Located a short ferry ride from the Town of Sidney, Sidney Spit is a hidden gem well worth at minimum a day trip. It is considered a rare ecosystem by pacific northwest standards because of the shifting sand dudes, eelgrass, tidal flats, salt marshes and migratory birds that make up Sidney Island and Sidney Spit.
If you can camp there overnight, or use the Sidney Spit Marine Park mooring buoys or the dock, you are in for a fantastic sunset show. We boat over to Sidney Spit regularly in the spring, summer and fall to enjoy the atmosphere and capture the amazing scenery.
After spending more than a decade visiting, here are my tips and tricks to Sidney Spit landscape photography planning. Make the most of your time there with these handy hints!
Sidney Spit Brief History
This beautifully small island has a BIG history. It was one of the first places that people settled around Vancouver Island. From 1906 up until 1915, the Sidney Tile and Brick Company used to make, you guessed it, tile and brick from the clay on the island. You will find bricks along the shore and in piles throughout the woodland and camping areas, remnants of that era.
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- Mooring and Dock Info at Sidney Spit
There is also a cool old bomb shelter on the Island, that you used to be able to go into! Unfortunately, its been sealed up for safety reasons. Its located closer to the North end of the Island, down one of the old woodland trails.
Part of the lagoon is what we call Brick Beach, where the shoreline is covered in these old bricks. Look through the bricks and see if you can find a complete brick that says “Sidney Island”, I bet you can’t 😉 (but I did!)
How to Get There: Alpine Sidney Spit Ferry
Most people who go to Sidney Spit for either a day trip or overnight camping, head over via the Alpine Ferry. The Sidney Spit ferry is seasonal, running typically from May long weekend until after Labour Day Long weekend. Due to COVID 19, I recommend contacting them directly via their website to see if they plan on offering the service in 2020.
The ferry to Sidney Spit costs anywhere from 16$ for kids/seniors to $19 for adults and takes about 25 minutes to reach Sidney Island. Check out their website for updates about the upcoming season.
Taking a Kayak to Sidney Spit
This is definitely reserved for souls braver than me! If you’re looking to rent a kayak or a canoe overnight, head over to the Pacifica Paddle Website. They are located just off Swartz Bay in North Saanich. It will take you at least 1-2 hours or even 3 to paddle your way to the Spit, depending on tides and the winds.
What Camera Gear I Bring to Sidney Spit
Other than your camping gear, here is a list of photo gear and miscellaneous other things I take with me whenever I visit Sidney Spit. Weight isn’t really an issue when visiting the spit, if you can walk/easy hike for a few kilometers with your pack now, then you’ll be fine.
- Tide tables! Always keep these handy so you know when you can explore certain parts of the Island that are accessible only at low tide
- Heavy tripod, it gets windy
- A compact tripod (optional)
- Drone, if you have one
- Camera obviously (or your phone!)
- Wide angle, fast lens (milky way and aurora shots ARE possible from Sidney Spit!)
- “Regular” zoom lens, I bring an 18-135mm
- I bring this Tamron 24 – 70mm 2.8
- Zoom Lens: Your favorite wildlife/bird lens, there are a ton of species for you to capture
- ND Filters, if you’re into long exposures
- Many Lens cloths
- Spare Batteries
- Rain cover (doubles as a cover to protect from blowing sand)
My 7 Tips and Tricks for Sidney Spit Landscape Photography
#1. My favorite time of year to capture images at Sidney Spit is April, May, August and Sept
#2. Low tide is awesome and exposes long stretches of white sandy beaches, driftwood, and the lagoon drains so much you can almost walk to the other part of the Island!
#3. Visit the lighthouse at the end of the Spit. You can do this at low tide, but watch the tide!
#4. Go around the whole island and walk the deserted sandy beaches along Haro Strait
#5. Walk either through the woodlands or down the beach at low tide down to Brick Beach, where the old brick factory used to dump their bricks and now they are exposed all over the beach. They even form the foundation for the grassy meadow just above the beach
#6. For you birders and wildlife photographers out there, Sidney Spit has a ton of different species for you to photograph, especially at low tide in the lagoon area
#7. Bathrooms/outhouses are few and far between!
Sidney Spit Drone Photography
Learning how to capture images with my new drone! Here are a few quick snaps from about 200-300 feet above the end of the spit looking towards the lighthouse and of the wetlands that are covered at high tide.
Where to Stay: Sidney Spit Campground
Sidney spit camping is part of the Gulf Island Marine Park camping network. Golden and Blue Hours are pretty amazing at the Spit, I definitely advise camping there overnight to capture some amazing images.
Located at the North end of Sidney Island, camping is open May 15th to September 30th, and reservations can be made on the Parks Canada Recreation Service Website HERE.
Reservations are recommended, if not required, if you want to secure your spot as tenting spots are limited to 29, with one group site. Please note no fires are allowed on the spit, even below the high tide mark.
Here is a quick link to the Sidney Spit camping map.
Check out the campgrounds at this link for further details about your planned camping experience.
Where to Stay at Sidney Spit: Mooring Your Boat on the Buoys or at the Dock
We’ve travelled to Sidney Spit on both our 32-foot Bayliner and our new 19-foot Bayliner. You can either tie up to one of the 11 mooring buoys or at the dock. Fees apply after 3pm for each type of boat mooring/docking and they are $14/night for the buoys and 2.96$ per meter for dock fees.
Dock space is also limited. At low tide, if your boat draws a bunch of water, you will be restricted to the ends of the dock closest to where the Alpine Ferry docks. If that’s the case, grab yourself a mooring buoy instead.
Mooring at the Spit is amazing, it’s like being in another world! The wind does tend to pick up around 3pm and even in the summer, the wind can be bitter. The water is also pretty chilly, swimming can be done, but we’ve stuck to swimming off the many sandy beaches where the water is warmer.
My 2nd Favorite Part of Sidney Spit: Crabbing
Bring a crab trap if you can! We’ve caught legal Dungeness crab right off the end of the dock before!
Don’t forget to grab your fishing license here, which is required to crab. It costs around 20$ but oh so worth it! When 1 crab at the store costs at least 15$, it’s money well spent!
Make sure you check if they are legal size before keeping them which is 6.5 inches across. You can only keep the male crabs which, when you flip them over, look much different than the female crabs. Gently put female crabs back in the water.
Hope you find some nuggets of knowledge here to make your trip to Sidney Spit super enjoyable and help you to capture the best images possible.