An air-conditioned, Wi-Fi equipped, scenic ride to The Butchart Gardens.
Thirteen miles outside of Victoria’s quaint Inner Harbour, The Butchart Gardens burst with color. The sprawling grounds feature 55 acres of manicured gardens and public trails. While exploring this slice of growing paradise is certainly the star attraction, shouldn’t getting there also be fun?
With CVS Tours it is. They offer air-conditioned, Wi-Fi equipped scenic rides to The Butchart Gardens. The double-decker buses depart from in front of the Fairmont Empress. For the best view, grab a seat in the second story.
During the approximately 35 minute trip, you’ll learn tidbits about the city’s origins, its development, and its current hot spots. This knowledge will be imparted to you by a certified Vancouver Island character – your driver. He or she might regale you with tales of Fan Tan Alley – the narrowest street in Victoria’s Chinatown. (It spans just one foot in some sections!) You might learn about the more than 1,500 hanging baskets that adorn lampposts during the summer or the 500,000 cups of tea poured annually at the Fairmont Empress. Plus, keep an eye out for the Old Victoria Custom House. The pink brick building on Wharf Street is where the city’s imports and exports were processed in the late 1800s.
Your driver will drop you outside The Gardens’ entrance where you’ll receive a ticket. (It’s included in the cost of your CVS Tour.) Garden maps are available on the bus. Be sure to grab one. Then head in to explore. When you’re ready to leave, simply meet your driver outside the gate.
(Buses depart every hour. The last departure time changes seasonally. Check the schedule to make sure you don’t miss your ride home.)
At The Butchart Gardens
With the brilliant colors and breathtaking blooms, you might think you’ve stepped into an Alice & Wonderland remix. You haven’t. The awe-inspiring exhibits of Mother Nature are why The Butchart Gardens is internationally renowned.
The floral displays are broken into themes such as the Mediterranean Garden, Italian Garden, and Rose Garden. Statues, water features, and even a carousel are sprinkled throughout. You’ll find benches tucked into quiet corners and small bridges spanning gentle creeks. Waterfalls cascade down steep cliffs. The main restaurant looks out upon a grassy pavilion. And, sturdy second growth forests tower overhead.
While visiting each of the gardens is highly recommended, the Sunken Garden and the Japanese Garden are not to be missed
The Sunken Garden
In 1904, Robert and Jennie Butchart started a limestone quarry. The excavation process created a cavernous pit. Today, the former quarry is a far cry from its humble rock and rubble beginnings. Now the deep walls surround a lush valley and graceful “Bog Garden.” At its center stands a large rock mound adorned by plants and shrubs. Carved into the mounds westernmost side is a steep stairway. While meandering through the Sunken Garden and up to its central lookout is certainly delightful, it’s arriving at the garden’s rim that steals the show.
From beneath the dark shade of towering Douglas Firs, the Sunken Garden glows in the sunlight as you approach. The brightness of its greenery feels otherworldly. It’s as though you are stepping into a space that defies time. Here, one could just as easily picture courting lovers strolling with lace umbrellas as they could dueling English gentlemen.
At the northern edge of the public grounds, the Japanese Garden rests beside Butchart Cove – a small, protected inlet where boats and seaplanes come to dock. Its entrance is marked by a Torli gate, which marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. Even during the busiest of seasons, there is a simple quietness to the collection of streams, ponds, and bridges. You’ll find a collection of Japanese maples, walkways made of stepping-stones, and benches set beneath gazebos. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself lingering.
Grabbing a Bite
If you’re looking for a quick and casual meal, The Blue Poppy Restaurant offers cafeteria-style service. Those looking for a leisurely dining experience will love The Dining Room. It offers spectacular views of the gardens and seasonally-inspired menus. However, if you’re looking to grab a fast snack, the Coffee Shop is just the thing. Snag a patio table to rest and refuel with your cappuccino and scone.