Canada’s Hidden Gems: Travel to Sidney-by-the-Sea, B.C. With Erin Davis

by | Feb 26, 2024

People walking along the boardwalk in one of Canada's hidden gems Sidney-by-the-Sea British Columbia
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Featured image: Sidney-by-the-Sea British Columbia is a charming town waiting to be discovered | Photo by British Columbia Tourism

Hidden gems in Sidney-by-the-Sea: Where to stay, eat and play from a local

by Kathy Buckworth

Introducing our new series profiling notable Canadian women age 50+ as they share their hometown travel tips and experiences while traveling, both in their self-described hometowns and further afield. Why should you visit the places they love and what can you learn from their solo and/or multigenerational travel? We start our series with the inimitable Erin Davis.

Toronto radio fans and listeners across the country know Erin and her magical voice. After her time as one of Toronto’s most popular morning radio show hosts for many years, Erin penned the bestselling book “Mourning Has Broken” which chronicled her journey after the tragic death of her only daughter, Lauren. 

Today, Erin enjoys her two grandchildren and family across the other side of the country, where she lives in Sidney-by-the-Sea, British Columbia. With a population of 11,000 just outside Victoria, Vancouver Island, British Colombia, Sidney-by-the-Sea is about as far as you can get physically and lifestyle-wise from Canada’s largest city, and she is revelling in it.

Erin and her BFF Lisa Brandt (also a radio legend) are currently enjoying the runaway success of their podcast, Gracefully and Frankly. Erin is also the creator and host of the Drift podcast, which helps us all to rest a little more peacefully. She is also a sought-after speaker, and I’m thrilled to catch her between gigs (I reached her in Palm Springs, recording in a minivan) to share her story. 

Hidden Gems in Sidney-by-the-Sea, British Columbia

Erin identifies Sidney-by-the Sea as her hometown, which she calls “a sea change (literally) from the Toronto life I lived for so long.” 

She credits pal Nancy Wood with helping her find some jewels in this treasure box town.

Erin on the boardwalk / Photo by Erin Davis

Kathy: What unique experience should women seek out in Sidney-by-the-Sea? 

Erin: There is a beautiful 5 km trail along Sidney’s waterfront. Easy to access, safe and beautiful, you can include in your stroll the Tulista ArtSea Gallery.  In the summer months, Beacon, the main street in Sidney hosts a fabulous Thursday evening market, 5:30 to 8:30. Lots of fresh produce and unique items made by Island artisans plus irresistible street food, and live music. Plus don’t miss the Canada EVE fireworks on June 30th. Every full moon year-round, there is a night-time dancing party on the waterfront in the bandshell which we’ve nicknamed the Sidney Opera House for its shell shape. 

Kathy:  Where’s a safe place for women to stay?  

Erin: There are many choices in Sidney between hotels, motels and Airbnbs (for as long as the BC government allows the latter; they’re on the endangered species list as we speak). To be right at the stunning waterfront and close to the adorable main street, I suggest The Sidney Pier Hotel or for a smaller, bed and breakfast style spot, The Beacon Inn

image that reads safe places for women to stay

Kathy: Where are your favourite places to eat? 

Erin:  For a fun and casual meal on the water’s edge, try the Sidney Pier Bistro for fabulous crab cakes and the biggest butter tart ever, or a few blocks away, more upscale dining at Atelier Sidney.  Sidney has a plethora of coffee spots and bistros popping up nearly monthly, many with great outdoor seating. Oh, and you’ve heard of Nanaimo bars? Well, we have our own Sidney Slice; ask around!

Kathy: And what about a sunset cocktail or live music? 

Erin:  Riva’s by the Water every Thursday night features some great live music. For some fabulous wine and cheese pairings, the gooiest most wonderful grilled cheese and other fun appetizers, there is The Farmers Daughter.

Kathy: Where do you go for “Play”? 

Erin: Some big-name acts come to Mary Winspear Theatre on a regular basis. But for daytime fun, with ocean walkways and friendly beaches to sit on a log and watch for seals or throw a stick with your fur babies, Sidney-by-the-Sea offers outdoor play galore. There are gorgeous parks like Iroquois and Tulista (the latter has a super kids’ playground and skateboarding park) and myriad spots to stroll docks and watch crabbers or just take in the views of Washington’s snow-capped Mount Baker. I like the short ferry ride to Sidney Island to walk the park and the soft sand beaches there. It’s pristine and quiet perfection.

A sign welcoming visitors to Sidney By The Sea, British Columbia

The sign welcoming visitors to Sidney by the Sea / Photo provided by Erin Davis

Kathy: Do you have any special co-working spot suggestions? 

Erin: I’m fortunate to work from home, overlooking mountains and the Haro Strait (it’s where I wrote my book). But al fresco, the Sidney waterfront in the spring and summer season has Muskoka/Adirondack chairs on the lawn by the water; wonderful to work there and lots of oceanside picnic tables for working outside. 

Upcoming travel plans 

Kathy: What future travel plans do you have coming up?

Erin: My husband and I are always awaiting our next adventure: we love cruising, driving and travel of all sorts. Living on an island, one gets used to ferries and flights being part of the planning.

Kathy: Do you have experience with multigenerational travel (kids, grandkids) and if so, why is that special to you? 

Erin: Our favourite plans include our two grandkids: trips up the island to stay near Parksville and its many beaches and spectacular playgrounds, plus a side trip to Coombs to visit the famous Goats on the Roof market and shops. We stay fairly local due to costs, but there’s so much a short drive away when you live on an island paradise.

Sidney by the Sea British Columbia Harbour

Pisturesque views from Sidney-by-the-Sea / Photo by Erin Davis

Kathy: What’s your travel style – solo, with family or multi-generational? 

Erin: From hosting river cruises and radio station listener trips, to partnering with my husband for travel, I’ve never gone solo as my sense of direction is non-existent. I’d love to cruise alone, but for the high single supplement most ships charge. (Editor’s Note: Check out small ship cruises with no single supplements in our Women’s Travel Directory here!)

Maybe one day – but I’d much rather have my navigator and valium-in-human-form husband Rob with me for as long as we can pick up and go!

How to get to Sidney-by-the-Sea, British Columbia

The Closest airport to fly into is Victoria, B.C. Check rates on Skyscanner here!

Ferry from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, then a 10-minute drive to Sidney

By plane from Vancouver to Victoria, then a 25-minute drive to Sidney

Rent a car – Check out Expedia.ca

Connect with Erin Davis

Follow Erin on Instagram: @ErinDawnDavis,
On Facebook: ErinDavisPage, and follow on X: @ErinDavis.

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Kathy Buckworth is an award-winning writer, spokesperson, content creator and media personality. She is the author of six non-fiction books. Kathy is the creator, host, writer and researcher for the Zoomer Radio show and podcast, Go-To Grandma, which launched in 2021. She has interviewed hundreds of guests, and the show is in the top three sponsored shows on Zoomer. She is also the co-host of the Elder Wisdom Podcast, which has just reached 100,000 downloads.

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