Oak Bay: Then and Now — McNeill Bay

This picturesque site has long been popular for recreational purposes

This photo

The shorelines rimming Oak Bay have for many decades been popular with residents looking to spend time at the waterfront.

At the turn of the 20th century, families living in the most settled areas of the soon-to-be incorporated municipality near Oak Bay Avenue enjoyed taking a trip south to Shoal Bay, now McNeill Bay, to enjoy a dip in the water.

The older photo here, circa 1905, shows May Munson, nanny to the Burrell family, supervising children at low tide on Shoal Bay, with Anderson Hill and McMicking Point in the background.

The Burrells – father, Frank was office manager for Pemberton and Co. real estate in downtown Victoria – lived in a home called Summerdyne at the corner of Oak Bay and Monterey avenues. Munson would take the children in a horse and cart down to the beach to explore or for picnics.

The bay area became a popular spot for summer camps and recreation. Artist Emily Carr built a one-room cottage near Shoal Bay and frequently used the scenery as a subject for her paintings.

Around 1925, Shoal Bay was renamed McNeill Bay, in honour of the early Oak Bay settler William Henry McNeill.

As captain of the SS Beaver, McNeill scouted suitable locations on the southern tip of Vancouver Island for a site to replace Hudson’s Bay Company Fort Vancouver. Working with company chief factor James Douglas and others, they established Fort Victoria in 1843.

Fort McNeill, on the north tip of Vancouver Island, is also named for the sea captain.

Today, homes rim the entire fringe of McNeill Bay on the opposite side of Beach Drive, and on the water side of King George Terrace.

The picturesque area continues to be a popular stopping place for Oak Bay residents and visitors alike.

– courtesy Oak Bay Archives


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