The Saanich Peninsula is located north of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It is bounded by the Saanich Inlet on the west, and various straits of the Gulf of Georgia on the east, chiefly Haro Strait. Its name in the Saanich dialect, WSANEC, means "raised up" (where meaning the people, that term means "emerging people). The exact southern boundary of what is referred to as the "Saanich Peninsula" is somewhat fluid in local parlance.
Lying in the rain shadow of both the Vancouver Island Ranges and the Olympic Mountains, the Saanich Peninsula is the driest part of Vancouver Island. The driest recording station in the provincial capital city of Victoria averages only 635 millimetres (25 in) of precipitation annually. Precipitation increases from east to west, and from south to north.
Many different kinds of bedrock underlie the peninsula. Sandstone is common at the northern end. Granodiorite crops out in many northern and central areas. Amphibolite, diorite, gabbro and quartz diorite are common in the south. Smaller areas of andesite, basalt, chert, dacite and limestone are also found.
The region is the historical homeland of certain Coast Salish peoples. Several Indian Reserves are located on the peninsula, predominantly along the shore of Saanich Inlet. Early European settlers arrived in the mid-nineteenth century, pursuing mainly resource-based economic activities such as logging, fishing, and — most notably — agriculture. The peninsula is home to the oldest agricultural exhibition in Western Canada, the Saanich Fair, sponsored by the North and South Saanich Agricultural Society. In more recent decades, residential and commercial development has become widespread on the peninsula, although provincial law protects much of the region's farmland from rezoning. The peninsula is also home to many wilderness parks, mostly on its southwest. The largest of these is Gowlland Tod Regional Park.
The natural flora of the region include mixed forests of Douglas fir, Western red cedar, hemlock, arbutus, Garry oak, and manzanita. The ground cover includes snowberry, Oregon-grape, salal, sword fern, trillium, and fawn lily. The peninsula is characterized by rolling hills and numerous freshwater ponds and lakes. Notable natural features of the Saanich Peninsula include Elk Lake, Beaver Lake, Mount Newton, Bear Hill, Tod Inlet, Mount Finlayson, Prospect Lake, Durrance Lake, and Mount Work. Many of these features are protected in regional and municipal parks. The peninsula is also the location of the Swartz Bay terminal of the BC Ferry Corporation, the Victoria International Airport, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, and Butchart Gardens.
- Central Saanich (containing the villages of Brentwood Bay and Saanichton)
- Highlands (the southwestern part)
- North Saanich
- Saanich (its northern portions)