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

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