Your Victoria B&B hosts

It might be said that your Victoria B&B hosts are a motley crew. This photo is surely proof of that. Further, we represent a motley selection of bed and breakfasts.

Here you see most of us, your Victoria B&B hosts, members of the Greater Victoria Bed and Breakfasts Association (three B&Bs were absent here). We were enjoying a cool but delightful tour of the Butchart Gardens followed by a splendid seafood barbeque at Corbett House B&B. (Here I should mention that Darren Corbett can provide all our guests with a three hour sailing trip on his 30 yacht at a special rate.)

I described our B&Bs as motley. One dictionary definition is acceptable made up of units not alike for we are all different, but Im not so sure about of different colours like a clowns suit.

In common, we Saanich Peninsula innkeepers operate a variety of B&Bs just north of the city of Victoria, in quiet country areas or small communities (the peninsula is about 30km / 20 miles north to south). We all provide a full breakfast along with accommodation, and we all offer free smiles.

However we are different in so many smaller respects. Some are near the ocean or lakes, others in rural countryside; some are modern, others traditional; some may (?) accept children though I think none accept pets; guest amenities naturally vary; all probably have wireless internet and some have greater business facilities; some have gardens; some offer packages and massages; some are near Victoria, others near Sidney.

To illustrate these differences I’m posing a quiz for you, with one question per B&B. The “questionable” value in this is that they may be one you relate to in searching for the ideal bed and breakfast in the Victoria area.

1. Which B&B has a landscaped train set in its gardens?
2. Where do ocean waves virtually lap up to your window?
3. Here your hosts speak Dutch, un petit peu Francais, und ein klein bischen Deutsch.
4. The only bed & breakfast I know offering a guest car wash.
5. Sleep in a Loft with five acres of parkland in sight.
6. Here you enjoy breakfast overlooking Brentwood Bay.
7. Your host speaks French (from birth), Spanish and even a touch of Bulgarian.

Answers are to be found at your chosen Saanich Peninsula bed and breakfast!

Victoria Butterfly Gardens

The Victoria Butterfly Gardens gives a wonderful sense of the tropics even if it should be cloudy on a typical day here on Vancouver Island. Close your eyes and imagine …

You open the doors and are immediately struck by the humid tropical heat and by the wonderful smells of jungle plants. Then a butterfly flutters before your eyes and in the distance you hear birds calling. This is Butterfly Gardens.

This delightful place is close to the Butchart Gardens on the Saanich Peninsula just north of Victoria. So consider them both as a perfect days package on your visit to Victoria.

Tropical plants like banana plants, vines, palms and over 200 species of orchids provide the lush setting in which you will see 3,000 butterflies from 75 species. There are many moths – look out for the Atlas Moth, the largest in the world and read about its fascinating life cycle. See and hear charming birds including parrots, flamingoes and ducks swimming in the stream and pond, frogs and tortoises. Look at the Insectarium.

Download their app if you wish, then pay the Gardens a visit. Welcome to the jungle! Your bed and breakfast hosts will be pleased to tell you more.

Blues Bayou Café

You might think the name of Blue’s Bayou Café is a reference to a genre of Louisiana music. Blue is actually the name of chef and owner Blue Benoit who operates Blues Bayou Cafe together with his partner Lorill Fraser. Together, they’ve imported authentic Cajun/Creole cuisine at its very best – right down to the ragin’ Cajun alligator sausage – to the Victoria restaurant mix.

And when we say ‘Victoria’, we actually mean a scenic little hideaway at a marina in Brentwood Bay, about 25 minutes from downtown Victoria but about four minutes from the Butchart Gardens. In fact, it’s so close to the gardens, on a summer Saturday evening, you can enjoy superb dining on Blue’s harbour-side outdoor deck and take in the Butchart Gardens fireworks display.

The restaurant’s genesis lay in a 1997 trip the Calgary couple made to New Orleans. The Cajun cooking inspired them so much that, after a move to Victoria, they established Blue’s Bayou Café. Since then, the two have been back to New Orleans many times with a mission to collect ideas and funky, wild bayou decor to adorn the restaurant walls. The marine character of the immediate area – a salt-water marina is next door – only adds to the ambiance.

Since Blue is the chef, the quality of what goes on the plate is always paramount. Victoria’s local daily newspaper has given Blue’s Bayou a four-star rating. Joining the alligator sausage on the appetizer menu is ‘Voodoo dippin’ cauldron’, Creole Queen crab cakes and ‘French Quarter’ fried green tomatoes. Of course, no Cajun menu is complete without Jambalaya, but other dishes with a creole character include seafood cannelloni, horse-radish encrusted fish, bayou chicken, ‘Southern Comfort’ loin of lamb and ‘Blackened Voodoo’ beef tenderloin. Po’boys are on the lunch menu, along with a superb ‘Big Easy’ shrimp melt, and gator gumbo.

If you’re headed to Butchart Gardens, Blues Bayou Cafe is a tasty stop before or after your gardens visit.

Messing about on the water

Victoria whale-watching and kayaking are two popular pursuits of visitors and residents alike on southern Vancouver Island: messing about on the water is such fun. The reasons are fairly obvious in different ways.

Exploring the coastline gives a different perspective of the island, a new way to enjoy its beauty. Taking a whale-watching trip adds a thrill to this.

Orca Spirit have their base in Victorias Inner Harbour where the fun begins. You will be in the hands of a long-established whale watching company whose skippers / naturalists will give you a memorable experience whether on their covered ocean cruisers or on a zodiac.

It is unusual not to see whales but they do not breach before your eyes to order! There are three pods (families) of residents and passing transcient orcas so you can hope for the rare whale soup of up to 80 killer whales. Humpback whales appear quite often and you may well see porpoises and seals too. Tours usually visit Race Rocks where sea lions, Steller and California, are draped on the rocks by the lighthouse. And look out for a variety of marine birds. It is a trip you will long remember.

A change of pace comes from peaceful kayaking around our shores. Each summer I rent a kayak from Pacifica Paddle in the glorious setting of the Saanich Inlet at Brentwood Bay, near the Butchart Gardens. The scenery is splendid, the waters warmer and placid and the other vessels not overwhelming.

This summer I went alone to explore Todd Inlet behind the Butchart Gardens where they had the cement factory and jetty 100 years ago. A couple of weeks later my wife and I joined friends on their boat and we moored in the inlet to watch the Gardens fireworks overhead.

There are so many ways to explore the Vancouver Island coastline off-shore, sailing and fishing trips too. Do ensure you include one of these on your visit to Victoria.

Visiting Victoria wineries

Visiting Victoria wineries has been one of the great success stories for tourism on southern Vancouver Island. A few years ago there were very few vineyards on the island but now, for example, one of our member bed and breakfasts has four on their road alone.

Our local Saanich Peninsula vineyards are typically small family affairs who are rightly proud of their craft and are pleased to share stories with you as you sample their wines. Your bed and breakfast hosts can help you plan a Victoria wine tours itinerary to visit the local vineyards.

Imagine the setting: driving around the rolling countryside of the peninsula (north of Victoria, south of Sidney) through its farmland and small communities. Every ten minutes or so you pull into a winery or perhaps a fruit stand for some sustaining fresh fruit for your travels. You are then greeted at a tasting room, probably by the family winery operators. With pride, they tell you about their vineyard: its soils and setting, its grapes and, most importantly, its wines.

Do not think that these small wine-making operations produce inferior wines compared to the large wineries; they often win awards internationally. Most BC wines are white, light and fruity.

Visiting Victoria wineries is always a delight. You can also tour local cideries, two distilleries and even a meadery all in the Greater Victoria area.

So plan a few hours to tour them all and sample their wares. Buy a bottle to enjoy in the evening at your bed and breakfast and take a few souvenirs home. Bear in mind that some of these wineries are only open on summer weekends so plan accordingly ask your Victoria bed and breakfast hosts about this.

If Victoria wineries are not to your taste, there are many craft breweries with a large selection of beers, in Victoria and on the Saanich Peninsula.