I know, I know, we live in Vancouver British Columbia so why visit Victoria. Well a few reasons, but the main reason is we rarely explore our home Province. Sure we will get on a plane and travel to the other side of the world but travelling in B.C. just is never at the forefront of that list.
Many cruise ships dock in Victoria when visiting Alaska. Mainly because of the Passenger Vessels Services Act and if they were not required to dock at a distant foreign port they would probably skip Victoria completely and that would be a loss. If you don't know about the PVSA click here for more details.
Princess ships dock early evening - usually around 7 pm and leave at midnight. This is not a lot of time but I encourage you to get off and explore.
I have written numerous times about Victoria in my blogs - click here for more information.
Ships dock at Ogden Point as the harbour in downtown is not deep enough. Ogden Point is a short distance away but is easily accessible on foot (about 30 min walk) or by shuttle service or taxi.
We were honoured to be invited to partake in the Butterfly and Butchart Gardens tour thru Experience Victoria -- the tour company Princess uses.
We were greeted by A.J. Singh, Director of Operations, right at the pier and led to the coach and introduced to Joe our driver.
As we left the pier and travelled through the streets of Victoria, Joe gave a very easy to follow and understand commentary of the sites, the history and beauty of Victoria. We really enjoyed his funny bits about Canada and his story of watering the hanging baskets as a young man.
Our first stop was Butterfly Gardens after about a 40 minute drive. At first I was not sure how I would like this but I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was and especially enjoyed the flowers, plants and even the parrots.
We only had a half hour stop here (which was extended because one person was late getting back) as we needed to get to Butchart Gardens as night time was setting in.
Joe provided in depth information about the history of the Butchart family and the gardens and even recommended where we should head to when arriving.
We arrived at Butchart Gardens at 8:30 pm and were given two hours to explore. We hit the ground running as dusk was just arriving.
Now I had been to Butchart Gardens a very very long time ago - like when I was 5 - needless to say I don't remember it and I was very interested to see the site again.
The gardens are huge - 55 acres! The maps provided were easy to read and the park had numerous easy to follow signs. Take note that you will be walking a lot, so wear comfortable shoes.
The gardens do not allow selfie sticks, or smoking. However we encountered both in the gardens.
We proceeded to the Sunken Garden (at Joe's recommendation). It was stunning and the smells from the flowers perfumed our path.
The paths lead you to hidden gems for the senses. And of course my favorite flower (phlox) was lining many of the paths in the area.
We quickly moved to the Concert Lawn and Stage as the live entertainment happens every day.
In fact it was lovely to listen to the music throughout the gardens as we walked around. I would of really enjoyed to sit and enjoy the band Grove Kitchen, but we had no time to waste.
Every Saturday there is a fireworks display, but to the sadness of one little boy today was Friday.
As we made our way to the rose garden and then the Japanese Garden the darkness had settled in and even though we could still enjoy the gardens it was more difficult to really enjoy the full effect.
Butchart Gardens does have beautiful path lighting, and lights are strategically placed in the flower beds that cast a beautiful glow.
But by 9:30 it was really hard to see much and we still had an hour until we had to be back on the bus. So we ended up in the coffee shop enjoying ice cream and then the gift store - which is huge - for a souvenir item.
Back at the bus by 10 and everyone was back by 10:10 (scheduled time back was 10:30) so we made our journey back to Ogden Point.
Joe was great at providing commentary as we drove through Chinatown, the harbour, past the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings. But because of the darkness all were hard to see and enjoy.
Overall I have to say that a visit to Butchart Gardens is a must if you are heading to Victoria. However if you are visiting from a cruise ship that docks later, book the tour that only visits the gardens so you can get there right away and therefore have a bit more daylight.
As much as I appreciated seeing the Butterfly Gardens it took away 40 minutes that would of been better spent at the gardens.
If you are visiting Victoria earlier in the day or for a full day definately visit the Gardens and plan for a few hours.