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Living in Victoria - 6 Oak Bay and Esquimalt Areas

posted on Oct 28

The City of Victoria is actually pretty small, with a population of about 80,000 residents.  The surrounding areas, which make up, what is known as Greater Victoria, account for the remaining 270,000 or so residents.  These other municipalities offer a variety of lifestyle options and are worth considering if you’re planning a move here, or even if you’re just visiting as there’s lots to see and do in each of these areas.

In this blog I’m going to talk about two of these municipalities, Oak Bay and Esquimalt (Esk-Why-Malt), each of which is in sharp contrast to the other.

Oak Bay

This is a well-established and very “traditional” community, where British heritage runs deep.  Tree lined streets and large, gracious houses make up the bulk of this community’s residential area. The Oak Bay Village is the local retail area, where most locals go to shop for their daily needs. 

Another well-known part of Oak Bay is the Uplands Area, which is where the rich and famous own large mansions, some along the waterfront; others tucked discretely away behind the hedges and manicured gardens of the area.

Living in Oak Bay presents some challenges, which may not be desirable to some, including the rigorous by-laws pertaining to what can, and can’t be done to an owner’s property. Lawns and gardens must be well-maintained, residents are not permitted to park large trucks, campers etc. in their driveways and other by-laws pertaining to noise and use of items such as leaf-blowers, may be found too restrictive by people who prefer to live in a less-governed environment.

Owning residences in Oak Bay and the Uplands Area is certainly a more expensive proposition that in other municipalities and property purchase prices will generally range from the mid $500K range to upward of several million dollars. 

While renting is an option, it is generally quite limited. There are a few rental apartment buildings and a few of the larger homes may offer suites for rent but, for the most part, Oak Bay is not a rental community. Rents in this part of Greater Victoria will generally range from about $800 to $1500 per month.

Esquimalt

Unlike Oak Bay, Esquimalt is considered to be a “blue collar” community.  It is the home to Canada’s Pacific Fleet and the navy base and the shipyards there add to the vigor of this community.

Esquimalt owes its heritage to local First Nations and a portion of the community is still owned and occupied by First Nations bands.  Until recently, Esquimalt was also the home of the Canadian army’s Princess Patricia Light Infantry, but the battalion was totally shipped out a number of years ago and the barracks and parade grounds now lie empty and forgotten. Some military housing still remains on the land, but it is mostly a large, empty space that is gradually returning to the wild.

Despite its blue-collar reputation, Esquimalt has a number of “hidden gems” such as Saxe Point, a waterfront park adjacent to a quiet residential area, and West Bay where you’ll find a community of float homes and a marina overlooking Victoria’s outer harbor.

Property prices in Esquimalt are, by and large, some of the lowest in the area and a diligent search can turn up a small home for sale in the $200K-$250K price range.  Rents, too, tend to be lower than in other areas and there are definitely more rental options available as this municipality caters to many military families who prefer to love “off-base” in an area that may feel more like home, than a military base.

Next time around I’ll write about Saanich and the various municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula, including Central Saanich, West Saanich, East Saanich and North Saanich.