Often referred to by locals as Gonzales Hill, Oak Bay’s Walbran Park is a must-see local destination known for its spectacular views of Oak Bay and the waterfront.
Located near Gonzales Hill Regional Park and accessible from Denison Road, the undeveloped, natural park stands at just under two hectares.
The rewards of traversing several minor trails – not wheelchair or stroller accessible – include breathtaking views from a Second World War lookout and historical cairn. A short trail ends in steps to the marker, but otherwise the area is rugged and unsuitable for hiking, says Oak Bay Parks, Recreation and Culture.
Discover “magnificent views of ocean, mountain and the surrounding urban and waterfront landscape, as well as opportunity to learn of the historical and conservation significance of the area via historical plaques provided by the Federal Government,” says Oak Bay’s website.
The district’s heritage pages note “the Observation Post commands one of the most dramatic views in the city, overlooking the Straits and the Gulf Islands.”
Built in 1942, the fortress observation post was one of four in the fortress system network, joining others at Mt. Tolmie, Mary Hill (William Head) and Church Hill (Smythe Head), with only Gonzales and Mt. Tolmie remaining.
“The post features a Barr-Stroud Range Finder, which was trained on the Juan de Fuca Strait and on houses below the building. Significant information was transmitted to Fort Rodd Hill Plotting room. The Gonzales Post was the link to the easternmost anchor gun battery and protected the naval base and the shipping lines. The post was operational until the early ‘50s.”
Today, what remains of the post is the concrete bunker, originally disguised as a residence, with peaked roof and awning-covered windows, which housed the range finder. This was the foundation of the “house “ constructed as a blind.
The park has no dog restrictions, but from a natural history perspective, it includes some imperiled ecosystems that are under threat from invasive species in the park.
With limited roadside parking available, carpooling or walking would be ideal.
Learn more at oakbay.ca.