Oak Bay: Quaint and Charming, with Something for Everyone

Nowhere is Victoria's British charm more evident than in Oak Bay. This seaside community has earned a reputation as an upscale, refined neighbourhood, and is home to some of Victoria's most expensive and desirable properties. But beneath the guise of charm and refinement, you may be surprised to find that there's a little something for everyone in Oak Bay.

Morning: Craigdarroch Castle

If Downton Abbey were set in Victoria, it would probably take place in Craigdarroch Castle. A visit to this landmark castle is like having a window into the lives of British Columbia's richest citizens in the late Victorian and Early Modern eras. The castle consists of 39 separate rooms, all exquisitely furnished in 1890s and 1900s fashion. This castle is also located in one of Victoria's prime spots. Climb the 87 steps to the top of the tower and you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of downtown Victoria, Oak Bay, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Olympic Mountains.

Insider's Tip: For a unique take on live entertainment, look for Halloween theatre at Craigdarroch Castle. Refer to their website for information on performances and show times.

Craigdarroch Castle

The castle is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $13.50 for adults, $12.75 for seniors, $8.75 for students, and $5.00 for children ages 6 to 12.

You have several options for transport from downtown Victoria to Oak Bay. If you want to experience Oak Bay in its full British charm, take an open-air double-decker bus with Gray Line Sightseeing. Alternately, you can hop aboard one of CVS Sighseeing's air-conditioned coaches. Both companies offer hop-on-hop-off tours that start in front of the Empress Hotel, and stop at multiple destinations throughout the city including Craigdarroch Castle, Oak Bay Village, Chinatown, and Beacon Hill Park.

Grey Line's tours leave every hour starting at 9:30 a.m., with the last bus leaving at 5:30 p.m.

CVS' tours leave every hour on the hour between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., with an additional 4:00 p.m. trip on Fridays.

To arrive by vehicle from downtown, drive east on Fort Street (away from the inner harbour) until you reach Joan Crescent. Turn right on Joan Crescent and you will find free parking either at the castle, or on one of the surrounding streets. 

Insider's Tip: Walking to Oak Bay is also a great option, especially since you will be passing through Antique Row on the way. As you walk up Fort Street, peer through the windows of the numerous antique shops that line the road, or stop in to find some rare items. The walk from downtown along the driving route should take half an hour or more, depending on how many places you stop in.

Mid-Day: Oak Bay Village

Down the road from Craigdarroch Castle, in Oak Bay Village, you'll find old-world charm in modern-day form. Walking along Oak Bay Avenue, you'll pass by a number of art galleries, artisan vendors, boutique stores, coffee shops, bakeries, delis, and other retail stops, many of them housed in historic Victorian-era buildings.

The avenue is a great place to stop for a bite to eat. For a great cup of coffee, try Ottavio at 2272 Oak Bay Avenue. In addition to their fresh brews, they also boast Victoria's largest selection of local and artisan cheeses. Or, for a bigger meal, head over to the Penny Farthing at 2228 Oak Bay Avenue. This British-style neighbourhood pub offers mix of English and West Coast menu options alongside a wide selection of local and imported brews.

If you're opting for the Gray Line Sightseeing tour, simply hop back on the bus, and it will take you straight to Oak Bay Village.

Alternately, CVS's coach tour will pick you up in front of the castle and take you around the University of Victoria and up to the summit of Mount Tolmie for spectacular views prior to dropping you off in Oak Bay Village.

If you're walking or driving, head east down Fort Street, and take a slight right turn onto Oak Bay Avenue. After you cross Foul Bay Road, you'll reach the heart of Oak Bay Village. This will be approximately a five-minute drive, or a half-hour walk. 

Afternoon: Oak Bay Marina

Keep strolling down Oak Bay Avenue, and soon you'll end up at the waterfront. Just around the corner from Oak Bay Village is Oak Bay Marina. This marina is home to a variety of private boats, as well as a coffee shop, a restaurant, and a gift shop, plus a family of harbour seals. From here, you'll also have a chance to stop far a drink or a meal and take in some great views of the Juan de Fuca Strait.

Insider's Tip: For only a few dollars, you can purchase a bag of fish from the Marina's gift shop to feed to the seals. Toss the fish in the water and the seals will put on a show for your enjoyment.

Once again, the Gray Line Sightseeing tour will take you right to the doors of the Marina, but take note that the CVS shuttle does not stop here.

Greyline Sightseeing

If you're walking or driving, follow Oak Bay Avenue as it turns into Newport Avenue. Then, turn left on Margate Avenue and right on Beach Drive to find the Marina, where free on-site parking is available.

Insider's Tip: While you're in Oak Bay, don't forget to check out the area's many beaches, which are some of the sandiest in the city. Heading north along Beach Drive (towards Oak Bay Avenue), you'll pass by a number of small beaches before you reach Willows Beach, which is a top swimming destination among locals, as well as a favourite for anyone with children. If you have the time, this is a detour that's well worth taking.

Evening: Oak Bay Beach Hotel

The Oak Bay Beach Hotel is the newest addition to the village of Oak Bay, and it has already become a feature all to itself. From the hotel's lobby, you'll be greeted by a fantastic ocean view of one of the most peaceful bays on BC's west coast. In addition to its guesthouse, the hotel's facilities also include a coffee shop, a restaurant, a pub, a theatre, and a spa. Each of these establishments is an accomplishment in its own rite.

Located at 1175 Beach Drive, the hotel is only a few minutes' walk away from the Oak Bay Marina. Just keep heading south along Beach Drive (up the hill) and you'll find the hotel on your left hand side.

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P.O. Box 39047
James Bay Postal Outlet
Victoria BC V8V 4X4
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