Credit to Author: Dave Pottinger| Date: Mon, 09 Sep 2019 20:30:57 +0000
Less than an hour after arriving by ferry at Swartz Bay, I am poolside at Brentwood Bay Resort. No need to venture much further because the next two days are filled with activities—including a hidden gem— and evenings set to kick back and relax.
Even non-gardeners love Butchart Gardens, which is just around the corner but can take ages if you’re stuck in traffic. Instead, a tranquil cruise across the Bay leaves mornings and afternoons from Brentwood Marina with added sailings (until the end of September) for the stellar Saturday night fireworks, and you can purchase tickets to the Gardens at the Marina.
There are two restaurants at the Gardens, both showcasing ingredients from their own backyard, in formal afternoon teas or picnic baskets for the fireworks.
The Blue Poppy restaurant is a former greenhouse filled with sunlight and garden views and you can easily spend the day here, but the Butterfly Gardens is also nearby, and it’s not just for kids.
Besides thousands of butterflies flitting about, look high for tropical birds and low for tortoises, turtles, iguanas and the impressive insectarium, complete with busy leaf-cutter ants.
Back at the resort check out the local craft beer scene at the Brentwood Pub, with Douglas fir timbers and a marina view from soaring windows or the heated patio with outdoor fire pit.
Next morning, with kayaks from the marina, we paddle the eastern and southern shore of Brentwood Bay to the hidden gem – peaceful, tree-lined Tod Inlet, which is accessible by boat or by a little-known walking trail in Gowlland Tod Provincial Park. We pass clusters of jellyfish and sea stars along the shore. A few inquisitive seals pop their heads up while eagles and great blue herons perch high in arbutus, Douglas fir and red cedar trees. We only hear our paddles dipping the calm, deep waters.
Further down the inlet we pass the remains of the piers of a old cement plant loading docks operated by the Butchart family. A limestone quarry operated here in the late 1800s, and after the quarry’s industrial use ended in 1912 (and moved across the Sannich inlet to Bamberton) it became the foundation for the Butchart Gardens. Reminders of this area’s pioneer activities can still be found in the park, which is home to dozens of plant species, some rare or threatened, including the phantom orchid, and includes more than 25 kilometres of trails offering spectacular views.
There’s a gravel and sand beach (complete with picnic tables and pit toilets) added as part of park improvements. Here you can pull in your kayak and take a dip: around sunset the water is warm and you can swim out to a private dock in the middle of the inlet.
Magical Tod Inlet is an ideal trip for beginner kayakers or paddleboarders because the waters here are sheltered and the total route there and back to the marina is about five kilometers.
Nearby Mount Work Regional Park is wildly popular with mountain bikers. Head down Hartland Avenue and turn left at the parking lot just before the end of the road and the town dump. Multi-use trails cover a variety of terrain, from easy, rolling hills for novices to the most difficult grade for advanced mountain bikers.
Also worth visiting, the Church and State Winery with its acres of majestic vineyards leading up to a large cellar is just down the road from the Butterfly Gardens. Sample their award-winning wines either at the tasting bar or over a leisurely lunch with cheese and charcuterie in the bistro.
And Blue’s Bayou Cafe is a funky cajun restaurant with a large outdoor heated deck over the water, just a ten-minute walk from Brentwood Bay Resort. This area is clearly a destination unto itself.