Cordova Bay, Vancouver Island

Cordova Bay, Vancouver Island

by | Mar 21, 2021

Cordova Bay is an embayment and a community located in the municipality of Saanich, one of the 13 cities comprising the Greater Victoria Region on Vancouver Island, about 9 miles (14.5 km) south-southeast of Sidney and 7 miles (11 km) north of downtown Victoria, British Columbia. A significant feature of the local area which has influenced its historical development and character is the long sandy beach. The area is the traditional territory of the Lekwungen people and was central to the Coast Salish for gathering food. In the summer of 1790, a Spanish expedition aboard Princesa Real sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca under the command of Ship Lieutenant Francisco de Eliza. The expedition included Ship Lieutenant Salvador Fidalgo, and Ship Ensign Manuel Quimper, Gonzalo López de Haro, and Juan Carrasco. They explored the Strait of Juan de Fuca where they named an embayment on the south tip of Vancouver Island “Puerto de Córdova”, after the city of Córdoba, and claimed it for Spain. The British later renamed this bay Esquimalt Harbour and transferred the name “Cordova Bay” to its present location.

In 1851, the lands of Vancouver Island were granted to the Hudson’s Bay Company for settlement as a Crown Colony. In 1858, the first year of Crown land sales on the Saanich Peninsula, 988 acres (400 ha) of land between Elk Lake and Cordova Bay were purchased by Samuel Haseltine, James Farquhar, George Deans, John Tod, Thomas Skinner, and Henry Smith. Two of the first people to actually settle in the area in the early 1880s were Philip Touet and James Pusey. The first summer resident along the beach was Frederick Norris, a well-known Victoria businessman. In 1912, the Canadian National Railways ran tracks along what is now Lochside Drive and a station was constructed at the corner of what is now Lochside Drive and Haliburton Road. This brought an influx of summer residents and initiated the subdivision of waterfront property into small residential lots.

In 1919, George McMorran opened a waterfront tea room and later added a dance pavilion. Today, the same building is being operated as The Beach House Restaurant. In 1928, McMorran constructed a 14 unit motel and later added 72 summer rental cabins. The transition of Cordova Bay from summer retreat to year-round residential area began in the 1940s following World War II. During this time, churches were built at Elk Lake and Cordova Bay and the Cordova Bay Elementary School was constructed. McMorran’s Seaview Shopping Plaza was constructed in 1960. In 2018, this was torn down and the site is being redeveloped for condominiums and retail stores as The Haro. Read more here and here. Explore more of Cordova Bay here:

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This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2019 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

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