Oak Bay: A Distinctive Destination

Archivist shares early visions of the community as a tourist attraction

Oak Bay was designed as a tourist destination early on

Streets named after famed resort destinations, such as Brighton, Newgate and Saratoga (now Windsor) set Oak Bay up as a destination itself in its early days.

“Early planners wanted it to be a tourist destination,” said Jean Sparks, volunteer at Oak Bay archives. “They promoted it as a recreational spot.”

They laid the streetcar tracks, named the streets, had a hotel built and established a golf course.

“They had a grand plan to make a deep sea port called Oak Harbour,” Sparks said. Cruising ships would whittle an hour off the trip from Vancouver or Seattle to Victoria by skipping the trip around the tip of the Island, settling in Oak Bay instead. The plan worked, the community drew visitors, some famous, including Royals and famed British writer Rudyard Kipling.

As part of BC Heritage Week, Sparks will share the stories of Oak Bay 1880 to 1930, when it was known as a popular resort destination.

The theme for Heritage Week 2016 in British Columbia is Distinctive Destinations: Experience Historic Places. The week kicks off with national Heritage Day on Feb. 15 as designated by The National Trust for Canada.

Sparks also plans to touch on north Oak Bay where the arena and horse racing drew visitors.

Distinctive Destinations, the first of the Oak Bay Heritage 2016 lecture series, runs Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. at Windsor Park Pavilion.