Capturing the Beauty of Esquimalt, British Columbia

Esquimalt, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, is a district municipality with a rich history and significant naval importance. "Esquimalt" originates from the local Indigenous language, meaning "place of gradually shoaling waters." 


Before European settlement, the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations inhabited this area for thousands of years. The region saw early European influence, with James Douglas visiting in 1843 and signing treaties with local First Nations.


During the Crimean War, Esquimalt became a naval base for a combined British-French fleet, transitioning to a Royal Canadian Navy installation in 1910. 


Today, Esquimalt is home to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt (CFB Esquimalt), the Pacific Coast naval base and headquarters of Maritime Forces Pacific. 


With over 4,000 military personnel and civilians, the base houses one of the world's largest dry docks and various naval facilities.


Esquimalt's economy is closely tied to the military presence, with the Canadian Forces Base, federal graving dock, and light industries playing key roles. 


The area boasts heritage buildings, like St. Paul's Anglican Church, reflecting its naval history. Esquimalt's residential neighbourhoods use its waterfront, offering bays, beaches, and parks for the community.


The Esquimalt Naval Sites National Historic Site of Canada, designated in 1995, encompasses key naval locations like Her Majesty’s Canadian Dockyard, the former Royal Navy Hospital, the Veterans’ Cemetery, and the Cole Island Magazine. 


These sites showcase the evolution of naval defence from the Imperial period to the Royal Canadian Navy era, preserving a century's naval history in Canada.


Esquimalt's strategic location, historical significance, and naval heritage make it vital to British Columbia's landscape. It blends a rich past with a modern naval presence.


History of Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

Esquimalt has a long and rich history. The Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations inhabited the area for approximately 4,000 years before European settlement. "Esquimalt" originates from their language, meaning "place of gradually shoaling waters."


In 1843, James Douglas visited the harbour and later signed treaties with the local First Nations, allowing the development of three Hudson's Bay Company supply farms. 


The Fraser River Gold Rush disrupted Esquimalt's quiet development in 1858 when its wharf became the main point of arrival for thousands of miners heading to Victoria.


Esquimalt officially became the headquarters of the Royal Navy's Pacific Station in 1865, although the navy had constructed buildings on Duntze Head as early as 1855. 


By the 1880s, rapid growth occurred through the building of Royal Navy dry docks (1887), the construction of the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway (1886), and the founding of a military base at Work Point (1887).


The admiralty abandoned the navy base in 1905, but it became the West Coast base of the newly-created Royal Canadian Navy in 1910. Esquimalt's attractive setting made it a desirable residential location for many of Victoria's business and political leaders.


In 1912, Esquimalt was incorporated as a District Municipality. After World War I, it became one of Canada's major shipbuilding capitals. 


Today, Esquimalt is home to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, the Pacific Coast naval base and headquarters of Maritime Forces Pacific, with over 4,000 military personnel and civilians.


Geography of Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

Esquimalt is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It is bordered to the east by the provincial capital, Victoria, to the south by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the west by Esquimalt Harbour and Royal Roads, to the northwest by the New Songhees 1A Indian reserve and the town of View Royal, and to the north by a narrow inlet of water called the Gorge, across which is the district municipality of Saanich.


"Esquimalt" originates from the local Indigenous language, meaning "place of gradually shoaling waters". The municipality covers an area of 7.08 km2 (2.73 sq mi) and has a population of 17,533 in 2021.


Esquimalt is surrounded by water and has over 30 parks, beaches, and scenic waterfront walkways. Its harbour was visited in 1790 by Manuel Quimper of the Spanish navy, who called it Puerto de Cordova to honour the Mexican viceroy. 


The region's geography and natural harbour have played a significant role in Esquimalt's history as a naval base and settlement.


Demographics of Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

According to the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Esquimalt had a population of 17,533 living in 8,565 of its 8,995 total private dwellings. This represents a slight decrease of 0.7% from its 2016 population of 17,655.


Esquimalt covers an area of 7.08 km2 (2.73 sq mi), which in 2021 resulted in a population density of 2,476.4/km2 (6,413.9/sq mi).


The municipality's population is relatively evenly split between men and women, with 8,725 men and 8,645 women in 2021.


English is the most common mother tongue, with 14,460 people reporting it as their first language. 545 people speak French, while 1,865 have a non-official language as their mother tongue.


Esquimalt's population is well-educated, with a median after-tax income of $45,600 in 2020. The Gini index, a measure of income inequality, is 0.259 for adjusted household after-tax income, indicating relatively low income inequality in the municipality.


The average household size in Esquimalt is 2.0 persons. Of the population aged 15 and over, 8,055 are married or living common-law, while 7,340 are single, divorced, or widowed.


Economy of Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

The economy of Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada, is primarily influenced by its strong naval presence and historical ties to the military. The Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, home to Maritime Forces Pacific of the Royal Canadian Navy, plays a central role in the municipality's economy. 


With its naval facilities and over 4,000 military personnel and civilians, this base is a significant employer in the region.


Apart from the military, Esquimalt's economy also includes a federal graving dock and various light industries. While agriculture was historically important, it has given way to the military as the main economic driver in the area. 


The community benefits from heritage buildings like St. Paul's Anglican Church, which preserves over a century of naval history, reflecting the region's past ties to shipbuilding and naval activities.


Esquimalt's pleasant residential neighbourhoods use its extensive waterfront, offering bays, beaches, parks, and scenic waterfront walkways for the community to enjoy. 


The municipality continues to provide opportunities for new commercial, industrial, and residential developments, ensuring a diverse economic landscape that combines its naval heritage with modern amenities and services.


Education in Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

Esquimalt High School, located at 847 Colville Road, is a public high school operated by the Greater Victoria School District. Established on August 24, 1915, it is one of the few schools in British Columbia to retain "High School" in its name. 


The school served 628 students from Esquimalt, View Royal, and the Victoria neighbourhoods of Vic West and Craigflower in the 2016-2017 academic year.


Academic Programs

Esquimalt High School offers a diverse range of academic programs, including:

  • Career Preparation Programs in Jazz, Media & Graphic Arts, Automotive Technology, and Food Industry Training
  • Culinary Arts, Dramatic Arts, Fine Arts, and Concert Band
  • 4C Challenge Gifted Education, focusing on commitment to tasks, creative problem solving, challenging curriculum and assignments, and community involvement
  • French Immersion, Leadership, Musical Theatre, Improv, and Technology Education
  • Victoria International High School Programs for International Students


Athletics and Extracurricular Activities

The school's athletics teams, known as the Esquimalt Dockers, participate in sports such as basketball, curling, rowing, rugby, swimming, wrestling, badminton, and tennis. The Curling Academy is a unique program that develops a blend of skills, including academic excellence, leadership development, and curling skills. It accepts students from all levels of curling proficiency.


Sustainability and Community Involvement

Esquimalt High School participates in the Sustainable High Schools Project offered by the Sierra Club BC’s Environmental Education Program, which promotes environmental awareness and sustainability. The University of Victoria operates a weather station at the school as part of its School-Based Weather Station Network, gathering data for its Climate Modelling Group.


Post-Secondary Education

Students in Esquimalt have access to various post-secondary education options in British Columbia, including the University of Victoria, Vancouver Island University, University of British Columbia, and Simon Fraser University. These institutions offer various academic programs, providing students with further education and career development opportunities.


International Education

Esquimalt High School is also a popular destination for international students, offering an array of courses to meet its diverse student population's learning needs and interests. The school provides a welcoming environment for international students, supporting their integration into Canadian culture and academic life.


Esquimalt's education system is characterized by a strong public high school, diverse academic programs, athletic opportunities, and a commitment to sustainability and community involvement. The municipality's proximity to Victoria also provides access to various post-secondary education institutions, making it an attractive location for students seeking a well-rounded education.


Transport System in Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

Esquimalt has a well-developed transportation system that includes public transit, active transportation infrastructure, and road networks. The municipality is working to promote sustainable transportation options and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.


Public Transit

Esquimalt is served by the Victoria Regional Transit System, operated by BC Transit. The municipality has several bus routes, with the main route being the #15 bus, which runs every 20 minutes from downtown Victoria to Esquimalt. Tickets cost $3 for adults and $2 for seniors and students.


Active Transportation

Esquimalt has a growing network of active transportation infrastructure, including bike lanes, multi-use paths, and pedestrian-friendly streets. The municipality recently adopted an Active Transportation Network Plan (ATNP) to improve further conditions for walking, cycling, and other forms of active transportation.


According to the 2017 Capital Regional District Origin-Destination Household Travel Survey, Esquimalt has the second-highest active transportation mode share in the region after the City of Victoria. Approximately 36% of commute trips in Esquimalt are made by walking, cycling, or public transit.


Road Network

Esquimalt's road network comprises arterial roads, collector roads, and local streets. The main arterial road is Highway 1A, which connects Esquimalt to Victoria and other parts of the region. The municipality also has a network of collector roads and local streets that provide access to residential and commercial areas.


Transportation Costs

According to the 2020 Housing and Transportation Cost Estimate Study by the Capital Regional District, the average annual household transportation cost in Esquimalt is $8,730, among the region's lowest. This is likely due to the municipality's compact urban form and the availability of alternative transportation options.


Challenges and Future Plans

While Esquimalt has made progress in promoting sustainable transportation, there are still challenges to overcome. The municipality's aging population and the presence of large employers like Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt create unique transportation needs and travel patterns.


To address these challenges, Esquimalt is working to implement its Active Transportation Network Plan, which includes improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, enhancing transit service, and promoting transportation demand management strategies. By investing in sustainable transportation options, Esquimalt aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve public health, and enhance the quality of life for its residents.


Living in Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

Living in Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada, offers natural beauty, historical significance, and modern amenities. Here are some key points to consider about living in Esquimalt based on the provided sources:



  1. Scenic Waterfront: Esquimalt is surrounded by water, offering beautiful parks, beaches, and scenic waterfront walkways for residents to enjoy.
  2. Historical Significance: The area has a rich history. It is home to the Pacific fleet of the Royal Canadian Navy and has ties to naval activities dating back to the Royal Navy er.
  3. Community Amenities: Within the municipality, residents can access modern recreational facilities, schools, libraries, archives, and commercial services.
  4. Proximity to Victoria: Esquimalt is just five minutes from downtown Victoria, providing easy access to the culture and conveniences of British Columbia's provincial capital.
  5. Outdoor Activities: The area offers opportunities for outdoor activities like golfing, boating, and exploring scenic trails and lookouts.



  1. Military Presence: The Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt is a prominent feature in the area, and its operations and activities may impact residents' daily lives.
  2. Transportation: While Esquimalt has a well-developed transportation system, residents may need help commuting, especially if they rely on public transit or active transportation options.
  3. Population Density: With a population density of 2,476.7/km2 (6,415/sq mi) in 2021, residents may experience a more urban living environment than in rural areas.


Esquimalt offers a unique mix of coastal living, historical charm, and urban conveniences, making it an attractive location for those seeking a vibrant community with access to nature and modern amenities.


Healthcare in Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada, offers its residents various healthcare services through various facilities and programs. Here are some key points based on the provided sources:

  1. Esquimalt Health Unit: The Esquimalt Health Unit, located at 530 Fraser St., Victoria, BC, V9A 6H7, provides health promotion, disease prevention, intervention, and support services for children, youth, and families living in Esquimalt and View Royal.
  2. Esquimalt Urgent and Primary Care Centre: The Esquimalt Urgent and Primary Care Centre offers team-based care for non-emergency health concerns, providing same-day care for minor injuries and urgent health issues. Services include diagnosis and treatment for minor acute illnesses, genitourinary care, sexually transmitted infection (STI) care, pregnancy testing, mental health and substance use counselling, and more.
  3. Esquimalt Medical Clinic: The Esquimalt Medical Clinic offers primary care services, including a walk-in clinic and multiple family medicine practices, operating Monday to Saturday.
  4. Access to Care: The Esquimalt Urgent and Primary Care Centre is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. It provides urgent care services for individuals needing attention within 12-24 hours but not requiring emergency department care. Patients can secure urgent care appointments by calling the center at 250-519-3880 starting at 8 a.m. each day.
  5. Additional Services: The healthcare facilities in Esquimalt offer various services, including wound care, vaccines, chronic disease management, ear syringing, harm reduction supplies, mental health counselling, and more. The Esquimalt Urgent and Primary Care Centre is open to anyone needing care for urgent medical conditions requiring attention within 12-24 hours.


Esquimalt provides accessible healthcare services through its health unit, urgent and primary care center, and medical clinic, ensuring residents can access various medical services and support their healthcare needs.


Tourist places in Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

Here are some of the top tourist places to visit in Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada:


Parks and Beaches

  1. Saxe Point Park - This scenic park offers beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It features walking trails, a beach, and a picnic area.
  2. Esquimalt Gorge Park & Pavilion - Located along the Gorge Waterway, this park has a pavilion, picnic areas, and walking trails.
  3. Macaulay Point Park - This park features a rocky shoreline, a beach, and walking trails with views of the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.


Museums and Historic Sites

  1. CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum - This museum showcases the history of the Canadian Navy and the Esquimalt naval base.
  2. Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site - This site features a 19th-century coastal artillery fort and Canada's first west coast lighthouse.


Other Attractions

  1. Esquimalt Lagoon - This lagoon is home to various bird species and features driftwood sculptures created by local artist Paul Lewis.
  2. Gorge Vale Golf Club - This golf course offers scenic views of the Gorge Waterway.
  3. Butchart Gardens - While not in Esquimalt, this world-famous garden is a popular day trip destination.


Esquimalt's beautiful parks, beaches, and historic sites make it an attractive destination for tourists looking to explore the natural beauty and history of the region. The nearby city of Victoria also offers a wide range of cultural attractions and activities.


Local Foods of Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada

Esquimalt, located on Vancouver Island, offers a variety of local food options for residents and visitors alike. The Esquimalt Farmers' Market is a popular destination for fresh, locally sourced produce, baked goods, and specialty foods.


Some of the notable local foods and producers in Esquimalt include:

  1. Farm-fresh produce from local farms and gardens, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
  2. Artisanal baked goods, including bread, pastries, and desserts from local bakeries and home-based businesses.
  3. Small-scale producers craft specialty food products such as jams, preserves, honey, and sauces.
  4. Locally caught seafood, including salmon, halibut, and shellfish, from the nearby waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean.
  5. Gourmet food items, like imported cheeses, cured meats, and specialty ingredients, are available at local shops like The Market Garden and Maria's European Imports.
  6. Ethnic and international cuisines showcase the diversity of Esquimalt's population, with restaurants offering dishes from various cultures.
  7. Food trucks and mobile eateries serve a range of cuisines and snacks at the Esquimalt Farmers' Market and other community events.


The Esquimalt Farmers' Market, held every Sunday from May to October, is a hub for local food enthusiasts. It offers a chance to connect with producers, sample unique products, and enjoy live music and community activities.


By supporting local food producers and businesses, residents and visitors can enjoy fresh, high-quality ingredients while contributing to the sustainability and vibrancy of Esquimalt's food community.


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