Island Profile: Oak Bay, Victoria

Famously known for its grand museums, lush gardens and proud British heritage, there’s one area of Victoria that’s almost always overlooked by locals and tourists alike. While British Columbia’s Capital city is frequented by those looking to ride trolley buses and indulge in high tea, the neighbourhood of Oak Bay is truly like stepping back in time.

Oak Bay Marina, Victoria, BC, Canada

Photo: Sopow on Flickr

Known as Victoria’s “Seaside Village,” Oak Bay can be found just ten minutes east of downtown where Pandora and Johnson Streets merge to create Oak Bay Avenue. Lined with historic architecture, tiny shops that define the word “quaint” and more tea shops than you can imagine, this neighbourhood is certainly a shiny jewel in Victoria’s crown.

Oak Bay Map
Map: Victoria Golf Club via Google Maps

The Coast Salish people of the Songhees First Nation were the first to inhabit what is today one of Victoria’s most charming neighbourhoods. Once The Hudson Bay Company established a trading post in the Victoria Harbour, European settlers set up homesteads and rolled out farmland through the area.

Oak Bay - 1901
Photo: Oak Bay – My Home

Photo: Turbulentflow on Flickr

Today the community of Oak Bay has a much different face than it did at the turn of the 20th century. Streets are lined with homes so old that many still require skeleton keys, children ride their bikes up and down leaf-strewn sidewalks and the smell of fresh-baked bread seems to be around every corner. One thing that hasn’t changed in all this time, however, is the natural beauty…

Mt. Baker from Willows Beach HDR
Photo: TylerIngram on Flickr

Fort Street Bus Stop
Photo: Yogi on Flickr

Each year the community meets at Willows Park for the annual Oak Bay Tea Party, designed to help raise funds for local charitable groups. The Oak Bay Tea Party also happens to be the first and only time I’ve ever won a jumbo stuffed animal at an amusement park game. If you’re dying to know, it was Charmander from the Pok√©mon series.

Oak Bay Tea Party
Photo: Ryoh A on Flickr

Oak Bay Avenue
Photo: OurBC

Oak Bay Avenue
Photo: molajen on Flickr

Oak Bay will always hold something very special for me. Between the sweet-as-pie tea shops and English candy stores full of sugary delectable treats, it’s one of my favourite places in all of Victoria. Oak Bay feels safe and warming, a village where you can wrap yourself in a cozy scarf, slowly wander to Oak Bay Avenue for a London Fog before finding yourself watching ducks on the shores of the marina.

A word of caution for golf buffs: though it boasts gorgeous views of Juan de Fuca Straight, the Victoria Golf Club is said to be haunted. In September of 1936, 30-year-old Doris Charnock Thomson Gravlin and her husband mysteriously disappeared. A few days later, her beaten and strangled body was discovered under some bushes on the green. Her husband Victor’s body was found a month later in shallow water beside the golf course. Since then and still to this day, dozens have sworn to have seen Doris lingering the course at dusk.

Victoria Golf Club
Photo: Score Golf

Another Tea House in Oak Bay
Photo: joneboi on Flickr

Oak Bay Marina trees against the sunset
Photo: Calypso Orchid on Flickr

Next time you find yourself on the southern-most tip of Vancouver Island, give yourself a day or two to explore Oak Bay. Victoria is accessible by air, ferry and train. For more information and a listing of area accommodations and attractions, visit Oak Bay Tourism’s website.

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7 Comments on “Island Profile: Oak Bay, Victoria

  1. One of my most favorite cities…Victoria. I think soon it must be time for a couple days checking out Oak Bay and other parts of the fair city which I haven’t yet discovered. Maybe next spring…would be a wonderful time of year.

  2. I LOVE OAKBAY! yes I had to use all caps because it’s my happy spot on the island! We lived on Estevan Ave and was a 5 minute walk to Willows Beach!

    So many great memories! Selling kool-aid during the Oak Bay Tea Party, Fish and Chips at the place up the street (which is ALWAYS closed when I visit the island now, its open when I am not visiting *cry), Ted Harrison’s gallery is in the village, The Oak Bay Tea Party events at Willows Beach (rides and stuff), Oak Bay Marina when it had Shamu! (yes they used to have orcas there), All the beaches you can access if you know how ;), oak bay little league, having tea at umm.. that tea house there.. what’s it called? haha, Cattle Point… I’m sure there are a lot of other things but its best to experience it yourself!

  3. Oak Bay is also home to the ever so wonderful Emily Dyck… and I CAN’T wait until the day that you, me and em-kitten can stroll those streets together with london fogs, macchiato’s and chai tea’s in hand. Sigh… one day.

  4. my favourite thing about oak bay? Of course… the beautiful old houses! I’m lucky because my sister lives a block from the main drag… She’s more lucky!

  5. Oak Bay is a lovely place – I used to spend weekends on my grandfather’s boat at the Oak Bay Marina (the engine didn’t work very well, so we didn’t take it out). It was like a mini-vacation at a trailer park, and I’d fall asleep at nights listening to the wind in the riggings of the sailboats around me. Beautiful memories of a beautiful little community! Thanks for featuring my photo in your blog!

  6. So pleased I found this site! I lived in Oak Bay for many years, first living in Monterey Avenue and then Redfern Street, across from the A&W – this was in the 1960s. I attended Oak Bay Junior High and graduated from Oak Bay Senior High in 1969 before returning to England. My dad worked in the Oak Bay Marina in 1966 or 1967 (something like that) and I loved it there. I loved Beacon Hill Park and Gonzales Beach and all the wonderful beauty of Oak Bay. Sebastian Cabot, the actor, visited the marina often and became friends with my Dad and then all of us. He lived in North Saanich until 1977. Brings it all back especially as I am writing a history of the 15 years we lived in Canada.

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