At the north end of the Malahat Drive, take a detour to Mill Bay and enjoy the village’s quiet waterfront streets and wonderful Gulf Island views.
Mill Bay was established in the 1860s, twenty years after Victoria was founded. Its principal industry was lumber and milling, which was done at the mill on the bay.
The surrounding parks and scenery are lovely – perfect for hiking, cycling and boating. This is an ideal spot to spend a few days, basking in the sun and swimming in warm waters.
If the prospect of negotiating the steep Malahat Drive from Victoria to Mill Bay is daunting, BC Ferries operates a regularly scheduled ferry service between Mill Bay and Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula, which offers an alternative route from Mill Bay to Victoria or to the ferry terminal at Swartz Bay. This is option is a blessing when the Malahat is closed due to an accident or excessive snow falls.
Location: Mill Bay is located on the southeast shore of Vancouver Island, about 26 miles (41 km) north of Victoria.
Harbour Seals: At nearby Satellite Channel watch noisy harbour seals basking on floats and docks.
Events: Community events include the Brentwood Rowing Regatta hosted by the internationally acclaimed Brentwood College in April. Cowichan goes Country, an annual country music festival in May, and Art Affair, featuring the best of the South Cowichan artisans and galleries along with music and refreshments in August.
Walkers should check out the Mill Bay Nature Park, with its easy oceanfront trails. Seabirds congregate on the shallow muddy waters of a broad intertidal beach.
Bamberton Provincial Park is located just south of the Mill Bay ferry terminal, beside Hwy 1. A large swath of sandy beach, complete with changing facilities, fronts on the Saanich Inlet here. Dozens of picnic tables sit on the terraces slopes above the beach, shaded by a fir-and-arbutus (madrona) foest. This is one of the more scenic locations on the inlet, and from here you look east towards Mount Baker on the mainland.
Golf: Golfers have a few golf courses in the area to choose from; Cowichan Golf and Country Club in Duncan (20 minutes from Crofton), Duncan Meadows Golf Course (15 minutes from Crofton), Mount Brenton Golf Course in Chemainus (10 minutes from Crofton), and Arbutus Ridge Golf Club in nearby Cobble Hill. Vancouver Island Golf Vacations.
Boating & Sailing: Sail the straits and channels from Mill Bay to Ladysmith. Boaters will find moorage and supplies in Mill Bay.
Boating, Sailing & Cruising around Vancouver Island.
Cowichan Valley Wineries: Travelling northwards, Mill Bay heralds the start of the Vineyards and Cideries of the Cowichan Valley, featuring five top vineyards and wineries, and the Merridale Cidery, just north of Mill Bay. Make a little room in your cellar for the wines and ciders of the Cowichan Valley!
Beachcombing: Beachcombers will enjoy Old Mill Park, Boatswain Bank and Mill Bay Beach.
North of Mill Bay is the Cowichan Valley, the home of a growing number of vineyards and wineries. Locals claim that the warm, dry summers and mild, moist winters are reminiscent of a cool Mediterranean climate, providing ideal growing conditions for many grape varieties.
West of Mill Bay is Shawnigan Lake, a popular vacation spot for happy anglers, blissful sunbathers, and elegant day-trippers. The lake is still a favourite weekend getaway spot and has become one of Victoria’s more popular “bedroom” communities.