The community of Oak Bay, just to the east of Victoria, is said to be more English than England. The community has lots of little tea houses, many of which offer “snug tea”, a concoction with amaretto and apricot brandy which was served during prohibition days. Willows Beach is the recreational centrepiece of the community, and hosts the annual Tea Party each June. North of Willows Beach is Uplands Park and the posh Uplands Estates district, which was once a sheep farm for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
Oak Bay has two golf courses and two marinas/ yacht clubs, showing its demographic bias. There are several boat ramps, and a great beach at Willow Beach and further north along Cadboro Bay. There are great sports facilities at U-Vic and at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre. For a family diversion, head to Sealand of the Pacific beside the Oak Bay Marina.
Saanich, just to the north of Victoria, is the “big box” shopping hub of Victoria with Tillicum in the west, Town & Country where Highway 1 (Island Highway) meets Highway 17 (Pat Bay Highway), Mayfair and Hillside along the southern boundary with Victoria and Saanich Centre and University along Mackenzie Ave toward U-Vic.
Saanich is nestled between the Gorge in the southwest and the Haro Strait on the east, providing much opportunity for salt water recreation. The Elk-Beaver Lake Regional Park to the north offers much fresh water recreation including boating, fishing and swimming. It is also home to the Victoria Rowing Club and is site for National Team training. Saanich also has six great golf courses. There are a couple of splendid parks in the area, Mount Douglas offering rugged woods and seashore, Swan Lake and Tillicum offering urban quiet, and Cadboro Gyro offering great beaches. Off the tip of Ten Mile Point is Ecological Reserve 66, a provincially-protected underwater park.
Oak Bay Attractions
Elk/Beaver Lake Regional Park
Sayward Rd, Saanich
This 411 hectare park is Greater Victoria’s most popular park for a lot of reasons. The two lakes are joined by a narrow channel and are used for swimming, canoeing, fishing, rowing, water skiing and windsurfing. The Canadian Rowing Team trains here because of its great year-round climate. There are also 15 kilometres of hiking and bridal trails around the park.
Munn’s Road off Prospect Lake Rd, Saanich
These parks are named for two local naturalists, and have a boardwalk so the disabled can get close to nature. There are over 90 hectares of forests of cedar and fir, lots of wildflowers (including the calypso orchid), wetland areas with both amphibious reptiles and birds. There are ten trails around the park and the nature house is open year-round.
Horticultural Centre of the Pacific
505 Quayle Rd (off Beaver Lake Rd, Saanich)
This 44 hectare park and “teaching garden” hosts various native and exotic plants. Flowers are in bloom every month here. Open daily dawn till dusk.
Mount Douglas Park
Scenic Marine Drive at Cordova Bay, Saanich
This park, which includes the summit of Mount Douglas has great views of the city and the waters. Forests of cedar and Douglas fir cover expanses of the park.
Mount Tolmie Lookout
Cedar Hill Cross Road & Richmond Road
Oak Bay, just west of University of Victoria
This 120 metre high hill gives a splendid view of Oak Bay and downtown Victoria, and has the added bonus that the top is road-accessible (no hiking!). The 18 hectare park is filled with Garry oaks and arbutus meadows with several scenic trails which pass by wildflower and blackberry bushes (in-season in late summer).
Ross Bay Cemetery
1495 Fairfield Rd (Scenic Marine Dr/Dallas Rd – just past Clover Point)
This 11 hectare cemetery houses 27,000 graves dating back to the earliest days of Victoria. Robert Dunsmuir, Sir James Douglas, and Emily Carr are all buried here. The Old Cemeteries Society offers guided tours.
Swan Lake – Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary
Rainbow Rd, off Mackenzie (Saanich)
This year-round park has a nature house, bird blinds, and a floating boardwalk to complete its trails around the ponds. Interpretive programs are provided, making it a great family day.
University of Victoria
Mackenzie Ave at Gordon Head Rd (Oak Bay)
This is Canada’s westernmost university and has mounted plant collecting expeditions in the 1930s to China and Tibet. It has over a hectare of rhododendron flowers, some as tall as 6 metres. The University also has a splendid library and fitness facilities.
Beach Drive (Scenic Marine Drive) (Oak Bay)
This park is in the middle of Oak bay and surrounded by the posh Uplands Estates neighbourhood. Its 30 hectares are largely an unspoiled wild park. There are several trails through the park and two boat ramps.