Along the southwestern edge of the University of Victoria campus is one the most well kept and tranquil gardens in the whole city. Like many things at UVic, the gardens are named after the Finnerty family that owned much of the land in the Gordon Head area in the 1860’s. If you are driving up to the campus, there are many nearby parking lots, the most convenient being those just outside of the Interfaith Chapel. It is also easy to visit on the bus due to so many of the routes taking students up to campus.
Once you are through the main gate there are a myriad of routes that you can take and really it doesn’t matter which one. The size of the garden can be deceiving though, so it is certainly worth stopping at one of the maps that they seem to have scattered throughout just to make sure you haven’t missed a large part of the garden.
While there is certainly a massive diversity of plants, you will notice that one of the more common ones here are the rhododendrons. When the garden was first being created in the early 1970’s, a large estate belonging to Jeanne Simpson of Lake Cowichan came into the university’s possession. The land they had on the lake was covered in one of the largest collections of rhodos in the country at the time. Many of those varieties were transported down to the garden and became the dominant plant that you see there today.
One of the more magical parts of the garden is how the taller conifers tower over the other plants creating an almost enclosed feeling to much of it. If you tried to take in all of the paths, it will take a long while and involve a fair amount of doubling back; it is a perfect garden for just aimless wandering as well.
If you are wanting to make it a longer walk you could pair it up with a cross-campus hike and take in Mystic Vale as well. Another closer option would be to exit onto Cedar Hill X-Road and hike up Mount Tolmie. That park has a trail head not far from the gardens.
Let me know in the comments if there are any other gardens like Finnerty that I need to explore.