Traveled Sept, 2016
My parents were visiting me for 9 days over Labor Day and I always like to take them on some sightseeing trip. In the past, we had been all over Washington and Oregon state, so I started researching and decided we could make an 8 day trip to Vancouver Island. All of us had been to Victoria and Butchart Gardens in the past, but at different times of year, so I put together an itinerary that would visit Butchart in a different time and then see some of the natural wonders of Vancouver Island.
We had to wake up very early to drive in the dark to get to Anacortes for the morning ferry. The Canadian ports have more departures but Anacortes was more convenient for us and also cheaper as my parents were eligible for the senior rates. The ride was beautiful and we stopped in Friday Harbor to pick up more passengers.
From Sidney, we found a place to have a picnic lunch and then headed to Butchart Gardens. It was important to visit the gardens on a summer Saturday night, as there was free evening entertainment included in the price. Today would be the last night this summer. We spent the afternoon lazing our way around the park, enjoying the flowers and the early fall colors.
In late afternoon, a local band went on, playing surfer themed songs from the Beach Boys to Jimmy Buffet. The Gardens allow you to bring food in so we picnicked for dinner as well.
After the music, everyone heads over to a big open field and as soon as it got dark, an Aladdin themed fireworks show began. Not only were there they typical fireworks shot in the air, but also shapes and special effects near the ground. At one point it looked like the surrounding forest was on fire. I joked that it would be unfortunate if the forest was really on fire but we were all just sitting there thinking it was part of the show.
The next show is an organ concert at a barn in one of the gardens. The fireworks crowd had considerably thinned by that time, only a few dozen stuck around for the organ that played older songs including some flower themed songs.
It was getting late by this time, but we rushed around to see some of the gardens lit by lights and then headed to Victoria to our hotel for a late check-in.
We had a great breakfast by the river at the Econo Suites, watching this swan a-swimming.
Heading northeast from here, there were good views and we stopped in Duncan to do a walking tour to see the local totem poles.
We drove further north to Parksville and stopped at the Little Qualicum Cheese Works and Mooberry Winery to sample the cheese and wine. We bought some cheese and vegetables and headed west.
Our next stop was the market in Coombs. This place is the biggest tourist trap. Busloads of people come to see the goats on the roof and get ice cream. We stopped here again on our way back from Port Alberni and had a pleasant time at the fruit stand without the crowds since we arrived so early. The fall crops were coming out – apples, squashes, etc.
We stopped at two provincial parks on the way to Port Alberni, our stop for the night.
First was Little Qualicum Falls – the falls were just OK.
Second was Cathedral Grove – there was a great short walk thru these amazingly tall trees.
The best of all is that the BC provincial parks are free!