Sep 14, 2016

Day Trip from Vancouver to Victoria and Butchart Gardens with Landsea Tours

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you know that I was traveling in British Columbia, Canada over Labor Day weekend. Did you know Canada also celebrates Labor Day over the same long weekend? I did not!

On our first full day in BC, we took a day trip with Landsea Tours to Victoria and Butchart Gardens from Vancouver. Now, I am not a huge fan of bus tours, but when you are short on time and transportation and logistics are complicated, I feel that turning to a guided bus tour is the way to go. Getting to Victoria from Vancouver is quite a trek and since we did not want to rent cars, booking a bus tour was definitely the right way to do it for us!

Victoria is located on Vancouver Island, which is accessible only by ferry or plane. We were picked up from a nearby hotel at 8 am. Then we took a 40 minute drive to the BC Ferries Terminal in Tsawwassen. We had to wait for about an hour since the ferries only depart once an hour.

Ferry Ride on the Coastal Celebration

Once it was time for our ferry to depart, our tour bus drove directly onto the ferry named the Coastal Celebration. Once the bus was safely parked, we were able to disembark the bus and explore the ferry's amenities for the majority of the 90 minute ferry ride. 

The ferry had plenty to keep passengers occupied including multiple restaurants and snack bars, a gift shop, arcade and even a quiet lounge area. We were mostly interested in grabbing a quick bite and relaxing.

We did take advantage of some of the beautiful views. It was so windy that we took some quick shots before rushing back indoors!

Roughly 20 minutes before we made landfall, we headed back to our bus so we could continue on for the rest of our tour. 

Victoria's Chinatown and Inner Harbour

Once we arrived on Vancouver Island, it was another 45 minute drive to the heart of Victoria. Our guide gave us a quick overview of Victoria before our free time started. We started in Chinatown, where we poked around a bit. I found our time to be a bit rushed. We were supposed to have 3 hours but that turned into 2 and a half hours after getting stuck in some traffic.

We made a quick stop in Fan Tang Alley, which is a tiny alley that was originally a gambling district. Now it has a couple of shops. 

Our free time was exactly at lunchtime so we were starving for some food. Luckily, we stumbled upon a cute pierogi cafe called SüLT Pierogi Bar. They had a ton of different options. I chose the yellow (curry potatoes) and the cluck (chicken, cheddar and potato), added a side of picked vegetables and some sour cream. Total yum!

By the time lunch ended, we had about an hour left to see some of Victoria's major sites.

We stopped by the Fairmont Empress. There actually wasn't much to see. I really wanted to see the Bengal Lounge but I believe it is closed indefinitely.

We did get to peek inside the Palm Court, which has a gorgeous stained glass ceiling.

Although we did not have time to visit the Royal BC Museum, we did take the time to snap some photos of their collection of totem poles located right outside the museum.

Finally, the last item on our list was to see the BC Parliament Building. Again, our time was too short to take the tour of the interior. We were able to admire the architecture and especially the copper domes. 

With just a little bit of time left, we stumbled upon The Victoria Classic Boat Festival and strolled amongst the vessels. The boats were open for public viewing, but we needed to head back to our meeting spot and be on our way. 

Butchart Gardens

Unlike our time in downtown Victoria, we had more than enough time to explore Butchart Gardens in its entirety. It was raining nearly the entire time we were there, and the gardens are prepared enough to have umbrellas available for guests all over the property.

My most favorite section of the Gardens was the Sunken Garden. It was amazingly tranquil and the colors were brilliant even in the pouring rain.

Lotus flowers

Ross Fountain

We were making good time, so we were even able to take a spin on the wooden carousel.

Zinnias are one of my favorite flowers. Butchart had a large collection of zinnias and dahlias, and they were some of the largest I have ever seen. 

Dragon Fountain

Italian Garden

After we finished going through all of the gardens, we had some leftover time to visit the gift shops and grab a snack before re-boarding the bus and heading back to the ferry.

Return to Vancouver

It was another 20 minute drive back to the ferry terminal and then another 90 minute ferry voyage. On the ride back to Vancouver, we decided to wait until we got back to our apartment to eat dinner. But I did grab some soft serve from the snack bar to tide me over!

Overall, I thought the tour was well worth it due to the hassle it would have been to try to arrange all of this transportation on our own. The day was quite long at about 13 hours, but we got to see a ton and visit a new place!

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