Sidney by the Sea: Spend a Day Discovering this Quaint Town

About Sidney by the Sea

Sidney by the Sea is a town of approximately 12,300 located on the northern tip of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island. It is one of 13 communities that make up Greater Victoria.

Although Sidney by the Sea is not the town's official name, it does help differentiate it from the more famous Sydney in Australia.

I use the name interchangeably throughout this article. 

Sidney by the Sea welcome Sign

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Sidney Welcome Totem Pole

Sidney by the Sea is located within the traditional territory of the W̱SÁNEĆ (pronounced wh•say•nech) People along the shores of the Salish Sea. The language of the W̱SÁNEĆ People is SENĆOŦEN (learn and listen on how to pronounce the language here) and the traditional name of the site where the town sits is SET,TINES, meaning "chest sticking out",  referencing the way the land juts out into the sea. 

The town, as well as a nearby island and channel were named after Lieutenant Frederick William Sidney (later Captain) who was a member of the Hydrographic Service of the Royal Navy after charting the area in 1859.

Sidney is now a vibrant, walkable community popular with young families and retirees. It boasts moderate climate, an artsy flair and close proximity to the city of Victoria. 

Things to Do in Sidney

For a small town, Sidney has a lot to offer. On a recent visit, my husband and I started our day at the Tourist Information Centre and once armed with a map, we set out on a self-guided walking tour.

We discovered numerous street statues and murals, strolled along the 3.6 km waterfront walkway, stopped at the 420 foot fishing pier and rested on some lounge chairs at Beacon Park.

We also browsed the boutique shopping district and sampled pastries at one of the local bakeries (the wait in line was worth it!). Sidney is home to the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, the Sidney Museum and a cool skate park for the kids. 

Where to Stay in Sidney by the Sea

Public Art in Sidney BC
Public Art in Sidney BC
Public Art in Sidney BC

What to Do in Sidney

Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea

Located right on the waterfront, beside the pier and Glass Beach, the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a fun, interactive hands-on aquarium and learning centre that connects the public with the Salish Sea Bio-region. With over 160 marine life species, artifacts, a Coast Salish art collection and informative workshops and lectures, the aquarium has something for everyone. 

BC Aviation Museum

The British Columbia Aviation Museum is on Norseman Road near the Victoria International Airport. The museum is home to civilian, commercial and military aircraft (dating back as far as 1910) that have in some way contributed to British Columbia's aviation history. With hands-on activities and an extensive collection of engines, artifacts, models and pictures, there's something for all visitors. Discover the museum yourself or take advantage of one of their tour guides to help show you around.

Sidney Museum

Unlike the Royal British Columbia Museum which is dedicated to preserving the province's artifacts and history, the Sidney Museum contains over 8,000 artifacts with historical significance to Sidney and the Saanich Peninsula region. Permanent displays on local First Nations, industry, transportation, agriculture and social history are augmented with changing exhibits throughout the year. The most popular non-permanent display is the Lego Models. 2023 marks the 18th consecutive year the models will be on display throughout the winter (December until March). Be sure to include the Sidney Museum on your visit to the region. 

Sidney Spit

Sidney Spit is a narrow, sandy strip of land stretching into the sea on the north end of Sidney Island. It is most popular for sunbathing, hiking and bird watching. Also available on the island are a limited number of walk-in camping sites, some group camping, a dock and sheltered anchorage. The Spit is accessible year-round by boat or kayak or seasonally there is a walk-on ferry service. 

Sidney Street Market

One thing us Islanders love is a farmers market for the freshest seasonal foods, local beers, wines and spirits and creative artists. The Sidney Street Market delivers! Thursday nights from June until August, head to main street Sidney to experience this unique night market.

Where to Eat in Sidney by the Sea

For a small town, there's a pretty decent selection of food establishments in Sidney in all price ranges. My recommendations are: 

  • 900 Degree Bistro
  • 3rd Street Café
  • Fish on Fifth
  • Five & Dime Diner
  • Mary's Bleue Moon Café
  • Pier Bistro
  • Sabhai Thai
  • Thai Corner Restaurant
  • Sea Glass Waterfront Grill
  • The Surly Mermaid

Weather in Sidney

The weather in Sidney is very similar to what is reported for Victoria BC. Certainly any weather that is recorded at the Airport is actually more accurate for Sidney due to its close proximity to the airport. Generally speaking it is sunnier than you think and less rain than some people will make you believe. Personally I find The Weather Channel to be the most accurate weather source out here. 

Getting to Sidney by the Sea

Sidney is located on Vancouver Island in the Province of British Columbia, Canada. There is no bridge to mainland Canada so you must either fly or arrive by boat.

The Victoria International Airport (YYJ) is just a couple kilometres from Sidney. Air Canada, West Jet, Pacific Coastal Airlines, Swoop and Air Alaska all have flights arriving at YYJ.

BC Ferries and Washington State Ferries also operate numerous ferries that travel between mainland and Vancouver Island. BC Ferries Swartz Bay Terminal is just minutes from Sidney with regular sailings from the Tsawwassen Terminal near Vancouver. Also the Washington State ferry that travels from Anacortes Island, USA to Canada docks right in the town of Sidney. (Update this ferry did not re-start since Covid and in 2023, Washington State announced it may not return for up to 10 years). 

I hope you make Sidney by the Sea one of your stops on your visit to Vancouver Island. 

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