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 8:00 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

Stock photo
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Let’s find a cure for potato pox

What happened to the clean-skinned potato of my youth, asks letter writer

An app available through the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s website can help students during COVID times. (Stock photo)
New library app can help families with online learning

Sample tests, virtual flashcards available through Vancouver Island Regional Library’s website

The Nanaimo Clippers in action at Frank Crane Arena in early 2020. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers for sale as owner says hockey won’t be back to normal any time soon

Wes Mussio says he’s had numerous inquiries about the junior A club already

The current boat used by Rugged Coast Research Society for remote shoreline cleanup operations will be replaced by a landing craft that will allow society members to haul four times as much marine garbage per trip from Vancouver Island’s remote shorelines. (Agathe Bernard photo/Rugged Coast Research Society)
Nanaimo-based research group needs bigger boat for coastal cleanups

Rugged Coast Research Society raising cash for landing craft to pull trash from remote shorelines

Pet owners are leaving more dog waste than ever before on Nanaimo’s paths and trails, says letter writer. (Stock photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Dog owners need to pick up after their pets

Letter writer says he’s ‘disgusted’ by dog walkers not picking up their dog waste

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

A boat caught fire in Ladysmith Harbour on Saturday morning. (Photo submitted)
Search underway for missing woman after boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

Lone orca from a pod that made its way north from Georgia Strait and into Discovery Passage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. Photo by Ella Smiley/<a href="https://www.facebook.com/Comoxvalleywildlifesightings/?ref=page_internal" target="_blank">Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings </a>
Island wildlife viewers thrilled by close view of passing Orca pod

Group gives wildlife photographers a classic opportunity to view them off Campbell River shoreline

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

Snuneymuxw artist Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun is among the artists participating in the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Rain Shadow exhibit. His piece, ‘We Fell from the Sky/Together and Apart,’ depicts a Snuneymuxw creation story. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibit explores the ways people think about place

‘Rain Shadow’ features work mostly by Vancouver Island and Gulf Island artists

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Vancouver Island teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)

Most Read