The Ross Bay Cemetery, with its lovingly maintained greenery and glorious south-facing view of the Pacific Ocean, is one of the most beloved historic sites in Victoria.
A prime example of a Victorian cemetery, the site features stately mausoleums, wide carriageways, and monuments in a wide array of styles–a testament to the diversity of people buried there. The 27.5-acre cemetery first opened in 1873, and was named after the land’s original owner, Isabella Mainville Ross. (Ross was also the the first registered independent woman landowner in British Columbia.)
The Ross Bay Cemetery is the burial site of many famous figures in the province’s history, including artist Emily Carr and Sir James Douglas, the province’s first governor. Also interred there are early Japanese immigrants, several Sisters of Saint Ann, and some of the victims of the 1875 wreck of the SS Pacific.
It also has some of the oldest surviving formal landscape design in the province. The many large, mature trees that shade the graves were planted in the 1930s as part of a project by the City of Victoria Parks Department to use the cemetery as a kind of “warehouse” of tree species. Whenever the city needed trees to line a boulevard, they would take clippings from the trees in the cemetery.
The Old Cemeteries Society offers regular history tours on a variety of topics, and an annual ghost tour on Halloween. A small Remembrance Day ceremony is held each year at the cenotaph near the south side of the cemetery.
Know Before You Go
Deer are a common sight in the cemetery, but can be territorial and it is best not to approach them.