People go to Victoria for different reasons and I went for wellness. Over the past year I’ve started carving out more “me” time, whether that means going for a walk around the neighborhood or taking a half-hour meditation break. Believe me, it’s not easy, as I’m sure all of you know but I really do believe that finding a semblance of balance is key to a happy and healthy life. Hence, my visit to Oak Bay Beach Hotel. My time here was brief but I made the most of it and I really do feel better as a result. While I can only speak from my experience, I recommend treating yourself to one or all of the luxurious activities below.
While I could have easily spent my entire 48 hours at Oak Bay, this was my first time in Victoria and I wanted to see as much as my quick trip allowed. Mark of Hike Victoria met me inside the hotel for an afternoon excursion in the great outdoors. The first thing that struct me about Mark is his enthusiasm for Victoria’s natural surroundings. I hadn’t even seen anything yet but I was already excited. Hike Victoria caters to small groups, which I personally think is the best type of tour.
Since I was on a bit of a time crunch and we were chasing the sunset, we started our adventure at Salmon Run. I remember learning all about the salmon lifecycle in elementary school but to see it up close was surprisingly thrilling. As a refresher, salmon run is when salmon migrate from the ocean to the stream where they were born. Once there, they spawn in the shallow water and eventually…die. Dire, I know but it was one of the most fascinating things I’ve seen in nature.
After spotting a few Bald Eagles in the distance (a first for me and I totally fangirled), we stopped briefly at a waterfall teeming with lush vegetation. Next on the itinerary was a steep but quick hike to the Koksilah River Trestle. When you reach the top, you’re standing on a wooden railway and the view is amazing. Mark and I rushed up the hill to be there for the sunset and it was worth all my huffing and puffing. I really pushed my limits that day and it felt good. Sure, I was tired but I had a seaweed bath waiting for me in my room, which leads me to my next point.
Therapeutic Spa Treatments
A wellness retreat is not complete without a little self-indulgence and Oak Bay definitely got that memo. There are several items on the menu, three of which are their specialty treatments. I opted for the “By The Sea” Massage – A nourishing and detoxifying treatment combining rich seaweed concentrates with relaxing Swedish massage. The other two are the Organic Rebalancing Facial and the Organic Re-hydrating Gel Wrap. All three peaked my interest but I couldn’t resist a good old massage with a twist.
Another great thing about Oak Bay Beach Hotel is that they’ll actually draw you a bath if you request it in advance. Clearly hooked on the amazing health benefits of seaweed, I chose their “Pacific Seaweed” recipe. The ingredients help reduce stress and eliminate environmental pollutants among other benefits. As I soon learned, raw seaweed has more than 70 micronutrients like iodine that reduce toxins in the body, relieve joint pain and improve skin conditions. After this trip, I’m pretty much obsessed with seaweed.
Natural Mineral Pools
By far the biggest allure of Oak Bay are the steaming hot mineral pools that overlook the bay. Victoria in early November is pretty chilly so I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of getting into a swim suit and going into a pool. Within 30 minutes of checking into the hotel, I draped a thick bathrobe over my body and headed straight there. There are three pools and each has a slightly different temperature, with the largest pool being the coolest (it’s still warm, though). The other two are smaller in size and higher in temperature.
One of the perks of traveling off-season is getting views like these all to myself. I’m sure if I visited Oak Bay during the busy summer months there would be no chance of me getting one of these natural pools to myself but in November, it wasn’t an issue. The pools are located right by the spa entrance so it’s really easy to go from one to the other. Speaking of the spa, there’s a steam room inside as well as a relaxation room with light refreshments and hot herbal tea.
Yoga & Meditation
I’m certainly no Yogi but I’m a huge proponent of breathing techniques and stretching. Our Yoga instructor, on the other hand, put us all to shame with her flexibility. We opted to have our class outside on the garden patio and I’m so glad we did. I forgot how quickly your body warms up during Yoga. I started with a hat, socks and a thick sweater and by the end of class, I was barefoot and hat-less. For someone who doesn’t practice mindfulness as much as I should, I really got a lot out of this class. Nothing was too hard but I still felt challenged not only physically but spiritually.
Tea (and other treats)
In between spas, mineral pools and hikes, a girl is bound to work up an appetite, right? I had my fill of amazing food in Victoria and almost every dish was either organic and/or gluten-free. Coming from San Francisco, this shouldn’t have been such a shocker but I was really impressed by how creative the chefs here are. In particular, Be Love in downtown Victoria serves vegan and vegetarian fare that is entirely wheat, gluten, dairy, mean and processed sugar-free. And…it tastes amazing. Their famous “Love Bowl” item on the menu is “pay what you wish” because they believe everyone should have access to healthy good. I second that!
As an extra bonus, our group got to visit a tea farm en route to Tofino. I’ve been to a few farms in my day but never a tea farm so I was super excited about our little pit stop. Run by a husband and wife team, they grow a variety of plants and flowers. Many teas are selected from tea estates from around the world and they hand-craft their original recipes as well. Plants and flowers are blended with organic green, black, white, red colony and pu-erh teas. Plus, they have Mate! As if that wasn’t enough, they whipped out an assortment of decadent deserts to pair with our tea selections.
What’s your favorite way to relax? Tell me in the comments below!
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