It’s been way too long. A whirlwind of work, family obligations and holidays have caused days to slip into weeks, and now it has been months since you’ve had proper hang time with the besties. Some much-needed girl time and gal pal pampering fit the bill. A chance to momentarily slow down life and actually put those flurry of trip planning texts into action for a fun weekend escape.

Venture beyond familiar boundaries. Discover new locations to explore. Lucky us, it’s all doable from Seattle’s own backyard. Situated just 15-minutes outside of Victoria’s downtown core, the cozy, laidback and serene community of Oak Bay awaits. Fantastic shopping, delicious eats, soul-warming cups of tea, are all within easy walking distance. Surrounded by mountains and sea, it’s a place where you can kick back, relax and enjoy a front-row view of some of the Pacific Northwest’s most awe-inspiring natural beauty.

Day 1

12:00 p.m. – Vis a Vis

After a scenic three-hour cruise from Seattle through the Salish Sea on the Victoria Clipper V, you’ll find yourself in the heart of downtown Victoria. You’ll feel a touch of celeb lifestyle as Oak Bay Beach Hotel’s complimentary guest shuttle, a sleek Cadillac Escalade, picks you at the terminal for a quick drive to the hotel (Don’t forget you must schedule your pickup service in advance of the trip.).

Following a luggage drop off, it’s time to head out to Oak Bay Avenue to immerse yourself in full-on vacation mode and indulge in some delicious adult beverages. With an enticing display of fresh baked bread on the counter and a fantastic selection of wine, the brick-walled Vis a Vis is a choice locale.

While away an afternoon with a glass of wine at the intimate Vis a Vis. Credit: Vis a Vis
While away an afternoon with a glass of wine at the intimate Vis a Vis. Credit: Vis a Vis

General manager Nancy Stewart states, “Vis a Vis is inspired by the wonderful cuisine of Lyon. We offer a rustic French food in a relaxed Bouchon bar atmosphere paired with an extensive wine list of new world and old-world wines to suit any palate.”

Settle in at the bar and delight in front row seats to all the action happening on the back bar. Chat with your bartender as they guide you through a delicious wine flight. Or watch the charcutier whip up their Feature Terrine, a drool-worthy plate of pickles, chutneys and mustards served with a baguette. All are made fresh, in house and will leave you wanting another bite.

12:45 p.m. – Penny Farthing Pub

Pop next door to Penny Farthing Pub for lunch. You’ll be greeted by the pub’s namesake – an original, handmade Penny Farthing bike. Boasting walls papered in forest green plaid and vintage Guinness ads along with a friendly locals crowd, the pub could easily fit in on a country road in England.

Check out the collection of memorabilia lining the cozy pub's walls. Credit: Penny Farthing
Check out the collection of memorabilia lining the cozy pub’s walls. Credit: Penny Farthing

Stewart (who also is the general manager of Vis a Vis) says, “The Penny Farthing Pub was inspired by vibrant neighborhood pubs that are the center of villages and communities across the UK. Pubs in England are relaxed places where friends and neighbors gather or grab a quiet pint. We strive to offer an authentic and welcoming experience for our guests.” Sample modern British comfort food, such as juicy chuck burgers paired with what is hands-down some of the best fries you’ve ever had.

A pint of Guinness pairs well with a tasty burger. Credit: Penny Farthing
A pint of Guinness pairs well with a tasty burger. Credit: Penny Farthing

2:15 p.m. – Oak Bay Neighborhood

Often the best way to get a true feel of a community is by foot. Follow one of the many walking trails that skirt the town or walk along the shoreline-hugging Beach Drive as it winds past glorious gardens, heritage houses and quiet parks. When the road opens up near Oak Bay Marina, stop to soak in a postcard-perfect scene.

The views along Beach Drive will stop you in your tracks. Credit: Brenna Ciummo
The views along Beach Drive will stop you in your tracks. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

View a forest of sailboat masts backed by the majestic Mt. Baker as resident harbor seals meander the docks and entertain passersbys in the hopes of a free meal. Its magical moments like these that are good reminders of all that Vancouver Island has to offer.

Gazing out at the majestic Mt. Baker never gets old. Credit: Brenna Ciummo
Gazing out at the majestic Mt. Baker never gets old. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

2:45 p.m. Kitty Islet

Continue down the road a little further to the rocky Kitty Islet, tucked along the east side of McNeil Bay. Grab the requisite selfies with the weathered red and blue wooden Adirondack chairs for the ‘Gram, before finding a perch on the bluffs. With gentle waves lapping at the edges of the inlet and Trial Island as well as the Olympic Mountains looming in the distance, it’s hard to think of a spot that is more peaceful and relaxing.

Kick back in two of the most renowned chairs on this side of the Island. Credit: Brenna Ciummo
Kick back in two of the most renowned chairs on this side of the Island. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

4:00 p.m. – Oak Bay Beach Hotel

It is hard to find enough superlatives to do Oak Bay Beach Hotel justice. Situated on the water’s edge in a beautiful seaside neighborhood, there are few places more stunning. The magnificent architecture is a tribute to the English Manor House style of the original Oak Bay Hotel built in 1927.

The building was destroyed by a fire in 1930, but promptly rebuilt and quickly became “the place to be and be seen.” In 2012 the property was reimagined with a modern feel while preserving many of the original windows, bricks, beams, furniture and artwork.

The magnificent Oak Bay Beach Hotel will take your breath away. Credit: Oak Bay Beach Hotel
The magnificent Oak Bay Beach Hotel will take your breath away. Credit: Oak Bay Beach Hotel

With rustic oak panels, a roaring fireplace, three excellent dining locations, its own theatre and a grand piano in front of gigantic bay windows, the hotel oozes warmth and Old-World glamour. And that’s all before you get to get to your room.

Your jaw will drop the moment you step inside the door to your elegant ocean view suite. A delicious, sweet citrus cinnamon scent fills the room. A kitchenette, a comfy king bed and not one, but TWO, electric fireplaces add to the charm.

Relax in Oak Bay Beach Hotels' bright, airy rooms. Credit: Brenna Ciummo
Relax in Oak Bay Beach Hotels’ bright, airy rooms. Credit: Brenna Ciummo
Snack on fresh eats on your outdoor patio. Credit: Brenna Ciummo
Snack on fresh eats on your outdoor patio. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

The bathroom alone is fit for a queen. With heated floors, complimentary bath salts from Culti Milano and a deep soaking tub begging to be used, it’s every girl’s dream. No matter how much time you spend in the property’s mineral pools, a soak in your own bath is in an indulgence that can’t be ignored. Embrace your inner mermaid, grab a good book and dive in. And when you get tired of reading, crack open the blinds above you welcoming a steady gaze out at the ocean.

The hotel's stunning guest baths are an experience all of their own. Credit: Brenna Ciummo
The hotel’s stunning guest baths are an experience all of their own. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

Yet all that fails in comparison to the pièce de résistance. Gigantic windows and a pair of balconies offer sweeping, majestic views of Oak Bay. Every room offers a different vista. Mary Tod Island. Emily Islet. Harris Island. Oak Bay Marina. The ubiquitous Mt. Baker. All of them are at your doorstep.

With vistas like these, you won't want to leave your room. Credit: Brenna Ciummo
With vistas like these, you won’t want to leave your room. Credit: Brenna Ciummo

5:30 p.m. – Boat House Spa & Bath

The call of the hotel’s luxurious Boathouse Spa & Bath is hard to resist. If relaxation is your goal for the weekend, treating yourself to one of the spa’s ahhh-mazing massages, facials, manicures and pedicures is non-negotiable. Soak in the oasis-like setting and enter a state of pure bliss as all your cares, stress and worries are massaged away. You’ll never want to move again.

7:00 p.m. – Snug Pub

When you’re ready for dinner, head down to the first of floor of the hotel to the Snug Pub, greater Victoria’s first neighborhood pub and a local institution since 1954. True to its name, the pub is indeed snug. Filled with thick, dark wood beams, straw plaster walls, hanging candle chandeliers and a blazing fireplace, you won’t find a cozier spot. The bank of floor-to-ceiling windows that offer phenomenal vistas of the ocean and the grounds below are icing on the cake.

The pub-style lounge, known as the Snug, gets its name from the old English custom of the past to have one special room reserved for patrons who didn't want to be seen in the bar. Credit: Oak Bay Beach Hotel
The pub-style lounge, known as the Snug, gets its name from the old English custom of the past to have one special room reserved for patrons who didn’t want to be seen in the bar. Credit: Oak Bay Beach Hotel

Warm and filled with conversational buzz, the Snug Pub is a prime pick for excellent spirits and eats among friends. Feast your way through a seasonal rotating menu featuring dishes that boast fresh, local ingredients. We highly recommend the potato gnocchi. Rich, hearty, chock-full of braised Angus short ribs and chanterelle mushrooms, it’ spot on for a winter meal.

Feast on hearty pub fare in the Snug Pug. Credit: Mike Pepperdine for Oak Bay Beach Hotel
Feast on hearty pub fare in the Snug Pug. Credit: Mike Pepperdine for Oak Bay Beach Hotel

A word to the wise, when your server urges you to save room for dessert, listen and go all in. Tuck into the sticky toffee pudding. With a rolled oat crumble, creamy ice cream and topped with mouth-watering brandy sauce, it will leave you debating seconds.

10:00 p.m. – Oak Bay Beach Mineral Pool Soak & Steam

As night falls like a black velvet blanket, fewer people around and an overall quieter vibe make for a great time to wander down to the hotel’s renowned heated seaside mineral pools. With minimal surrounding light pollution, the moon, stars and your favorite constellations sparkle and shine against the night sky.

A dip in the heated mineral pools is a must-do at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Credit: Tourism Victoria
A dip in the heated mineral pools is a must-do at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

Even on a brisk night the temperature of the mineral pools is the equivalent of warm bathwater, making it easy to slip in for a dip. Nothing could be more tranquil or serene. On the way back inside, duck inside the spa’s toasty steam room to warm up before being hit with the cool night air going to your room. Filled with the invigorating scent of eucalyptus, your relaxed mind and soothed soul will help you feel a million miles from city life.

Day 2

10:00 a.m. – Kate’s Café

An Oak Bay staple, the intimate Kate’s Café on Beach Drive is a neighborhood favorite and a convenient place to grab a quick bite for breakfast. Nosh on one of the best breakfast sandwiches around – scrambled eggs, gooey cheese and crispy bacon stacked on top of a toasted bagel. Married with a perfectly prepared latte, your taste buds are sure to tingle with excitement.

Cozy up by the fire or enjoy some fresh air on the patio at the rustic Kate's Cafe. Credit: Oak Bay Beach Hotel
Cozy up by the fire or enjoy some fresh air on the patio at the rustic Kate’s Cafe. Credit: Oak Bay Beach Hotel

10:45 a.m. – Oak Bay Avenue Shopping

From the hotel, a quick six-minute shuttle ride around the corner and up the street to Oak Bay Avenue lands you at the quaint Oak Bay Village. The perfect British-style shopping experience! A slew of great boutiques, cafes and other shops are conveniently placed within a few blocks of each other.

Head to Nicholas Randall, a superb women’s boutique well-known for its selection of covetable goods produced by independent craftsman and artisans. The array of splurge-worthy women’s threads, handcrafted jewelry and adorable housewares hand-picked by owners, and sisters, Cyndy Chan and Lisa Chan-Leong are sure to nail your taste.

A collection of unique boutiques make shopping a breeze. Credit: Tourism Victoria
A collection of unique boutiques make shopping a breeze. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

From there, it’s off to the Oak Bay Pharmasave. More than your average drugstore, this little shop is chock-full of treasures from around the world, hand-curated by the store’s expert buyer. Sweet scents to hand-woven baskets? Yes, please!

Cross the street to the family-owned and operated Sweet Delights and immerse yourself in a veritable candy land. Allow owners Barb and Ken to guide you through the massive variety of retro treats and candy they source from around the world (more than 25 different countries to be exact). Canadian maple candy lovers, this is the place for you.

Get a taste of nostalgia with classics such as Clove, Beemans and Blackjack chewing gum or feel like a kid again with a special treat from your home town at Sweet Delights. Credit: Tourism Victoria
Get a taste of nostalgia with classics such as Clove, Beemans and Blackjack chewing gum or feel like a kid again with a special treat from your home town at Sweet Delights. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

One block away is the fantastical Finn & Izzy, a children’s store also helmed by local fashionista superstars Chan & Chan-Leong (their daughters were the inspiration). Home to innovative, inspiring and funky clothes, shoes, toys and books, you are sure to find a gift for the little tykes back home. Make one last stop at Side Street Studio across the way, where a quick browse will uncover incredible gifts from original pottery to wood carvings. Shopping success!

12:30 p.m. – Octtavio

Fuel up where the locals do – Octtavio Italian bakery and delicatessen. It is an iconic Oak Bay landmark and family tradition since the shop’s inception in 1997. Affectionately called “a bit of Europe on this side of the Atlantic,” the cafe is THE source for bread, cheese, espresso and all things delicious.

Grab a selection of the house-made crostini and grissini or fresh breads and pastries prepared every morning by head baker Cameron McCaw. Complement them with specialty cheese, Mediterranean olives, local cured meats and more for a locally-sourced traditional Italian treat. (Inside tip: The nearby Whole Beast and Red Barn Market are also excellent spots to pick up drool-worthy meats and pastries for a DIY picnic.).

1:15 p.m. – Willows Beach

Lunch in hand, make the less than 20-minute stroll along north Beach Drive to one of the most popular swimming and sunbathing spots in greater Victoria, Willows Beach. One of the few soft sand beaches on the east coast of the Island, the beach is a dramatic change from the rocky, but beautiful, beaches of the Washington coast.

The sandy shores of Willows Beach offer the perfect tranquil escape. Credit: Tourism Victoria
The sandy shores of Willows Beach offer the perfect tranquil escape. Credit: Destination Greater Victoria

Pristine swaths of white sand meet the deep cerulean waves of the ocean. An effect that is replicated by white snow-capped peaks of Mt. Baker and other Cascade Mountains contrasted against a sunny, bluebird sky. It is absolutely stunning.

2:30 p.m. – White Heather

Stop by the beloved White Heather Tea Room for a warm up and dessert on the way out of town. Tucked away on Oak Bay Avenue, the exterior of this cozy tearoom makes it easy to miss, but inside the food and service are top-notch.

The off the beaten path eatery offers up a tremendous afternoon tea service, complete with white cloth service and a tiered platter – the whole bit. If you don’t want a whole afternoon tea, opt for the “Wee-Tee.” Snack-sized afternoon tea, it hits the spot with a sampling of tea sandwiches, scones and desserts.

Sip tea out of perfectly patterned china at the White Heather Tea Room. Credit: Michelle Grimord Eggers
Sip tea out of perfectly patterned china at the White Heather Tea Room. Credit: Michelle Grimord Eggers

4:00 p.m.  – Clipper Terminal

Zip back to the Clipper Terminal and check-in for the 2-hour and 45-minute cruise on the Clipper V. Climb aboard, kick back in your comfy leather Comfort Class seats. Order up a Moscow Mule in a chilled copper mug and give a toast to a wonderful weekend away.

After 30 hours in Oak Bay, it is easy to fall in love with the stunning seaside town, yet simultaneously feel like you only have begun to scratch the surface. The solution? A return visit, with a stop at the fairytale-esque Abkhazi Gardens for afternoon tea, a trek to the top of Gonzales Hill Regional Park to scope out breathtaking views of the region and perhaps a quick jaunt across the water by kayak to explore the rugged Discovery Island to round out the list. You and your girls will be counting the days to till the next trip!

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Featured Photo: Oak Bay Beach Hotel