Despite covering 55 acres (22 hectares), the VanDusen Botanical Garden has a much more intimate feel than its sprawling sister-gardens at Queen Elizabeth Park. At VanDusen, you feel sequestered from the bustling city; it's a fairytale land of slender, winding paths, gently rolling hills and sweet wooden bridges spanning ponds full of lily pads.
There's a staggering array of plants and flowers at VanDusen: over 255,000 plants representing more than 7,300 taxa from around the world. There are plant collections from South Africa, the Himalayas, the Canadian Arctic, and the Pacific Northwest, each arranged in picturesque landscape settings.
One of the best features of the garden is the deceptively complicated hedge maze. Designed in the style of European hedge mazes, the VanDusen maze seems small--and thus easily navigated--but finding the center is harder (and more fun) than you think! The garden also features a shop, the Truffles Cafe, and the Shaughnessy Restaurant.
VanDusen Botanical Garden History
Once owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the site that would become the VanDusen Botanical Garden was first the Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club from 1911 until 1960.
When the Golf Club moved to a new location, the site was bought and transformed into today's garden by a joint venture of the Vancouver Park Board, City of Vancouver, Government of British Columbia and the Vancouver Foundation, with a donation by lumberman and philanthropist W. J. VanDusen, in whose honour the garden was named. The VanDusen Botanical Garden officially opened to the public on August 30, 1975.
Making the Most of Your Visit
How long you spend at the VanDusen Botanical Garden will mostly depend on the weather. On sunny days, you can easily spend an entire afternoon strolling the grounds, relaxing by the ponds or taking pictures of the incredible array of colorful flora.
In the winter, plan your visit for the late-afternoon or evening and see VanDusen's annual Christmas and Holiday Festival of Lights. Taking place after dark, the Festival transforms the garden into a winter wonderland: millions of twinkling lights are strewn over flower-beds, trees, and shrubs, creating an awesome spectacle that kids will love.
Because of its great location--in the center of the city--it's easy to combine a trip to VanDusen with other Vancouver sites. From VanDusen, it's just minutes (by car) to Granville Island and South Granville shopping, a 15-minute drive to downtown Vancouver, or a 15-minute drive to Kitsilano.
Or make a botanical day of it and combine your trip with a visit to Vancouver's other fabulous public gardens, Queen Elizabeth Park. You can see tropical plants year-round atop Queen Elizabeth Park at the Bloedel Tropical Conservatory.