VICTORIA -- Located just five kilometres off the Town of Sidney’s waterfront, Sidney Spit is a favourite tourist destination that offers “Caribbean-like” white sand beaches.

In March, Parks Canada was forced to close access to the popular tourist spot, as well as all back-country camping in the Gulf Island National Park reserve, due to COVID-19 concerns. On Wednesday, Parks Canada announced it was reopening the park on Sidney Island for day use and overnight camping.

Starting July 20, day-users and overnight campers are permitted to access the national park by using their own vessel or the open-air catamaran that serves as a ferry to the island. The parks service also announced that Sidney Whale Watching would be the contractor operating transportation services to Sidney Spit.

“The priority for us this year is to get the service up and running,” said Sidney Whale Watching owner Michael Child.

“We want to have a consistent service for folks that want to get over there for the remainder of the summer.”

As a result of COVID-19 protocols, the ferry operator has been working closely with WorkSafeBC and Parks Canada to resume service to Sidney Island. In order to maintain physical distancing on the 45-foot catamaran, Child says passenger capacity will be reduced from 41 to 31 for the 20-minute trip.

“We’re going to start at a significantly reduced capacity to make sure people can feel comfortable on the trip over,” said Child. “We are going to have more spacing on the boat and we have some physical barriers up on the boat as well.”

With more than 40 campsites and white sand beaches, Sidney Spit offers an opportunity to get away while staying close to home during the pandemic.

“Its one of the prettiest islands off the west coast of B.C. in my opinion,” said Child.

“What really makes Sidney Island special is it’s got these beautiful white sand beaches and we always joke that it is a Caribbean island in Canada.”

Child says after a short ferry ride across the Sidney Channel, families can enjoy a long sandy beach that stretches into the sea. They can also enjoy hiking trails found across the island that lead to places like the Sidney Lagoon, the spit’s lighthouse and the site of an old brick and tile company.

“We’re really looking forward to getting the service back up and running,” said Child. “I know [Parks Canada] will be happy to have guests back over there for the remainder of the summer.”

Child notes that people should be advised that Sidney Spit is a “pack-in, pack-out” park. There are no services on the island so park users are required to bring all the supplies they need for their stay and take it with them when they leave.

Access to the park is by reservation only. The ferry departs from the Sidney Whale Watching dock located on the Town of Sidney waterfront at the foot of Beacon Avenue. The ferry to the park will make four round trips per day, seven days a week, starting at 9:30 a.m.

“There is a pent-up demand to get out and enjoy the outdoors given the time of year and with people being cooped up so long,” said Child. “I think there is going to be some excitement around this, I know we’re excited about it ourselves.”

Monday will also mark the reopening of all back-country camping areas in the Gulf Islands National Park reserve. All visitors are reminded to bring a “clean trip kit” including hand sanitizer and a tablecloth for those using a picnic table.

Further information on Sidney Spit or on making camping or ferry reservations can be found here