Travel: Butchart Gardens beckons near Victoria, B.C., with year-round appeal

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 17, 2014 

Copious limestone deposits drew Robert Pim Butchart to Vancouver Island in the early 20th century. A North American cement industry magnate, he developed a quarry and built a cement plant on the island in 1904, and he and his wife, Jennie, built their home near the quarry.

As the limestone deposits were depleted, Jennie decided to beautify the exhausted pit. Butchart Gardens were born.

The only remaining part of the cement factory is a tall kiln chimney, but more than a million people visit the site each year to view the gardens that grew from the original quarry.

Butchart Gardens features five distinct gardens - the Sunken Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden and Mediterranean Garden, as well as the Concert Lawn Walk.

The 900 types of bedding plants provide constant blooming from March through October. Spring is known for its flowering bulbs, and summer for its entertainment and fireworks. Fall brings a change in colors, and winter offers Christmas décor and a tranquil environment.

In addition to walking through the gardens and seeing the season's foliage, visitors to Butchart Gardens can experience, at various times of the year, a children's carousel, a living fossil walk, a greenhouse tour, ice skating and Saturday-night fireworks.

Admission ranges from $2 for children to about $30 for adults.

Butchart Gardens

800 Benvenuto Ave., Brentwood Bay, B.C.

Butchartgardens.com

866-652-4422, toll-free

GETTING THERE

Take a ferry from the Anacortes terminal to Sidney, B.C. After exiting the terminal at Sidney, turn left. Proceed and turn left onto Lochside Drive and continue along the waterfront.

Turn right onto McTavish Road and cross Highway 17. When McTavish Road ends, turn onto West Saanich Road (Highway 17A). Follow West Saanich Road just over 5, and then turn right at Benvenuto Avenue, which leads to Butchart Gardens. U.S. citizens must have appropriate travel documents to enter Canada.

WHERE TO STAY

Beachcomber RV Park

RVers can stay within 15 minutes of Butchart Gardens with a secluded ocean view. The Beachcomber is open mid-April to mid-October, with downtown Victoria 15 minutes away.

3290 Campion Road, Saanichton

beachcomberrv.com

250-652-3800

Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa

Less than five minutes from Butchart Gardens, this boutique hotel features ocean-view suites, spa treatments and fine dining.

849 Verdier Ave., Victoria

brentwoodbayresort.com

888-544-2079

Ashcroft House Bed & Breakfast

This 1898 bed-and-breakfast in downtown Victoria is about a 30-minute drive from Butchart Gardens.

670 Battery St., Victoria

ashcrofthousebandb.com

866-385-4632

WHERE TO EAT

Ithaka Greek Restaurant

If the Butchart Gardens' Mediterranean Garden sets off a hankering for Greek food, you're in luck at this family-owned restaurant.

1102 Yates St., Victoria

ithakagreek.ca

250-384-6474

John's Place Restaurant

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, John's Place serves a wide variety of dishes and cuisines - from huevos rancheros to Oriental salad, to bangers and mash - all made from scratch.

723 Pandora Ave., Victoria

johnsplace.ca

250-389-0711

Catalano Restaurant

Only minutes from Victoria's Inner Harbour, Catalano emphasizes local produce with regional Italian and Spanish fare.

621 Courtney St., Victoria

catalanorestaurant.com

250-480-1824

WHERE TO DRINK

Darcy's Pub

Sitting right on Inner Harbour, Darcy's offers daily drink specials, fusion pub fare, and live music.

1127 Wharf St., Victoria

darcyspub.ca

250-380-1322

Big Bad John's

After a quiet day walking through the gardens, take it up a notch at this hillbilly bar with undergarments strung from the walls and peanut shells on the floor.

919 Douglas St., Victoria

strathconahotel.com/BigBadJohns.aspx

250-383-7137

Moon Under Water

This brewpub has a selection of beers paired with food for varying tastes, and features B.C. craft beers along with house-brewed beers.

350B Bay St., Victoria

moonunderwater.ca

250-380-0706

WHAT TO SEE AND DO

Victoria Bug Zoo

Get close to live bugs - giant walkingsticks, praying mantises, tarantulas and glowing scorpions included. The zoo has more than 40 species, including the largest ant farm in Canada.

631 Courtney St., Victoria

bugzoo.com

250-384 2847

McPherson Playhouse

Check out what's playing at the theater in Victoria. The 772-seat McPherson Playhouse hosts local theater companies, such as Kaleidoscope Theatre, Victoria Operatic Society and Blue Bridge Repertory Summer Theatre.

3 Centennial Square, Victoria

rmts.bc.ca

250-386-6121

Old Town

This historic area was the center of Victoria's shipping and fur trading industries. Now it's home to landmarks and specialty shops featuring British, Scottish and Irish imports. Check out any of several walking tours downtown.

Downtown Victoria

tourismvictoria.com

Eric Lochridge is a Bellingham-based writer and editor.

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