Esquimalt (pronounced Ess-KWY-malt) is an anglicized version of the First Nations word "es-whoy-malth," which means the place of gradually shoaling water.

First Nations people of the Coast Salish linguistic group inhabited the area now known as Esquimalt for approximately 4000 years before the arrival of European settlers. The Township of Esquimalt began as an agricultural settlement and is now a vibrant and impressive community.

The naval base, which was established in 1865, is now the largest employer in the Esquimalt, and the original town site has disappeared inside the boundaries of the Canadian Forces Base.

Download an article about Esquimalt’s history from First Nations presence to the present.

History Resources

Although Esquimalt began as an agricultural settlement, little remains of that heritage today. The fledgling naval base of 1865 has grown to become the largest employer in the region, and the original town site has disappeared inside the boundaries of the Canadian Forces Base.

Today Esquimalt has a healthy mix of commercial, residential, and industrial development. The municipality’s 17,000 residents enjoy a variety of amenities including schools, recreational facilities, a library, and archives, in addition to parks, beaches, and green spaces.

Esquimalt is one of the core municipalities in the Capital Region District. A mayor and six councillors serve the community and Esquimalt is protected by a dedicated Fire Department and by the joint Victoria-Esquimalt Police Department.

Visit the Esquimalt Municipal Archives to learn more about Esquimalt’s history.

The Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations, part of the Coast Salish language group, have occupied the territory, where the Township of Esquimalt and City of Victoria are now located.

  • Read more about Lekwungen Nation and the Songhees here.
  • Explore the First Nations Collections at the Royal BC Museum website.

Visit the CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum to learn more about:

  • Canada’s Navy on the West Coast
  • The Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC)
  • The Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS)
  • The West Coast Defences

Read about the history of Naden at CFB Esquimalt.

The Graving Dock in Esquimalt is the largest non-military ship building and repair facility on the West Coast of the Americas. Read about Graving Dock history.