On a sunny day late fall day, Estevan Village presents an amazing walkable spot to enjoy lunch, shop or stroll to nearby Willows Beach. Courtesy Tourism Oak Bay

Estevan Escape: Rediscovering a special spot

Plenty of reasons to visit in winter, writes Monday columnist Tess van Straaten

By Tess van Straaten

Monday Magazine columnist

It’s a sunny and surprisingly warm winter morning – perfect for a rambling walk through the picturesque streets of Oak Bay. We’re on our way to Estevan Village for brunch and I need to work up an appetite, because The Village Restaurant is known for dishing up one of the best all-day breakfasts in town.

It’s packed inside so we settle into one of the cozy patio seats out front. My mouth is watering as I read through all the distinct and delicious choices, from new twists on eggs Benedict to latke pancakes and tempting lunch offerings.

“Our most popular items are the Big Al Benny and the Village BLT with Red Barn bacon,” explains owner Jason Chan, who knows he has a special spot.

A sample of the offerings at The Village Restaurant in Estevan, the aptly named Village hash (foreground) and Village BLT. Photo by Tess van Straaten

“Estevan Village is full of character and charm and we have an amazing collective of proud and passionate small business owners,” Chan says. “In a world full of shiny new developments it’s extremely unique, as soul is not something you can buy.”

And that’s why we’re here – to rediscover this local gem, which is home to the picture-perfect Lokier Gardens and just a short stroll to Willows Beach. After a delectable brunch (I tried the Village Hash and wasn’t disappointed), we check out the eclectic mix of shops.

“There are more than a dozen one-of-a-kind businesses, making Estevan a unique Oak Bay spot that maintains a sweet, ‘old world’ charm,” explains Oak Bay Tourism board member Rob Jennings.

And Jennings should know. His family business, Jennings Florists, is one of those spots. It’s been a Victoria institution for almost a century and is the city’s oldest family-run flower shop. Estevan also boasts some great gift shops and beautiful boutiques.

My favourite is Bungalow, a must-see shop with everything from jewellery and trinkets to toys, books and kitchenware. Pet-friendly and stocked with so many unique items, I could have spent all afternoon browsing but my son was eager to get to the beach, which was surprisingly busy for a winter weekend.

“Willows is a year-round favourite,” says Jennings. “With gorgeous views of the Salish Sea and safe sidewalks, visitors of all ages love to visit and play at Willows 12 months of the year.”

Bundled up, we walk along the entire length of the beach, stopping to skip rocks and race along logs. Our little dog, Bella, runs back and forth in the sand and there’s no shortage of other pups for her to play with.

As the low-slung winter sun starts to go down, we’ve worked up an appetite again and hitting the famous Willows Galley Fish & Chips, an Estevan institution, seems like the perfect way to end a fantastic day.

Also read by Tess van Straaten on mondaymag.com:

Tess van Straaten: Getting away to the Gulf Islands

Tess van Straaten: Falling in Love with Cowichan

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Getting funky on four wheels

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