Nothing is more relaxing to me than strolling along a path that is surrounded by beautiful flowers, trees and shrubs. After seeing a TV show about famous gardens, I became enamored with Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island and since then have been wishing for a trip to the island. Last week I got lucky and we flew to Vancouver and took the ferry across to the Gardens.
How to get there from the Vancouver airport was a bit of a mystery, but it turned out easier than we had anticipated. When you exit the airport look for the skytrain and take it to Tsawassen Ferry Terminal and buy your ferry ticket to Swartz Bay (where ferries dock on Victoria Island) there.
Step 1: Ride the Skytrain from YVR Airport Station to Bridgeport Station
- leave the baggage claim and proceed up the escalator (or ramp) to Level 3.
- Walk to the Link Building (located between the domestic and International terminals). Look for the signs that say “Canada Line” and proceed up the escalators or elevator to the Skytrain Station.
- Next, purchase a ticket from the machines for a 2-Zone trip from YVR to the Tsawwassen Ferry. The price for the trip is $9.00 (two-zone fare of $4.00 + YVR AddFare of $5). On evenings and weekends, $7.75 ($2.75 + YVR AddFare of $5)
The Skytrain departs YVR Airport Station every 4 or 5 minutes, and it makes 2 stops before arriving in Richmond at the Bridgeport Station. And don't worry, all Skytrains departing YVR are scheduled to stop at Bridgeport Station - get off here. proceed downstairs and outside to the bus loop, where you will be getting on Bus No. 620. This bus will take you to the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal where you can board the ferries to either Victoria or Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.
- Step 2: Transfer to Bus 620 at Bridgeport Station to the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal where you can board the ferries to either Victoria Island.
The pick-up point for Bus no. 620 to Tsawwassen is at Bay 3.
The No. 620 Bus operates from 5:55 AM to 10:03 PM daily. When it arrives (one approximately every 60 minutes), board this bus. And no need to pay again, just show the bus driver your ticket, the fare you paid to get on the Skytrain at the Vancouver airport to the ferry is enough to get you all the way to Tsawwassen. Again, before travelling, please check translink.ca for schedule and price updates.
The trip from Bridgeport Station to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal takes about 45 minutes. You will get off the bus at it's final stop in front of the BC Ferries Departure Terminal in Tsawwassen. Proceed to the Ferry ticket booth, it is only a short walk from the bus stop.
We originally had thought about renting a car, but learned that the fee to take the car plus two people across is an additional $90 each way, besides whatever you pay for the car rental. We opted to rent a car on the island and used GSA Auto Rentals.
The owner, Terry rents out used cars and he is a super nice guy. Terry will pick you up from the ferry station with a van and drop you off again, so you do not have to worry how to get to the rental location. It was well worth renting the car and driving to the gardens, since unlike the shuttle buses you can leave your stuff in the car and take as much time as you want strolling around in the gardens.
Since it took half a day just to get to Victoria from California, we decided to overnight in Victoria. I chose the Abigail's Hotel, because I wanted something a bit in an English style and because I had read great reviews about their customer service. The staff was extremely attentive and as a small boutique hotel guests were treated with utmost care. The hotel has a nice afternoon spread of cookies, tea and coffee and the lounge is cozy and well supplied with books and games. There is a small garden where guest can take in the sun. Breakfast in the dining room is incredible and prepared daily by the in-house chef. The rooms were a good size, the bed comfortable and the hotel within walking distance to downtown Victoria. Complementary parking was available on the hotel grounds as well. After we arrived and recharged, we went for a stroll towards the harbor. It was raining a bit, but we still had a great time exploring the sites.
The next day we headed to Butchart Gardens. OMG seeing pictures is one thing, but actually being in that magical garden is something else. Words can't possibly describe how beautiful it is. To think that all this occupies land used to quarry limestone, is just amazing. Just have a look at my photos and you get the idea.
We made reservations ahead of time (highly recommend doing so) and had High Tea, which is served until 3PM at the Dining Room. The restaurant is something out of Laura Ashley Catalog, floral wall paper paired with views of the gardens and classical music in the background. The selection of teas was so good, that I ended up bringing back all their tea flavors, which are available through the gift shop. The staff is also very attentive and I am glad that we booked a table. It was a nice and very relaxing experience and a perfect way to end the day.
Butchart Gardens was on my bucket list and I never really thought that I could make a trip just to visit one garden. I guess all my gardening efforts at home have somehow rubbed off on hubby, who offered to bring me here as soon as I told him how much I really, really wanted to see this place. After four hours of walking through the garden and taking tons of pictures I could have easily stayed longer. For the average visitor, who does not have the urge to photograph every flower they see there, a leisure walk through the gardens takes about an hour and with a visit to the restaurant and gift store, all this can be seen in around two to three hours. The only thing I regret about visiting Butchart gardens is that 1. I could not just live there to visit more often and 2. can't see the gardens as they change throughout the various seasons. If the photos from my flickr do not load you can see them all here . I am still uploading more and will share about our visit to the Butterfly Gardens in Vancouver next.