At first glance in a guidebook or two, I didn’t think the Butchart Gardens had much to offer a family with three active kids. I was wrong: the two hours we spent there waiting for a recent ferry crossing from Sidney BC to Washington’s San Juan Islands was both relaxing for us and interesting to our school-aged boys.
Located in Brentwood Bay, just minutes from the busy ferry terminal in Sidney and a short drive from Victoria, BC, the gardens were originally created to beautify area rock quarries, and the result is quite the incredible feat. The gardens are divided into several sections, including (but not limited to) a traditional rose garden, a peaceful Japanese tea garden, an Italian garden, and a sunken garden in the rock quarry, with viewing outlook. For kids in particular there is a carrousel, as well as several ice cream stands and snack shops. Boat rides are available, and if you look carefully while touring the bottom of the Japanese garden, you’ll find a viewing hole through a hedge with a great (secret) view of the harbor.
I’m not sure Butchart Gardens would have entertained my kids longer than a few hours, but as a way to spend the afternoon waiting for a ferry departure, it was very pleasant. It’s not a cheap pit stop, so if you don’t need to be all the way up in Brentwood Bay, I’d opt for the more traditionally kid-friendly Pacific Undersea Gardens in Victoria.
Date last visited:
Hours of operation:
Generally 9 am to 9 pm in summer (although many summer events allow for later closings) and 9 am to 4 pm in winter. The gardens come alive at Christmas time, and have later hours during the season.
Summer admission is $29 for adults, $14 for youth (13-17), and only $3 for children (12 and under) plus 12 percent sales tax. Winter admission is significantly less (except Christmas).
Many! The grounds have snack stands as well as three restaurants, from a coffee shop to elegant dining. Picnic grounds are also available in the parking area (on a grassy strip).
The gardens are located at 800 Benvenuto Avenue in Brentwood Bay. They’re easy to get to from either Victoria or elsewhere on Vancouver Island. See full directions from each city.