Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is livelier than my partner and I expected from a city of only 85,000, with government workers and tourists ferrying or sea-planing in to sustain a staggering number of excellent restaurants, breweries and attractions in a waterfront setting that screams “Jolly Old England.” When it was time to step away from the crowds along the quaint cobblestone streets surrounding Victoria Harbour in the west though, we sought out Oak Bay Beach Hotel, a luxurious retreat clinging to the city’s east coast, affording expansive views of the eponymous Oak Bay from my room’s balcony, from a lovely dining room and pub, and especially from the heated seaside mineral baths.
The hotel was originally built in 1927, but has been rebuilt twice: First after it burned down in 1930, then again intentionally in 2006 for a beautifully modernized homage that recycled or reused 95 percent of the previous iteration’s bones. It’s a stone’s throw from the water and the charming, boutique-filled village of Oak Bay.
The hotel itself also has its cafe, Kate’s, baking fresh pastries like scones, as well as a picturesque dining room and Snug Pug, with the former serving lovely dishes like poached local salmon and Pacific chowder and the latter open late, offering hearty pub fare like flatbread pizzas and steak and chips. Even if we weren’t hungry, we’d have sat a spell for the cozy setting and local favorites including Hoyne Brewing on tap and wines from the highly regarded Okanagan Valley, hard to come by in the United States.
The hotel’s entryway was pleasant but understated, belying the stunning scenery that awaited as we walked through the lobby to the side facing the Salish Sea and overlooking the marina. From the moment we arrived, we felt well taken care of by concierges and valets, who also provided black Escalade shuttle service back to downtown Victoria for about the cost of a taxi, taking a 20-minute scenic route past historic attractions like Craigdarroch Castle and Abkhazi Gardens — one of the finer spots for afternoon tea in a region brimming with such opportunities.
It only got better in-room, where fine furnishings like a kitchenette, electric fireplace, massive tub and dual sinks played second-fiddle to the pièce de résistance: heated bathroom floors. Thankfully we didn’t toss the provided slippers too far, as we still needed them (and the robes) for a short walk through the hotel then outside to the spa, with its three heated outdoor mineral baths available for anyone who books a minimum one-hour spa service like a massage. The eucalyptus steam room was the ultimate way to unwind after drifting through the warm water surrounded by the chill winter air. It’s good to know Oak Bay is just a few hours’ Clipper ride from Seattle.