Oak Bay is …

View of Hotel Mount Baker, Oak Bay, BC. Painting by Edward Scrope Shrapnel, ca. 1894. BC Archives PDP04375. Used by kind permission, Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation.
“View of Hotel Mount Baker, Oak Bay, BC.” Painting by Edward Scrope Shrapnel, ca. 1894. BC Archives PDP04375. Used by kind permission, Royal British Columbia Museum Corporation. Looking south from Cattle Point area; Willows Beach at R; Olympic Mountains (USA) south of Juan de Fuca Strait.

1. Oak Bay is a recess of the Pacific Ocean between Juan de Fuca and Haro straits off southeastern Vancouver Island, near Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; rocky headlands demark the 1.6-kilometre-wide bay; sandy Willows Beach occupies half the shore; elsewhere mud, rock and pebble beaches alternate with glacially-eroded rock; powerful ambient tidal waters; docks, anchorage and marina within a breakwater at the south end of the bay; boat ramp at Cattle Point.

2. Oak Bay is a municipal district, incorporated 1906, bordering the said bay; area 10.38 square kilometres, population 18,015 (2011 census), with an elected mayor and council, municipal police and fire departments; has several shopping districts and a couple of corner stores, but no malls and no gas stations.

"Map of Victoria, British Columbia: showing subdivisions on official record up to January 15, 1907." Author D. R. Harris. Publisher T. N. Hibben & Co., 1907. In a BC Archives reference room map binder. An early map of then-new Oak Bay municipal borders. Harling Point cut off on original.
“Map of Victoria, British Columbia: showing subdivisions on official record up to January 15, 1907.” Author D. R. Harris. Publisher T. N. Hibben & Co., 1907. In a BC Archives reference room map binder. An early map of then-new Oak Bay municipal borders. Harling Point cut off on original.

3. Oak Bay is the eastern suburb of Victoria; with a reputation for Britishness and haughty affluence; about it Times publisher Stuart Keate, a resident of Gonzales Hill in the 1950s and 60s, coined the phrase “behind the Tweed Curtain,” a charm to dispel the USSR’s Commie terror Iron Curtain; Oak Bay’s secret life a mere tilt to oddity; a place where golf and sailing are serious pursuits — two golf clubs and two places to park a boat, a marina and a yacht club; affluent, yes — favoured residence of captains of industry, architects, doctors; in manorial estates with manicured show gardens — but also (mostly) regular folks in modest bungalows with manageable gardens.

Among the residents’ rationales for feeling special would be Oak Bay’s extravagantly beautiful surroundings — scores of islands, islets and reefs to east and south; highly scenic views beyond; the cone of Mt. Baker (elevation 3,286 m/10,781 ft above sea level) often visible due east and Mt. Rainier (el 4,392 m/14,411 ft) sometimes visible to southeast from Oak Bay (the bay); the Olympic Mountains (elevations to 2,432 m/7,979 ft) occupying the entire southern horizon; the Coast Mountains (els to 4,019 m/13,186 ft) visible at times to north from Gonzales Hill; the beginnings of the Vancouver Island Mountains (els to 2,195 m/7,201 ft) a wash of green on the northwestern horizon.

There is the coast besides — eight kilometres (five miles) of waterfront in all, including Oak Bay and part of Cadboro Bay on the east, McNeill (Shoal) Bay and part of Gonzales (Foul) Bay on the south, all very scenic; separated by rocky headlands of great character — Gonzales Hill and Harling Point on the south coast; Anderson Hill and Gonzales Point to southeast; the Uplands and Cattle Point to east.

North of Gonzales Hill is the Foul Bay Spine, where the road meanders through groves of oaks in a rocky upland, past Tor and Mountjoy and dozens of other grand “named” estates, some enduring, others since claimed by neglect, fire, the wrecker’s ball.

A third of the municipality encompasses the eastern slope of Mount Tolmie, easing down to the University lands and The Uplands, the suburb that is like a garden or park, and down to the rocks at water’s edge.

The almost uninhabited, little-visited offshore islands are counted part of Oak Bay. They include three ecological reserves, a marine park and a municipal park.

4. Oak Bay is a shared state of mind. You thought you’d found your Shangri-la.

One thought on “Oak Bay is …”

  1. Met you at the Rec Center in Oak Bay. We talked about Victoria history site that Keith Thomas and myself have been working on for a year. Almost ready to be put online. Will notify you when it is onboard.
    Kind regards
    Kit Gillett

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