Visiting gardens in Victoria BC

December 30, 2015 by Martin Vernon

The many gardens of Victoria BC have led to the city being called the “Garden City” in the hype of some tourist publications. There’s some truth in the name though since the perfect gardening climate of southern Vancouver Island, its earlier British heritage, and its attractiveness to visitors have all resulted in some magnificent gardens being created for our pleasure. The Butchart Gardens comes to mind first but there are many other delightful gardens on a smaller scale. Visiting gardens in Victoria BC is best done by car to provide full flexibility but buses service most gardens.

The Butchart Gardens

55 acres of dramatic floral displays created in over 100 years draw crowds and superlatives. Some cynics may consider it to be rather a “Disney” garden but it’s hard to imagine anyone not being impressed. Open year-round, its five (yes!) seasons present the many themed gardens in full seasonal splendour: the famous Sunken Garden and the enchanting Japanese Garden are favourites. Summer visits might include enjoying concerts on the lawn and Saturday evening fireworks. Their summer and winter illuminations (“The Magic of Christmas”) are special delights.

Butterfly Gardens

Close to the Butchart Gardens is this tropical greenhouse jungle. Thousands of butterflies charm visitors, as do the flamingoes, small birds, koi and frogs.  Look out for the giant Atlas Moth.

The Gardens at HCP

Another garden on the Saanich Peninsula is the little known, and therefore quiet, Gardens at HCP (Horticultiral Centre of the Pacific). Over 30 themed gardens include the lovely Takata Garden with its adjoining Bonsai and Zen gardens.

Beacon Hill Park

Just south of downtown is “the jewel of Victoria”, 200 acres of varying park and gardens since 1882. Look out for the medieval-style stone bridge, the Children’s Farm and one of the tallest totem poles in the world. Lovely for a peaceful wander.

Finnerty Gardens

Near the south-west corner of the University of Victoria are a network of paths passing over 4,000 trees including over 1,500 rhododendrons and azaleas which create drama late April to early June.

Abkhazi Garden

Tucked away near Oak Bay is a small garden with a romantic story which will warm your heart.

Playfair Park

Visiting gardens in Victoria BC - Playfair Park

A special municipal park (photo above) hidden away in Saanich. Enjoy the rhodendrons in May and the long colourful perennial summer border.

Government House

The grounds of the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor, the Queen’s representative in British Columbia. A colourful cutting garden, rose garden and perennial flower beds set in the Rockland area of heritage homes.

Hatley Castle

West of Victoria are these Japanese, Rose and Italian gardens set in a 500 acre Edwardian estate with views to the distant Olympic Mountains.

Visiting gardens in Victoria BC is more than just a pleasure, it gives insights into the lives of so many who have helped make Victoria the lovely place it is today.

The Gardens of Victoria

September 30, 2015 by Martin Vernon

The Gardens of Victoria represent an aspect of life here perhaps most anticipated and appreciated by visitors. Some may expect quaint heritage but let’s not overstate that. The gardens, on the other hand, are gems enjoyed by us all, even if only to admire a planting on a boulevard. A vast range of plants thrive in the climate of southern Vancouver Island and gardeners seem to thrive too. Let’s take a peek at the gardens of Victoria which you can explore at leisure.

Clearly the dominant one which attracts most of the visitors and of the publicity is The Butchart Gardens. Over 50 acres of magnificent display gardens including the famous Sunken Gardens. They are fortunate to have a team of about 50 gardeners to care for the many areas: Japanese, Mediterranean, Rose, Italian and more. Concerts, fireworks and both summer and winter lighting delight the crowds.

No crowds but a wide variety of themed gardens can be quietly enjoyed at The Gardens at HCP. The Takata Japanese Garden, Zen Garden and Bonsai Garden are highlights for many.

Also in this area is Butterfly Gardens more noted for its 3,000 butterflies and other tropical wildlife but luxuriant gardens they are.

Late Victorian heritage and a grand setting give the gardens at Hatley Castle much character. A little further west than the others, these Japanese, Rose and Italian gardens were once tended by 100 gardeners.

Very much smaller in scale are the charming Abkhazi Gardens near Oak Bay. There is a genuinely romantic tale behind them for you to discover.

All of those do require an entry fee whereas three Victorian treasures can be enjoyed free of charge:

Beacon Hill Park has 200 acres set aside for relaxation just south of downtown Victoria. There’s much variety here, my favourite being the lake with its stone bridge and multitude of ducks all overseen by a heronry.

Two secrets generally only known to the locals remain:

Finnerty Gardens at the University of Victoria. Imagine 1,500 rhododendons and azaleas in full bloom in May and June.

Hidden away are more rhodendrons and an impressive floral border at Playfair Park.

For further information and a map, see our guide to the gardens of Victoria BC.


Beacon Hill Park

February 20, 2015 by Martin Vernon

Beacon Hill Park is sometimes called “the jewel of Victoria” and for many visitors it remains a hidden jewel which should not be overlooked. It was named after two navigational beacons protecting ships on the Juan de Fuca Strait and has become a delightful relaxing place just south of downtown Victoria BC.

The park has belonged to the people of Victoria since 1882 and today its 200 Beacon Hill Park - Victoria BCacres has a pleasing balance of natural landscapes and man-made recreations. My favourite area is the lake with its medieval-style stone bridge – look for large blue herons nesting high in neighbouring trees. Others will enjoy graceful Victorian flower gardens or woodlands and grassy slopes. The young, or young at heart, are delighted by the petting zoo at Beacon Hill Children’s Farm where animals have enchanted us since 1985. There are playgrounds, miniature golf, lawn bowling and even a cricket pitch. Free concerts are held at the Cameron Bandshell in summer months.

One of the the world’s tallest totem poles rises 127 feet above Garry oaks overlooking the park and the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards the Olympic Mountains. Nearby is Mile 0 of the 8,000km Trans-Canada Highway and a monument to Terry Fox who planned to end his run against cancer here in 1981.

Beacon Hill Park is easily found by walking south from the Inner Harbour, following Douglas Street towards Dallas Road.



Public washrooms in Victoria

August 10, 2014 by Martin Vernon

Public washrooms in Victoria may not be the most appealing consideration when visiting our city but at times they may be the most important. You need not have young children in tow or be elderly or have a urinary problem for, as we all know, when the urge comes nothing else matters. So, as a break from chatting about local attractions and events let’s get down to the basics.

“We call it washroom mapping” said my urologist as I told him about driving around Victoria in search of a washroom. We were talking about the need to go, and soon. Fast food restaurants, some cafes, restaurants, hotels and stores may oblige, but they may not. So it’s handy to know where public washrooms, toilets if you will, are located. When planning my last overseas trip, to London and Paris, I included research into these venues as well as the many other places we might like to visit.

Gone are the days of dirty, smelly and unsightly “facilities”. The City of Victoria spent $90,000 for one of them so let’s hope more are coming. However, they are not always easy to find so here’s a guide to help find the public washrooms in Victoria, focusing on the downtown area.

  • Langley Street near Bastion Square – one of those European-style works of art, with hand-washing facilities. Voted Canada’s best restroom.
  • Nearby, in Centennial Square near City Hall
  • Government Street / Pandora Avenue near the McPherson Playhouse. A male urinal but one the ladies will enjoy peeking at with its striking green tubular design.
  • The old standby has always been under the Tourist Information Centre in the Inner Harbour. You may be in line for a while.
  • Fisherman’s Wharf in James Bay just south of downtown
  • Beacon Hill Park near the play area
  • The Bay Centre, in the largest downtown shopping centre
  • Greater Victoria Public Library on Broughton Street

My your visit to Victoria be flushed with success!





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