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 the series footer)
Island View Beach

Over the years, Lynn and I, along with various friends, have camped in all manner of locations in the Capital Region.  Most times we found very scenic campsites, but sometimes, just out a sense of adventure, we would set up camp for dinner and an evening of cards in places such as Beacon Hill Park, Clover Point, Oak Bay Marina and other spots.  No one ever bothered us as we were respectful of where we were and what we were doing.

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 close to home over the summer, we drove north along Pat Bay Highway (#17), intending to camp at McDonald National Park, five minutes north of Sidney. While enroute, we decided to stop at Island View Beach and have a peek 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, but there is also 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 odor 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 stationary 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 grassy areas near the seashore searching for their next meal. With their little head plumes bobbing across their beaks, they followed mom in single file over and under the 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 horseback 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 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

    February 28, 2022 |

    Hi Robert, I do remember some of those folks from my early years in Cold Lake (Hazel was my aunt and our family spent many fond times with Uncle Melvin, Aunt Hazel and Family. I knew Lawrence and Adrian. Having read a half dozen accounts it is clear their were many false narratives and, perhaps, a few truths along the way. I tried my best to provide an even account from what I read. Cheers, Harold. (email:

  • Robert Martineau

    February 25, 2022 |

    Its been a long time since any post here, but its worth a shot. My Grandfather was Hazel Wheelers brother Lawrence, and son to Maggie and Adrien. Maggie Martineau (nee Delaney) is my great grandmother. The books and articles to date are based on the white mans viewpoint and the real story as passed down by the Elders in my family is much more nefarious. Some of the white men were providing food for the Indians in exchange for sexual favors performed by the Squaws. Maggie was the product of one of those encounters. Although I am extremely proud of my family and family name, I am ashamed about this part of it.

  • Julue

    January 28, 2022 |

    Good morning Harold!
    Gosh darn it, you are such a good writer. I hope you have been writing a book about your life. It could be turned into a movie.
    Thanks for this edition to your blog.
    I pray that Canadians will keep their cool this weekend and next week in Ottawa. How do you see our PM handling it? He has to do something and quick!
    Xo Julie

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.