I had long wanted to visit the famous Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island, so while in Vancouver, B.C. I had booked myself of a full day tour with Landsea Tours which would take me on an escorted trip over to Victoria and the gardens.
I was picked up promptly at 8.40 am from my downtown Vancouver hotel and after stopping at a couple more hotels we drove south to Tsawwassen where the Ferry Port is located.
Our guide and driver for the day was called Lauren, and she was great. Outgoing, bubbly and fun, but also full of information too. We had a pretty full bus, but she did a great job of trying to get to know us all.
Once at the Ferry terminal were had a short amount of time to get off the bus and go inside the terminal to use the toilets and grab a coffee or shop as this was all available. Lauren had recommended trying out Salt Spring Coffee as it was a local Canadian company, so I did just that and passed right by Starbucks. It was very good and I grabbed a muffin which was delicious too. We then all got back on the bus and row by row the vehicles were loaded onto the ferry.
Once onboard we were able to get off the bus and go up to the passenger decks for the 90 minute crossing to Victoria Island. We set off in thick fog but about halfway across, just as we got to pass some of the Gulf Islands it cleared to show a beautiful sunny day and so we had lovely views of the Islands as we passed by including passing by ferries going in the other direction.
About 15 minutes before arriving at Victoria Island we all had to be back down on the bus in preparation for disembarking the ferry. This all went very smoothly, everyone found their way back and we drove off the ferry on arrival and drove to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, about a 30 minute drive.
We had an hour and a half to explore Victoria and have lunch, and our guide Lauren gave us a map and some suggestions of what we might like to do. I had read online about a place called Red Fish Blue Fish that I wanted to try, but Lauren warned me that it was very popular and usually had long lines waiting to be served. Sure enough it did, so instead I walked to Chinatown, Canada’s oldest but smallest Chinatown. Here I found a charming Tea Room called Venus Sophia, where I enjoyed their Savoury Tea for lunch, which included small sandwiches, pizza bread, a lovely large scone with cream and jam, and of course a pot of tea!
After lunch I walked back to the Inner Harbour area of Victoria to take a look at the famous Fairmont Empress Hotel and the general waterfront area. It was very pretty with lots of nice flower plantings.
By now our time in Victoria was up, so the bus picked us up where it dropped us off, on the waterfront. We drove north for about half an hour to Butchart Gardens, which is a world famous floral display garden. I was really looking forward to seeing the gardens after having wanted to for so many years and we were given an hour and half to wander and explore the gardens with a map to guide us.
Looking down into the pretty sunken garden it’s hard to believe that it used to be a quarry until you walk further down to the lower section that has a nice water fountain in the pond that now fills it.
Despite being late September, there were lots of flowers still blooming including a whole border of Dahlia’s of various varieties. I wandered through the Rose garden that still had a few lingering flowers and on into the Japanese Garden. This really transported me back to my trip to Japan, it was so nicely done, with beautiful maples, ponds and stone lanterns.
It was difficult not to get carried away taking photos, there are so many beautiful vistas within the gardens and my hour and half to explore was quickly gone!
I didn’t have time to grab a coffee, and it was close to closing time anyway, so with my last few minutes I had a quick look around the large gift shop, then headed back to meet the bus in the parking lot.
From the sounds of it, no matter what time of year it is, you would have a great experience visiting the garden. There is something there for every season even with the festivities in Winter. The cost varies by season too, from about $25 Canadian dollars up to $34 in peak season, but in this tour the entrance fee was included in the daytrip tour price.
All back on the bus, we drove back to the ferry terminal and after a short wait we were back onboard the ferry in time to sail back to the mainland just as the sun was setting – it was really pretty lighting.
Once back in Vancouver, we did our earlier route in reverse, returning people to their hotels and I was back at my hotel by just after 9 pm.
It had been a long but enjoyable day. Taking the Landsea Tour was a lovely way of being able to get to Victoria Island and Butchart gardens but avoid the worry and figuring out that I would have had to deal with if I had done it on my own. The tour cost of $205 (CAN) included the ferry crossing, entry into Butchart Gardens and taxes.
Date of visit; 27th September 2017.