by Sheila Molloy –
On winter days, the sun seems to work just a little harder for us and its light feels that much warmer when we take time to venture outdoors.
Colder weather can ebb our motivation for getting outside, but it is such an important source of solace during times of seasonal sadness or stress. The commitment doesn’t have to be complicated or take a lot of time. It only requires a sense of adventure, warm clothing layers, and perhaps a thermos of tea.
There are many options on the Saanich Peninsula, but here are a few you may have not explored or that can be an inspiration for new destinations to venture out of the house this winter. They all fulfill two very important criteria: nature at its best, and a bench with a view!
Photos by Sheila Molloy
Amity Drive Water Access
There are so many of these hidden treasures on the Peninsula; half the joy lies in discovering them. The beach access on Amity Drive (off Lochside Drive) brings you to the shoreline of Bazan Bay. The views are outstanding. Only a few steps down the concrete and rock staircase to the beach which can be a great starting point to stroll south to the Wardle Road Green Space or north to Cy Hampson Park. This is a great destination for a cool weather bike ride.
Newman Farm Boathouses and Beach Access
Newman Farm was established in 1897 in Saanich and stayed in the family for 106 years. You can explore different areas of the 6.6-hectare property, which is now owned by the community for use and enjoyment as a public park, from Newman Farm Park in Central Saanich all the way to the Saanichton Bay. Our visit was to the park section on Lochside Drive, between Wakeman Road and Newman Road. The parking lot has a handful of spaces, there is a picnic table and water source for dog dishes. Two restored boathouses at the shore highlight a remarkable view of James Island.
Oak Haven Park
This beautiful hilltop park is located south of Benvenuto Avenue, between Wallace Drive and West Saanich Road. Just a 15- to 20-minute easy hike to the summit for spectacular views of the Saanich Inlet, Peninsula farmland, Sidney and James Islands. In the late winter/early spring, the park blooms abundantly with wildflowers. The bench at the top is strategically placed for soaking in the view. There are a few parking spots at the base, and you can take the gravel access road or the dirt trail up.
Beach Access at the Junction of Ardmore Drive and Aboyne Avenue
All the tranquil beauty of Coles Bay Regional Park but hidden away in a quiet residential area, this beach access spot is really worth a winter visit. The flat, gravel trail down to the shore is surrounded by large western red cedar and Douglas fir trees. The access can also serve as a great launch for kayaks or for beachcombing south along the granite rocks in low tide. Sipping tea from your thermos, looking out over the ocean westward across to Mill Bay is also a great plan. Park in the neighbourhood thoughtfully, or park at Coles Bay Regional Park and make a destination walk of it.
Moses Point Road Beach Access
Beach Access is at the end of Moses Point Road off Land’s End Road (where it becomes Chalet Road). This tip of land commemorates the early North Saanich homesteader Daniel Moses. It is a perfect place to enjoy the tranquility of North Saanich and the Salish Sea. The beach is rocky with some gravel, crushed shells and sandy areas at low tides. It is good for kayak launching or just contemplation. The beach faces mostly northward and has a great view of Salt Spring Island.
Lillian Hoffar Park
Located off McDonald Park Road close to the boundary of Sidney is a 1.61-hectare waterfront park located on Tsehum Harbour. Lillian and Henry Hoffar, a local boat builder and aviation pioneer, donated this area of land as a place for the public to enjoy and as a bird sanctuary. The information board in the tiny parking lot is an enlightening read into the history of the park. For those who get joy from watching birds, this is a great place for a winter visit. As the big leaf maple leaves fall, you can watch for green-winged teal, bufflehead, American wigeon and more. There are benches, a picnic table and an array of colourful, sheltering trees, making it a great spot in any season.