BY ATHENA MCKENZIE
There’s a moment during my stay at The Oak Bay Beach Hotel when I almost cry with happiness. It’s when I’m sitting by the mineral pools early in the evening, the sky tinged pink with the recent sunset. As I take the first sip of my mojito from the poolside Boathouse Bar, I am flooded with an overwhelming sense memory of beach-vacations past. While the temperatures certainly aren’t tropical, I’m warm under my robe and towel, and the soothing sound of the waves add to the feeling that I am on getaway. With a blissful sigh, I ease back into my lounger.
Later my partner and I float in the warm water of the mineral pool, watching the constellations as they appear. It’s been so long since I’ve paid attention to the night sky, but I can still identify certain constellations, such as Orion, as well as the star clusters of Pleiades and Hyades.
One of the best parts of living in Victoria is its proximity to the ocean, but not all of us are lucky enough to live next to the shore. As downtown dwellers, my partner and I can certainly walk to the water, but sometimes want to wake up to an ocean view. So, we jumped at the chance to stay at The Oak Bay Beach Hotel, nestled as it is on the shores of the Salish Sea. (The hotel currently has special deals for Victoria residents, if an oceanside stay is on your wishlist.)
Waking by the Ocean
The first Oak Bay Beach Hotel was built in 1927 and was rebuilt after a fire in 1930. Despite continuous renovations, the building reached the end of its functioning life in 2006. Before it was dismantled, elements such as antique light fixtures, windows and antiques, were saved for use in the new Oak Bay Beach Hotel. (An interesting fact is that 95 per cent of the previous hotel was recycled or reused, with only five percent going to the local landfill.) The striking doors to the original hotel were also reinstalled and act as the entrance to FARO Handcrafted Pizza and Tasting Room.
When we arrive, we spend some time admiring the impressive fireplace in the Grand Lobby, which is said to be reminiscent of the lobby in the old hotel — the fireplace’s copper hood is another original element. We also take in the incredible views across the gardens and pools, out to the ocean. Those views are even more irresistible from our room, so we take some time to sit out on the deck, before heading down to the pools.
Next to the pools, The Boathouse Spa offers a full range of massages, RMT, European facials, pedicures, body wraps and salt glows. For someone looking for a more contained getaway, spa guests can also add on a two-hour visit to the pools.
After our relaxing soak under the stars, and an indulgent shower in the rain shower in our room, we head to FARO for dinner. The newest addition to the hotel’s restaurant offerings (which also includes neighborhood favourite The Snug Pub), FARO’s menu is based around its wood stone pizza oven.
Dining in Style
While we sit in the main area, a modern space with inviting green banquettes, contemporary white and exposed brick walls, and stylish dark charcoal accents, some patrons are sitting in the Conservatory, which has been transformed into an indoor patio called FARO Lane. There is also a bustling take-out service, a steady stream of Oak Bay residents picking up their Friday meal. (Hotel guests are also able to take their pizza up to their rooms, if they are being super vigilant about dining out or want to eat in their robes.)
We tuck into a gorgeous meal of duck prosciutto and beet salad, with local greens, pecorino, balsamic and pistachio; Tuna Crudo, with wild Albacore tuna, romesco and capers; and The Whole Beast pizza, which features pepperoni and artisan sausage from the local shop.
As a lemon-dessert fiend, I cannot resist the baked lemon tart, which our server Nolan tells us was specifically developed to fit inside the special small pizza boxes used for take-out.
A friend, envious of our getaway, said that we would sleep so well, given the pools and the oceanside setting. Happily, she was right. We awaken in the pre-dawn, early enough to watch the sunrise on a stroll to the Oak Bay Marina.
When the pool opens at 9:00 a.m., we’re the first ones there. Sipping coffee, we watch seals fish next to the shore, doing graceful dives, as Oyster Catchers run across the rocks.
With checkout at noon, we make the most of the morning, alternating between the pool and the hot tub until every last bit of stress has been soaked away.
You can read about The Oak Bay Beach Hotel COVID safety protocols here.