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Victoria BC- Butchart gardens or explore the city


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Posted (edited)

Hi-

I will be sailing on Royal Caribbean to Alaska in late August and our last port will be Victoria BC.  I've been so pre-occupied with the ports in the Alaska that I'm just looking into things to do in Victoria now.    It seems that the big attraction is Butchart Gardens and would like to have first hand input on those that have been there on a port day.  we will be in port from about 9-6.     For context, my wife and I are in our 40s and my kids are 9 and 12 year old and we will also have 2 active senior citizens with us.   a very diverse group with different interests and activity tolerance.  Our group [more like my daughter & wife] is the type that can't do an all day trip in port.... i would say 4-5 hours would be our [their]  time limit.   

 

It will be late August, so are the flowers/garden  [specifically the roses] in full bloom?  is that a good time to go?  how many hours do people general spend time there?  is it super crowded.  in hindsight was the visit worth it to you?

 

Im debating on going to Butchart garden vs exploring downtown and the wharf.  if we do butchart garden we would probably just visit the garden  [3-4 hours] and then grab lunch somewhere in town and then head back to the ship.  the alternative would be to explore the city... specifically parliament bldg and the fisherman's wharf.  maybe do a carriage ride, water taxi or do the hop on hop off bus.

 

is butchart garden a must see... is it worth the time and energy to go all the way out there?

 

 

 

   

Edited by 5arbusto
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Yes, with that length of time in Victoria, Butchart Gardens is a must see!  Rent a car (van) since your group is large and drive out there, about 40 minutes from downtown Victoria.  The rental will give you the flexibility to keep all engaged with your touring.  I expect all of you will enjoy the gardens.  There is a carousel, fountains, a wild boar scarer (which I look for every time I go!), topiary, lots of interesting things to look at besides the sheer number of flowers and beautiful gardens.

 

I can’t answer about roses in August, or even the crowds.  I believe one can do the gardens in two hours but that, I think, is much too fast and doesn’t allow time to appreciate them.  I think three to four hours would be better but it depends on how interested you and the others are in plants and gardens.  If you want to do the tea, that will take at least an hour (make reservations as soon as possible because it won’t be possible the day of).

 

If your party is still unsure of going to Butchart, you could consider Abkhazi Gardens (https://www.abkhaziteahouse.com/) which is much closer to the port.  That can be done in about an hour.  While quite lovely, Abkhazi is significantly smaller than Butchart and not at all on the same scale.

 

I would save the downtown for another trip when there is a shorter port time.  Rarely does one go only once to Alaska!

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I would skip that gardens and explore the city, especially with kids and the fact that most of the blooms will have wilted by August.  The Royal BC Museum is excellent as is Chinatown.  Wandering the wharf is rich with talented musicians busking and there are several short boat trips into the harbour.  You will encounter many ice cream stops throughout Victoria.  The Butchart Gardens are quite spread out and there’s a lot of walking.

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Posted (edited)

@YVRteacher

Im glad you mentioned that the flowers will be wilted by late august…. Thats an important fact!!

 

would you recommend doing the carriage tour?  My thinking was that it will give us a good overview of the city plus it’ll be something different.  Not sure how stinky it will be tho.  

Edited by 5arbusto
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I wouldn’t recommend the carriage tour, not because it’s not a good tour but more because there has been a strong protest movement in the past few years due to the treatment of the horses.  

Really everything you would want to do is within walking distance of the harbour.

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Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong but I thought the gardeners at Butchart were continually turning over spent flower beds and replanting them.  I do understand that some times are better than others for blossoms but there is always something blooming there.  I still think it is better to go to Butchart then staying close to the port when one has a long day in port.

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Posted (edited)

Well I guess I should put my 2 cents worth in. It is a long drive to Butchart Gardens and the admission is fairly expensive. The Gardens will be beautiful even in August, it constantly changes and is replanted. They didn't get to be world famous by displaying dead plants. That being said you can do and see lots in town.

If you are interested in stately homes the Craigdarroch Castle is worth a visit, it's 5km from the port.

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You may have to book a time to visit, that is the case now but that may change by August. At any rate the admission is quite reasonable, much less than Butchart Gardens. It would be a short down hill and flat walk from there to Government House which is literally surrounded by gardens tended by volunteers. Government house is open to the public and free of charge.  

Horse tours are nice but expensive. There was some talk about how the horses are treated but it turns out there is a lot of support for these working horses that would have nothing to do without pulling carriages. Even if you don't take a carriage ride the carriages are by the Legislature Buildings if you want to see these beautiful draught horses.

If you would like any more information about my home port feel free to ask.

Edited by Blackduck59
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I couldn't agree more with Blackduck59 he is spot on (my family has been in Victoria since 1896). Butchart's would be a bore for your kids as it is just too much walking , don't get me wrong it is   Beautiful and everyone should see Butchart Gardens but you need to be fit and love flowers and the history of the gardens.

The Government House Gardens are free and beautiful plus you get to see not only the grounds but Government House. If you walk into town from the Cruise terminal you will pass so many beautiful homes and gardens as this is the historic part of Victoria known as James Bay. The walk is generally flat the worst part is getting out of the Pier area. It is a good idea to go one way, say the Dallas Rd/ Coast Guard Base Coast route  to the left as you leave the pier leads you to the Inner Harbour and return the Oswego St route the other way or vis-versa. I would recommend you have a look at a map before you come. Many interesting shops and nooks and crannies within easy walking distance. The Gardens in Victoria public or private are always in bloom don't fall for the "August they will be wilted" It usually never gets that warm in Victoria for much to wilt, wind blown maybe !!! Children would love the little harbour taxi's in the Inner Harbour, Fisherman's Wharf, boathouses, Parliament Buildings, (horse drawn carraiges right beside the Parliament Buildings) the Royal B.C. Museum and 3D Max, the Empress Hotel, Chinatown and so much more Craigdarroch Castle was built by the coal Baron Dunsmuir originally to be his family home.  You will not be dissapointed in just a "walkaout visit to Victoria"

Enjoy your Cruises and any excursions you may take along the way with your Family.

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@Blackduck59

@victoriaj

 

 

thanks you so much for your advice!!! exactly the info i needed and so a treat to get a local's perspective.  I will take your advice and do our own walking tour and hit up the key spots you two mentioned.  

 

my current working plan is to walk from the cruise terminal to fisherman's wharf [google map says its abt 0.5miles] and explore and then take a water taxi to empress dock at the inner harbor.  from there explore inner harbor and check out empress hotel and parliament bldg.  possible carriage ride depending on weather and the kids' interest level.  

 

from there, i plan to go to chinatown [ maybe bastion square too on the way] .... is it a far walk or should we take a taxi?  then from chinatown, i read that we can take a water taxi back to fisherman's wharf and then walk there back to ship.  

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I would say from the Empress to Chinatown is about the same as the walk from the port to fisherman's wharf. Look on the map Fisgard Street is basically the center of Chinatown and "Old Town" is on Johnson Street between Government and Wharf streets. I'm not sure where the water taxi stops are but I think there is one north of the bridge on the east side of the inlet and another on the south side as well. 

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Once again I agree with Blackduck59 the walk from the Inner Harbour to Chinatown is not an arduous one, relatively level and so many sights to see along the way including Bastion Square. My Husband I and used to walk everyday from the Cruise Terminal area to Chinatown well into our 70's, unfortunately Don then had hip surgery that was messed up and no more long walks but wonderful memories of doing so.  If you get to Chinatown check out Fan Tan Alley, interesting and I think the kids will enjoy that (look it up Victoria Fan Tan Alley).

I would recommend you check out the regular city bus for getting around to Government House and Craigdarroch Castle very easy to get to check the on line schedule and fares etc. at bc.transit.com they also have a trip planner which is very helpful. They run often and many leave from right beside the Parliament Buildings. If you are using cash remember you are in Canada so Canadian $ (you can usually exchange at the guest services on the ship and exact change only on the bus so maybe smaller bills,  you can buy  a day pass from the driver on the bus exact fare only $5.00 p.p. good all day all ways.

I think your plan of boating from Fisherman's Wharf is a good one.  Hope you have a very enjoyable cruise and the kids will enjoy the Kids Club program on the ship so check it out. My Greatgrandkids never want to leave it when parents go to check if they want to spend some time with them.

 

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5arbusto - sorry I was thinking you were on Princess when I mentioned Kids Club don't know what your ship might have nor do I have any experience with kids on Royal Caribbean but worth checking as I am sure they will have something similar.

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  • 3 weeks later...

We will be on the Quantum of the Seas on June 12th (Sunday). We get to port at 4pm. Is it possible to get a cab/bus/Uber and to Butchart Gardens in time to enjoy the gardens? We are in port until 10pm. 

 

Any help here is appreciated. 

 

Thanks!!

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Minorhawk said:

We will be on the Quantum of the Seas on June 12th (Sunday). We get to port at 4pm. Is it possible to get a cab/bus/Uber and to Butchart Gardens in time to enjoy the gardens? We are in port until 10pm. 

 

Any help here is appreciated. 

 

Thanks!!

 

I would doubt it. You won't get off the ship at 4 if you dock at 4. Then it is at least 45 minutes to the garden from the port. The Butchart Gardens is huge and it can easily eat up 2 hours for a "quick" walk through then another 45 minutes back. I would suggest you try Beacon Hill Park, it's free and much closer to the port. I'm sure that an excursion will be offered by your ship to Butchart Gardens and that may be the way to go if you want to get to the Gardens and back to your ship with certainty. 

Edited by Blackduck59
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  • 3 weeks later...

@Blackduck59 and @victoriaj Do you know of car rental locations within walking distance of the port? Or can you recommend a limousine company that can be hired for a few hours? My husband and I are very familiar with Victoria and would like to take our friends around to our favorite places and stop in to visit my mom (who doesn't drive anymore) while in port.

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@KermitClin unfortunately when you live in Victoria rental cars and Limo services aren't top on our list.

I do know that when we tried know that when we tried to get a rental car for when we disembarked early here from our Viking cruise they said they were "sold out" for the season. Unfortunately the one rental agency that was about 2 km from the port has closed that location which is now scheduled for redevelopment. I'm sorry I couldn't be of any real help. I guess your best option is to arrange the rental and grab a cab to pick it up.

There are several Limousine services in Victoria. I can't recommend any particular one. The last time we used a Limo service was almost 21 years ago to bring my then Fiance to our wedding.

Enjoy your Visit to our town, I hope you find a suitable solution for your transportation needs.

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We have been to the gardens in on Labor Day weekend and they were gorgeous! I vividly remember the HUGE blooming dahlias (dinner plate). Our young daughters with us and they enjoyed it as well. We may go again this September.

We have also been in December at night and it was lovely as well, although a bit chilly.

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@5arbusto You will be there quite a while and you may be able to fit some other excursions in as well. Victoria is a lovely town for walking. We also enjoyed the British Museum.

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Posted (edited)
On 6/5/2022 at 11:54 AM, nini said:

@5arbusto You will be there quite a while and you may be able to fit some other excursions in as well. Victoria is a lovely town for walking. We also enjoyed the British Museum.

 

At this point in time much of the many interesting displays in the Royal British Columbia Museum are closed and the entire Museum will be closed in September. This was recently announced and is definitely a very contentious issue. They intend to store most of the artifacts, loan others and perhaps repatriate others. The existing building will then be demolished and a new museum built on the site all at a cost of close to a billion dollars. If this actually happens there will be no Royal British Columbia for 8 years (Assuming the demolition and construction go off completely as planned).

Edited by Blackduck59
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1 hour ago, Blackduck59 said:

 

At this point in time much of the many interesting displays in the Royal British Columbia Museum are closed and the entire Museum will be closed in September. This was recently announced and is definitely a very contentious issue. They intend to store most of the artifacts, loan others and perhaps repatriate others. The existing building will then be demolished and a new museum built on the site all at a cost of close to a billion dollars. If this actually happens there will be no Royal British Columbia for 8 years (Assuming the demolition and construction go off completely as planned).

Oh no! How crazy... We so enjoyed the museum with our daughters when we were there. I can see how this is a very contentious issue... especially considering the cost to rebuild! Ouch!

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2 minutes ago, nini said:

Oh no! How crazy... We so enjoyed the museum with our daughters when we were there. I can see how this is a very contentious issue... especially considering the cost to rebuild! Ouch!

 

I spent a lot of time in the museum in my youth, it was free then. I really enjoyed the "Old Town" and the "Ship", unfortunately as good as it was in the 1970s it hadn't changed much in almost 50 years. So for a local like me the cost of admission wasn't worth it. Of course for anyone visiting for the first time it really was a good display. That portion of the museum that was full of wonder and surprises in my youth is already closed and they are packing the artifacts as I write this.

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  • 1 month later...
48 minutes ago, 40yearcruiser said:

We will be in Victoria on Norwegian Bliss on Sept. 9 only from 8 pm until midnight. Is there anything we can do safely from the port in that timeframe? 

I can't believe they can even call that a port visit. Victoria is a safe town, but with the location of the port and the late hour most of the shops will be closed and the best you could hope for is a "scenic drive". It is port visits like this that make those who live in the vicinity of the port resent the cruise ships and their exhaust fumes. Very few passengers will even leave the ship and those interested in actually visiting Victoria miss seeing our beautiful city. Enjoy your cruise, I'm just sorry you will miss out on proper chance to visit here.

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On 8/5/2022 at 7:08 PM, 40yearcruiser said:

We will be in Victoria on Norwegian Bliss on Sept. 9 only from 8 pm until midnight. Is there anything we can do safely from the port in that timeframe? 

 

Typical NCL, sorry that isn't a port visit for pax to enjoy a port, that simply a stop to comply with US Cabotage Laws. Even the 20:00 arrival is never guaranteed, especially if you experience any seas in the Pacific Ocean, or winds off the Victoria breakwater.

 

Other than a scenic drive in the dark, you have a few pubs and craft breweries providing great beers.

 

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