We moved away from the Japanese Garden and back into the Italianate and Rose Garden areas. The former had a fountain and statue or two while the latter traded on its name with a multitude of varieties.
There is so much variety in the geometrical patterns of the classical garden that you're never sure of what you'll come across next.
After breakfast we headed off in a different direction, finding ourselves in the Japanese Section. The rain was more a sprinkle at this time, the cloud cover lending an even light which was good for photography if nothing else.
I'd heard so much about this place and was worried that the hype may exceed the reality. I needn't have worried, it lived up to its reputation and then some. We were on an APT tour and had the good fortune be booked in to breakfast before anyone else arrived and then have 20 minutes before the general public arrived.
The breakfast was very good, without being outstanding, but just sitting in the room where Mrs. Butchart used to dine and view her handiwork was a lovely experience.
The Butchart Gardens are amazing! We only had a couple of hours to spend and definitely could have spent an entire day roaming the gardens, dining in the gardens and watching their evening entertainment. This is truly one of the most impressive gardens and a "must see" for anyone visiting the Victoria area. There are so many different aspects to the Gardens and a quick tour just barely touches on these. The story of how these amazing gardens were created adds even more to appreciation of its beauty.
TIP: Make good use of the Map and roam the gardens. If time allows enjoy a picnic lunch in the Gardens or dine at the Italian/Mediterranean
Robert and Jennie Butchart arrived here 100 years ago. Until 1912 this property was mining limestone until the Butcharts began planting trees, shrubs and plants that they collected from around the world on their travels.
Now, as autumn unfolds and the days get cooler, you can wander under a canopy of red Japanese maples toward two graceful silver birch trees with striking yellow leaves. All the colors of "The fall" are here to entertain you with over 50 acres of gardens, a coffee house, picnic grounds, fountains and restaurants to add to your experience.
The smile on my wife’s face was worth the plane ticket, not just the admission price!
One of the things Buchart Gardens advertises is their Christmas light show. So, today I visited the Christmas Lights Show.
As there is very little in bloom in the garden during this time, and since various plants are strung with electrical wires, and since various other areas that would normally be open grass feature various temporary sculptures and other such items, I am counting this as a different tip than a normal Butchart Gardens tip. The gardens simply are not at all the same as normal this time of year.
While the victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria is a decent deal during the winter, it is not a good deal to add the Butchart Gardens Christmas Lights tour to this package, at USA$52. This price might make sense if you absolutely do not want to find your way up to the gardens by public transportation ($2.50 each way, plus garden entrance fee). The fact is that one of the suggested things on Buchart Garden's web site is to pay the entrance fee and visit in the afternoon, then stay or visit again in the evening, so that one can see the gardens in both the daylight and lit up at night. If I had added this trip to Victoria Clipper, the tour wouldn't have arrived until after 5 at night - meaning that I would miss exploring the garden during the day, as well as being able to see the Japanese Gardens, parts of the Sunken Garden, and a few other pathways that were closed at 4 PM due to the desire to have some viewing orchestration for the light show.
However, it is possible to purchase just the Butchart Gardens tickets from the Victoria Clipper shop on the boat. This is only USA$26. This may seem to be a bit of a dig too, since the garden only reports the entrance fee as being only $23.57. However, keep in mind the prices listed on the garden web site, and at the entrance gate, do not include the 12% Harmonized Sales Tax. However, the USA$26 sold by the Victoria Clipper include all of the costs - so it really isn't that bad. On my trip over I paid for the ticket, received a voucher, and exchanged the voucher for an entrance ticket when I got to the garden.
Sure, it is winter time and there isn't anything at all in bloom today, and the chance of rain is good (I did get a bit wet!) but at the same time I might as well do what the garden themselves suggest and get the most out of my entrance fee - so I decided to not do the package tour with Victoria Clipper. Instead, I went there on my own, and arrived about 3 rather than the package tour time of 5.
The sheer number of lights was quite impressive, but there are a lot of pathways that you can walk down in the garden. To really see everything that is going on here, you really need to venture down a number of different side trails, and make several loops of the garden. Otherwise, parts of the garden that have decorations would be easy to miss.
By arriving before 4, it was possible to see some of the areas that had lights from a different angle than would be allowed after 4, as those areas were closed. For example, the sunken garden features an elevated viewing area which was closed for the Christmas lights event, but open before 4. The entire Japanese Gardens section was closed after 4 as well, and didn't feature any Christmas decorations - and considering the nature of the event probably it would be against the serenity tradition of the Japanese gardens to have a lot of loud animated sculptures at it.
This year, the light decoration theme was "12 Days of Christmas" and included decorations that matched the characters of the song. This included lighted wire forms, light forms, sculptures, and automated marionettes.
While it was a bit more difficult to get here than it would have been on the bus tour, I think it was well worth the extra effort to get here before the various parts of the garden closed for the evening. Darkness falls early here, and so staying in the garden also helped me to get some photos of the lights in partial light - which with a very light touchy camera is fairly important to do. Complete darkness with Christmas lights seem to make it very confused.
VT member Goodfish pointed out this good page on the Buchart Gardens web site with all manner of instructions on how to get to the gardens. However, somehow while stumbling through their menu system, I did not find this page.
The best thing to do is to find a bus #75 that is going directly from downtown to the gardens. However, only a very few of them operate this complete route in the winter season, and many of those that do operate into downtown Victoria do not go to Butchart Gardens. You will therefore want to pay close attention to this timetable, as it may make things a lot easier for you. For example, had I left downtown Victoria at 1 in the afternoon, I could have taken the #75 all the way to the gardens from downtown. Otherwise, you have to take bus route #30, #6, or #31, or some other bus from downtown north to "Royal Oak Exchange" which is basically just a busy street intersection with a bunch of bus stops at it. I wound up taking #30 and then #75. The bus between downtown Victoria and Royal Oak Exchange turned out to be fairly time consuming and rather circuitous. Certain versions of bus 30 and 31 are express buses, and those stay on the main roads. There is also an express version of the #32 that seems to make a reasonably quick trip from downtown Victoria to Royal Oak Exchange, but it doesn't appear in the winter timetable. Bus route #6 also has a somewhat faster trip than the locals, but they all take between 20 and 30 minutes to get from downtown to Royal Oak Exchange.
Once at Royal Oak Exchange, your wait depends on how well you read the timetables. During many times of the day, #75 operates only once every half hour, and service levels quickly drop to hourly in the early evening. Traveling with the rush hour, however, it does operate once every 15 minutes.
My understanding is that #75 goes to downtown Victoria more regularly in the summer months as the gardens are a much more popular tourist attraction in the summer months. However, the Christmas lights show isn't during the summer months.
There is also a bus route that goes to the gardens from the ferry in Sidney. It is bus route #81, but it doesn't operate very frequently at all.
Of course, if you do decide to take the $52 Victoria Clipper tour, you don't have to worry about any of that as they have a dedicated motor coach to take care of that.
Driving to the garden is possible. Simply drive north on the Patricia Bay Highway and follow the signs once you get to Keating X Road. The road into the garden is very narrow and steep in places, and though they do run regular buses to the garden you probably don't want to be driving this thing with a full size motorhome or other huge vehicle. The bus takes up most of the road, and meeting between two such large vehicles on the narrow part of the road could be interesting at best. Parking is through the main gate and to the right. However, keep in mind this is a very popular tourist attraction, and parking may be frustrating at peak periods.
The Butchart Gardens represents the single most impressive gardens in a city that is often called the "city of gardens". This gardens are unmissable, even if you go to Victoria just for one day.
The gardens were begun by Jenny Butchart and it was open in 1904. There are the Rose, Italian and Japanese gardens and the most beautiful one: the Sunken Garden. Today the site is run by the Butchart's grandson and covers some 130 acres and receives around 500,000 visitors a year.
If you come there in the summer months, you'll be able to enjoy the musical entertainment and the fireworks displays. Fireworks are shown on Saturdays from late June to late August.
On December you can enjoy "The magic of Christmas" where thousands of lights and season decoration will welcome you.
Don't forget to visit the Benvenuto seed & Gift store which, besides selling seeds of some of the garden's plants, has a great range of books, gerdening implements, cards, calendars, plant catalogs, etc.
I recommend you to visit it in late afternoons as it is generally the quiest time to visit.
These gardens are quite lovely, though I would have liked to have seen more plant species on display. Still, they make for a pleasant day trip. The sunken garden is beautiful, the Japanese garden peaceful (if you can filter out the hordes of tourists), and the rose garden wonderfully fragrant. In the peak summer months there are fireworks on Saturday evenings. Bring a blanket and reserve a spot on the lawn if you want a good view; there are a lot of ground fireworks that would be hard to see at the back of the crowd. The Garden houses two restaurants: The Blue Poppy (cafeteria style, but decent food) and the Garden Restaurant (fine dining; try the afternoon tea just for the experience; make reservations!).
Judging by pictures it looks gorgeous during the day but my guess is it's a good place to visit when it's warm. When we went to see gardens at night it was lit with 12 days of Christmas theme and it was fun walking around and guessing each decoration. But be warned - it's very cold there at night in winter, so pack gloves, warm socks, warm shoes and a coat.
To get there we went with Gray Line tour, which supposedly has no problems, but on the day we went they were over booked and did not have enough busses, so we ended up waiting for over an hour for a new bus to come. We still had a great time, becasue gardens take you less then an hour in the evening but my advise show up to the bus stop an hour early just so you don't have to wait and get annoyed.
The Butchart Gardens are 55 acres of unbelievable floral display located in Greater Victoria on Vancouver Island. Any trip to the city of Vancouver is incomplete without a visit to this horticultural wonderland. The Gardens reinvigorate the soul as they showcase the splendor and beauty of Mother Nature in all her glory. The most beautiful flowers from across the globe are all magnificently displayed at your fingertips. A more peaceful, tranquil, and enjoyable experience cannot be had. Also, the multiple "themed" gardens allow you to experience different cultures in a very unique way. We used the West Coast Sight seeing tour service. They were great. This takes an entire day but is absolutely worth it. Enjoy a ferry cruise through beautiful Active Pass in the Gulf Islands to Victoria. A stop at the Gardens before being dropped off to explore downtown Victoria allows you to see everything Victoria has to offer at your own pace and without having to stay overnight. The trip back to Vancouver can take up to 4 hours, but they offer a sea plane option for the trip back to Vancouver which is more expensive but worth it's weight in gold. You get to experience Victoria without the long travel time.
Victoria is famous because of its Buchart Gardens. When you get there, make sure to go to the rose garden. Count the numbers of different classes of roses! They have everything! They even have the so called-black rose! Smell the sweet roses and when you get tired, follow the path to the Japanese Garden.
Cross one of the Japanese bridges and check all the Japanese maple trees and the bonsai plants. Go all the way to where you can peek the ocean!
The Burchart Garden is especially beautiful in the spring time because most of the flowers are in bloom! But, the garden has an all-year round flowering plants so even if you visit in any seanson, the garden is still beautiful!
Everyone always enjoys an afternoon spent at the Butchart Gardens. For first time visitors, allow about two-three hours for moderately paced walkers, add on an hour or so for those who prefer to amble at a more leisurely pace.
To reach the gardens, you can drive, take a tour bus or schedule your day around one of the city busses that run to the gardens (infrequent but cheap and workable). There are restaurants on site if you want to get lunch or dinner, and a fabulous gift shop too.
The gardens are divided into themes including The Sunken Garden (in an old quarry I believe), The Japanese Gardens, The Rose Gardens, The Italian Gardens, etc. In the summer there are fireworks on Saturday nights, and in the winter they have a "Twelve Days of Christmas" display with a new "day" being added each year.
You're going to be out in the sun, so bring your hat, sunscreen and a water bottle! Pack a snack for kids and anyone with a big appetite (or eat at one of their restaurants). Umbrellas can be borrowed for free in case of rain, I'm not sure about wheelchairs...