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Choosing A Victoria Neighbourhood

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The capital of BC and home of Vancouver Island's largest municipality, the Greater Victoria Area is home to historical properties and a vast array of homes and neighbourhoods ready to charm new residents. With vibrant gardens, detailed history, and rich culture, Victoria is a city worth living in.

Today we'll be taking a look at the various districts, municipalities, and neighbourhoods to be found in Victoria BC, and the different reasons why you might want to call each one home.

The City Of Victoria

People walking along the walkway of Victoria's Inner Harbour

The City of Victoria, located on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island, is Western Canada's oldest city and the capital of British Columbia. As such, it is home to the provincial legislature.

Victoria has the mildest climate in Canada and with greenery in evidence throughout the year there is little wonder that it's called the City of Gardens! Victoria boasts a spectacular setting of ocean and mountain vistas and offers numerous economic, cultural and recreational opportunities.

The Inner Harbour is the heart of Victoria and for many boaters is the gateway to the City of Gardens. Bordering the harbour are the ivy-covered Fairmont Empress hotel, the world-renowned Royal British Columbia Museum and the magnificent BC Parliament Buildings.

Governments at all levels provide a major employment base in the City.

The Downtown Core

Situated in downtown Victoria, Fort Street is known for its large collection of antique stores. Restored homes and art galleries are also among the street's attractions.

Established in the 1870s, Victoria's Chinatown claims the title of the oldest Chinese district in Canada. The area is well worth visiting, with its abundance of authentic Chinese food restaurants, art and gift galleries, unique architecture and Asian import shops.

At the heart of Victoria lies the district known as Old Town. Aptly named, this is one of the oldest areas in the city and still features many pieces of the past. This historic area is located immediately north of the Empress and includes Wharf Street, Government Street and Douglas Street running north-south, with Johnson Street, Yates Street and Fort Street crossing them.

Many of Victoria's main attractions are located at the Inner Harbour, including many museums, the Empress Hotel and the Legislative Buildings. A walk along the boardwalk, where street performers and artists vie for visitors' attention, is a memorable experience.

James Bay

On the south edge of downtown, elegant Victorian homes play neighbour to the Fairmont Empress Hotel—a perennial favourite among tourists and residents alike. Most of the historic properties in this upscale neighbourhood were built by Victoria’s founding families, and feature storybook details including spires, truss work, and wrap-around porches. One such draw is Carr House, once home to beloved Canadian artist Emily Carr. Days in James Bay include stops in museums, strolls along the harbour front, and dinners at Il Covo Trattoria.

At the southern tip of Victoria, James Bay spans from the serene gardens of Beacon Hill Park up to the Inner Harbour and across to Odgen Point. The district is home to many of the high-end hotels and restaurants of the Inner Harbour, a hugely popular community market and Fisherman's Wharf.

Situated just minutes away from downtown Victoria on the Inner Harbour, Fisherman's Wharf is a tiny but popular area for fish and chips, whale-watching tours and more. The floating village is also home to an eclectic collection of houseboats and is most easily reached via the small Harbour Ferries which circulate regularly.

While the James Bay area is a bit sparse for schools, it's full of great walking locations close to the ocean. Just a quick drive (or walk!) from downtown, it has only a fraction of the noise and bustle.

Fairfield & Rockland

From the expansive gardens and lagoons of Beacon Hill Park to the famed flight point that is Clover Point Kite Park, Dallas Road connects the dots of green spaces, oceanside walkways, and casual neighbourhood pubs and diners between the communities of Fairfield and Gonzales.

East of Beacon Hill Park, the residential neighbourhood of Fairfield is home to the trendy shops and cafés of Cook Street Village, the scenic views at Clover Point and the historic Ross Bay Cemetery. Fairfield is the city's southernmost community and its largest.

The top properties are near the coastline, where the Strait of Juan de Fuca waves pass and leafy trees line the streets. Historic Ross Bay Cemetery, Cook Street Village, and the Moss Street Market round out weekend wanders and Gonzales Bay Beach beckons residents to swim and enjoy the sun.

Fairfield is known for its beautiful homes and friendly neighbours. Like James Bay, the area is close enough to downtown to be an easy walk, and is close to the beach. Cook Street Village in particular is famous for its walkability with locally-owned grocery stores, pubs, coffee shops, pharmacy, post office, restaurants, clinics, and even theatres all in close distance of each other.

One of Victoria's most prestigious neighbourhoods, Rockland has long been established on the hill overlooking Victoria's southern coast. The district is home to the Government House, the residence of B.C.’s Lieutenant Governor, and its extensive gardens.

Architect Samuel MacLure is mainly responsible for the beautiful stone walls that surround the Arts and Crafts-style mansions of the Rockland neighbourhood (some Tudor builds by other architects of the day co-mingle nearby). Situated in the northern part of Fairfield, the neighbourhood can be summed up as stately, but evolved, with expansive gardens sending a peaceful hush through the streets that lead into downtown Victoria. Nearby Christ Church Cathedral is an incredible example of Gothic architecture, perfect for a rainy-day visit.

Features

Walk Score: 78/100
Public Schools: 7 Elementary, 2 Middle, 1 Secondary, 1 Alternative. See Map »
See Homes In Victoria »

The Township of Esquimalt & Victoria West

View from Saxe Point in Esquimalt

Esquimalt is the municipality immediately to the west of Victoria. It offers a variety of interesting contrasts in lifestyles with an abundance of parks, foreshore vistas and a marina.

Esquimalt has a strong mix of high quality residential properties, some excellent waterfront properties and a very active business community including a light industrial district. It has a well-established community spirit and all of its services were well-developed many years ago. Some of Esquimalt's most attractive residential areas are Saxe Point and Rockheights.

Esquimalt has a full range of recreational facilities including a curling rink, indoor swimming pool, recreation centre and the top-ranked Gorge Vale Golf Club.

Facing the western approaches from the sea, Esquimalt is a very pleasant and sun-filled location. It is home to the Department of National Defence and headquarters of Canada's Pacific Naval Fleet. Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt employs around 4,000 military and 3,000 civilian personnel, making it a significant contributor to Victoria's economy.

Many new additions and developments are cropping up in the area as of late, including a public water park, a new business core, and the Railyards condo developments. Situated right on bike paths that connect to downtown and the Galloping Goose, and only a roughly 20 minute walk from downtown, living without a car is more than possible.

West Bay & Saxe Point

The West Bay / Saxe Point area is located in the municipality of Esquimalt in the Greater Victoria Region. It runs south of Esquimalt Road to the coastline that overlooks the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Saxe Point Park is a local gem that is littered with locals on sunny days for its sprawling green lawn and captivating vistas. It is also a popular place for wedding photos. Macaulay Point Park is also popular, with walking trails, coastline views, a small beach and boat dock.

Saxe Point is often an underappreciated area. With great waterfront access and new condo complexes, the seaside community has a little bit for everyone. The closer to the ocean you get, the nicer the neighbourhood becomes, with an air similar to the Mount Doug area and a quick walk to seaside parks and the beach.

Features

Walk Score: 65/100
Public Schools: 2 Elementary, 1 Middle, 1 Secondary. See Map »
See Homes In Esquimalt and Vic West »

The District of Oak Bay

Oak Bay Marina golf course

Oak Bay is a distinct municipality located to the east of Victoria. Oak Bay was incorporated in 1906.

From its kilometres of scenic coastline with breathtaking foreshore vistas to its luxury apartments and stately mansions, Oak Bay is one of the most desirable residential areas in Greater Victoria. Architecture ranges from the late 19th century style of such pre-eminent architects as Francis Rattenbury and Samuel McLure to the contemporary West Coast style of today's fine architects.

Property owners take pride in maintaining their impeccably manicured lawns and fine landscaping. Canopies of trees enhance the attractiveness of the area and are passionately protected.

Oak Bay is home to two world-class golf courses, the Uplands Golf Club and Victoria Golf Club, as well as the Oak Bay Marina and the prestigious Royal Victoria Yacht Club. There are three recreation centres in the municipality and its main shopping areas, Oak Bay Avenue and Estevan, maintain a village-like atmosphere. Oak Bay shares the University of Victoria and Camosun College with the neighbouring municipality of Saanich.

Situated just east of downtown Victoria, Oak Bay feels like its own small seaside village. Old-English style streets are lined with galleries (Eclectic Gallery, The Avenue Gallery, Winchester Galleries), London-esque pubs like the Penny Farthing Public House, fine dining stops such as The Dining Room at Oak Bay Beach Hotel, and plentiful gardens, beaches, and parks. Oak Bay Marina and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club are draws for mariners of all stripes.

This is a high-demand area with families, as the excellent schools are a big draw, as well as well-maintained parks.

Estevan Village is little neighbourhood within Oak Bay, a short three-block stroll from Willows Beach. Here you can find restaurants, gift shops, a toy store and cafés.

Uplands

The Uplands is an area in the municipality of Oak Bay in the Greater Victoria Region. It was designed in 1907 by landscape architect John Olmsted and features sprawling estates, winding streets, and decorative lamp posts. Located within this area is the wild and beautiful Uplands Park and the Royal Victoria Yacht Club.

The Uplands area is Oak Bay’s prime real estate, drawing its name from the high-end homes that line the waterfront, which include some of the most sought-after luxury property in Canada. Its water access, charming neighbourhood fixtures, and recreational options are the cherry on top of the unmatched ocean vistas.

Features

Walk Score: 61/100
Public Schools: 1 Elementary, 1 Middle, 1 Secondary. See Map »
See Homes In Oak Bay »

The District of North Saanich

Pat Bay Sunset

The overriding philosophy of North Saanich residents is to retain the rural qualities of the area with an acute awareness of the protection of the environment.

Agricultural, residential and institutional uses are the primary land uses in North Saanich with only minor commercial or industrial uses (with the exception of the Victoria International Airport). The dominant agricultural/residential uses result in the highly valued rural atmosphere of North Saanich living. Almost all the housing is classified as single detached homes.

The Panorama Leisure Centre provides indoor tennis, ice arena, pool and other facilities while the Glen Meadows Golf and Country Club and the Ardmore Golf Course serve golf enthusiasts.

Because of the community's preference for retaining larger lot sizes and the rural nature of residential neighbourhoods, water supply is provided by wells or the municipal water system. North Saanich is under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Waste disposal is done on a private basis.

Features

Walk Score: 15/100
Public Schools: 2 Elementary, 1 Middle, 1 Secondary. See Map »
See Homes In North Saanich »

The District of Central Saanich

Agriculture is the most extensive land use activity in Central Saanich, with pockets of housing ranging from hobby farms to townhouses dispersed throughout. The necessary services are provided through two core commercial areas in Brentwood Bay and Saanichton, supported nicely by the Keating X Road industrial/commercial area.

The overriding philosophy of the community is to retain the current rural character, agricultural land base and as much as possible provide for slow, long-term growth where it will have the least impact on the agricultural lands and the environment.

Central Saanich has its own police force and Fire Department. Garbage collection is done on a private basis.

Golf courses and pebble beaches make this neighbourhood feel like a vacation spot. Exploring the pathways of Elk and Beaver Lake Regional Parks and the flavours of the Beach House Restaurant are enough to keep residents satiated when they aren’t relaxing in their modern and custom-built homes. This area was made for landscape architecture, backyard grilling, and feeling at home.

A stroll through the famous botanical wonder that is Butchart Gardens, sitting down for a seasonal dish at the upscale Dining Room, spending a relaxing afternoon at the Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa, visiting the otherworldly Victoria Butterfly Gardens—these are all fantastic lures to the Brentwood Bay area. Located just outside Victoria in nearby Central Saanich, the property lines are expansive and the homes vary from charming Cape Cod styles to expansive estates on Willis Point.

Features

Walk Score: 35/100
Public Schools: 2 Elementary, 1 Middle, 1 Secondary. See Map »
See Homes In Central Saanich »

The Town of Sidney

"Sidney by the Sea" as it is affectionately known, is located about 20 kilometres north of Victoria. It enjoys a temperate climate, natural amenities and friendly community character. Sidney is under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Sidney has extensive waterfront walkways, parks, restaurants and marinas. Sidney is very proud of the redeveloped Mary Winspear Community Centre, which includes the 315 seat Charlie White Theatre. Sidney's popular Thursday evening street market runs through the summer and attracts visitors from around the region.

With its sister municipalities of North Saanich and Central Saanich, Sidney helps fund the nearby Panorama Leisure Centre, which provides indoor tennis, two indoor ice rinks, a large indoor pool and other facilities.

There is daily ferry service to Anacortes, Washington, U.S.A. Sidney is less than two kilometres away from the Victoria International Airport, just a few kilometres from the B.C. Ferry Terminal to Vancouver and only 25 minutes away from downtown Victoria.

Offering everything a little village should offer, Sidney is only a 25-minute drive to downtown Victoria while boasting good schools, walking distance to all amenities, and scenic oceanfront.

Features

Walk Score: 64/100
Public Schools: 1 Elementary, 1 Middle (shared with North Saanich), 1 Secondary (shared with North Saanich). See Map »
See Homes In Sidney »

The District of Saanich

Saanich Municipal Hall

Saanich East and Saanich West is a sprawling area composed of a number of distinct neighbourhoods.

The eastern side of Saanich is dominated by the University of Victoria which is very much a part of the local life of the community. Saanich West is a multifaceted community stretching from the established suburban neighbourhoods of the Gorge area north to the rural farmland around Elk Lake and Prospect Lake.

The landscape of Saanich is unique for its ecological diversity and leisure potential. There are 170 municipal parks, three regional parks and a cycling network route to see and explore. Saanich has more parks per capita than any other municipality in B.C. There are several excellent golf courses in Saanich: Blenkinsop Valley, Cedar Hill, Cordova Bay and Prospect Lake golf courses.

Saanich's distinct neighbourhoods include the following:

  • High Quadra overlooking Blenkinsop Valley.
  • Broadmead with imaginative West Coast architecture.
  • The Victoria General Hospital is little farther West and North among the family-oriented neighbourhoods of Strawberry Vale, West Burnside and Glanford Area. Interurban campus of Camosun College lies in the middle of this growing area, which is also host to many new subdivisions of single family residential development.
  • Prospect Lake is slightly further North, a well established area featuring a 9 hole golf course and a "lakeside retreat" ambience. Decidedly rural, the Elk Lake/Beaver Lake and the Old West Saanich Road areas include many horse farms and small acreages.

Gordon Head

Gordon Head is a solidly upper middle class family area with several shopping malls, restaurants and movie theatres within a short driving distance. Very residential with a strong supply of single detached homes, Gordon Head is known for the solid quality of its Mount Doug high school, and is close enough to the University of Victoria to see a regular stream of students looking to rent.

The neighbourhoods are quiet and safe, and are centrally located enough to make it an easy trip to either Sidney or downtown Victoria, whether by car or bus. For those who like to wander, Gordon Head has acquired a positive reputation for its trails, forest area, and Cadboro Bay Beach.

Fernwood

Home to trendy shops, cafés, and galleries, as well as Central Middle School and Victoria High School, this eclectic neighbourhood is recognized as one of Victoria's most engaging communities. Fernwood's boundaries reach from Bay St. in the north to Fort St. in the south and from Cook St. in the west to Shelbourne in the east.

With an abundance of parks, pubs, coffee shops, delis, a theatre, and even a kilt store, it isn't uncommon to stroll through Fernwood in fine weather and hear the strains of someone playing an acoustic guitar. Well connected to the rest of town, you can travel from Fernwood to almost anywhere in 15 minutes by bus or car. The only downside is the lack of a central pharmacy or grocery store.

Tillicum & Gorge Waterway

The Gorge Waterway on the west side of Saanich is a beautiful setting and a popular area for young families who prefer to live close to town. The Tillicum mall, Town and Country shopping centre, and the Silver City movie theatre are all conveniently located. Roughly centered between Burnside Rd. and Gorge Rd. in Victoria's northwestern quadrant, this quiet district enjoys a scenic view of the Lower Gorge Waterway.

Cordova Bay

View from Cordova Bay

Cordova Bay is perched along the seaside and includes a mixture of cottages, small farms, sizable family homes and new subdivisions. Located north of Victoria in Saanich on the each coast, its main highlight is an expansive pebble and sand beach that is populated by locals on hot summer days and makes for a quiet walk in the winter. Several beach access points can be found along Cordova Bay Road, such as at Agate Lane. This district is located near Elk Lake and features the Cordova Bay Golf Course. Cordova Bay Village services the area with a small shopping district mainly centred around Mattick's Farm.

Uptown

A relatively new area, Uptown is growing an increasing number of quality neighborhoods, all centered around the amenities of Saanich Plaza and the Uptown Shopping Centre, which boasts all manner of shopping as well as a well-connected transit hub. Cyclists will love the easy access to the Galloping Goose trail, and not having to drive to reach a bank, grocery store, pharmacy, library, daycare, or other services. The serene Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary is only a short walk away, making for a calming spot to wander in the evening.

Features

Walk Score: 51/100
Public Schools: Saanich School District: 3 Elementary, 1 Middle, 1 Secondary, 2 Alternative. See Map »
Victoria School District: 15 Elementary, 6 Middle, 4 Secondary. See Map »
See Homes In East Saanich and West Saanich »

The City of Colwood

A leaf-strewn path in Colwood during autumn, leading to a bridge

Incorporated in 1985, the City of Colwood is divided into residential pockets such as Triangle Mountain, Colwood Creek, Colwood Lake Estates, Wishart and Lagoon areas. There are business centres at Colwood Corners and Hatley Park.

The area offers a variety of recreational pursuits. The Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre is considered to be one of the most complete sport complexes in the province. For the golf enthusiast, there are the Royal Colwood and Olympic View golf courses as well as the nine hole Juan de Fuca course. The area offers a nature reserve as well as a beach for sun tanning, swimming, wind-surfing, sailing or just walking. Views of downtown and views of the American coast over the Strait of Juan de Fuca are also enjoyed. In addition, there are a number of smaller parks. Colwood is also home to Royal Roads University.

Garbage collection is done on a private basis and the area is policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The Fire Department is a mix of regular and volunteer members. The area is well served by public transit. There is a private medical clinic available in Colwood Corners for emergency assistance, but most medical problems are taken care of at the Victoria General Hospital located on Helmcken Road which is very close by.

Features

Walk Score: 42/100
Public Schools: 5 Elementary, 2 Middle, 3 Secondary. Learn More »
See Homes In Colwood »

The City of Langford

Langford Fountain - credit to City of Langford

The Langford area is large, extending from West Saanich to View Royal, along Colwood, Metchosin, Sooke and northwards including portions of the Malahat Drive. Incorporated in 1992, the City of Langford is divided into distinct areas such as Glen Lake, Happy Valley, Florence Lake, Langford Proper, Thetis Heights and the Goldstream Area. There is a business and commercial area running from the Goldstream/Millstream intersection to Jacklin Road and extending to Westshore Town Centre on Kelly Road.

The area has a large number of lakes and parks, offering a variety of recreational pursuits. The larger lakes include Thetis Lake, Langford Lake, Glen Lake and Florence Lake. The ever-popular Goldstream Park also has a provincial campground and is famous for its annual salmon spawn.

Langford also includes the Olympic View and Bear Mountain developments featuring golf courses, a hotel and spa along with residential housing.

Most of the community is served by a municipal water system however there are large parts that are serviced by private wells. Septic tanks and septic fields are the norm though some areas are served by private sewage systems. Garbage pickup is done on a private basis. There is bus service throughout the area. Langford is policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Features

Walk Score: 48/100
Public Schools: 8 Elementary, 1 Middle, 1 Secondary. See Map »
See Homes In Langford »

The Town of View Royal

The town of View Royal was incorporated in 1988 and encompasses 1,007 hectares (2,488 acres) of land and 253 hectares (626 acres) of foreshore and land covered by water.

View Royal lies at the doorstep of Greater Victoria's urban core and adjacent to the established municipalities of Esquimalt and Saanich.

View Royal is served by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Waste disposal is done on a private basis and areas within the township are protected by a tree-cutting bylaw.

View Royal has been divided into seven distinct Precincts based on such factors as topography, major transportation corridors, natural environment and the age of housing stock. They are Craigflower, Harbour, Helmcken, Hospital, Burnside, Atkins and Wilfert. Each Precinct can also be described and identified according to its population, the number of dwelling units by type and ownership, the amount of land available for new development and the presence of commercial and retail land uses.

Features

Walk Score: 47/100
Public Schools: 3 Elementary, 1 Middle. See Map »
See Homes In View Royal »

The District of Metchosin

Metchosin is mainly a rural community with large parcels of land. It includes areas such as Albert Head, William Head, Rocky Point, Happy Valley and the Kangaroo Road areas.

Horseback riding, nature trails and parks are common in the district, which also offers a number of golf courses. Matheson Lake is popular for swimming and hiking. Witty's Lagoon is an oceanfront area for a variety of sports and for relaxation. Pedder Bay is well known for its fishing and Metchosin is the setting for Pearson College, which attracts students from all over the world. As the area is mainly rural, there are a variety of farm-related organizations and horse and riding clubs.

Parts of the community are served by a community water system however there are large parts that are serviced by private wells. Septic tanks and septic fields are the norm. There are also some private sewage systems. Garbage collection is done on a private basis. There is limited bus service throughout the area, both for public transport and for schools. Metchosin falls under the jurisdiction of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and has a volunteer Fire Department.

Features

Walk Score: 15/100
Public Schools: 1 Elementary. See Map »
See Homes In Metchosin »

The District of Highlands

Many people choose to live in the Highlands because of its rural character and natural beauty. Residents are encouraged to build their homes with the least environmental impact by minimizing vegetation removal, using materials that blend in with the landscape and positioning homes so that they are not highly visible from the road or viewpoints.

Mount Work Regional Park boasts swimming holes, fishing spots and hilly terrain as well as the highest peak on the Saanich Peninsula. Lone Tree Regional Park has a two kilometre trail that winds uphill, leading hikers to fabulous views of the Highlands, Victoria and the Olympic Mountains.

During a normal winter, the Highlands experiences cooler temperatures and more rainfall than Victoria, which is needed to recharge well water resources and maintain ecosystems during dryer conditions that occur during the summer and fall months.

The Highlands is home to many interesting plants and ecosystems such as wetlands, woodlands, wildflowers and old growth trees. The roads are scenic, narrow and winding.

Features

Walk Score: 0/100
Public Schools: None. See Map »
See Homes In the Highlands »

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