Golden witch hazel. Ruby red coneflowers. Clouds of mist blanketing the lawn. Fingers of glancing afternoon sunlight. If there’s one word to describe fall at The Butchart Gardens, entrancing would be it. Though there’s no wrong time to visit this stunning oasis (we highly recommend returning throughout the year to witness how The Gardens change with the seasons), there is an ethereal beauty that captivates the senses as The Gardens’ deep, green leaves transform into glowing oranges, russets, reds and golds.

Suffice it to say, some exploration is better saved for this magical, transitional season. However, with so many things to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start. To help you plan, check out our guide to exploring The Butchart Gardens this fall for the perfect getaway from Seattle.

In This Guide:

How to Get to The Butchart Gardens from Seattle

For Seattleites, the trip to the world-renowned Butchart Gardens is super easy. Whisk yourself away with a fun water trip across the Salish Sea from downtown Seattle’s Pier 69 on the Victoria Clipper ferry. A scenic 2-hour and 45-minute ride lands you at the Clipper terminal in the heart of Victoria, BC’s Inner Harbour.

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.

Twenty minutes later, you’re off the Clipper, through customs and ready to explore! There are several options for getting to The Butchart Gardens, but we highly recommend booking your tour with Clipper for the most seamless and cost-effective overnight travel experience.

Where to Find Fall Colors at The Butchart Gardens

Japanese Garden

When it comes to fabulous fall colors, New England garners a lot of attention, but with the Japanese Garden boasting a rich collection of Japanese Maples, The Butchart Gardens has developed its own reputation for vibrant fall foliage.

Truly the star of the show this time of year, the Japanese Garden holds court with its dense concentration of maples. There are 74 of them to be exact, all within a 1-acre setting. Dressed in everything from fiery orange to dazzling crimson, the grove of trees is simply stunning.

Boasting leaves in a variety of brilliant hues, there is no better place to soak in fall foliage than the Japanese Gardens: Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Boasting leaves in a variety of brilliant hues, there is no better place to soak in fall foliage than the Japanese Gardens: Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Concert Lawn

Fully embodying the term “late bloomers,” eye-catching dahlias poke their heads up from out of the ground just when you thought summer blooms were done for the season. Swing by the impressive 250-foot-long dahlia border curving along the Concert Lawn and check out these cheery blossoms. With more than 200 varieties of flowers, 11 different forms (actus, semi-cactus, orchid, formal decorative, collarette, anemone, daisy and peony, to name a few) and in all the colors of the rainbow, you’ll be blown away by their beauty.

A rainbow of dahlias makes for the perfect Instagram shot. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
A rainbow of dahlias makes for the perfect Instagram shot. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

While it’s nearly impossible to settle on one favorite, some of the most awe-inspiring are the flowers that reach gargantuan proportions. Keep an eye out for the dinner-plate-sized (they span 12 inches across!) coral-raspberry blooms of the “Belle of Baramera.” Or point your eyes skyward to glimpse the snowy “Hy Cutter White,” which spurts to human-sized heights at 6-feet and 9-inches tall. The blooms reach their peak in September, but will last through October due to Vancouver Island’s mild weather.

If wall-to-wall dahlias don't put a smile on your face, we don't know what will! Credit: The Butchart Gardens
If wall-to-wall dahlias don’t put a smile on your face, we don’t know what will! Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Sunken Garden

Chock-full of warm-hued verbenas, marigolds, several rose varieties, chrysanthemums (there are 27 varieties found around the grounds!), fuchsias and geraniums; the iconic Sunken Garden is a stunner for autumn colors. On clear fall mornings, when the sunshine filters through the trees and the dew glistens on the lawn, it is simply magical.

The Gardens' crown jewel, the Sunken Garden is radiant in the fall. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
The Gardens’ crown jewel, the Sunken Garden is radiant in the fall. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Garden Walkways

Nothing screams fall like a collection of pumpkins and gourds! As you stroll along the walkways of The Gardens, keep an eye out for festive fall displays scattered around the grounds like leaves. Crafted out of vibrant fall flowers, old garden equipment, grasses, succulents and squashes grown onsite, these creations have become a tradition during October, offering up the perfect opportunity to get into the spirit of the season.

An array of autumnal displays tucked around The Gardens add festive flair to the grounds. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
An array of autumnal displays tucked around The Gardens add festive flair to the grounds. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

What to Do

Greenhouse Tours

While The Gardens become quieter in the fall season, it is also a time of transition and rejuvenation. The greenhouses are a hive of activity in preparation for the year to come. Horticultural Manager, Brain Nixon, states, “throughout autumn, we enter ‘planting season.’ Our staff works diligently to plant over 300,000 bulbs and 180,000 Biennials in a three-to-four-week period. This task is especially challenging for our gardeners as it requires plenty of physical labor.” Meanwhile, inside the greenhouse, gardeners are busy growing, nurturing and propagating plants for each seasonal display.

Everything from Norfolk pines to Ficus trees fill The Butchart Gardens greenhouses. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Everything from Norfolk pines to Ficus trees fill The Butchart Gardens greenhouses. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

Want to see the process first-hand? Get a rare peek behind-the-scenes at some of the 26 greenhouses on a one-hour tour led by a staff gardener. Spanning a whopping 2 acres, these heated indoor gardens house a huge assortment of plants such as fuchsias, succulents, tropical flowers, bedding plants and more are brought to life.

In this often undiscovered part of The Gardens, you’ll learn about propagation methods for plant production, overwintering, indoor growing environmental challenges and the secrets of Butchart Gardens’ diverse year-round displays. This is also the chance for green thumbs to ask questions and pick up insider tips from the pros! Whether you want to learn how to keep your indoor plants healthy or what plants and flowers will thrive in your garden. Be sure to make reservations in advance, as these hidden gems are only open on weekends in November.

Enjoy time with expert gardeners during this calmer time of year. Credit: The Butchart Gardens
Enjoy time with expert gardeners during this calmer time of year. Credit: The Butchart Gardens

What to Eat

Afternoon Tea in the Dining Room Restaurant

On a crisp fall day, few things are cozier than tucking into the airy, window-filled Dining Room Restaurant and curling up with a steaming cup of tea. Warm your soul with the aromatic Lemongrass & Ginger, an herbal infusion of lemongrass, ginger, citrus peel, licorice, peppermint and stevia. Or sip on the floral Rose Congou, which is scented with real rose petals.

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

And let’s not forget about the treats. Starting in October, the Dining Room transitions from serving afternoon tea to high tea, featuring more substantial eats. Everything is locally-sourced, house-made and delicious.

Sample warm pastries such as the caramelized onion and Gruyère cheese tartlet, savory sandwiches crafted with Montreal smoked meat, sweet relish and German mustard or festive pecan tarts and pumpkin napoleons off the autumn tea menu (available October 2 – November 30). The ideal balance of savory and sweet, the treats are the perfect finger food for the fall season.

A lineup of locally-sourced finger sandwiches will leave you dreaming of more. Credit: Melissa Sitrin
A lineup of locally-sourced finger sandwiches will leave you dreaming of more. Credit: Melissa Sitrin

While The Butchart Garden grounds themselves remain the same year-round, the view is ever-changing. Located right in your own backyard, they provide an outlet for you to escape the concrete jungle, soak in autumn’s rich hues and enjoy the crunch of leaves underfoot.

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.

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 for 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 are the hours at The Butchart Gardens?

Autumn hours for The Butchart Gardens vary by month. From September 16-30 they are 9:00 am-5:00 p.m., October 1-31 from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. and November 1-30 from 9:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

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.

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Feature photo: The Butchart Gardens