Victoria BC Gardens carry an imprint of British Days of the city. The best example being the Butchart Gardens.
Any place with British influence has well-maintained gardens – be it Singapore or Kandy. Victoria BC also has its share of lovely gardens – that are perfect for walking, for spending time with nature and to witness the diversity of nature.
Here is my list of must-see nature outposts.
Without a doubt, this is the most popular one in the area.
Butchart Gardens History
They were built a century ago by Jennie Butchart when she came to Victoria BC with her husband Robert Butchart. Robert was here for limestone mining for the rising demand for cement. Once the limestone exhausted, Mrs. Butchart decided to convert the barren quarry into a garden. Yes, they took birth in the pit of a limestone quarry that was covered with a layer of fresh soil. You can still see a tall chimney from the Sunken garden as a memorial of its roots.
Soon many others were added to the estate.
It was their grandson Ian Ross who converted it into an international tourist destination that it is today. He received gardens as a gift on his 21st birthday. And he spent his life nurturing them. He introduced outdoor concerts that continue to happen every summer here. He started Christmas celebrations on the premises. In fact, when I visited in November, Christmas preparations were in full swing. Plants and trees were being pruned. Christmas lights were being hanged. Mild maidens were being dressed.
This is designated National Historic Site of Canada.
Gardens at Butchart Gardens
Sunken Garden where you can see the lovely Ross Fountain.
It is really a collection of many gardens in a single space. This is where the quarry was.
Italian Garden came up on the Butchart’s tennis court. This is a lovely place to stand and you would almost feel ported to Italy.
There is a Rose garden where in the season you would see lots of roses. My guide told me that Mr. Butchart brought a lot of exotic birds including peacocks here, supplementing his wife’s efforts.
The Japanese garden is probably the most loved part here. I enjoyed walking around, where you keep crossing small bridges across small streams. There are small corners that give you a private space within this vast public space. You can easily sit and have a quiet conversation here. I was told that this is a favorite place for couples to propose. So, be prepared to see some romance in the air with someone on his knees proposing to his beloved.
It is located on the seaside. Besides nature, there is a water activity area called Butchart Cove.
There are ponds, fountains and canopied walkways. Perfect for a leisurely walk.
Best Time to visit
You can visit them anytime but here is a seasonal spread if you would like to choose:
- Spring for colorful flowering blooms
- Summer for all kinds of colorful flowers
- Fall for the lovely fall colors – I can vouch for the absolute brilliant colors I saw – almost all shades of Gold and Red.
- Christmas time (which is most of December) – for the Christmas decorations
- Rest of Winter I am told it is peaceful
Saturdays for fireworks and other entertainment events. Check their calendar.
You can have your own event there – a wedding or a birthday party or a family gathering or an office team offsite.
I was told you can buy an annual pass that allows you any number of entries during the year. It makes sense if you are a local or a frequent visitor to the place. Check here all season images.
There are 3 restaurants inside the complex.
The Dining Room restaurant is located in the home of Butcharts. It is popular for the English Afternoon Tea all year long. Seasonally, it also serves lunch and dinner.
The Blue Poppy restaurant is a cafeteria-style restaurant. Coffee Shop for a quick bite of sandwiches or just coffee.
I liked the fact that they actively discourage the use of disposable cups and glasses. You are encouraged to bring your water bottle that you can refill at water fountains.
There are the mandatory visitor center and Souvenir shop.
Map of Butchart Gardens
A map can be seen right at the entrance. This would help you plan your trail. You can also have a pdf of the map from their website.
It is not really in the city but about 30-40 minutes drive from the city. There are Tours by companies like CVS tours that would take you to the Butchart Gardens and bring you back. There are city buses and a shuttle that you can take.
Keep at least half a day for exploring the nature there.
Victoria Butterfly Gardens
Yes, it is an enclosed one with a controlled rainforest-like environment. You enter the garden through its souvenir shop cum ticketing counter.
In the winters, I had to take off my jacket to feel comfortable in the place. Through a maze, you go through various parts chasing the butterflies. There are tables with fruits like apples, banana, star fruit, and sweet lime to attract butterflies. This is where you see the whole bunch of them.
There is an artificial stream with a flamingo couple who were constantly drinking water. Some baby turtles were lazing on a log of wood while some others were walking around.
There are colorful birds like Macaws and parrots. They will keep you engaged with their tantrums and shrill calls. If you persist some of them will come and sit on your hands.
A Buddha sits in the quiet corner in the middle of a small stream.
You can easily spend 1-2 hours here.
This one is on the way. In fact, a Butchart Garden Tour includes a stop at the Butterfly one as well, but you need to buy your own entry tickets.
For the visit, timings check out their website.
Read More – Open Air Butterfly Conservatory in Goa
Government House Gardens
Government house in Victoria BC is the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. The house has 36 acres of garden space with the unique Garry Oak ecosystem. If you are wondering what is Gerry Oak ecosystem, it is an ecosystem surrounding the local variety of oak trees named after Nicolas Garry of Hudson Bay Company. Read more on this link.
These are traditional English gardens. I entered through the gates, walking from the Craigdarroch Castle nearby. As soon as I entered I saw the tall trees of mid-fall. Half the leaves were on the ground and half on the trees, ready to shed anytime.
The most beautiful part of these places is peace and quiet, unlike other gardens that are full of people. What I liked the most were the quiet sitting places. A bench beneath a tall triangular tree, another below a short tree, another beneath a canopy. I wish I could sit and read some poetry there.
As I walked a bit inside the garden, it started appearing more like a jungle. I even spotted a deer jumping around. How wonderful!
If you have to choose one visit the Government House Gardens. This is what all the locals also told me and as they say, never underestimate the power of local knowledge.
They are open from dusk to dawn. In the morning and evening, you will meet some regular walkers.
Beacon Park Hill
Beacon Hill Park is a complete destination in itself. Imagine it has two walking trails, a few Ponds, a couple of playgrounds and petting zoo. I walked close to this park one morning and then I drove through the park on my hop on hop off tour.
The park gets its name from the beacon on top of the hill. For a long time, this was the municipal park of the city.
The crowning glory of the Beacon Hill Park is the tallest Totem Pole built by the master craftsman Martin Mungo.
Read More – History of First Nations and Totem Poles
Beacon Hill is a perfect place for a morning walk. During my walk, I came across peacocks roaming in the park, something that I was not expecting. They were next to a giant sculpture of a tea kettle.
It is historic as it belonged to a Prince named Abkhazi. However, today it is a tea house. You can also get a 45-min guided tour of the garden.
I could not visit it due to the paucity of time. Or may you should always leave something to come back to.
These are huge, well maintained and it would be an understatement to say – Beautiful.
I am usually running after the museum and cultural spaces but in the gardens and parks in here pulled me more than other places.
It is a perfect destination for those looking for nature soaked holiday or if like me you love walking.
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