities. You can quickly fly from Vancouver to Victoria—harbour to harbour—via float plane. Charter flights and helicopter services are also available. For those more interested in scenery than speed, the 1.5 hour journey on BC Ferries between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay is spectacular and comfortable. Washington State Ferries run regularly between Sidney and Anacortes, Washington.
Population statistics show the Victoria municipality population at 78,057, although the Greater Victoria area (Capital Regional District) is 330,088; Vancouver Island is 699,645. Victoria offers a daily newspaper, twice weekly local newspapers, weekly entertainment guides, and many other publications. There are several local radio stations and a TV Station. An active Chamber of Commerce, a variety of business organizations, service clubs and local and national charitable organizations serve the population. Victoria has 2 major hospitals and many walk-in clinics. The University of Victoria offers over 100 programs to 18,000 students in day, evening and distance education classes.
If you are an avid golfer, you probably already know about the amazing courses on Vancouver Island, courses designed by masters like Jack Nicklaus, A.V. Macan, and Les Furber, courses that have challenged the likes of Tiger Woods, Mike Weir and Scott McCarron, courses acclaimed in Golf Digest and Score Golf Magazine, and classic courses like the Victoria Golf Club and the Royal Colwood.