The original Oak Bay Beach Hotel was built in 1927, in the historically British Oak Bay neighborhood, about a 15-minute drive east of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Over the years, the hotel became a popular community gathering place, known in particular for its bar, The Snug, which was Victoria’s first neighborhood pub.
However, the years began to take their toll on the hotel. In 2006, after determining that the original structure couldn’t be brought up to modern standards, the owners decided to dismantle the old lodging and begin construction on a replacement building.
The new six-story Oak Bay Beach Hotel finally opened at the end of 2012. Towering above its residential neighbors, this decidedly posh hotel already feels like a destination resort.
Mineral Pools and Spa
One of the best features of the Oak Bay Beach Hotel are the heated mineral pools — one large pool and two smaller hot tubs — that front the ocean and are open to guests 24 hours a day. Even on a chilly April morning, I could swim and soak comfortably in the 96F water. The pool’s curvaceous shape isn’t conducive to serious lap-swimming, but who needs to breast-stroke when you can lounge in the soothingly warm water, gazing out to sea?
Adjacent to the pools is the Boathouse Spa, offering the expected array of massages, facials, and other services in oceanfront treatment rooms. The spa building also houses a small fitness room. With only three cardio machines, the gym feels a bit like an afterthought, and I’m not sure I’d be motivated to exercise in inclement weather, since you have to walk outside from the main hotel building to the fitness facility. Fortunately, the window-lined workout space is gorgeous, overlooking the pools and the ocean.
Public Spaces and Dining Options
The owners saved many components of the former hotel structure, and you’ll see hand-hewn beams, carved signs, and other Old English features in this otherwise contemporary property.
The stately yet comfortable lobby was built as a replica of the lobby in the original hotel, with several seating areas and a massive fireplace. What the new lobby has as well are floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the waterfront, where the morning sun streams in.
The hotel also has a small theatre, with weekly movie nights open both to hotel guests and to members of the community.
The Oak Bay Beach Hotel has three restaurants. In addition to the recreated pub, The Snug, there’s a small formal dining room just off the lobby, and Kate’s Cafe, a cozy coffee and pastry shop which was designed to resemble the original hotel’s library. Room service is available 24/7, and in mild weather, you can enjoy drinks and food by the pool.
If you pop into The Snug for a drink, don’t let the bartender give you a dish of complimentary housemade potato chips with a spicy and garlicky aioli dip unless you’re prepared to eat the whole pile of them. He’ll warn you that they’re addictive, and I can attest that they are!
The Snug serves British pub classics, like fish ‘n’ chips and bangers ‘n’ mash, alongside more modern pub grub that ranges from burgers and sandwiches to pizzas. My cobb salad with big leaves of romaine, avocado, cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled egg, and crispy prosciutto was ample, with a sizeable — and scrumptious — slab of fresh salmon on top.
Both The Snug and Kate’s Cafe are already community fixtures, drawing an older local clientele. On the midweek evening when I had supper in The Snug, the patrons appeared to average at least 30-35 years older than the cheerful young bartender who was pouring their pints.
Guest Rooms and Amenities
The 100 generously-sized guest rooms offer either one king bed or two queens, as well as an electric fireplace and a flat-screen TV. The panoramic views from the water-facing rooms are spectacular.
The units all include kitchen facilities, either a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave, a galley kitchen that also has a two-burner cooktop and a dishwasher, or a full kitchen. My room’s galley kitchen was stocked with a full set of dishes, glasses, pots, and pans, as well as a drip coffee maker and an electric teakettle. Had my budget allowed, I could have lived comfortably in my room for quite a while.
The spacious bathrooms have both a deep soaker tub and a separate glass-enclosed shower. I’d have appreciated a couple of hooks near the shower for towels, but otherwise, the bathroom space is ample. In my room, a window — with a shutter you can close — separated the sleeping area from the bathroom.
Double room rates start at CAD$269 for a courtyard or street view, $369 for a view of the nearby marina, and $429 for a full ocean view.
Local calls and Wi-Fi, which worked well throughout the building, are complimentary, as is parking in the underground garage. Rates do not include breakfast.
Butlers and Bears
The Oak Bay Beach Hotel is working to define itself by its services, starting with a butler service, available on request. Your butler will stock your refrigerator for you, draw you a bath, and act as your own personal concierge.
You can also travel around town in style, by booking a ride in the hotel’s Rolls Royce (for an additional fee).
But lest you think that these posh upstairs-downstairs amenities make the hotel seem stuffy, you’ll find touches of whimsy, too. Each room comes with its own tiny teddy bear, nicknamed “OB” or “Ollie Bear,” another carryover from the original hotel. Apparently, the rooms used to be decorated with big stuffed bears, and these cute little animals are one more homage to the hotel’s past.
It’s this mix of old and new that gives the Oak Bay Beach Hotel its distinctive personality, where you can splash out in a heated pool, ask your butler to pour you a dry martini, and still cuddle up with a petite toy bear.
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the new travel guide, Moon Handbooks: Ontario. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. The Oak Bay Beach Hotel, in conjunction with Tourism Victoria, hosted my stay for review purposes.