Winter on Vancouver Island

Winter on Vancouver Island usually means one thing – rain, rain, and more rain! I’ve tried to make friends with this wet stuff. Honestly, I have. Sadly, my attempts have always been short-lived. The frequent reminder that “you don’t need to shovel rain” doesn’t help. It’s hard to blame me. Here’s a sample of our weather forecast for the next 24-hours:

An intense front will approach the south coast tonight bringing strong winds and heavy rain. Rain will spread throughout the south coast by this evening and become heavy overnight. Heavy rain is forecast to continue with total amounts near 80 mm by the next morning. Localized flooding in low-lying areas is possible. Winds up to 80 km/h expected tonight. (Environment Canada – Public Alerts)

Sigh!

In the spirit of never surrendering, I bring you this series of my (old and new) favourite things to do in the winter on Vancouver Island. I’ll start with a four-season local treasure that has been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.

BUTCHART GARDENS, Brentwood Bay (Victoria)

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Photo Credit: http://www.butchartgardens.com.

Never underestimate the power of one woman with passion and a vision.

In 1904, Robert and Jennie Butchart moved from Ontario to Vancouver Island to build a cement plant on the rich limestone at Tod Inlet. In 1912, when the limestone deposits had been largely depleted, Jennie envisioned a sizeable sunken garden at the site of the quarry. She began transferring soil by horse and cart.

Today, Jennie’s garden is owned by her family members who have continued to add to its offerings. There are currently fifty-five acres of gardens, nine hundred bedding plant varieties and over one million visitors per year. There’s even a carousel…and weekly summer fireworks! The busiest time for the gardens is spring/summer when a large variety of plants are in full bloom. However, the gardens are open all year round and include a magnificent Christmas Light display from December 1 – January 6.

Richard’s and my late November visit was perfect for us having much of the gardens to ourselves while being immersed in enchantment and tranquility. At this time of year, you might imagine these historic gardens to be drab and colourless.

I can assure you that they were anything but….

Although stacks of see-through umbrellas were available to us immediately upon arrival, the rain miraculously held off during our entire visit. Storms did start up again shortly after we had reached our car, but I was so zenned out from our trip to the gardens, that I really didn’t mind.

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My plan to focus on (and post about) winter activities that I love, might just be the thing to help me make friends with rain. Please stay tuned!

100 Replies to “Winter on Vancouver Island”

    1. Hi, Jill – Once again your positivity and wisdom shine through! When we open ourselves to it, there is often a silver lining. Lush vegetation is one benefit of all of our rain. When we were away for six weeks this past October-November, it hardly rained at all (very unusual). I thought that our local friends and neighbours would have been thrilled. But many had quite the opposite reaction. They know that the shrubs greenery, wildlife, etc. need the winter rains to stay healthy and vital!
      I hope that your break is going well….and I am glad that you are still reading so that we can keep in touch through the holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Your post made me think, Donna…..Not too thrilled with the wind ….possible power outages, ferry havoc. Mind set for me with the rain: bring out the cute rain clothes (you and your husband look great in your photo:); a good excuse to cocoon….read, have tea; comforting, white noise of rain on the roof; photos are supposed to turn out better when cloudy, rainy (amateur advice:). Love your take and the photos of Butchart Gardens, especially black and white versus colour photo. Found out recently that if you bring children to Butchart in December, they get a free hot chocolate if they bring a homemade snowflake. I look forward to staying tuned to see how you make friends with the rain🙂🌂

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    1. Hi, Erica – That’s a great tip about the ‘homemade snowflakes.’ I will let our son and daughter-in-law know as they plan to take our granddaughter to Butchart’s this weekend. I love your positive attitude about rain. I’m working on it! Your suggestion about ‘cute rain clothes’ has given me some ideas for my letter to Santa! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Anabel – I’m glad that you’ve had the chance to visit Butchart’s. Fingers crossed that you get out this way again sometime in the future. I would love to meet up! I believe that we are both surrounded by a similar amount of rain. I just double checked — we have an average of 17 – 26 rainy days each month in the autumn/winter. Seriously, it feels like even more!

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  2. Hi Donna – I love your header photo for this post and the photo of you and Richard. Did you have someone else take that photo for you two or did you set a self-timer on your camera? I haven’t been back to Victoria for a long time. When I was there last, it was in May and the Butchart Gardens were magnificent. They look wonderful in the winter in your photos, just in time for the holidays. We had some snow flurries today but no accumulation, high temps this week about 2C. I look forward to reading more about the winter activities that you love.

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    1. Hi, Natalie – Thank you for your kind words. I got lucky with the header photo. The scenery begged to be photographed! For the shot of Richard and me, we were struggling to take a selfie…when a random stranger took pity on us and helped us out. Our daily temperatures have hovered around 8 – 12 degrees Celsius this week. We are predicted to dip down to the 2’s on the weekend…I am not looking forward to that part!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That photo is beautiful and caught my eye immediately, Donna. I love black and white sometimes because it presents a flourish that sometimes color cannot, which is both ironic and wonderful all at the same time. Nice job!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thanks, Marty – The gardens truly did call out to be photographed. It was a good thing that attendance was low when we were there. The time that it took me to set up some shots would have driven tourist crowds crazy!!

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  3. I don’t know if I could live where it rained so much in the winter. We are actually getting rain today in Maine on top of some earlier snowfall this morning. It is miserable! I would much rather have snow since it is very pretty and usually after a storm the sun comes out and it is dazzling. But it is important to find activities that you can enjoy in spite of the weather. Glad you were doing that and I will try to do the same. I’m meeting a friend for lunch I haven’t seen for a long time and it’s making this miserable day much more enjoyable.

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  4. What a beautiful garden. I’ve always wanted to visit Vancouver Island, but not in the rainy season. The desert southwest has spoiled me with low precipitation and abundant sunshine, but I do occasionally miss that lush vegetation.

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    1. Hi, Ingrid – I highly recommend Vancouver Island for your bucket list. There are always tons of things to do. It is also a wonderful place to chill out and relax. Our summer weather brings even more activities…and allows full enjoyment of our beautiful beaches. The summer weather also brings out the crowds…seems like there is always a trade-off! If you do visit, please be sure to contact me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Donna – yes rain and rain and rain … yet now – it isn’t … but the clouds are still there. Butchart is wonderful isn’t it … and I love going out in the little boat around the harbour … check out my December post and give me an email please as there’ll be a story there – now you’ve reminded me … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Donna – the restaurant is only open at the weekends and will have functions – so you may need to wait til next year … probably better – when you read the #WATWB post on Friday and then the first in December … this become more obvious … cheers – Hilary

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  6. Too much of any specific weather makes me want change. I love a good rain after days of relentless sun. The first snow is wonderful but constant bombardment during the winter gets old. Making the most out of what you have is always the key. These gardens are wonderful in any weather!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Donna,
    Vancouver is on my “bucket list”…don’t know if the boat will make it, but possibly we’ll get there if we make this long RV trip we are talking about a reality next year or the year after. Despite the rain, you make it look very appealing, and the gardens are so interesting and worth visiting!
    Never let the weather get you down! It’s fascinating and awe-inspiring at times. When we are on the boat the weather pulls us in closer to nature; modern life tends to insulate us literally and figuratively from the environment.
    So, I think that I’ll have to start campaigning with Dan to make the trip to VI.
    Have a great day!
    Nancy

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  8. Beautiful gardens! I think that’s why I love where I live so much, we get heat and rain but no snow, although if I want to experience the snow it is only a couple of hours drive away. Constant rain would depress me I think – unless I had a fireplace and a library 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

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  9. We were lucky enough to visit Butchart gardens a few years ago. I thought they were absolutely amazing. Greetings from a very rainy England.

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  10. Lovely, Donna! I hope to visit Butchart Gardens one day when I come to the Island to visit my daughter. It’s raining a lot in Ontario too – has been a very dreary, grey November! But, as you noted, you don’t have to shovel it! 🙂

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  11. It’s wonderful to see Butchart Gardens featured like this—it’s a much loved feature of our beautiful area! And about the rain, does it help to visualize the trees drinking in all of that water? Our trees are huge because this is a rainforest…I try to think of that when I get fed up with the rain!

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  12. Hi Donna, I don’t experience the cold and sometimes extreme weather that you do in Winter but I do love the idea of Northern Winters and have visited Europe and the US during this time of year. I’m looking forward to your posts about Winter on Vancouver Island and hope to visit you to see for myself. Thank you for supporting and being part of our #MLSTL community and stay safe and warm. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi, Sue – By Canadian standards, our Island winters are generally mild…but wet. Today is 12 degrees Celsius…when much of Canada has already hit freezing temperatures. I just need to keep reminding myself of this when I am drenched! 🙂 The thought of you visiting warms me up already!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I lived most of my life childhood on Vancouver Island in a town that got over 180 inches of rain a year-never noticed. Then I moved to Singapore which rains every day 🙂 I love the rain, but I grew up with it.

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    1. Hi, Lynn – Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I greatly appreciate you doing this. I’m impressed that you are so hard core about rain. As much as I try to work around it, it always seems to be a torrential rainfall when I really need to be outside! 🙂

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  15. Hi Donna, it’s always good to read posts about somewhere I’ve never been. Hopefully I’ll get there one day! Just so you don’t feel alone, we are experiencing one of the worst storms in years. We’re currently visiting my MIL and can’t leave due to heavy rain, storms, flooding and road closures. I like some rain but like you, it can get a bit too much at times. We have had some diabolical weather in the past week with bushfires still raging up north, dust storms and wind, and now this massive rain system passing over us. I know I wrote about the severe weather last week and luckily I have to say I’m in a much better place this week, mentally and physically! I love your photos and the stories you’ve written in this post 🙂 #mlstl

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    1. Hi, Debbie – Thank you for sharing this. I’m always aware that there are true weather disasters in so many places, and that I should be grateful for the rain that we have. I then resolve not to whine so much. Then it pours again….and I quickly forget my resolve (at least temporarily)! I hope that your heavy storms and flooding have subsided and that all are safe!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. The gardens are amazing, Donna, definitely a place to visit once I cross that Canadian border some day! We are thankful for the rain that has finally fallen here in California, driving out the hideous smoke and putting out the fires. Beautiful shots, too, even the way the B&W ones look!

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    1. Hi, Dee – I am definitely on a mission to become friends with rain. The last couple of days went well. Then today it POURED during my dog-walking shift at our local animal shelter. I tried to convince the dogs that they might want I shorter walk. They assured me that they wanted no such things. So wet we got!! 🙂

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  17. Ah, Donna, as a VI-lifer (pretty close) I grew to love and appreciate the rain… until this online life found me friends with people in California, and Canadians in the DR, etc… all wearing tanks and spaghetti straps right now while I sit huddled in turtle necks and fleece.
    Be sure to check out Milner Gardens Christmas Magic – it’s close to you and will brighten up any dreary evening!

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    1. Hi, Agnes – Vancouver Island does have its share of bloggers who inhabit this little corner of the internet. We will all have to get together IRL!
      I LOVE Milner Gardens Christmas Magic. We attend every year and look forward to attending again soon. I am off to visit your site now.

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  18. What a beautiful post. Love the way you used black and white photography to suggest that perhaps the gardens might be drab and colorless this time of year. Clever. Glad you have this lovely, lively space to bring cheer to your days of less than cheery weather.
    El Paso, is where I call home. It is known as the Sun City for something like 300 days of sunshine a year. We savor the occasional rainy day or afternoon thunderstorm!

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  19. I have never been to Vancouver, but it is on my list. I love your attitude of making peace with the weather you are given. We have had an unusually wet summer and fall, and now a very early and very cold winter. The rain did get on my nerves after a while and flooding in the area didn’t help. Your post reminds me that there is beauty in every season. MLSTL

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  20. Talk about the perfect approach to rain and winter, Donna! Luckily, there are some fun activities on the island for all seasons. Mark and I stayed in Brentwood Bay for a few days while we visited with boating friends, but we didn’t visit the (pricey) gardens. It would be nice to see it all lit up, though. My friend and I did walk along the back side of it in a park I forgot the name of, while she told me the story of Jennie and her garden. 🙂

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    1. Hi, Liesbet – I’m glad that you and Mark got out to Brentwood Bay when you were here. Walking along the back side of the garden, and getting the story of Jennie and the Butcharts was an excellent thing to do, especially in Summer/Early Fall when the admission prices are at their highest. Are you at your home sit now?
      I look forward to reading your next post and catching up on what you are currently doing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, we have been in Ojai (an hour west of Santa Barbara) for a little over a week and are about halfway of this house sit. Then, we will move to San Diego for three weeks.

        We are “desperately” looking for a warm sit afterwards and almost secured one today. The home owner picked us out of a big group of applicants, but Zesty doesn’t fit in her driveway, and her town – Pasadena – does not allow RVs (if you can even call our van that) on their streets at night. 😦

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  21. I REALLY need to win Lotto and come and visit you Donna – those gardens are just superb and I love that they began by making a quarry into something beautiful. Instead of leaving behind an ugly mess, they have left a legacy for millions to admire – Jenny must have been an amazing woman.
    MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Butchart Gardens although this is the first time I’ve seen photos from late fall. It clearly shows that it has more to offer than just your usual summer blossoms.

    Endless rain does start to wear on the spirit after a while. I hope you see a bit of sunshine soon!

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    1. Hi, Joanne – Your comment immediately reminded me of why I blog. I just came back from a gathering with a group of island friends (whom I adore). Their view of our local rain is much different than mine. Many of them tried to reassure me that our rain is not that bad and could be worse (aka ‘snow’). I was not trying to be disrespectful of our Island in my comments (quite the opposite). I was simply trying to say “endless rain starts to wear on the spirit after a while.” Thank you for this!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I get it, Donna. We all put on a brave face and accept the weather for what it is – but that doesn’t mean we always have to like it. I made my peace with November weather a long time ago, but I still crave the occasional day of sunshine in this gloomy gray month 🌞

        Liked by 1 person

  23. Hi Donna, gorgeous pictures – that garden is a testament to the loving devotion of the Butchart’s – and the rain of course. I love strolling through show gardens and seeing the care and attention to detail. Not only show gardens .. I’m thinking of a postage size garden of a friend of mine. It is so beautiful and immediately calming. Many gardens here in my neck of the woods are large and we have gardeners to help take care of it. A costly exercise. We moved from our large home to a smaller one 5 1/2 years ago. Our old home was over an acre in size. It always delighted me to see trees, plants, shrubs and flowers bloom at different seasons.

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    1. Hi, Susan – That’s it exactly! “So calming!” Richard and I had had a fun but hectic/rushed weekend. As soon as we began strolling the gardens….instant tranquility!! Now, if only we could bottle that stuff!! Thank you so much for commenting. I hope that all is well with you. 🙂

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  24. Hi Donna, I didn’t realise Vancouver Island would have so much rain, I thought there would be more of the white flakey stuff 🙂 The photographs of the gardens are beautiful and quite surprising considering the time of year. So much colour and the black and white ones are very dramatic.

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    1. Hi, Sam – We do get some snow on this section of Vancouver Island…but mostly rain! Overall, Vancouver Island has the warmest climate in BC and Canada. Close to 25% of the world’s temperate rainforest is in BC.
      See the cool facts that we can learn from blogging?! It’s a great excuse if anyone ever questions us on our hours spent! 🙂
      I’m off to reply to your email now! Of course, I’m saying “YES!”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m going straight to a map to look more closely at where Vancouver island is – cool facts!! Donna, I love Canada, we’ve been to Whistler & Fernie snowboarding & going again next Feb, but I’d love to travel & see more of the country during the Spring/Summer months, spend a few months there. I seem to be drawn to any photos or info I come across about beautiful Canada. So far away for us though, but it’s there at the top of my list 😊 Yeahyyy great, over to email 👏x

        Liked by 1 person

  25. Oh boy, do I understand this! Down here, in Seattle, its the same thing. The past couple years we have been fleeing to Tucson to avoid the constant gray and rain. We have been to Vancouver, many many times, and love it! But always in the summer 🤣 We will be there at the end of July for our anniversary, hanging out in Granville💕

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    1. Hi, Dee Dee – Yes! Living in Seattle you will totally get it! For the past three years, my husband and I have done a October-November Home Exchange in Palm Desert, California. We thought that we were clever chopping off six weeks of rain. This year, it hardly rained at all while we were gone. It saved it all up until we got back! Next year we will need to make a completely different plan! 🙂 Remind me in July when you will be in Vancouver. If I’m out that way, it would be lovely to meet for coffee!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi Donna! Finally getting around to catching up with my reading list 😉 and thought I’d pop in here with a comment. I’m guessing you know how I feel about rain and cold. But then I also strongly believe that while we can’t always change our circumstances we can ALWAYS change our response!!!! So I’m certain that you will find a way to be at peace and maybe even LOVE the weather this winter. OR, it might just encourage you to do another home exchange during this time next year. ~Kathy

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  27. It sounds like a weather forecast for Swansea, Donna. I think we live in places that have similar climates. In fact, Swansea is said to be the wettest city in the UK.

    Now, those gardens you visited looked superb. And guess what? We have a place called Clyne Gardens, about a five-minute walk from where we live. Very busy in the spring, summer, and early autumn, but come winter we’re often the only people there walking the dogs. Like you say, it has its beauty, even in the winter.

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  28. Lots of rain and gray days, without the sun, might be a bit tough for me. I have read about Butchart Gardens but have yet to see it. Hopefully one day soon. I look forward to hearing more stories about winter activities in your neck of the woods. We lived in Yellowstone National Park for a couple of years and embraced the winter sports. Even though the weather was cold, the sun shone many days, which makes all the difference.

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  29. Beautiful Butchart! The photographs are stunning, Donna! I especially like the way you’ve used b/w to emphasise the colour that is still to be seen at this time of year. There are advantages to living somewhere where it rains a lot but I can quite understand your frustration and boredom with the wet. We have had a lot of rain recently (though we do need it to fill our empty pond). I have a filthy muddy car and I have realised my favourite boots leak!

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