Posted on September 10, 2009
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.
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.
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.
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…
Photo: TylerIngram on Flickr
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 Pokémon series.
Photo: Ryoh A 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.
Photo: Score Golf
Photo: joneboi on Flickr
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.