Oak Bay Beach Hotel 1175 Beach Drive, Victoria, 250-598-4556, 800-668-7758; oakbaybeachhotel.com, 100 rooms from $199 a night.
Victoria, it’s said, is more English than the English, which we all know isn’t true, but when crossing the tweed curtain into the tony seaside enclave of Oak Bay, you get the point.
Quaint streets riddled with cozy tea houses and traditional pubs set under canopied oaks tempt those in search of a salubrious spot to escape winter’s wrath.
After a massive six-year renovation, the crown jewel in the community, the historic Oak Bay Beach Hotel, has a new lease on life.
This Leed Gold luxury resort is posh, but more manor house and community hub than hip hotel.
There are plenty of nooks and crannies that lure locals and guests to settle in for the day with a book and perhaps a pot of tea.
Look up from your book and you’re apt to spot whales breaching off the coast or guests gliding through the sea via kayaks rented direct from the hotel dock.
Set on the seaboard, a mere 10 minutes away from the Inner Harbour, the hotel allows for easy access to downtown without being directly in the midst of the hoi polloi.
Perhaps most important, it’s but a stone’s throw from both the Victoria Golf Club (open year-round) and Oak Bay Marina.
WHOM YOU’LL MEET
Summertime brings the Europeans out in full force – particularly the Brits, while winter’s chill blows in prairie golfers.
Urbanites from Seattle and Vancouver, who’ve grown bored staying along the inner harbour, migrate here for a change of pace.
EAT IN OR EAT OUT?
Eat in, but make sure it’s in the restaurant. While there was nothing particularly wrong with room service (despite a predictable menu) and it arrived piping hot in just under 30 minutes, the local seafood chowder and burger were unremarkable. The Dining Room, with its original antique furniture and floor-to-ceiling views of the ocean, is where you want to nosh on seasonal offerings such as spring lamb sous-vide and Qualicum Bay scallops prepared with precision by award-winning executive chef Iain Rennie.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
Technically, there’s not a bad vista to be had. To the west is the cityscape, and the south side overlooks the Victoria Golf Club, reputed to be one of the prettiest ocean-side courses in the world. If unspoiled views of the Salish Sea and Mount Baker are what you’re after, go for an east- or north-facing room, ideally a main floor suite as the ample patio space backs onto a verdant garden no matter the season.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
The Juliet balconies that jut off most north- and south-facing guest rooms miss the mark. Ocean views deserve a spot to decamp and luxuriate on loungers, or at least there should be space to sit and ponder the Pacific whilst savouring a glass of wine.
As tempting as it is to stay put (especially in one of the heated outdoor mineral pools), guests can get out of the hotel in real style.
GEM electric cars shuttle guests to and fro, or cruise around in a classic Mercedes with bulletproof glass, formerly used by Japan’s royal family. Vehicle use is complimentary, but if you really want to roll like the aristocracy, the hotel’s Rolls Royce will set you back $75 an hour.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.