This blog may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy for more info.
Visiting Butchart Gardens is one of those must-do activities in Victoria for good reason! Strolling through these gardens is a classic Victoria activity, and we think that a trip to Vancouver Island would be lacking without seeing this stunning place.
From fountains in the shape of dragons to wild rose arches that you can walk beneath, Butchart Gardens truly is a feast for the eyes (and nose!). We loved exploring the property and were truly blown away by the skill of the gardeners and designers. It’s a living work of art!
The gardens are amazing year-round, with different delights during each season. It’s a place for flower lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and even foodies. You simply must add Butchart Gardens to your bucket list. Trust us on this one.
Here are 12 things you NEED to know before you go!
1. About the Butchart Gardens
Butchart Gardens is home to millions of plants, which cover the vast area. The gardens are 55 acres and home to over 900 species of plants!
Around 120 years ago, before it was turned into a garden by Jenny Butchart, the area was actually a quarry! It is hard to imagine a limestone quarry here while you’re wandering around the gardens and surrounded by so many beautiful flowers. But if you look closely, you can still see remains of the cement plant that existed in the quarry nestled in amongst all of the flora.
One of my favorite things about Butchart Gardens is that it changes throughout the year. Every season, different flowers are in bloom and different plants take the stage to give you a distinct show depending on what time of year you go.
So even if you have been to the gardens once before, consider going again if it’s a different season! You might be surprised at the diversity. These gardens are popular too with approximately 1 million visitors every year.
2. Where are the Butchart Gardens?
Butchart Gardens are located in Brentwood Bay on Vancouver Island. It’s about a 25-minute drive north of Victoria, up the Saanich Peninsula. You can either drive yourself or there’s this handy express shuttle to the gardens that leaves from downtown Victoria.
Most people stay in Victoria for a trip to the gardens, although day trips from Vancouver (by way of a ferry or seaplane to Vancouver Island) are extremely popular. We have some great Butchart Garden tours that will take you from Vancouver to Victoria if you keep reading!
You could also make the drive from Nanaimo to Victoria which is about 1.5 hours or Parksville, which is a 2-hour drive.
The west side of the peninsula, where Butchart Gardens are located, is along the Saanich Inlet, a calm protected area of water. In the spring and summer months, you can often see humpback whales, orca whales, and sometimes gray whales in the inlet. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of whales with their calves!
3. How much does it cost to visit Butchart Gardens?
The entrance fee for Butchart Gardens varies depending on season and age.
Here is a breakdown of the costs for each season in Canadian Dollars, including tax. Youth are considered ages 13-17, children are ages 5-12 and any kids under 5 are free.
Christmas (December 1 – January 6):
4. When is the best time to visit Butchart Gardens?
If you are a flower enthusiast, we recommend going in the spring and summer as this is the time for the best blooms in the gardens.
With that being said, each season is unique and beautiful. The gardens have been designed so that all times of the year have something to offer with different flowers and plants in bloom.
If you are someone who loves the Christmas season (like me!), going between December 1 to January 6 is guaranteed to delight. Not only is the whole area lit up with a stellar light display, but the entire gardens also transform into a winter wonderland!
Christmas at Butchart Gardens is truly magical – there is a Twelve Days of Christmas display, Christmas carollers, and gingerbread and hot chocolate by the fireplace at the Coffee Shop on the grounds. We haven’t been to the gardens during Christmas yet, but it is definitely on our list!
Related Read: No matter what season you’re in BC, there’s plenty to do in Vancouver during the summer or winter months!
5. What are the best things to see and do at the Butchart Gardens?
The Sunken Garden: This is the best place to imagine the original quarry hidden beneath millions of plants that make up the gardens. The walls of The Sunken Garden are covered in green plants, grasses, and mosses, but you can still see the shape of the quarry that started it all. There is a lookout point made of limestone that allows you to see all of The Sunken Garden, which is a great opportunity for photos!
The Rose Garden: You will smell the rose garden before you see it. The amazing rose aroma is from 2,500 roses! We have never seen so many roses in one place! Visiting the Rose Garden was truly like walking through a fairytale. This is where you will find the rose arches that we mentioned earlier – one of the top photo spots, in our opinion!
The Italian Garden: The Italian Garden used to be a tennis court! It was transformed into a stunning Italian courtyard, complete with mouth-watering Italian gelato. If you ever feel like pretending you’re wandering around the Italian countryside while you’re on Vancouver Island, this is the place to go!
The Japanese Garden: After leaving the Italian countryside, you can step into a Japanese oasis. You enter the Japanese Garden through a Torii gate, which is a gate of traditional Japanese architecture that is usually at the entrance to shrines or spiritual places. It is said that these gates symbolically represent entering a sacred place. The Japanese Garden is the most serene area in Butchart Gardens, the perfect place to relax and reflect during a busy day of traveling.
Rose Carousel: For children, this is a must-see! The Rose Carousel looks like something right out of a storybook. It has 30 hand-carved wooden animals from traditional carousel horses to polar bears! It’s $2 CAD per ride or you can grab a card good for 11 rides for $20 CAD.
July to August live entertainment: If you are a fan of live music and happen to be making a trip to Butchart Gardens during July or August, we recommend going to the gardens in the evening so that you can see the summer concerts! The performances begin at 8 pm and are a perfect way to cap off your trip to the gardens. The best part: you don’t have to pay extra to go! The cost of the concert is included in your admission to the gardens.
Night illuminations: Once darkness descends over Vancouver Island, the gardens transform into a beautiful display of light! However, think more subtle light display, and less Coachella rave light show. The way that the plants, trees, and water features are illuminated feels like art and is worth sticking around for after sunset.
Summer firework Saturdays: The fireworks were unable to happen in 2022 because of staffing shortages, but we are hoping that they will be back with a bang (pun intended) in 2023! The firework show started back in 1977 by the great-grandson of Jennie Butchart and is always perfectly choreographed.
Spring prelude: In the spring, The Blue Poppy Restaurant is transformed into a stunning indoor garden, allowing you to marvel at the gardens during the rainy season on Vancouver Island. This beautiful indoor garden is often host to wedding ceremonies, and we can see why!
6. Do you need a guide to explore the Butchart Gardens?
A guide isn’t required to tour the gardens and most people simply wander around on their own. We popped in without a guide for our first visit and found the gardens spectacular to explore on our own.
However, if you’re interested in learning more about the history of the gardens, as well as the species of flora that cover the grounds, a guide can be helpful. There’s more than a century of history to learn about, so having a guide definitely makes for a more educational experience.
7. Where are the best places to visit the Butchart Gardens from?
Victoria is the closest city to Butchart Gardens, making it the most convenient place to visit from. Butchart Gardens is a mere 25-minute drive from Victoria and there’s even this express shuttle that runs from downtown Victoria to the gardens multiple times a day. There are also great tours in Victoria that include stops at the gardens (we will go into more detail on those later!).
One of the best things about visiting Butchart gardens from Victoria is that it doesn’t have to take the whole day. You can easily spend a few leisurely hours in the gardens in the morning and be back in Victoria for a late lunch.
Another perk to visiting from Victoria, if you are into nature hikes, is that you can even spend the whole day in the area and go on a hike in one of the nearby parks, Mt. Work Regional Park or Gowlland Tod Provincial Park are nearby and boast incredible mountaintop views.
There are tons of tours from Vancouver to Victoria that allow you to visit Butchart Gardens (check out #8 for our recommendations!), however, you can also make a day trip over to Victoria on your own.
We recommend only doing a day trip like this if you have your own car or a rental car, but it’s also possible to take public transit. Just be warned that it will be a very long and taxing day if you choose to do so.
The ferry over to the island from Vancouver is just over 1.5 hours, but keep in mind that you want to be at the ferry terminal 30 minutes before departure at the latest. Check-in closes 30 minutes prior to departure if you have a car reservation. You can book tickets and check schedules on the BC Ferries website.
Without a reservation, the drive-on bookings close five minutes before departure, but trust us – you don’t want to deal with the stress of trying to make it to the ferry at the last minute. Give yourself lots of time to get to the ferry terminal just in case there is traffic. There is nothing worse than missing your ferry and having to wait for the next one. On summer days, make a reservation in advance if possible.
On busy days (weekends and holidays), the ferry can be sold out for multiple sailings, or even the entire day if it is busy enough! Plan ahead and book online so that your plans aren’t ruined by sold-out ferries.
Related Read: Another popular trip to Vancouver Island is to go from Vancouver to Tofino or Victoria to Tofino!
8. What are the best tours to the Butchart Gardens?
Private Butchart Gardens tour
This private tour is perfect for anyone who wants to explore at their own pace. You’re picked up from any hotel in Victoria at a pickup time of your choice.
This half-day tour includes a private tour guide and driver to take you to the gardens where you’ll have two hours to explore. It also includes a personal sightseeing trip to the best Victoria attractions. You really feel like a VIP on this one!
While a pricier option, if you’re traveling with family and friends, you can easily split the cost. Since you have the entire vehicle, you only pay a flat rate of $550 CAD for up to 7 travelers. Having transportation taken care of is so nice. This way, you don’t have to worry about fussing with a rental car or taking a taxi up to Brentwood Bay.
You can easily book this private tour online here.
Christmas at the Butchart Gardens
We recommend this Christmastime tour if you want to learn more about the history of the gardens and what plants and flowers you will see while on the drive up to Brentwood Bay from Victoria. You’ll have a reserved seat on a comfy coach ride to the gardens and your guide will even let you in on what to do and see including what’s in bloom.
You’ll skip the long bus lines when you arrive and will have plenty of time to explore the holiday magic of the gardens. There are even some cute touches to get you in the Christmas spirit like a candy cane and festive music on the ride back to Victoria. Tickets can be purchased online for $103 CAD and include roundtrip transport from Victoria and your garden admission fee.
Butchart Gardens experience: Seaplane flight and afternoon tea
This tour is one that is on our bucket list – it would make for an absolutely unforgettable experience! The tour starts by flying to Butchart Gardens on a seaplane from Victoria’s downtown inner harbor airport. The views from the plane are spectacular – you can see Vancouver Island as well as many of the surrounding Gulf Islands from the air!
The tour also includes afternoon tea in the elegant Dining Room at Butchart Gardens, and the chance to stroll through the gardens after. Once your magical afternoon in the gardens is over, the tour ends with a ride back to Victoria in a private limousine. If this tour doesn’t say luxury, we don’t know what does! It can be reserved online for $327 CAD per person and would be perfect if you’re planning a honeymoon around Vancouver.
Butchart Gardens & beyond
This tour is customizable, so we recommend it for those travelers that like to have a little more say in their tours. The length of the tour can vary between three and five hours, depending on the activities that you choose to do. You can pick from full-day or half-day tours and set the agenda.
Regardless of what you choose, you will ride in style in a Tesla! Aside from visiting Butchart Gardens, optional activities include The Gardens at HCP (in case you didn’t get enough garden scenery!), the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, and DEVINE Distillery. The tour price ranges from $400-$650 CAD per person and includes admission to the gardens, transportation, and a few other extras like tastings!
Victoria and Butchart Gardens day trip
This full-day tour from Vancouver allows you to see both Butchart Gardens and go on a sightseeing tour of Victoria. This way, you get the best of both worlds while not having to deal with any of the stress of getting to and from the island. Even the ferry ride over, across the Strait of Georgia and past many gulf islands, is part of the scenic tour!
You’ll start with pick-up from your Vancouver hotel, and take the ferry ride over before getting free time to explore Victoria. Then you’ll head to the stunning Butchart Gardens before enjoying a ferry ride (at sunset!) back to the mainland. All your transportation fees and admission to the gardens are included if you book online for $264 CAD.
Victoria and Butchart Gardens Christmas Tour
This is for you Christmas lovers out there! This 12-hour tour contains all of the festive merriment that you would ever ask for! Enjoy the magic of Butchart Gardens during the winter holiday season, and sit back and relax during the journey over. This tour even includes time for some Christmas shopping in Victoria and a tour of Victoria’s historic Chinatown – the oldest Chinatown in Canada.
Seaplane flight to Victoria with ground transport and Butchart Gardens
The seaplane flight from Vancouver to Victoria and back is reason enough to book this tour. The Harbour Air flight is one of the most beautiful flights we have ever taken. You won’t want it to end – trust us! Plus, you get to arrive in style and avoid the long drive and ferry ride over.
After your flight, you’ll take a shuttle bus to Butchart Gardens from Victoria’s downtown inner harbor airport. Once you’ve had your fill of flora, you have free time to meander around downtown Victoria before flying back to Vancouver. Tickets are $539 CAD and can be reserved online.
Related Read: If soaring above Vancouver sounds amazing, check out our in-depth info on booking a seaplane flight over Vancouver!
2-day Victoria and Butchart Gardens Tour with Overnight at The Fairmont Empress
If you’re looking for luxury, this 2-day Victoria tour has your name on it. Not only do you get to experience the amazing scenic seaplane ride over to Victoria, but you also get the chance to stay at the historic downtown hotel, The Fairmont Empress! This stunning hotel looks like a castle and is located in the most picture-perfect spot, right across the street from the inner harbor. If you’ve ever seen pictures of Victoria, you have likely seen The Empress, as it is an iconic sight.
Your first day includes a ferry ride over and a visit to Butchart Gardens. After your night at The Empress Hotel, you’ll wake up with free time to explore Victoria before the seaplane ride back to Vancouver. This tour is definitely on the pricier side, starting at $768 CAD, but it will make a trip to remember. This tour is exclusively available online, so book it before it sells out!
9. Where can you eat in the Butchart Gardens?
The Dining Room Restaurant
This is the main onsite restaurant at Butchart Gardens. The Dining Room is really special as it was the original residence of the Butchart family. We recommend making reservations in advance as it can get busy.
One of our favorite things about this restaurant is the fact that they cater to many different dietary restrictions, such as dairy-sensitive, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free. This makes it so much easier for travelers who have restricted diets. You can have a delicious dinner here, but we recommend the high tea for a really special experience earlier in the day. The high tea is only available from 3 – 4 pm, so plan ahead if you would like to do that!
The Blue Poppy Restaurant
The Blue Poppy used to be the Butchart family’s greenhouse. This beautiful atrium is more casual than The Dining Room, but we think it is just as beautiful. The menu is always seasonal, meaning that you will get the freshest and most delicious ingredients in your meals.
The Coffee Shop
This café serves all of the luxury and specialty coffees that you could ever want! There are also lots of other hot and cold drink options, as well as sandwiches and other pastries and baked goods.
Remember the amazing Italian gelato we were talking about earlier? You can find it in the Gelateria, nestled in the Italian Garden. It is only open during the warmer months, but it is definitely worth stopping in if it is open while you’re visiting. Gelato is more dense and rich than regular ice cream, and somehow even more delicious (in our opinion). If you’re wanting to get that classic Italian feeling, go for the pistachio.
10. How long does it take to see the Butchart Gardens?
In order to see all that the gardens have to offer, you need at least 3 to 4 hours. However, we recommend spending at least half a day so that you can tour the gardens leisurely. This also gives you enough time to stop in for high tea, dinner, or some gelato on a sunny, summer day.
We actually spent around 7 hours in the gardens including a stop for lunch. It’s definitely a place you don’t want to rush through!
Related Read: Another magical Vancouver Island place you’ll want to make time for is the enchanting Cathedral Grove.
11. What facilities will you find at the Butchart Gardens?
Butchart Gardens has a Visitor Information Center, which is nice to stop in to get information about the gardens when you first arrive. This is also where you will find the lost and found, in case you misplace something while you’re there. If you are visiting right before or after a flight and have your luggage with you, there is luggage storage as well.
There’s lots of parking available and it’s all free! The gardens are also pet-friendly if your puppy wants to come smell the roses with you, just make sure they stay close. You’ll need a leash with a 4-foot maximum – no retractable leashes are allowed.
You’ll find washrooms inside the Visitor Center, near the parking lots, and inside the gardens close to the Rose Carousel.
There are trained first aid responders on site who are able to assist with any medical issue that may arise. The gardens are both wheelchair and stroller accessible, however, some of the pathways are quite narrow or have a steeper incline. These paths are marked with signage that will point you in the direction of an alternate, more accessible, route.
If you need to borrow a wheelchair, there are complimentary wheelchairs available to loan while you’re in the garden. You can even rent a mobility scooter, however, you must do this in advance of your visit by calling as they do not have them on-site without a reservation. Complimentary strollers are available as well, however, they are on a first-come-first-served basis, so come early if you are hoping to snag one!
If it starts to rain while you are at Butchart Gardens, staff will go around the gardens handing out complimentary umbrellas to borrow while you’re there! It is little touches like this that really make this an amazing experience.
12. Is visiting the Butchart Gardens worth it?
Yes, we loved the gardens! We always recommend visiting the gardens to anyone who says they are going to Victoria or Vancouver.
There is a reason that this is such a popular destination – it is absolutely spectacular to see. I love that it’s an all-season destination too. It’s of course gorgeous in the spring and summer, but the autumn colors or twinkling lights in the winter are magical too.
On top of that, Butchart is arguably the best garden in Canada, so it would be such a shame to miss this bucket list place!
Other Things to do While You’re in Victoria
Victoria is a city filled with amazing things to see and do! So while you’re here, be sure not to miss some of the top attractions and activities.
- 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. While you can’t enter actually Hatley castle, you can explore the surrounding grounds which are absolutely beautiful. For Craigdarroch Castle, adult entry tickets cost around $20 CAD, while the price is $10 CAD for children aged 6-12 and $15 CAD for teens. You can also visit Craigdarroch Castle as part of this highly-rated guided bike tour like this one, which also includes stops at other top attractions around the city for only $60 CAD!
- Sightseeing – Victoria is full of history and beautiful buildings (like the Empress Hotel!), so you’ll want to do some exploring. A hop-on, hop-off bus lets you take things at your own pace or you can see the sights in style with a private car tour or try something fancier and go via horse-drawn carriage with Tally Ho Tours. Prices start at only $75 CAD for a quick ride around the Legislative Buildings and the historic James Bay neighborhood.
- See the water ballet – This is a quirky little activity you won’t want to miss! At 10:45 am every Sunday morning, the Steamship Water Ballet takes place! It’s a 10-minute performance by yellow steamship boats and we found it really fun to watch.
- Go whale watching – Whale watching in Victoria is a very popular activity. Spot these majestic creatures hanging out in the waters around Victoria! This half-day whale watching adventure takes you looking for orcas and humpback whales near and includes complimentary photos and a whale sighting guarantee. If you don’t see whales on that tour, you can go again for free until you do!
- Explore Fisherman’s Wharf – This is a bustling hub of activity we love to explore with food kiosks, a playground, and of course, plenty of working fish boats around. There are lots of restaurants for fresh seafood and shops in the commercial plaza, floating houses (you can even stay at a float home B&B!), and tons of adorable seals around.
Where to Stay in Victoria, BC
Victoria is a perfect base so you can visit Butchart Gardens and explore even more of the charm, history, and stunning green spaces around the city (it’s not called the “Garden City” for nothing!). While you could easily stay a week, even just a weekend will leave you enough time to see some of the best things this part of Vancouver Island has to offer.
Victoria is most popular during the warm, summery months (think May to August), so if you’re planning on coming then, make sure to book a hotel well in advance. Some great hotels and hostels in Victoria that we love are:
Fairmont Empress Hotel – $$$
This hotel is so beautiful and staying at the Fairmont Empress Hotel is an iconic thing to do in Victoria. It’s one of those grand railway hotels built across Canada that looks more like a castle than a hotel!
The rooms here are elegant and luxurious – you’ll see why this is where royalty stays when visiting Victoria. Grab afternoon tea, book a spa treatment, or just wander around the gardens. Staying here is an experience! Rooms here start around $350-400 CAD per night and you can check availability online here.
The Embassy Inn – $$
Stay in the heart of Victoria’s harbor at The Embassy Inn. If you’re taking the ferry here, this hotel is so convenient with its location right near the docks. You can easily walk around to see the sights nearby and grab the included breakfast before you head out every morning. Rooms here are around $170 CAD and you can check availability and book on Booking.com.
Ocean Island Backpackers – $
Ocean Island Backpackers Inn is a budget hostel located in downtown Victoria, close to lots of bars and restaurants and within walking distance of the harbor. The best part is that breakfast, dinner, and one free drink every night at the pub downstairs are included in your stay! It’s perfect if you’re backpacking across BC on a budget – a bunk here is around $44 CAD. Private rooms are also available if sharing isn’t your thing. Book a stay on HostelWorld.com or Booking.com.
For even more options, click here to browse all hotels in Victoria!
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!
And there you have it, everything you need to know to have the best time exploring Butchart Gardens. This place absolutely took our breath away and I can’t wait to come back! Whether you visit as part of one of the amazing tours offered (I have my eye on this seaplane one!) or stroll through on your own, it’s a place you don’t want to miss while visiting Vancouver Island.
If you’re looking for more helpful guides, make sure to check out our other blogs about British Columbia. This Canadian province has it all and we would love to help you discover what makes this part of the world so special.
COMPLETE Guide to Visiting Nanaimo, BC + 25 Things to do!
Where to Stay in Vancouver: 7 BEST Areas & Hotels
35 EPIC Things to do in Tofino, BC
Tuesday 25th of April 2023
Very informative and fun feeling info sight. Well done , thanks!