Sidney Spit National Park Preserve is a favourite stop in the Gulf Islands.

Sidney Spit National Park Preserve is another of our favourite stops in the Gulf Islands. Occupying the top part of Sidney Island, the park stretches out towards the northwest in two peninsulas.

The eastern extension is the sandy spit that gives the park its name. It is at least a kilometer in length and much of it is submerged at high tide.

The western shoreline ends in a neck of land that curves around to protects a shallow tidal lagoon, a wildlife reserve off limits to motor boats and home to a variety of shore birds.

                                                                        The lagoon at low tide.
                                                               Herons feeding in the lagoon.

Boaters have the choice of anchoring off the spit, tying up to one of the park’s mooring buoys, or anchoring off the hook close to the lagoon. Our preference is to snag a mooring buoy.

But first we have to reach them, and that is sometimes tricky. Large parts of the bay are shallow, especially in the middle and near the shore, and we have seen boats go aground.

                                                                    Watch depths carefully near the spit.

Yet sometimes we have seen boats larger than ours traverse this area without a problem, depending on the state of the tide.

We had always picked our way through the deeper channels to the mooring grounds, our eyes glued to the depth sounder. But after watching yet another sailboat make a successful crossing of the shallows, Frank felt challenged to do the same. Ignoring my frantic protests, when it came time to leave, he headed straight out across what the Yeadon Joneses had marked as a no-go zone in our Dreamspeaker guide. And he made it! At one point, the depth sounder only showed one foot and we felt our keel must have been plowing through sand.

We never have a problem filling in our time at Sidney Spit. The park’s trail system leads through meadows and woods and past camping grounds for kayakers. In one area, the scattered remnants of rust-coloured red bricks mark the site of a former brick works.

We often see deer in the woods, and on our last visit, I was unnerved by signs warning of a recent cougar sighting. I took care not to let Freank get ahead of me, as I had no wish to be a straggler picked off by a hungry cat.

The long walk on loose sand at low tide out to the nav aid at the tip of the spit can be tiring, but the 360 degree view of islands, channels, and all manner of water craft makes it worth the effort.

                                                                   The nav aid at the end of the spit.

While the eastern shore is exposed to the southeast winds and piled high with driftwood, the protected western shore of the spit is sandy. But while the beach looks like an ideal spot for picnicking and sunbathing, on our visits sand flies have always kept us moving.

                                                                The eastern shore of Sidney Spit.

Evenings at Sidney Spit are special because this is one of the best spots in the Gulf Islands for viewing sunsets. We love to sit on the top of our cabin, glasses of wine in our hands, evocative music playing softly over the cockpit speakers, and wathch the sky turn from pink to rose to scarlet and back to pink again as the sun slowly slides down behind the mountains of Vancouver Island.

One drawback to this marine park is its openness to the swells generated by the large amount of marine traffic in this area. We also have learned that, if the marine forecast calls for northwest winds, our wisest course of action is to relocate to a marina or a more protected anchorage. We would probably be safe enough tied to a mooring buoy, but we would be very uncomfortable in those bouncy waves.

                                             The Zephyr tied to a mooring buoy at Sidney Spit.


Author: Mary Anne Hajer

My husband, Frank, and I are both retired teachers. We were in our fifties when we first set foot on a sailboat. Five years later we bought our Fraser 30, the Zephyr, and began spending our summers sailing the Salish Sea. Doing so has enriched our lives beyond measure.

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