The Garden Lover's Tour: Experience Victoria in Full Bloom

With a climate that could easily be described as the best in all of Canada, Victoria usually has flowers popping out of the ground as early as February. It's no wonder then that Victoria is often referred to as the “City of Gardens.” With this itinerary, you'll see the best gardens in the city on a tour that also includes spectacular ocean views, charming historic buildings, family-friendly activities, and, in true Victoria fashion, plenty of time to stop for tea and biscuits.

Morning: Tour the Public Gardens of Fairfield and Oak Bay

Government House Gardens
Government House is the official residence of the Queen of England's representative to the province of British Columbia. Located in the heart of Victoria's historic Rockland neighbourhood, the grounds of this property contain an ever-changing landscape of native and exotic plants, dramatic rocky outcroppings, towering evergreens, and formal gardens. From the gardens, you'll also be presented with breathtaking views of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Olympic mountains.

Government House Gardens are open daily from sunrise to sunset, and access is always free for members of the public.

Insider's Tip: During the summer, Government House also has a small teahouse and costume museum, which is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. There, you can treat yourself to a small selection of sandwiches, soups, and tea for very reasonable prices.

To access Government House by car from downtown Victoria, drive east on Fort Street (away from the waterfront), then take a right on Cook Street and a left on Rockland Avenue. As you climb the hill past Moss Street, you will see Government House to your right. Free parking is available on site.

You can also take the number 11 (UVic) bus on Fort Street to the stop for Craigdarroch Castle and walk up Joan Street past the castle to reach Government House.

Those who like to walk can also take a stroll along Rockland Avenue, which is home to a number of historic mansions. The journey on foot along the driving route should take about 20 minutes.

Abkhazi Gardens
At the entrance to Abkhazi Gardens, a secret garden-like pathway takes you under a canopy of heritage rhododendrons to reveal a dramatic display of West Coast gardening style. This one-acre property was formerly owned by Prince and Princess Abkhazi, who settled in Victoria in 1946. The property is now in the possession of the non-profit land trust organization The Land Conservancy of BC, who have transformed the area into a public garden. Here, you'll find a vast array of flora including Japanese maples, hellebores, Himalayan lilies, cyclamen, and of course stunning Garry Oaks, which are a protected native species in the region.

Insider's Tip: Stop for tea or a bite to eat at the Abkhazi Gardens Teahouse. They offer a four-star morning and afternoon tea service from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as a few options for lunch and small plates.

Admission to the gardens is $12.00 for adults, $9.00 for seniors or students, and free for children under 12. The gardens are open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

From Government House, Abkhazi Gardens are a 20-minute walk or a 4-minute drive. To get there, head east on Rockland Avenue, and then turn right on Gonzales Avenue. After crossing Richmond and Richardson, take a right on Foul Bay Road and then a left on Fairfield Road, where you will see the entrance to the gardens on your left-hand side.

Afternoon / Evening: Visit an Indoor Jungle and See the World Famous Butchart Gardens

Butterfly Gardens:

Butterfly Gardens

On the way to or from Butchart Gardens is a magnificent indoor jungle. Victoria Butterfly Gardens is home to exotic butterflies, tropical ducks, stunning flamingos, rare tropical birds, Chameleons, Geckos, Poison dart Frogs, Tree Frogs, Sulcata, Red Footed Tortoises, and giant Koi. This is an environmentally-friendly family activity that is sure to surprise and delight. 

Butterfly Gardens is open daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. in the summer. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $5 for children ages 5 to 12.

Insider's Tip:  During the summer, the CVS Peninsula Attractions Shuttle offers free transportation from Butterfly Gardens to Butchart Gardens and a host of other activities on the Saanich Peninsula.

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Just north of Victoria, in the cozy little community of Brentwood Bay, lie the world famous Butchart Gardens. These gardens, which first began to take shape in 1904, are perhaps the finest you will ever see. Butchart Gardens' showpiece is their magnificent sunken garden, which is housed in a former rock quarry in the middle of the property. Another central feature is the historic rose garden, which contains a stunning assortment of rose varieties. Other features of this historic 55-acre property include a Japanese garden, an Italian garden, numerous statues and water features, and the only remaining carousel on Vancouver Island.

In addition to its many gardens, the grounds of Butchart Gardens also hold two restaurants, a café, a gift shop, and a plant identification center. One afternoon may not be enough time to fully enjoy all that these gardens have to offer; many visitors will choose to come back more than once in order to enjoy the full Butchart experience.

Insider's Tip: During the summer, visitors can enjoy concerts in the garden, as well as a fireworks display every Saturday evening. Check their schedule for more information. During the winter, visitors can skate on an outdoor ice rink, and enjoy Butchart Gardens' annual Christmas lights display, which covers their entire property.

Butchart Gardens is open every day at 9 a.m. and closes at different hours depending on the season. See the hours of operation on their website for more information.

Their rates also vary by season, and range from $16.70 per adult in the winter to $30.20 per adult in the summer.

Butchart Gardens is a 30-minute drive from Abkhazi Gardens. To reach Butchart Gardens by car, head back downtown via Fairfield Road, and then drive north along Blanshard Street (away from Beacon Hill Park). Blanshard Street will turn into the Pat Bay Highway. Follow the highway, and exit onto Keating Cross road. From there, you can follow the signs to the gardens, where you will find a free parking lot.

For public transport from Abkhazi gardens, take the number 7 bus back into town, and get off at Douglas Street. From there, you can take the number 72 (Swartz Bay) to Royal Oak Exchange, where you will transfer to the number 75 (Saanichton), which takes you straight to Butchart Gardens.

Another option for reaching Butchart Gardens is to travel with a private tour company. Both CVS Sightseeing and Gray Line Sightseeing offer a Butchart Gardens Express tour that takes you straight from downtown to the gardens.

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