By Charlene Mixa
Touring Charming Victoria and Inspiring Butchard Gardens
Imagine enjoying gardens and flowers blooming year round in Canada! What a wonderful surprise to find that Vancouver Island in British Columbia has the mildest climate in Canada with gardens blooming throughout the year.
Our LandSea tour of Victoria and the Butchard Gardens is a full day which starts with a 7:50 AM pick up and returns after 10:00 PM. Once on board the bus, the driver/tour guide, Paul, introduces the 24 passengers and reviews the day’s schedule. First stop is to the ferry port where we have a 1.5 hour cruise to Vancouver Island. Aboard the ferry Paul gives careful instructions on times to return to our bus, Miss Daisy. The weather is a little cool but the views from the deck are spectacular yet serene as the ferry winds its way through the many small islands between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
On Vancouver Island traveling toward Victoria (the capital of British Columbia) we admire the lush countryside. Upon entering Victoria, we are in awe by this quaint bustling town. Gorgeous flowers are everywhere. Charming is the perfect word for Victoria. The harbor is alive featuring a classic boat show with banners and flags flying. It is a heartwarming, vibrant city. The tour allows a couple of hours on our own to explore the city, have lunch, and take in an attraction.
We have a scrumptious lunch with a view of the harbor at Milestones Grill. Next a quick walk down the main street to check out the Swans Hotel. It was built as a warehouse in 1913. After various changes and owners the hotel was totally renovated to a quaint Victorian inn. The outside has 3 floors with blooming flower pots every few feet adding to its Victorian charm. Time is at a premium so we trot down to take a quick glance at The Empress Hotel, with her turn-of-the-century beauty. The Fairmont Empress captures the grandeur and elegance of a bygone era. This is the Canadian grand dame of hotels.
Our tour package includes a ticket to one of 5 different attractions. We select the Royal British Columbia Museum. You could easily spend a full day seeing the sections and exhibits of the museum. The First People’s Gallery provides dramatic glimpses of the First People (Canadians refer to American Indians as the First People) before and after the arrival of the Europeans.
Next we admire exclusive residential neighborhoods and parks as the tour continues. Arriving at the world famous Butchart Gardens, Paul instructs us to use our time wisely touring the gardens and reminds us there is plenty of time on the ferry ride to eat.
Choosing the words to describe the gardens is a challenge. While the pictures we take in the gardens are wonderful, it is still difficult to capture the serenity, splendor and scope of these spectacular gardens. The vision Jennie Butchart had to shape this magnificent landscape is impressive. The style follows that of the grand estates of the early 1900’s with various distinct gardens. We walk under hundreds of hanging baskets bursting with flowers in full bloom. With each step along the gardens’ paths, we snap a photo in another attempt to capture the grandeur and enchantment.
The limestone quarry that was transformed into the dramatic Sunken Garden is mesmerizing. The Sunken Gardens has a dramatic landscape of flowers, shrubs and trees with a small hill of flowers in the center. The Italian and Mediterranean Gardens have areas for eating outdoors. You can purchase a picnic basket with all the fixings including a blanket for a romantic picnic on the lawn. Wherever you look there is beauty. The Butchart family retains the original design and continues to seasonally change the outstanding floral displays.
The two hours at the Gardens passes quickly and we are back on Ms. Daisy for our return ferry trip. It’s after 11:00 PM when we return to Vancouver. Our tour of Victoria and the Butchard Gardens was truly a fun-filled, inspiring day. Landsea did an excellent job and made sure we saw all the sights. Paul was a knowledgeable, personable and fun guide throughout the day. He provided great tips of places to eat and how to best use our time.
For travelers who have more time, I highly recommend staying a couple of nights in Victoria to really get to see the city, museums, the gardens and other sights on Vancouver Island.
Landsea provides many other tours from Vancouver, British Columbia. To get more information contact them at: