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Vancouver Island: The Butchart Gardens and Victoria

Posted by on April 27, 2014

Before our trip, many people asked “Are you going to Vancouver Island? Will you see the Gardens?” Our answer was “But, of course!” And while true, we had NO CLUE what we were in for. We thought Vancouver Island would be a small, quaint island off the coast with some beautiful gardens.

We were wrong.

Vancouver Island spans ~12,000 square miles (~32,000 square km) [about the size of the State of Maryland in the US, or 1/5th of the South Island of New Zealand]. Woah!!! Approximately 750,000 people live there, of which about half live in the greater Victoria area. Victoria is on the south shore of the island and is the capital of the province of British Columbia.

Ok, geography lesson complete! I tell you all of this because we were gobsmacked by how big it was.

My location
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So needless to say, our day trip barely scratched the surface of Vancouver Island. We focused on seeing 2 things—Butchart Gardens (the famed gardens that everyone speaks of) and the heart of the city of Victoria.

[Also, for those of you planning to visit, it takes some effort to get to Vancouver Island, so plan accordingly. The ferry terminal is ~45 minute south of Vancouver by car, followed by a 1.5-hour ferry ride to the island, with a 30-minute drive down to Victoria once on the island. It is completely worth it and the ferry ride was smooth and seamless. But give it proper time!]

Butchart Gardens

The story of Butchart Gardens is a positively fascinating one. In 1904, Robert Butchart bought the land near Tod Inlet for its limestone deposits, dug a quarry, and developed a successful cement plant there. His wife, Jennie Butchart, became the company’s chemist. (Go Jennie!)

As the quarry was emptied of limestone, Jennie decided to make something beautiful out of the leftover hole. Over time, the quarry evolved into the Sunken Garden. (Again, go Jennie!)

Between 1906 and 1929, the Butcharts added the Italian Garden and the Japanese Garden. Their estate was named “Benvenuto,” Italian for welcome. They welcomed visitors to their garden for years, and their grandchildren have kept up the tradition.

We thoroughly enjoyed our walk through the gardens. They were truly breathtaking.

To quote Faron (who once studied horticulture), as he rounded the corner into the Sunken Garden, “I’m speechless. This really has the wow factor. Stunning.” Well said, Faron! I completely agree. Kay–we wish you had been here with us!

We hope you enjoy these gorgeous photos.  In my opinion, these are best viewed in full screen (hit FS at bottom right of gallery). To see the captions for these pix, click on the “i” in the upper-right corner of each picture (or the button with 3-lines on an iPad).

Vancouver Island

Welcome to the Butchart Gardens!
Welcome to the Butchart Gardens!
The layout of the Butchart Gardens
The layout of the Butchart Gardens
Layers of gorgeous color in the Sunken Garden
Layers of gorgeous color in the Sunken Garden
Tulips galore!
Tulips galore!
The Sunken Garden
The Sunken Garden
The Sunken Garden
The Sunken Garden
Panorama of the Sunken Garden
Panorama of the Sunken Garden
The Ross fountain
The Ross fountain
Up close and personal with flower parts
Up close and personal with flower parts
What a stunning color combination!
What a stunning color combination!
Waterfall in the Japanese Garden
Waterfall in the Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden
View out to Tod Inlet
View out to Tod Inlet
Star Pond in the Italian Garden
Star Pond in the Italian Garden
The Italian Garden
The Italian Garden

Still glowing from the beauty of the gardens, we decided to take the “back roads” from Butchart Gardens to Victoria, expecting to see some of the rural beauty of Vancouver Island. Turns out that the 20-minute drive was mainly through suburbs.

This began our realization of how big Vancouver Island, and the city of Victoria, really are.

Victoria

Our trusty google maps app led us straight to Victoria where we parked and went to explore the Inner Harbour, the bustling heart of the city. Float planes take off and land here, as do a myriad of watercraft. Inner Harbour of Victoria

As the capital of the province, the legislature buildings are located here, on one side of the Inner Harbour. These old buildings were quite different from the newer buildings that we’ve seen throughout Vancouver.

Legislation Buildings
My favorite building was the Hotel Empress, also on the Inner Harbour. This luxury hotel was built in 1908. The vines climbing the walls screamed of age and character. I love it!

Hotel Empress

After this uber-quick tour of Victoria’s city centre, Jeff, Faron, and I decided to stop touring and just savor the sunshine and each other’s company. We enjoyed an afternoon drink and early dinner before jumping into the car and back to the ferry for the trip back to Vancouver.

This day trip was spectacular, but barely scratched the surface of the island. Victoria, known as the “Garden City”, and Vancouver Island, with its “Garden Trail” of gardens that extend up the east coast of the island, obviously has more to offer than we could ever see in a day.

Next time, we’ll plan at least several days on this gorgeous island–and we’ll also leave some time for kayaking amidst the nearby smaller islands. The ferry trip through them was beautiful. I can only imagine seeing them by kayak! Next time…

We hope you’ve enjoyed this day trip to Vancouver Island!

2 Responses to Vancouver Island: The Butchart Gardens and Victoria

  1. Graham & Clio

    Great reading. Brings back a lot of memories. We have been there twice. Cheers, Luv Graham & Clio.

    • Jen

      Thanks! Indeed, I’ve loved hearing your stories of Vancouver and we couldn’t wait to visit ourselves. Now we can’t wait to go back!!! 😉 All the best to you and Clio!

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