“Breathtaking!”

“Astonishing!”

“The most peaceful place on Earth…”

If you haven’t heard of or been to The Butchart Gardens before, don’t be surprised when Vancouver Island locals and past visitors alike use a phrase similar to those above to depict the world famous floral attraction. Located in Brentwood Bay, British Columbia near Victoria on Vancouver Island, the designated National Historic Site of Canada draws over a million visitors a year.

From spring through the holiday season, The Butchart Gardens draw year-round visitors as Mother Nature mixed with the careful planning and artistic expression of The Gardens’ staff, comes to life through a variety of expressions. Regardless of what time of year you choose to visit The Gardens (we highly recommend returning for various seasons to witness the changes!), you can’t go wrong. Here is our guide to making sure you plan the perfect trip from Seattle to The Butchart Gardens!

In This Guide:

How to Get to The Butchart Gardens from Seattle

Book Now: Seattle to Victoria, BC Victoria Clipper Ferry with The Butchart Gardens Overnight Package

Book Now: Seattle to Victoria, BC Victoria Clipper Ferry Day Trip with the Butchart Gardens

Luckily, for Seattleites, the world-renowned Butchart Gardens are easily accessible with a quick and easy water trip across the Salish Sea. A scenic 2-hour and 45-minute ride leaving from Pier 69 in downtown Seattle on the Victoria Clipper ferry lands you at the Clipper terminal in the heart of Victoria, BC’s Inner Harbour. A mere twenty minutes later, you’re off the Clipper, through customs and ready to explore!

Hop aboard the Victoria Clipper ferry for a quick and easy cruise from Seattle to Victoria, BC.
Hop aboard the Victoria Clipper ferry for a quick and easy cruise from Seattle to Victoria, BC.

From downtown Victoria, BC, you can access The Butchart Gardens by motor coach, bicycle, car or B.C. transit bus (see more details on these options for getting to The Butchart Gardens).

We highly, highly recommend booking your tour with Clipper for the most seamless and cost-effective travel experience. If you are planning to overnight in Victoria, our Butchart Gardens overnight package above enables you to leave your luggage at our terminal or to be delivered direct to your hotel so you don’t have to worry about a thing while enjoying your Gardens visit!

History of The Butchart Gardens

It all started as a labor of love. Jennie Butchart wanted to recreate some natural beauty from the remains of her husband’s mined-out industrial quarry site. To the Butcharts, this land was their home, which they moved to in 1904 and in 1908 named the estate Benvenuto—Italian for welcome.

As the cement plant built on grounds exhausted the property’s limestone deposits, Jennie envisioned a lush garden in its place. She carefully crafted the structure, arranging for horse-drawn carts to haul in soil from nearby farms from 1912 to 1921. In the end, she created the crown jewel of The Butchart Gardens – The Sunken Garden. Since then, The Butchart Gardens have continued to delight visitors from all around the world with awe-inspiring blooms and plantings.

This former limestone quarry has blossomed into a glorious garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
This former limestone quarry has blossomed into a glorious garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

From 1906 to 1929, the Butcharts slowly expanded the grounds, adding in the Japanese Garden by Tod Inlet, turning their tennis court into the Italian Garden and designing the rose gardens around their signature Sunken Garden. The Butchart heirs also put their stamp on The Gardens while remaining faithful to Jennie Butchart’s vision. Her grandson, Robert Ian Ross, who received The Gardens as a 21st birthday present in 1939, brought in night illumination in 1953.

In 1946, Robert Ian Ross’ wife, Ann-Lee Ross, opened the Benvenuto Tea House (now called the Dining Room) and continued the tradition of serving afternoon tea to guests. His son, Christopher Ross, introduced fireworks shows in 1977 and choreographed them until his death in 2000. Robin-Lee Clarke, the current owner and Jennie’s great-granddaughter, added the Menagerie Carousel and Children’s Pavilion, which opened in 2009.

Grab a seat on the Dining Room Restuarant veranda and gaze out at the Italian Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Grab a seat on the Dining Room Restuarant veranda and gaze out at the Italian Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Today, The Butchart Gardens are a National Historic Site of Canada. They are consistently rated among the world’s most beautiful garden attractions and top places to go in Canada by USA Today, CNN Travel, Condé Nast, National Geographic, Tripadvisor and Frommer’s and more.

When To Go to The Butchart Gardens

The Butchart Gardens are open 365 days a year! From spring through the holiday season, The Gardens offer a varied display and experience which is why so many visitors return year after year.

Spring: Mar 18 – May 31

Witness the hard work of The Butchart Gardens’ talented staff come to life as thousands of flower bulbs, shrubs and trees burst forth from winter’s slumber. Plan early for an excellent Mother’s Day weekend visit!

Tranquil and peaceful, the shade of a crabapple tree provides the perfect place to unwind on a warm spring day. Photo: The Butchart Gardens
Tranquil and peaceful, the shade of a crabapple tree provides the perfect place to unwind on a warm spring day. Photo: The Butchart Gardens

Summer: Jun 1 – Sep 15

From colorful floral displays during the day to subtle plays of light and shadow in the evening, summer at The Butchart Gardens is breathtaking drama from dawn till dusk. Be sure to check out The Gardens’ Night Illumination displays, scheduled evening entertainment as well as the 10 planned Fireworks Saturdays, beginning June 29.

A wall of dahlias explodes in a rainbow of colors. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
A wall of dahlias explodes in a rainbow of colors. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Autumn: Sep 16 – Nov 30

Witness Fall is all its beauty as The Gardens transition in a stunning array of red, russet and golden maples. The perfect season to visit the peaceful Japanese Garden with fewer crowds and a kaleidoscope of color ahead of the winter season. November is also a great time to interact more with the gardeners and even ask to check out a behind-the-scenes look at a greenhouse!

Fiery Japanese maples give The Gardens a glowing radiance as all 55 acres undergo the seasonal transition from summer to fall. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Fiery Japanese maples give The Gardens a glowing radiance as all 55 acres undergo the seasonal transition from summer to fall. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Christmas: Dec 1 – Jan 6

Watch the Magic of Christmas come to life as colorful lights, carolers, festive lights and fare bring transform The Gardens into a winter wonderland. Stroll through the Twelve Days of Christmas display and be sure to stop in the Coffee Shop for warm hot chocolate and gingerbread!

Dazzling lights add drama to the trees and shrubs in the Sunken Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Dazzling lights add drama to the trees and shrubs in the Sunken Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Book Now:  Seattle to Victoria, BC Victoria Clipper Ferry & Butchart Gardens Holiday Lights Tour Overnight Package

Winter: Jan 15 – Mar 17

With Vancouver Island’s temperate climate, The Gardens are great to visit, even during the winter months. Check out the subtle beauty of the shrubs, trees and flowers as light snowfall and seasonal change ready The Gardens for another spring.

A layer of snow transforms The Gardens in a magical wonderful. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
A layer of snow transforms The Gardens in to a magical wonderland. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

What to See and Do on a Tour of The Butchart Gardens

A lush, 55-acre property, The Butchart Gardens brim with five main gardens, stunning fountains, intriguing sculptures, trickling streams and explodes with wave upon wave of color for much of the year. No matter what time you visit, you are bound to discover something new.

THE BUTCHART GARDENS INTERACTIVE MAP

 

1. Sunken Garden

Once a pile of rock and rubble, the iconic Sunken Garden has long been the crown jewel of The Butchart Gardens. The first land reclamation project in the world, the garden boasts 151 flower beds and cradles an impressive assortment of flowers, trees and shrubs.

Check out the serene pond surrounded by weeping-willows in the Bog Garden or climb to the top of “the Mound,” a massive rock embankment rising from the center of the gardens, for spectacular views.

Stroll among vibrant blooms in the iconic Sunken Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Stroll among vibrant blooms in the iconic Sunken Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

 2. Rose Garden

Follow your nose to the heavenly scented Rose Garden in the center of the grounds. Brimming with seven types and at least 280 varieties of roses, this vibrant garden bursts to life from summer to early fall. Stroll beneath the 30 arches intertwined with large sprays of rambler and climber roses. It is our favorite spot to snap a romantic photo.

This tunnel of roses is a must-visit spot in the summer. The Butchart Gardens
This tunnel of roses is a must-visit spot in the summer. The Butchart Gardens

 3. Japanese Garden

Need a little natural peace and tranquility? Head to Director of Horticulture for The Butchart Gardens, Rick Los’ favorite relaxation spot, the Japanese Garden. Home to 500 Rhododendrons and Azalea as well as 200 meters of streams, it is the perfect scenic sanctuary. You may even catch sight of an owl going for a swim.

With trickling streams and moss covered grounds, the Japanese Garden is a quiet haven within The Butchart Gardens. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
With trickling streams and moss covered grounds, the Japanese Garden is a quiet haven within The Butchart Gardens. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

4. Italian Garden

Once the Butchart family’s tennis court, the Italian Garden is home to not one, but two beautiful, flower-studded ponds – the star pond (originally designed for Mr. Butchart’s collection of live ornamental ducks) and a sophisticated cross-shaped pond. Chock-full of 22,000 bulbs and biennials as well as 85 varieties of plants, this is one of our favorite spots to soak in spring blooms.

Bronze statues and the nearby Gelateria Benvenuto bring a taste of Italy to the grounds. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Bronze statues and the nearby Gelateria Benvenuto bring a taste of Italy to the grounds. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

5. Mediterranean Garden

Hidden near the parking lot, this diminutive garden is not to be missed. A homage to Vancouver Island’s Mediterranean climate, the garden is host to an array of exotic plants, ranging from electric-blue delphinium to massive-leafed banana plants and one awe-inspiring agave plant.

Wander through a collection of unique plants in the Mediterranean Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Wander through a collection of unique plants in the Mediterranean Garden. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

6. Ross Fountain

Installed in 1964 by Robert Ian Ross, Jennie and Robert’s grandson, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Butchart Gardens and surrounded by a rotating selection of seasonal blooms, this undulating fountain is spectacular. Catch it during The Gardens Night Illuminations displays in the summer, and see it come alive as magical lighting effects dance across its waters.

A rotating collection of blooms make Ross Fountain stunning any time of year. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
A rotating collection of blooms make Ross Fountain stunning any time of year. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

 7. Tacca the Bronze Boar in the Piazza

Stop by the heart of Waterwheel Square, to say “hi” to Tacca, the bronze sculpture of a wild boar. Picked up on a family trip to Italy in 1973, he was named in honor of the original’s sculptor, Pietro Tacca. Just don’t forget to give his snout a pat or two – tradition says rubbing it is supposed to bring good luck!

Find Tacca close to the entrance of The Gardens. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Find Tacca close to the entrance of The Gardens. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

 8. Rose Carousel

Found half-way through The Gardens, the popular Rose Carousel provides a chance to give weary feet a rest. Duck inside the domed Children’s Pavilion and hop on one of the brightly painted and hand-carved wooden zebras, camels, lions, horses or chariots for a whirl. Fun for both kids and kids at heart, it’s impossible not to leave with an ear-to-ear grin. Don’t forget to say “hi” to Annabelle, the elegant bronze carousel horse located next to the carousel.

A carousel filled with a menagerie of basswood animals was current owner, Robin-Lee Clarke’s contribution to The Gardens. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
A carousel filled with a menagerie of basswood animals was current owner, Robin-Lee Clarke’s contribution to The Gardens. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

 9. Totem Poles

Towering 30-feet-tall and 4-feet wide, the massive totem poles near the Children’s Pavilion were carved on site by Master Carver Charles Elliot of the Tsartlip Nation. Raised in 2004, they were created in celebration of The Gardens’ 100th anniversary and in recognition of the rich cultural heritage provided by the First Nations peoples. Carved in a classic Coast Salish style, the poles boast images of a sea otter, frog and raven along their trunks.

See how many creatures you can spot in these hand-carved totem poles. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
See how many creatures you can spot in these hand-carved totem poles. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

 10. Dragon Fountain

A gift from Victoria’s sister city in Suzhou and the People’s Republic in China in 2015, the striking bronze fountain is the newest addition to The Gardens. Stop by at night to see color-changing LED lights create beautiful scenes in the waters of this peaceful fountain.

Kick back and relax by the trickling Dragon Fountain. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Kick back and relax by the trickling Dragon Fountain. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Where to Eat at The Butchart Gardens

Need to give your feet a rest after exploring everything The Gardens have to offer? Refuel at one of these stops scattered around the grounds.

1. Coffee Shop

Need a quick pick me up? Swing by The Gardens’ coffee shop to grab a salted caramel mocha or an Oh Canada latte. Paired with a fresh, house-made shortbread cookie, it’s the perfect energy bump to fuel your journey through the grounds.

2. The Dining Room Restaurant

Step into the airy Dining Room Restaurant and get a taste of what it would have been like to be one Jennie Butchart’s personally-served guests. With an afternoon tea featuring house-made treats as well as a variety of fresh, locally-sourced lunch and dinner entrees on the menu, there are plenty of options to tempt your taste buds.

Feast on tasty eats while being surrounded by a variety of gorgeous blooms in the Dining Room Restuarant. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Feast on tasty eats while being surrounded by a variety of gorgeous blooms in the Dining Room Restuarant. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Book Now: Seattle to Victoria, BC Victoria Clipper Ferry & Butchart Gardens Tour with Afternoon Tea Overnight Package

3. Gelateria Benvenuto in the Italian Garden

A summertime visit to The Gardens wouldn’t be complete without sampling at least one of the 12 locally-inspired flavors of ice-cold gelato from Gelateria Benvenuto, just right next door in the Italian Garden.

Every single flavor is unique, mouth-watering and house-made by The Gardens’ talented culinary team (they actually traveled to Italy to hone their gelato-making skills). We highly recommend the Wildflower Honey & Lavender or the wildberry gelato. Smooth, sweet and refreshing, they are absolutely delicious.

Beat the heat with a scoop of delicious sorbeto or gelato. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Beat the heat with a scoop of delicious sorbeto or gelato. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

4. Blue Poppy Restaurant

Stroll into the cafeteria-style restaurant to feast on casual fare. Skip scouring the menu and savor the Italian sandwich. Stuffed with mortadella, Italian salami, provolone cheese, banana peppers, tomato pesto aioli and served on house-made Tuscan-style focaccia, it is heaven on a plate. Find a seat under a skylight to soak in some warm rays and gaze out The Gardens’ stunning blooms.

With spectacular views, the Blue Poppy is the perfect spot for a quick energy boost. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
With spectacular views, the Blue Poppy is the perfect spot for a quick energy boost. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

With several fresh floral displays that bring new life to The Gardens depending on the season, The Butchart Gardens are a great place to relax and unplug. Bring the kiddos, soak in the stunning, elaborate displays and indulge in some quality family time. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Additional Trip Planning Information

What is the best way to get to The Butchart Gardens from Seattle?

With daily departures from Pier 69 in downtown Seattle, the Victoria Clipper high-speed catamaran provides a quick and scenic ride to the heart of downtown Victoria, BC in just 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Clipper Vacations offers a Victoria Clipper with The Butchart Gardens overnight package including a hotel stay plus a city tour and transportation to and from The Gardens (BONUS: Clipper delivers your luggage directly to your hotel upon arrival in Victoria if you book this package). Alternatively, Clipper Vacations also offers a Victoria Clipper with The Butchart Gardens day trip option. Either trip can also be upgraded to include a stop at the Butterfly Gardens on your way out to The Butchart Gardens.

What are the hours at The Butchart Gardens?

While The Butchart Gardens are open every day, year-round at 9:00 am, closing times vary by season and you’ll want to double check The Butchart Gardens website before your visit for accurate closing times.

How much is admission to The Butchart Gardens?

Admission to The Butchart Gardens changes depending on the season, with prices ranging from $16 -$40 USD per person for adults and $2 – $3 USD per person of children. Clipper Vacations also offers motor coach tours to The Butchart Gardens, including admission to The Gardens plus a city tour and complimentary luggage drop off. Prices range from $60 – $64 USD per person for adults and $21 USD per person for children.

If you want to combine your trip to The Butchart Gardens with a 30-minute stop at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens, tour prices range from $68 – $74 USD per person for adults and $26 USD per person for children.

What is the best time of year to visit The Butchart Gardens?

The Butchart Gardens are open every day of the year, with each season bringing a new selection of gorgeous plants and flowers. Whether you see The Gardens blooming to life in the spring, catch a concert or stunning fireworks show in the summer, soak in autumnal foliage in the fall or wander through the lighted, 12 Days of Christmas displays during the winter, there truly is no bad time to visit.

Can I take my dog to The Butchart Gardens?

Yes, The Butchart Gardens are dog-friendly! You are required to keep your dog on a short leash and, of course, pick up after your pet.

Are The Butchart Gardens Wheelchair Accessible?

Yes, The Butchart Gardens are wheelchair and scooter accessible.  Wheelchairs are available free of charge with a $10 deposit and are first come, first serve from the Visitor Centre.

Can I take photos at The Butchart Gardens?

Yes, take as many photos as you please! While tripods are allowed at The Butchart Gardens, please note that drones and selfie sticks are strictly prohibited. Please be mindful of others when taking photos.

Is storage available at The Butchart Gardens?

The Visitor Center will store small luggage or items for free while you explore The Butchart Gardens.

 

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Feature Photo: The Butchart Gardens