Shoulder season is a great time for locals to get out and explore this amazing region we call home. There is no shortage of places to go and see, but we’re going to suggest you plan a tour to several cideries.
Not only will you get to take in some amazing scenery, but you’ll also get the opportunity to tour through beautiful apple orchards! Several of the cider makers we work with are making cider from some of the same apple trees their predecessors planted decades ago. Many of these apples come from seeds settlers brought to the island, and have since made Vancouver Island famous for its variety of apple orchards.
We’ve grouped together our regional cideries for day trips, but if you want to take a bigger bite of the apple feel free to pack it all into an extended long weekend. Don’t forget to take a bushel of photos, and to tag us in your #VancouverIslandCiderTour adventures!
The Saanich Peninsula is the South Island’s fruit basket. It’s safe to assume farmers were making cider and fruit wine on the Peninsula for a very long time before Grower’s Cider got started in Saanichton in 1922. The Peninsula produces apples, berries and grapes, and is just north of Victoria.
Junction Cidery is the newest addition to the community. Located on Prospect Lake Road, head north on West Saanich Road to make a quick stop for coffee and a pastry at Mosi before turning left on Prospect Lake Road. Junction Cidery will be on your left just past the elementary school.
Here you can get to know Jillian and Cody, and their dogs. They’ve spent the year and a half since they purchased the farm and cidery getting it back up and running. They released their first cider, a rhubarb cider, in July. You might still be able to find a few in some of our stores. That first batch was a fairly limited release, but don’t worry, more is on the way! They will have new batches this fall to try, and will even be opening up their tasting room soon.
Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse
Sea Cider sold its first cider in 2007, and has been making seasonal ciders ever since! The cidery was established by Kristen Jordan a sixth-generation farmer who replanted the family orchard in cider apples and established one of the Island’s most well-known cideries.
To get to Sea Cider from Junction Cidery you have a couple of choices. You can continue north up West Saanich Road and along the way you can make a stop at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens for a tropical beauty break. If you’d like to stop at a farm stand and pick up fresh produce you can cross West Saanich and continue past Mosi on Sparton Road to Oldfield Road where you’ll pass several orchards, farms and roadside markets.
At Sea Cider, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of the Haro Strait and the Gulf Islands. If you haven’t already been to visit it it is worth the trip. If you can’t make it out there, Cascadia stores all carry most of their ciders - and you can order them online.
The Gulf Islands
At this point, you are close enough to Swartz Bay you might as well just hop on a ferry to the Gulf Islands. Let’s face it, this is starting to sound like an overnight trip - so why not see if you can get a room at Poet’s Cove, or book one of the Airstream trailers at the Woods on Pender. From Otter Bay, you can hop a ferry to Long Harbour on Salt Spring Island.
When you spend time on the Southern Gulf Islands you can come away with a new appreciation for apples. At one time the area produced more apples than anywhere else in the province. You can still find over 450 heritage apple varieties growing on the islands. If you ever want to see more varieties of apples than you ever thought possible, visit the Salt Spring Apple Festival or pick a basket of apples for yourself at one of the 17 orchards in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve.
Twin Island Cider
On Pender Island you’ll find Twin Island Cider. Twin Island Cider is an interesting producer. They use antique and heritage apple varieties from orchards on Pender, Mayne and Saturna Islands. Many of the orchards where they harvest apples were planted by settlers around 150 years ago.
Matt and Katie, owners of Twin Island Cider, are focused on natural fermentation and they use a variety of techniques that would be familiar to the people who first planted these trees. Ciders like their Old Growth Dry Cider and annual Pet Nat release have gained a bit of a cult following. They make cider in very small batches, so it can be tricky to find. With a little luck you can find it in one of our stores if you can’t make the trip to Pender.
Salt Spring Island
Known for the Apple Festival in October, Salt Spring Island is a favourite destination. From Pender Island you can take the ferry to Long Harbour on Salt Spring. From Long Harbour head into Ganges. If you skip Pender and are coming from Swartz Bay head north toward Ganges for your first stop.
Salt Spring Wild
Salt Spring Wild is just north of Ganges on Lower Ganges Rd. Salt Spring Wild Cider makes cider from wild heritage apple trees growing on the island. There are over 450 varieties of apples growing on Salt Spring Island and most of these trees have been planted for well over 100 years.
The folks at Salt Spring Wild travel the island harvesting these trees every year to make ciders that are complex and flavourful. When you visit you’ll get to see their beautiful farm and cidery. If you can’t visit and want to try a tasting at home, pick up a bottle of their Hopped Apricot Cider at one of our stores!
Ciderworks is just south of Ganges on the east side of Fulford-Ganges road. For the past 10 years, Ciderworks on Salt Spring has been planting an orchard dedicated to growing heritage cider apples. Cider apples are a little different than the dessert apples you find on grocery store shelves. To make great cider you want apples that not only have great flavour, but also acidity and bitter tannins to add balance and complexity.
Ciderworks now have over 3500 trees and 356 varieties of apples especially well suited for making great cider. While you’re visiting be sure to try one of their apple fritters! If you'd like to try Ciderworks from your local Cascadia Liquor store, we currently only have stock at our Courtenay location, but you can always contact a store close to you to check. From Salt Spring Island you can catch a ferry from Vesuvius to Crofton and land in the heart of the Cowichan Valley, our next stop!
Cowichan Valley is a wonderland of food producers. Here you’ll find a Tea Farm, several wineries, and a bunch of delicious restaurants and bakeries. The region actually stretches all the way north to Ladysmith, but is best known for the valley by Lake Cowichan. You'll find many of the orchards here, including the locations of our last two stops.
Valley Cider is one of the smaller cideries you’ll find on your tour, just north of Duncan. Bruce McKinlay started the cidery intending to keep it small, authentic and approachable. Valley Cider makes ciders that move beyond well-defined ideas of what a craft cider should be.
They experiment with interesting techniques used in beer and wine production and put together unique flavour combinations that make for fun and interesting ciders. No, seriously. They even have a bacon flavoured cider called Oink. You can stay updated on the newest flavours by following them on Instagram.
Merridale is one of the larger and more established cideries in the region. There is a lot to see and do here! Nestled between Cobble Hill and Mill Hill, we recommend trying their classic pub-style cider and taking in the local surroundings. In addition to the cidery, they have a distillery you can visit where you can taste their Cowichan Gin and other spirits. They also have a restaurant where you can get a meal paired with your choice of cider!
Need to stay the night? They have a couple of pet friendly yurts that come equipped with everything you need to relax and avoid some Malahat traffic. It's a great way to end your cider tour, and enjoy the changing seasons surrounded by nature.
Junction Rhubarb Cider
Sweet rhubarb, hints of citrus, ripe apple, dry to off dry finish, highly refreshing..
Sea Cider Bramble Bubbly
The mighty blackberry is a tenacious invader of Vancouver Island orchards, but a touch of its sun-soaked sweetness added to apple cider makes for a sinfully delicious blushing semi-dry sparkling cider.
Valley Cider Bon Dri
Pure. Apple. Cider. Pairs perfectly with any part of your day or night that you want to last just a little bit longer. Absolutely zero sweetness and aged for over 16 months.
Salt Spring Hopped Apricot
A unique and refreshing cider with a stonefruit, lychee, grapefruit, and apricot nose. Made with organic apples and four kinds of organic hops, we infuse this cider with hops and back-sweeten it lightly with apricot nectar.
A refreshing effervescent cider in true English pub style. Crafted from a blend of English cider apples, it’s the perfect balance between sharps, bitters, and fruitiness. A favourite at local pubs and restaurants.