Oak Bay Inn: The sun rises early in British Columbia, and so does spring.
Spring comes early in Victoria, B.C., where purple crocuses emerge from the ground as early as February, and the cherry trees are in bloom far before spring break. While the rest of the country is covered in snow, Victoria’s lush parks and green spaces are bustling with cyclists, joggers and kite-flyers.
Victoria is a perfect city for a weekend getaway, easily walkable with a rich history, an interesting and evolving food scene, museums, beaches, gardens and public markets, whale watching excursions and afternoon teas at the famous Empress Hotel. In the middle of it all, you can find solace by the sea at the iconic Oak Bay Beach Hotel, with its world-class spa and hot seaside mineral pools, overlooking the ocean.
A Victoria landmark since 1927, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1930 and rebuilt, quickly becoming a hub of the community and the place to see and be seen. Soon after World War II, a few rooms on the main level were turned into Victoria’s first neighbourhood pub, The Snug. The local haunt became legendary, with regulars hanging their personal mugs around the bar.
Eventually the Tudor-style building required an overhaul, and it recently underwent an extreme makeover, during which the old hotel was carefully deconstructed, its physical elements and furnishings preserved to be used in the rebuild. In the end, 95 percent of the original building was either reused or recycled, maintaining its character while modernizing the new hotel and its amenities. The lobby is just as grand, the Snug is still cozy, serving up traditional pub food like fish and chips and offering a unique self-serve curry bar on Wednesdays. Tuesdays are movie nights in the movie house, complete with gourmet snacks. Kate’s Café brews good coffee, bakes up fresh pastries and serves light meals, and the dining room boasts spectacular ocean views and is regarded as one of the best restaurants in the city, under the guidance of executive chef Iain Rennie and sous chef Josh Houston. There’s a rooftop bistro on the hotel’s widow’s walk, the Boathouse Spa patio.
Each of the hotel’s 100 rooms has at least one fireplace, a luxurious bathroom with an oversized tub, separate rain shower and heated tile floor and HD flat screen TVs. But the view through the enormous windows overlooking the seaside mineral pools, and beyond to the San Juan Islands and Mount Baker, is more captivating. For families needing more space, the larger suites contain small kitchens and dining areas.
Travel Tip: Get to Victoria via a direct flight from most major cities in Canada, or take a 90-minute ferry from Vancouver. While in Victoria, don’t miss the stunning Butchart Gardens, designated a National Historical Site. This massive series of six gardens is a feast for the senses for young and old alike.
Visit Oakbaybeachhotel.com for more information.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, May 2015.