It'll eat up your entire day, basically.
The logistics is that it'll take 3-4 hours one way, about 1-2 hours at the gardens, and 3-4 hours on your way back to Vancouver.
Downtown Vancouver to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal = 45 minute drive
Waiting for the ferry = depends (anywhere from 30 minutes to hours)
Ferry ride from the BC mainland to Vancouver Island = 1.5 hours
Disembarking the ferry = 5-10 minutes
Drive from ferry to Butchart Gardens = 20 minutes approx
If Butchart Gardens is what you want, this is how you can do it.
There are numerous tours that can take you there. You can also fly via Harbour Air - a flight from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria is only 35 minutes (and beautifully scenic) - then it's about a 45 minute bus ride from downtown Victoria to Butchart Gardens via public transit.
The one question I like to ask people who are considering Butchart from Vancouver is this: how important is it to you that you see THE Butchart Gardens?
If you just want to see beautiful botanical gardens but you don't want to spend all the time in transit, I'd recommend just sticking around Vancouver and visiting both Queen Elizabeth Park and VanDusen Botanical Gardens.
Queen Elizabeth Park is a 10 minute drive south of downtown Vancouver and is free to visit. It features sunken rock quarry gardens, similar to Butcharts, and it's on top of the highest peak of Vancouver proper, so it provides a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
VanDusen costs about $12 per person for entry and is also a 10 minute drive south of downtown Vancouver. It's the type of garden where every species is labeled and the gardens are broken up into themes.
While they're not as famous as Butchart, they're no less beautiful in my opinion.
Queen Elizabeth Park:
And for what it's worth, there's also UBC Botanical Garden, the Nitobe Japanese Garden, and the Dr Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese gardens... but if you want to replicate a Butchart experience in Vancouver, Queen Elizabeth Park & VanDusen would be ideal substitutes.
Thank you for that very comprehensive answer. We expressed what I had suspected -- too much travel time for too little reward. We'll stick with what Vancouver's gardens have to offer, which seems quite sufficient.
One more suggestion - if you do get to Queen Elizabeth Park, I do recommend the Seasons in the Park restaurant if you're hungry, even if it's just for a glass of wine and an appetizer. Sit on the patio, if it's open (and nice outside)!
It's not often I recommend restaurants with views, but this is one of the rare few in Vancouver where the service, food, and view are superb.
Also, I should have mentioned that both Queen Elizabeth Park (which you can realistically viewin about 30 minutes) and VanDusen (which you can see in 1-2 hours) combined provide you with essentially the same thing as Butchart. Queen E Park has the sunken rock quarry gardens and the view, but VanDusen labels everything and is really a botanists kind of garden... not sure if I emphasized the "combined" aspect. The two are only a short drive away from one another - less than 10 minutes.
Of course, even if you just visit one, I'm sure you'll have fun. :)Edited: 24 April 2011, 11:24
Thanks, I'll run these by my husband, the botanist, and see whcih he prefers. We'll have a car, so I'm thinking we can do both.
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