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If you’re visiting Vancouver Island, you absolutely must visit Butchart Gardens. This is one of the most beautiful places in BC with over 900 different species of plants spread across a 55-acre (22-hectare) garden. From dragon-shaped fountains to flowered archways, you’ll be blown away by the beauty and craftsmanship!
A trip to Butchart Gardens truly is a sensory experience – and a peaceful one at that. The sights, smells, and sounds of this natural beauty relax and inspire everyone who visits.
Walking through the Butchart Gardens is a must-do activity in Victoria. We spent hours wandering through the different areas, such as the Sunken Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Italian Garden (which also had mouth-watering gelato!). And what’s awesome is you can visit any time of year, with different flowers and plants blooming in each season.
If you already know you’d like to visit, I’d highly recommend taking a tour. The sheer size of Butchart Gardens can be a bit daunting, and the knowledgeable guides make sure you see all the highlights and share interesting facts. They really take the stress away so you can chill out and enjoy a peaceful stroll in nature.
We’ve been on many tours here and compiled this list of our absolute favorites. So if you’re not sure which to book, keep reading to learn more about each one!
Why go on a tour of the Butchart Gardens?
Butchart Gardens is one of the best gardens in the whole world and a must-do while you’re in British Columbia! It’s a family-owned garden that has been around for over 100 years and was named a National Historical Site of Canada.
It’s also absolutely enormous and is spread out over 55 acres (22 hectares) with multiple different sections. As such, you’re bound to miss things if you don’t know where to go. On my first visit here, I wandered a bit aimlessly and while it was beautiful, I knew I was going about things the wrong way.
After trying some tours, I realized how much more you can appreciate the gardens! Having a knowledgeable guide will ensure you see all of the best parts. Plus, they’ll share interesting information about what you are seeing, taking the experience from great to unforgettable.
Not only is it nice to have a tour guide in the gardens, but organized tours make everything convenient. Many of the tours listed below include round-trip transportation and are also city tours of Victoria. You can also visit the Butchart Gardens on tours of Victoria from Vancouver.
Butchart Garden tours are great for travelers who don’t have a lot of time to see the city. So if you’re passing through on a cruise or like to get your bearings before exploring the city on your own, tours are the perfect option!
*Please note that admission to Butchart Gardens is not included in any of these tours. Entry fees cost between $25 – $40 CAD per person depending on the time of year.
Our Top Choice
While there are many tours that visit Butchart Gardens, this half-day Garden and City Tour is definitely our favorite. We love that you get 1.5-2 hours to roam the gardens, which felt like the perfect amount of time. And since it’s a private tour, you get personalized attention. Our guides were super helpful and patient as they answered all our questions and recommended the best sections of the garden!
After Butchart Gardens, we got to check out Victoria’s top sights including Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, Craigdarroch Castle, and many more! Overall, the 4-hour tour felt like an efficient way to see many of Victoria’s highlights in a day, yet we never felt rushed.
Plus, with 6 departure times between 8 am – 2 pm, you’ve got options! It costs a flat rate of $550 CAD for your whole group (up to 7 people), which is pretty reasonable for a private tour. It also includes hotel pick up and drop off, making the whole experience very easy.
This tour really has it all and is our favorite for good reason. So if you want a stress-free tour of Butchart Gardens and Victoria, check availability and book it online here!
Related Read: To explore even more nature on Vancouver Island, read our guide to visiting Cathedral Grove here. If you’re a nature lover or photographer, you’ll fall in love with this beautiful forested area!
Butchart Gardens Tours from Victoria
1. Private Small Group Deluxe Tour of Victoria & Butchart Gardens
This private Victoria and Butchart Gardens tour takes you to some of the best spots in the city. Since it’s slightly longer (5.5 hours), you get to spend more time at each location – with two whole hours at the gardens!
The tour covers hotel or port pick up and drop off, or you can choose to meet at The Empress Hotel. We opted for the latter and before our tour, we had high tea at the hotel. We’d definitely recommend this, but you’ll need to book it ahead of time!
After we filled up on quality tea, champagne, and delicious snacks, we set off for the gardens. The drive to Butchart Gardens is scenic in itself, and once there, you’ll have two hours to explore the gardens at your own pace. Before going, make sure to read our guide on Butchart Gardens so that you know all of the highlights ahead of time!
After the gardens, you’ll get a tour of the city. You’ll drive through Victoria’s Chinatown which is the largest in all of Canada! And don’t worry, your guide will give you time to hop out and take that iconic photo on Fan Tan Alley (the narrowest commercial street in North America!). You’ll also see some other interesting locations like Craigdarroch Castle and Fisherman’s Wharf.
But in my opinion, what sets this tour apart is that it includes a ride to the top of Mount Tolmie. From here, you have spectacular views of the city, the sea, and even Mount Baker (a glacier-covered volcano in Washington!). Mount Tolmie is home to a Garry Oak meadow, which is so special because Garry Oak ecosystems are one of the most endangered ecosystems in Canada. This was one of my favorite places in Victoria and not many tours come here!
There are 6 departure times between 8 am – 3:30 pm, which makes it easy to schedule. Although it’s a private tour, it can accommodate up to 10 guests so it’s great for large groups! It costs either $560 CAD or $715 CAD per group depending on the season. And if you want to keep your plans flexible, you can always reserve your date now and pay later!
Related Read: Just a ferry ride away from Victoria, Salt Spring Island is full of awesome things to do. It’s a haven for creativity, culture, and delicious food and definitely worth a visit!
2. Seaplane Flight and Afternoon Tea at Butchart Gardens
Combine two amazing experiences for an unforgettable day on this seaplane tour with afternoon tea at Butchart Gardens! You’ll see the beauty of Vancouver Island from the air AND get time to wander through the gorgeous gardens. This is one of those incredible experiences that is totally on my bucket list!
The tour starts in Victoria Harbour where you’ll board a seaplane and travel to Butchart Gardens like a VIP as you’re personally flown there! What a way to travel.
Once you’ve arrived, you’re whisked off to the elegant Dining Room restaurant at Butchart Gardens for afternoon tea. This is cute little sandwiches and desserts and of course a yummy scone or two! It’s the perfect light lunch. You’ll get about 90 minutes to savor your tea before having an hour to wander through the gardens.
Then, around 3 pm, you’ll again travel in style back to Victoria Harbor in a private limousine. This tour is so luxurious and will definitely have you feeling pampered! It’s perfect for celebrating a special occasion or as part of a romantic getaway near Vancouver.
Tickets are $327 CAD per person and can be booked online here!
Why We Book Tours with Viator
Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:
- Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
- Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
- Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
- Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.
3. Private Tour of Butchart Gardens and Saanich Peninsula
While you get picked up and dropped off at your hotel in Victoria, you won’t be making multiple stops. Instead, you can save all your energy for the main attraction: Butchart Gardens. However, you’ll still enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Saanich Peninsula on the 30-minute drive there!
What I love about this tour is that they provide audio headphones with narrated commentary so you can learn all about the sights you’re seeing. You’ll have 90 minutes to leisurely explore the gardens, which are full of stunning pieces of art. One of my favorites was the Rose Garden – I’ve honestly never seen so many types of colorful roses!
The tour allows extra time to enjoy a casual and quick lunch in the gardens (at your own expense) at the Blue Poppy Restaurant, which is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11 am – 3 pm (but is sometimes closed for seasonal events). You can check their website for updated info, events, and the lunch menu. If you arrive a bit earlier, grab some coffee and pastries at the Coffee Shop (open daily from 9 am – 3:30). And if you just want something sweet, we suggest the Gelateria (open daily from 11 am – 4:30 pm).
We highly recommend this tour for groups since the flat rate covers up to 5 people. For $355 CAD, you get round-trip transport and the audio guide, so the more people that join, the better your deal is!
Admission for the garden is not included in the ticket prices so be prepared to pay an additional $25.50 to $39 CAD depending on the time of the year.
This tour is very straightforward and offers a lot of flexibility. So if you’re looking for a stress-free way to see the gardens, book your private tour online here!
4. Victoria City and Butchart Gardens Private Half-Day Tour
We already mentioned this tour earlier as our top pick! If you’re undecided on which Butchart Gardens tour to choose, you really can’t go wrong with a personalized and luxurious option on this City and Gardens private half-day tour.
You’ll have your own private driver who will take you to the Butchart Gardens as well as other landmarks in Victoria. What I like about this tour is you can customize it to suit your needs and see all of your top destinations!
You’ll get about 2 hours to walk through the different areas of the Butchart Gardens. Then, you’ll head back to Victoria where you can either create your own sightseeing itinerary or use their suggestions. Some of the highlights on the proposed itinerary are the Carr House (which was where the artist Emily Carr was born), Government House, and Craigdarroch Castle.
This 4-hour tour is perfect for those who want to take their time and really get to know Victoria’s history and popular landmarks. It’s a great way to get to know the city in a relatively short amount of time without feeling rushed.
It costs $550 CAD for an entire group (max 7 people) – which is a really good deal for a private, comprehensive tour. The price covers hotel pick up and drop off, your guide, and onboard commentary. You can also get picked up from the cruise terminal, ferry, or airport for an additional cost. So if you’re just here for a day on a cruise, this is the perfect option!
This tour isn’t offered every day and it does sell out, so check availability and book online here!
5. The Ultimate Group Package Tour of Victoria
If you’ve read our blog before, you know that we love a good wine tour. So, we just couldn’t resist including a tour that included a stop at a local winery!
This full-day tour includes all of the popular must-see locations, as well as some lesser-known gems, like Mount Tolmie. Not only do you get to see all of the beauty of this city, but your professional guide will give you the low-down on all of the interesting facts about Victoria and its captivating history.
Don’t worry, you’ll get about 2 full hours to immerse yourself in Butchart Gardens. But what I love about this tour is you get to see so much more! I was especially impressed by the Victoria Butterfly Gardens which is full of tropical birds, plants, and, of course, butterflies! It honestly feels like being in a jungle.
On this tour, we also got to see big tourist attractions like Beacon Hill Park, Chinatown, and the fabulous Empress Hotel. And for panoramic views of the city, we drove to the peak of Mt. Tolmie – which is a great photo or video opp!
But our favorite part of the tour was, of course, the winery! You’ll visit Church and State Winery, a local winery on the Saanich Peninsula. This winery has some of the most delicious wines from the island!
Tastings run an additional $10-$20 CAD per person. It’s well worth the money and if you’re hungry, this tour includes time to enjoy lunch on their patio that looks out onto the vineyard.
Tours leave at 8 or 9 am and run about 8.5 hours. The $780 CAD cost covers up to 7 people and includes transport, water bottles, and your guide. However, there is limited availability so check your date and book in advance here!
Related Read: Wine lovers will definitely want to read more about Lake Cowichan. It’s the heart of Vancouver Island’s wine country and full of fun things to do!
Other Things to do While You’re in Victoria
Victoria is full of incredible outdoor and indoor activities. Here are just a few of our favorite things to do in this impressive city:
- Visit the Historic Castles – Victoria is home to two unique castles, Craigdarroch Castle and Hatley Castle. Both offer a unique glimpse into the city’s intriguing past. You can even visit Craigdarroch Castle by bicycle as part of this highly-rated guided tour, which also includes stops at other top attractions around the city for only $68 CAD!
- See the Steamship Water Ballet – Yes, you read that right! At 10:45 am Sunday mornings, the captains of the steamships perform a choreographed dance routine at Victoria Harbour. This spectacular show runs from April – October (with more frequent shows during summer), and it’s completely free! It sounds strange, and maybe it is a little, but trust us – such a fun time!
- Fly in a seaplane – Nothing quite beats the view from a plane window. From Victoria Harbor Airport, you’ll take off from the water (and land in it too!) on a truly jaw-dropping experience. Flights last around 20 minutes and prices start at $161 CAD. Seaplane flights are extremely popular (for good reason), so be sure to book your flight in advance to avoid missing out. If you don’t have a car, it’s also a unique way to get from Vancouver to Victoria!
- Explore Goldstream Provincial Park – It’s no secret that Victoria has some of Canada’s best natural parks, with Goldstream Provincial Park being high on that list! With many hiking trails to explore and the opportunity to take a dip in the beautiful Goldstream Falls, it’s easy to pass a peaceful day in nature here.
- Go whale watching – Whale watching in Victoria is a completely magical experience, and trust me – this is the place to do it! You can see whales all year long here, but the ideal time is from May – November. While you might spot one from the shore, the best way to see whales is on a boat with a knowledgeable guide. This comfy half-day whale watching tour is a great daytime choice, but if you also want to catch the sunset from the Salish Sea, join this sunset whale watching adventure.
Where to Stay in Victoria
When visiting Butchart Gardens, most people stay in Victoria! Tours generally start in the city and there’s plenty more to do here. You could easily stay a few days or longer and have a great time.
Because Victoria is a popular place to stay, especially in the summer months, we suggest booking a hotel in Victoria well in advance to secure your favorite spot! If you’re not sure where to stay, here are some great hotels and hostels to choose from:
Fairmont Empress Hotel – $$$
This Fairmont Empress Hotel is a gorgeous location, a stay here is truly an experience! One of the famously grand railway hotels built across Canada, it looks more like a castle than a hotel. With elegance and luxury found around every corner, it’s easy to see why royalty chooses to stay here when visiting Victoria. Immerse yourself in a soothing spa treatment, enjoy a tasty afternoon tea, or simply wander around the gardens (you can never get enough gardens, right?!). Rooms at the Fairmont Empress start at around $350-400 CAD per night, and you can secure your room here.
The Embassy Inn – $$
The Embassy Inn is located right in Victoria’s Harbor, making it very convenient for those traveling to Victoria by ferry. Many top sights are only a stone’s throw away, yet the hotel itself feels super quiet and relaxing. Rooms are spacious and all come with balconies to feel the fresh air and take in the view. They start from $170 CAD a night and you can check availability and book online here.
Helm’s Inn – $
Helm’s Inn offers budget-friendly options that are also super spacious. All their accommodations are suites that include kitchenettes – perfect for saving some money by making a to-go lunch. This hotel is also really close to some of the best sights in the city, such as Beacon Hill Park (across the street), as well as the Legislature and Royal BC Museum. Rooms here start at around $140 CAD, but we recommend booking ahead online to get the best deal!
Ocean Island Backpackers – $
Ocean Island Backpackers Inn is a budget hostel in downtown Victoria, within walking distance of the harbor and lots of bars and restaurants. What’s more, breakfast, dinner, and one free drink at the pub downstairs are all included in your stay! A bunk here costs around $44 CAD per night, with private rooms starting at $130 CAD. If you’re backpacking across BC on a budget, you’ll definitely want to stay here by booking on either Hostelworld.com or Booking.com!
Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!
We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.
They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!
Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)
Renting a Car in British Columbia
If you’re arriving in British Columbia via plane, then I can’t recommend getting a rental car enough. British Columbia is a large province, and traveling between the best places to visit in BC requires transport. Although you can use public transport on some occasions, this means your trip will not only require more time but more planning.
Car rental in Canada isn’t relatively cheap, but it’s not that expensive either, especially if you get a budget car. The cheapest car with a pick-up and drop-off in different locations is around $100 CAD per day. The price does vary though, depending on the time of year. For car rentals, I use the website Discover Cars. It’s a search engine with lots of deals with good customer service. In fact, I’ve used Discover Cars all over the world, including in Chile, New Zealand, and Australia.
Another popular option is to rent a campervan or motorhome (only for the brave in winter.) Using Motorhome Republic, you can search hundreds of deals across multiple companies to pick a great vehicle and the cheapest price. Having a motorhome is a stunning way to see Canada, and using crown land and campsites, you can often camp for free or very cheap in the most beautiful places imaginable!
Thanks for reading!
Butchart Gardens is world-famous for a good reason. Anyone visiting Vancouver Island should definitely visit and a tour is a great way to see this expansive garden. Not only will the guides teach you about the different gardens, but you won’t need to worry about transportation. And the tours I’ve listed have been personally vetted to make your trip stress-free and enjoyable!
If you found this article useful, check out our other blogs about Canada here. We love sharing information and helping others have an incredible stay. Below, I’ve included some blogs about destinations near Butchart Gardens.