Camping Close to Home – Island View Beach by Harold McNeill


Photographer and wordsmith, Harold McNeill, shares one of his Island RVing experiences with us here. Enjoy the trip!

Keeping with our plan to camp away the summer, we drove ten minutes north along Pat Bay Highway (#17), toward Sidney. We decided to stop at Island View Beach…..While we have often visited the beach, 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 the next ten days.

Photo Credit - Harold McNeill

Photo Credit – Harold McNeill

Since setting out on our summer trek on June 28 (2011), 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 EDIT – this article originally published in 2011) 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 and the Washington State shoreline across Haro and Cordova Straits, depending on the particular weather conditions.

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 east 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 the fresh air, going to bed early was a given – a plan if you will. 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 north or 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.

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 of remaining stationery, it had not moved. I decided to get up and try to capture a picture with my small 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.

On the ground front, a family of Quail, 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 summer at the beach.


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