We’ve visited Victoria (on Vancouver Island, BC) many, many times and have mostly checked out the downtown area. We usually just went there to run errands or shop for things we couldn’t find on our own little island. But, over the years, we heard there were small villages along the coastline, just around the corner from downtown Victoria. So, we decided to spend a day exploring the area, and that brought us to Oak Bay.
We loaded our kids in the car and hopped on the ferry that went to the Saanich Peninsula, north of Victoria. Next we drove along Cordova Bay Road, which winds through beautiful cedar forests and quiet, rural neighborhoods. We could see people on forested walking trails, heading toward secret paths to the beach. We later learned that these trails were part of the 450 acre Mount Douglas Park – a place that looks like it’s worth exploring.
We eventually made our way to Oak Bay and we were so surprised! We’re talking about a cute, tree-lined village with cafés, antique shops, art galleries, etc. Many of the houses are gorgeous, fully restored heritage homes – a lot of them bona fide mansions. Just outside the core of town you’ll find pristine shorelines, with warm, family-friendly beaches and parks nearby. Ya, it’s nice. And, Oak Bay is located within 10 minutes of downtown Victoria, so it is easily accessible.
Before going there I put together a list of things we could see and do:
- Willows Beach– a great family beach all year long. Safe, clean and easily accessible.
- “Secret” Walking Trails along Beach Drive (across from Willows Park that links to Lincoln Road and a quiet walk to Estevan Village)
- Cafes and bakeries galore
- Upland Park– “A wild, seaside expanse of jagged rock crags, trees stunted and shaped by the wind, lonely heaths, and dramatic ocean vistas.” Sounds good, right!
- A WWII observation platform at Walbran Park on top of Gonzales Hill – it has panoramic views of Victoria, the Olympic Mountains, and the Salish Sea.
- Art & crafts galleries & antique shops on Oak Bay Road
- Lunch at a fancy restaurant (Oak Bay Hotel)
But, somehow, on the day we visited, the rain and clouds appeared. Jared decided he was more interested in texting his friends than exploring new territory with his family. Trevor and Violet were ONLY interested in going for a swim. So, this is how our day actually went down:
- Drove past the fancy hotel and grabbed a much-needed coffee and muffins in the village
- Made a quick visit to The Whole Beast – a super yummy Salumeria with artisanal cured & smoked meats
- Drove along Beach Road and checked out the tide pools at Kitty Islet
- Had lunch at Pig in Victoria
- Went swimming at the Oak Bay Recreation Center– A small, neighborhood pool, with a little something for everyone – 3’ deep (warm) kiddie pool, larger pool with waterslides, hot tub, sauna and steam room.
- Got some dinner to go from our favorite eatery in Victoria –Foo Asian Street Food
- Headed home on the ferry.
Oak Bay Tourism describes the town as “an eclectic mix of architectural, cultural, recreational and natural resources that make Oak Bay one of the most desirable places to live in Canada.” I’m thinking they are right! Between the beaches, walking trails, great weather, outdoor activities, small village atmosphere, and beautiful, multi-million dollar character homes (and other heritage sites) – Oak Bay is definitely a “Yes!” on many people’s lists.
Have you been to Oak Bay? What is your favorite thing to do there?