The perfect West Coast retreat starts with Oak Bay Beach Hotel’s seaside mineral pools. Photo courtesy Oak Bay Tourism.
City by the Sea
Spend a weekend away in Oak Bay, B.C.
Located just 10 minutes away from Victoria’s iconic Inner Harbour and parliament building lies the relaxed seaside community of Oak Bay, a tourist attraction unto itself within Vancouver Island’s capital city and just a quick ferry ride from western Washington. Here, wilderness and spectacular seaside vistas of the Salish Sea and the Olympic Mountains are intermingled with Edwardian architecture and English gardens that will make you feel like you’re miles away from the city’s hectic downtown traffic and crowds.
Traditional English pub The Penny Farthing. Photo courtesy Oak Bay Tourism.
ART CULTURE AND CULINARY
The Pacific Northwest scenery in Oak Bay has long served as a muse to artists, including famed Canadian artist Emily Carr. Today, the community has evolved into an arts and culture hub, full of regular gallery tours, arts collectives and theater productions. Art lovers will be pleasantly surprised by the high caliber collections found in the Avenue’s galleries. Travellers wishing to take home a memento can also peruse a variety of local artists’ and makers’ wares found in Oak Bay’s gift shops.
In the summer months, free beach concerts, arts and culture festivals like Arts Alive, European-style night markets, and the Oak Bay Tea Party—complete with a parade, carnival rides and live music—attract locals and visitors alike. Public art installations, including the interactive hand-painted pianos, also appear around the Oak Bay Village every summer.
Foodies in search of culinary delights will be pleased to know that a collection of bartenders, chefs, chocolatiers, butchers, bakers and coffee nerds call Oak Bay home. Get your caffeine fix before exploring the quaint neighborhood shops and lanes at the Old World-inspired Ottavio or visit the locally coveted Hide + Seek coffee house. When hunger strikes, the award-winning Oak Bay Marina Restaurant offers fresh seafood and a proper sushi feast. Diners craving French cuisine can find a seat at Vis a Vis for charcuterie and a fantastic wine selection. Next door, enjoy a generous helping of comfort food at the traditional English pub, The Penny Farthing.
Interactive hand-painted pianos appear around the Oak Bay Village in the summer. Photo courtesy Oak Bay Tourism.
DOWN BY THE SEA
If the feel of ocean spray on your face and taking in magnificent sunsets on the open water sounds like a great time, you’re in luck. Sheltered from the wild wind and waves found further up the island, Oak Bay’s waters can be safely paddled and enjoyed most of the year. A nearby ecological reserve ensures the waters are teeming with sea lions, seals, sea birds and whales. Observe the abundance of wildlife with a marine tour, or paddle along the coastline with a guide to explore Discovery and Chatham Islands. Oak Bay Tours and Ocean River Sports provide tours as well as rentals.
On shore, unwind by beachcombing at low tide in McNeil Bay or Willows Beach, a favorite beach in Greater Victoria that’s ideal for picnics and family time with a concession serving classic treats from May to September. Nearby, you can glimpse the snow-capped goliath known as Mount Baker from the marina pier. At Harling Point, the Chinese Cemetery’s ceremonial altar on a windswept bluff will appeal to history buffs and anyone in search of a stunning view.
Boats in the Oak Bay Marina. Photo courtesy Oak Bay Tourism.
Nature lovers can immerse themselves in the quiet on a multitude of paths or trails, many of which provide vantage points of the Olympic Peninsula. Photo ops abound in Oak Bay, including Kitty Islet, which is located along the scenic Beach Drive. Enjoy a front row seat to the marine life and water vessels cruising by from the Adirondack chairs found on the rocky outcrop.
By two wheels, Beach Drive presents endless points of interest along a gently rolling roadway that hugs the shoreline. Along the way, take in Victorian-style homes, gorgeous gardens and green spaces. Bike rentals are available in Oak Bay.
WHERE TO STAY
Treat yourself to a luxurious stay at five-star waterfront Oak Bay Beach Hotel. This 1927 landmark provides jaw-dropping views that can be enjoyed from the glorious suites, the outdoor mineral pools and the Snug Pub. Anyone seeking deep relaxation will love the hotel’s heavenly spa with a menu of serene treatments. Nirvana guaranteed! Guests preferring a taste of Victorian culture will fall in love with the Oak Bay Guest House that provides elegant rooms, a hearty complimentary breakfast and convenient access to all the fantastic sights and attractions in the area.
A carnival ride from Oak Bay’s annual Tea Party festival. Photo courtesy Oak Bay Tourism.
WHEN TO VISIT
Considering the South Island forecast generally includes some of the most temperate weather in the country, there’s never a bad time to visit Oak Bay. Summer and fall are optimal seasons to soak up sunny weather, beach time and a constant schedule of community events. Anyone wishing to witness the short-lived winter storm season is encouraged to visit from November to January. Meanwhile, the region’s dazzling return of cherry blossoms each spring begins in late February—a highly recommended experience for new and returning visitors.
No matter the season, Oak Bay is the perfect jumping off point for exploring the local biodiversity in a tranquil place that also offers its fair share of notable landmarks, quirky local businesses and charming beach accommodations.