Despite what you’ll read on Wikipedia or in a brochure, Brentwood Bay is much more than just a neighbourhood – It’s practically a small town! Whatever you classify it as, Brentwood Bay is a fantastic place to raise a family. Over the last several years Brentwood Bay has removed it’s title as a small rural farming village and is receiving quite the makeover, especially on the main strip. The town is quickly developing into a bustling community, which is featuring a lot of new residential units and storefronts. Things have moved around quite a lot to say the least.
A Brief History Lesson:
Brentwood Bay was previously named Sluggett after the founder of the village John Sluggett moved from Ontario after purchasing 700 acres of land. He started the first post office and later opened the first school with his neighbour George Stelly. Another famous name to the town is Robert Butchart, owner of a limestone quarry and cement factory in Tod Inlet. The concrete-pad road on Benvenuto Avenue is the same original road that was built by Butchart with help from the Bamberton cement factory across the inlet. Robert Butchart later closed the quarry and his wife Jennie converted it into her own private garden, which is the famous Butchart Gardens. The town was renamed to Brentwood Bay in the early 1920’s after Brentwood College opened in Mill Bay across the inlet.
The world famous Butchart Gardens hosts over a million visitors every year. Jennie Butchart built the gardens after her husbands limestone quarry shut down in the early 1900’s. She turned the main quarry into what is now called the Sunken Gardens. Remnants of the old factory can still be seen in Tod Inlet. From rose gardens to ice skating Butchart Gardens is a place you cannot miss, even for locals. This is not your average tourist destination; this is a world class floral show garden. Also worth noting is how green-oriented they are: Butchart Gardens uses it’s own water reservoir and fertilizes with organic compost tea. Tip: One adult admission is around $30. A season pass however is only $60. For $60 a year you can make a visit to the gardens part of your weekly routine. This is another perk of living so close to Butchart Gardens.
The Victoria Butterfly Gardens is great fun for all ages. There truly is only one place like it on the island. All of the animals have been rescued or adopted by the staff at Butterfly Gardens, such as the flamingos, poison dart frogs, turtles, and of course hundreds of varieties of butterflies. With over 12,000 square feet of tropical jungle it’s easy to forget that you’re in a small farming town on a Canadian island. The smell of the flowers alone is worth it.
Butterfly Gardens is like being in a fairy-tale. Just don’t lick the frogs.
Make use of the many recreational activities available in Brentwood Bay, from hiking in Tod Inlet to kayaking in the bay. Pacifica Paddle Sports is a great place to rent a kayak or paddleboard for the day, or head on over to the Brentwood Bay Lodge to rent some scuba equipment from Rockfish Divers. Walking along the seawall you will realize how peaceful Brentwood Bay really is, or head up to Cherry Hill in Garden Estates for a quick climb for a birds eye view of the town. If you’re into something more vigorous, Mount Work has some of the most gorgeous views on the island.
Across the street from Brentwood Elementary is a newly updated softball diamond for the little ones. Down the road is Centennial Park where you can play soccer, tennis, or get lost in the woods. You can make use of the basketball hoops at Bayside (when schools’ not in) or use the fabulous climbing facility now at Stelly’s Secondary. There are also three golf courses all within a 15 minute drive. It may be a small village, but there’s lots to do!
One of the main things that makes Brentwood Bay unique is the Mill Bay Ferry service. Moving here from flatter provinces usually leads to a general sense of anxiety when having to drive over the Malahat, but thankfully Brentwood Bay has a convenient commute for you. Before you finish your coffee from the Emporium you’ll practically be in Duncan. Tip: Purchase your tickets in advanced from Thrifty’s (in Saanichton or Mill Bay) and you’ll save money, even if you’re just driving alone.
There are several notable events that happen within Central Saanich. Arguably the most popular would be the Saanich Fair that takes place on the last weekend before the upcoming school season. Brentwood Bay’s Music In the Park is gaining momentum every year and hosts loads of of local artists, some of which have raised over $100,000 for local charities. If you feel like dancing – and enjoy history – then make sure to check out the annual Strawberry Dance which dates back to the 1930’s.
There’s been a rise in demand for fresh local produce and luckily Brentwood Bay can deliver. The seasonal farmers market at the fair grounds are an exceptional display of the hard working farmers and local artisans in the area. There are so many in the area it is easy to lose count, but the first that comes to mind would have to be Dan’s Farm and Country Market, located on Oldfield Road. That man grows the best tasting strawberries on earth.