Day 3 of our Canada adventure saw us explore Vancouver Island, just to the north of the United States border and to the west of Vancouver. The ferry to Schwartz Bay on Vancouver Island left at 7am, which meant we were up at 4.50am in order to dress and grab a taxi down to the terminal. Again, we have been blessed with the weather conditions, with the sun rising to another stunning day. Seeing the sun rise over the mountain ranges to the east was just magical, and the hour-and-a-half to Schwartz Bay passed very quickly.
We grabbed a taxi at the terminal and drove to the first stop on our itinerary today – the Butchart Gardens.
These beautiful gardens have been delighting visitors for over 100 years and are still family owned. The original owners, Robert and Jennie Butchart, gradually transformed the old limestone quarry into a stunning vista that now covers 22 hectares. The site has since been declared a National Historic Site of Canada, and attracts close on a million visitors a year. There is something to see at all times of the year in the gardens, and the fall colours didn’t disappoint!
Unfortunately, due to our tight schedule today, we were not able to stay any longer than two hours, but we’d thoroughly recommend at least half a day or more in this stunning location.
During our taxi ride down to the gardens, we’d managed to talk our driver, Amit, into returning for us at 11am to drive us down to the wharf in British Columbia’s capital Victoria for our next activity – a whale watching tour. We had a spare 15 minutes before the tour started, which left us just enough time to take photos of the beautiful harbour, the Empress Hotel, and the parliamentary building.
Our adventure on the water could not have gone better – the waters were completely calm, the skies blue, and fortunately, whale sightings were plentiful. We saw a total of eight humpback whales during the three and a half hours we were on the water, including a pod of three whales, which our naturalist guide Valerie said was highly unusual. The whales are slowly making a come-back in the region, growing from a solitary whale during the late 1990s to close to 400 whales today. We also detoured past the lighthouse to see colonies of seals sunning themselves on the rocks, and the region’s one lone sea otter snoozing among the floating kelp.
Keep in mind that these images are zoomed right in – the boats are not allowed to drive closer than a few hundred metres from these magnificent animals. Unfortunately, no orcas, but it was still an amazing experience. Highly recommend Prince of Whales for whale watching tours, as they were excellent.
We returned to Victoria harbour just in time to jump in our seaplane for our return journey to Vancouver. It was our first time in a seaplane, and the clarity of the skies made for some beautiful scenes as we soared over the many islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
While the conditions on board the seaplane were cramped, it was still a great 30-minute trip back and got us back into Vancouver just in time to catch the dying rays of the sun as we walked along the seawall at Coal Harbour back to our hotel.
We were spoiled for choice when deciding what to have for dinner but ended up settling with an Aussie pie (yes, we know, Aussies on holiday eating at an Aussie meat pie shop) topped with lashings of gravy, mashed potato and mashed peas.
Tomorrow we tackle the Capilano suspension bridge and the gondola at Grouse Mountain, before checking into the host hotel at Burnaby ahead of the start of the Hearties Family Reunion on Friday. Kristyn’s Canadian relatives have kindly insisted on driving us and our luggage to the hotel (however, I suspect they don’t know that we’ve been souvenir shopping since we last saw them).
Hope you are all liking our adventures – please leave a comment below.