A butterfly lands on a visitor’s hand at Butterfly Gardens. Don Denton photography

A butterfly lands on a visitor’s hand at Butterfly Gardens. Don Denton photography

Winter Escapes On The Peninsula

Indulge your senses and keep warm on a Vancouver Island outing

  • Dec. 28, 2018 9:00 a.m.

-Story by Lauren Kramer Photography by Don Denton

As the weather turns cold and dreary, we seek comfort in warm, social places where we can learn, indulge and be soothed by a combination of cultural, social and recreational activities.

The Saanich Peninsula has plenty of options for those seeking refuge from the outside chill. Whether your preference is a rejuvenating massage, a whisky tasting, a butterfly experience or a nourishing plate of comfort food, the Peninsula’s indoor attractions are varied, welcoming and soul-warming.

Spa Solace: There’s nothing like a hot stone massage to relax your muscles. The Haven, the spa at the Sidney Pier Hotel, is the place to go for a wide assortment of therapeutic treatments that include a full-body sugar scrub, aromatherapy massage, deep tissue massage and a range of detoxifying wraps.

Guests are outfitted in luxurious spa robes and given access to the ocean-view fitness centre, the eucalyptus steam room and the sanctuary, a room for rest and relaxation. The ultimate treat for a wintry day, a treatment at the Haven will leave you in a state of deep tranquility, no question. (sidneypier.com)

A parrot named Little Eve sits on Lia Crowe’s hand at Butterfly Gardens. Don Denton photography

Winged Beauty: The temperature inside the Victoria Butterfly Gardens is a comfy 26 degrees Celsius, the perfect climate for a T-shirt, and the ultimate conditions for the 70 species of butterflies that flitter through the facility.

From the rainforest-dwelling Menelaus blue morpho butterfly to the lacewing butterfly from the Philippines and the giant atlas moth from South East Asia, the spacious, tropically-planted indoor venue is filled with exotic colour and delicate winged beauty.

The Victoria Butterfly Gardens, located in Brentwood Bay, is also home to iguanas, flamingos, free-flying tropical birds and poison dart frogs. There are ponds filled with koi fish, 200 species of tropical plants (including a carnivorous plant!) and warm air rich with the scent of the tropics.

Ticket admission includes access to the insectarium, where leaf-cutter ants and other insects and invertebrates are easily and safely observed from behind glass enclosures. (butterflygardens.com)

Sipping Glen Saanich single malt whisky at de Vine Wines & Spirits. Don Denton photography

Whisky Warm-up: The natural bounty of Vancouver Island is inspiration to all kinds of artisans, and for John and Catherine Windsor, it meant taking 25 acres of overgrown farmland and planting a vineyard some 11 years ago.

The fruit of their labour today is de Vine Wine & Spirits, a small-batch craft distillery where they make wine, whisky and other spirits from the highest quality ingredients. Stop by for a tasting, or consider joining a behind-the-scenes tour of their working distillery.

In Whisky School, guests learn about the Windsors’ master distiller and their vintage German copper pot, enjoy a blind tasting of classic whisky styles around the Arbutus bar and learn about grain origins, barrel types and aging styles. (devinevineyards.ca)

Watching the jellyfish at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea in Sidney. Don Denton photography

Indoor Beach: While the West Coast’s beaches are less than hospitable this time of year, the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is an aquarium and learning centre where you can hone your knowledge of this bioregion’s wildlife, waters, culture and people.

With over 160 species of marine life, this is a hands-on venue where you can stroke a sea star and feel the gentle tentacles of a sea anemone in the touch pool and view other species in some of the 28 aquarium habitats.

The centre features marine mammal artifact displays with specific relevance to the Salish Sea, a Coast Salish art collection and many other indoor, warming opportunities to learn about the ecological diversity of this rich, healthy bioregion. (salishseacentre.org)

Harold Tom shows off the fish and chips meal from Fish on 5th in Sidney. Don Denton photography

Culinary Cravings: Nothing cuts through bad weather faster than a nourishing meal.

When cravings call, head to Fish on Fifth in downtown Sidney for a basket of deep fried fish and chips. This homey local hangout is casual, warm and welcoming, with menu offerings that include hearty bowls of soup and chowder, wraps, burgers and lots of gluten-free and vegetarian options.

Portions are generous and the warm, social atmosphere is typically Sidney and totally heart-cheering. (9812 Fifth St Sidney; 250.656-4022)

The Saanich Peninsula is full of charm, whether you’re sampling its rich assortment of viticulture, exploring Sidney’s cosy bookstores and boutiques, surrendering to the hands of a masseuse or selecting a delectable entrée from a fabulous ocean-side restaurant.

Don’t let the cold keep you home when there’s this many opportunities for warmth, learning and indulgence!

Watching the displays of fish at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea in Sidney. Don Denton photography

FoodSaanichtravel

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A map released by the BCCDC on Jan. 15 shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported for each local health area between Jan. 3 and 9. (BCCDC Image)
Salmon Arm and Vernon see increase in new COVID cases, curve flattening elsewhere

The rate of new cases is levelling off in Kelowna, Penticton and Revelstoke.

A juvenile sturgeon in a B.C. rearing facility. The wild population in the Upper Columbia is estimated at 1,100 individuals, enhanced with roughly 5,500 hatchery fish. (file photo)
B.C.’s Upper Columbia sturgeon endure long battle with local extinction

Decades of monitoring and intervention is ongoing to save the prehistoric fish

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Phase 4 of the Kicking Horse Canyon Project is on track, despite COVID-19 and the recent provincial election. (Government of BC photo)
Kicking Horse Canyon Phase 4 closures announced

The first major closures are expected to occur starting on April 12 until May 14

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Vernon’s Heron Grove retirement facility. (Good Samaritan Society photo)
Resident of Vernon’s Heron Grove retirement home tests positive for COVID-19

Interior Health has not declared an outbreak at the facility

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

(Vernon Search and Rescue/Facebook)
Vernon Search and Rescue responds after family gets UTV stuck on SilverStar trails

The family activated their SOS beacon around 3 p.m. once they realized they could be facing a night alone in the mountains

Dastkar, a new furniture store in Vernon, features handmade, unique furniture carved from wood and inlaid with brass in the Chiniot style. The business located on 43rd Avenue was started in December 2020 but is currently unstaffed due to COVID-19 staffing shortages. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
PHOTOS: Vernon’s hidden handmade furniture store

Owners of Shahi Pakwan Indian restaurant opened the South Asian furniture store in December 2020

Most Read