British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria, is a colonial gem. It’s one of western Canada’s oldest cities at 151 years old. It may be a baby compared to the cities of Europe – but it still has plenty of character.
Victoria has long positioned itself as a genteel city; one of sophistication and class. It has somewhat modelled itself on the nicer seaside resort towns of the UK. The poet and author, Rudyard Kipling, likened the city to Bournemouth, Torquey and the Isle of Wight. The difference between Victoria and the grand old seaside resort towns of the UK is that is has not been left to decay.
There is no faded grandeur here. Afternoon tea maybe a popular tourist attraction – but you will be able to log onto wifi while you munch on a scone and cucumber sandwiches.
The Oak Bay Beach Hotel epitomises this idea. Located in the quiet up-market neighbourhood of Oak Bay. The hotel grandly faces the Pacific Ocean and the distant, hazy Olympic Mountains of Washington State. There has been a hotel on this site for many years – but due to fire and to ageing, the building was completely rebuilt to its current state and was reopened in late 2012.
The hotel mixes a blend of old colonial charm with the new. The owners saved remnants of the old building such as windows from the first neighbourhood pub, which was located in the original hotel in Oak Bay – the Snug.
The pub is worth a visit in itself with stunning ocean views from the patio you can enjoy local craft beer (try the heather beer) and, as a little English touch, you can have a very well-made scotch egg. This may not seem significant to you reading this back in blighty – but that was the first time I have seen anything resembling a scotch egg in the Pacific North West in over a year. There is also a small restaurant in the hotel – they have an extensive wine list and have good local, sustainable seafood.
From a nod towards its past, the hotel embraces the new – there are iPod docks in every room and wifi throughout. There are also deep baths where you can pull back the shutters separating the bathroom from the bedroom, and look out at the ocean and the scattered islands that make up an Indian reservation.
My favourite part of the hotel are the mineral pools. There are two hot tubs and a pool down at the bottom of the property, right next to the sea. You can enjoy the pool twenty-four hours a day – in fact they positively encourage you to take a midnight dip under the stars. I also encourage this; the pool and tubs are kept warm – it’s was a great experience.
If you are going to stay in this five-star hotel you may as well go the whole hog and book the Rolls Royce to come and pick you up from the ferry or the airport. If the car is available, they will also chauffeur you around town. I kept this little part of the trip a secret from my partner, who was pleasantly surprised that we wouldn’t be taking the bus to the hotel after all.
I have been lucky enough to travel to many luxury hotels in my time – but I think the Oak Bay Beach Hotel has to be one of the best I have been to. It has everything I love about hotels: It has an incredible view, the service was excellent, you can drink wine in the hot-tub, the food was good, and the décor has been done to an incredibly high standard. If only I could afford the $1 million private residences.
Reviewed by: Cat Hughes
Rooms from £144
Mini Rolls Royce Getaway from £132 per person