Island View Beach – Camping Close to Home

Written by Harold McNeill on August 24th, 2011. Posted in Travelogue

7 sunrise crow 3

Crow at Sunrise (more in series footer)

The article was reprinted along with photographs in September/October 2011 issue of the Island RV Guide (p. 37ff)

 Keeping with our plan to camp away the summer, we drove north along Pat Bay Highway (#17), intending to camp at McDonald National Park, five minutes north of Sidney. While on route we decided to stop at Island View Beach and have a peak at the final resting place Lynn’s Mom’s ashes (story previously posted on FB).  While we have often visited the Island View, we had not realized the Capital Regional District (CRD) had established a Campground just north of the public picnic area. It was a serendipitous find and we ended up camping right next to the beach for ten days.  McDonald Park will have to wait until another day.

View from our CampsiteSince setting out on our summer trek on June 28, we have travelled just over 5000 km, camped at fifteen or more sites across the Interior, and on Vancouver Island as far north as Campbell River and Elk Falls. While each of the many camping areas offers a unique experience, Island View Beach clearly ranks with the very best.

While services at the site (now in its second year of operation) are limited, that only adds to the ‘get-a-way’ flavour. Not only does one get to camp next to the incredibly beautiful driftwood and sand covered beach, there is an ever changing view of James Island (a short distance across Cordova Channel) and numerous other Islands that extend all the way to the Washington State shoreline.

The ever stately, snow covered, Mount Baker, a mountain well known to residents of the region, stands majestically in the distance. With the amount of white still displayed on the west and south slopes, this late August, one can only imagine how deep the winter’s pack must have been just a few months back.

Each day after being up early and with all that West Coast fresh air, going to bed early is a given. By being up at six each morning, we were greeted with an ever changing spectacle as the morning light spread across the eastern skyline and the sun climbed up a few degrees north of Mount Baker. On slightly cloudy mornings, the endless blends of blue, gray, red and orange filled the entire skyline as far as the eye could see to the north and south.  One morning, I was able to complete a photo session with a friendly crow that had perched on one of the many log fortresses built by kids during the summer.

On the dead-still, fog filled mornings the air was filled with the pungent oder of rottingFog over Campground seaweed and dead grass made making it abundantly clear that fall was not far off.  By climbing a nearby hill that divides the waterfront from Mitchel Farms, we were able to gain a perspective of the fog from above as it shrouded the waterfront to the east, and the valleys and maturing vegetable fields to the west.  It will not be long before thousands of ripening pumpkins will greet the daily commuters along the Pat Bay Highway.

Photo: Looking back across towards the beach, our campsite was just left of centre by the trees.

One evening, after going to bed at 8:30 pm, I woke briefly at 12:30 am with a bright light shining on the Eastern horizon. At first I thought it was an aircraft collision beacon, but after several minutes it remained stationery while the moon slowly rose. I decided to get up and captured a picture with my small Panasonic Lumix.  The next day I learned the light was in fact the closest of our planetary neighbours – Venus.  I don’t ever recall having seen it shine so brightly. The handheld photo did not produce a sufficiently interesting result to post so I grabbed one from the web to demonstrate how amazing close that planet seems under certain lighting conditions (web photo left)

Each day a family of Quayle, made up of Mom, Dad, Uncle, Aunt and about fifteen rapidly growing chicks, foraged among the logs and in the grass areas near the seashore searching for their next meal. With their little head plumes bobbing across their beaks, they followed in single file over and along logs, down little valleys and across the parking lot. Strangely, I don’t believe I have ever seen these lovely little birds fly.

It was a great week during which we met a number of local and long distance travellers and where the CRD staff was friendly, professional and ever willing to help out campers and park visitors alike. While the expansive beach never seemed full, the sun did bring out dozens of families and school groups. It was also clear that many regular ‘day trippers’ use the gravel paths for their exercise routines. As well, groups of horse back riders headed to and from unknown locations.

Without any hesitation, Lynn and I give Island View Beach and the CRD campsite “four thumbs up” as a destination for local and long distance campers, as well as those who wish to simply wile away a few precious hours of late summer at the beach.

Harold McNeill

Mount Baker Dominates the Washington State Skyline

Mount Baker

When Mount Baker is viewed in certain weather conditions from the Oak Bay waterfront around the area of Cattle Point, it seems to nearly touch Vancouver Island. Trivia: For many years Mount Baker was prominently displayed on the crest of the Oak Bay Police Department.

Going to Seed

Early Morning Sunrise


Photo Session with Crow

Photo Session with Crow

“Ok, now curl up and look down. Great, great, let’s take a break before the next session.” This crow moved in while I was taking shots of the sunrise.  We worked together for the next fifteen minutes. On command he quickly moved into different poses. See a few more in the series in the photo album.

Red Sky in the Morning, Sailor Take Warning

Sailor Beware

This omen proved out as later that morning the wind picked up, the clouds closed in to a dull gray by early afternoon and the rain began to fall. This only changed the beauty of the beach from one scene to the next.

Fog Over Campground

Fog over Campground

Shooting from the hill overlooking the campground provided a good perspective on the low lying fog. As the sun rose it provided a mauve tinge in the background. Our campsite was just below the tall tree on the right.  The only thing I very much miss when the fog rolls in is the forlorn sound of a foghorn.  When I first moved to Victoria in the fall of 1963 and lived in James Bay, the sound of a nearby fog horns on the Strait of Juan de Fuca was part of everyday life that I came to cherish as fall rolled around.

Fog Hangs over Mitchel Farms

Fog over Mitchel Farms

Looking west over the ripening crops toward the Pat Bay Highway (#17) that runs between the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal and Victoria.



This young lady clearly had the same idea as I, as she sought to capture a few early morning scenes as the sun rose through the fog.

Mitchel Farms

Mitchel Farms

The fog has gone but the skies remain gray across the valley. This valley provides a constantly changing view as we move from one season to the next. It has been a struggle for more than thirty years to keep agricultural land along the peninsula from being gobbled up for development.  Will the battle eventually be lost?  I think not, as more and more Chef-Farm Collaborative Associations open, to make the use of ‘home-grown’ our first choice rather than our last.

Gone Swimming

Gone Swimming

The two young ladies and their horses spent the better part of half an hour in the water.  The one horse, who clearly loved going for a swim, was being used to help the other horse overcome his fear of the water. At times they were in water that nearly reached the backs of the horses.  Now remember, that water is extremely cold. I imagine they had trouble getting their legs to move after they returned to shore.


Trail Ride

Trail Ride

I missed the best shots of these riders just a short way back on the beach.  My battery went dead and by the time I changed, they had moved on.


Our Campsite

Island View Beach Campsite

For the first couple of days we were the only unit on this end of the site.  By Friday the whole campground was full.

More Photos – The Crow Series included below


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  • Harold McNeill

    August 21, 2019 |

    For those who followed the earlier post about the cost of ICBC Auto insurance coverage in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba (linked in comments) here is another follow-up article.

    This article again confirms earlier assertions that public-private insurers such as that which ICBC provides, is among the best in Canada in terms of rates and coverage. A link is provided in the original story.

  • Harold McNeill

    August 16, 2019 |

    Many thanks for reviewing the article Elizabeth. There are so many areas of our society in which populism carries the day, although I think what is happening with the ICBC is that groups having a vested interest in private insurance would dearly love to dislodge ICBC from their preferred position. That being said, I think was a good move to have only portions of the insurance coverage in BC being held by ICBC and other portions being made available through private enterprise.

  • Elizabeth Mary McInnes, CAIB

    August 15, 2019 |

    It’s a breath of fresh air to see a resident of British Columbia look to review all the facts over believing what is reported in the news or just following along with the negative stigma of the masses. Your article truly showcases that with a little reform to ICBC’s provincial system – British Columbia could be a true leader for other provinces in Canada. Very well written article!

  • Harold McNeill

    August 13, 2019 |

    August 13, 2019. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), a private enterprise group not unlike the Fraser Institute, is again on the campaign trail. They state ICBC rates are the highest in Canada, but, thankfully, Global BC inserted a section indicating the Insurance Bureau cherry-picked the highest number in BC and the lowest numbers in AB, ON and other Eastern Provinces. If you take a few minutes to check reliable sources you will find BC rates, are the lowest in Canada.

  • Andrew Dunn

    May 14, 2019 |

    Thank you so much for all your help thus far Harold, aka. Tractor guy! I could not have done without you!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 25, 2019 |

    I find it interesting to contemplate how a small community evolves in general isolation from the rest of the world. We have a similar situation in the northern communities in Canada to which access is limited. The inclusion of the world wide web and mass media has changed things, but these communities are still left pretty much to their own devices when it comes to personal interaction.

  • Harold McNeill

    March 19, 2019 |

    Hi Dave. Not that I am aware and I have a fairly comprehensive family tree for the McNeill side of the family. I will pull it up and scan. Cheers, Harold. Great chatting with you and I will give Ben a nudge.

  • Dave Cassels

    March 16, 2019 |

    Were you related to Guy McNeill who owned the Bruin Inn in St. Albert in the late 40’s or early 50’s? Guy was a close friend of my father-in-law who was the first President of the Royal Glenora Club. My phone number is 780 940 1175. Thank you.