A small village on the shores of Saanich Inlet, British Columbia, Canada, situated on Vancouver Island, about 30 kilometers north of Victoria. Located a slight detour off the north end of local highway known as the ‘Malahat Drive’, which is also part of the Trans-Canada Highway. Although considered by some to be a ‘commuter town’, Mill Bay still offers quiet waterfront streets and wonderful Gulf Island views for the travelling visitor.
The township of Mill Bay was established in around1862, twenty years after the city of Victoria was founded as colonial capital of British Columbia. The first group of settlers arrived aboard the HMS Hecate when it reached nearby Cowichan Bay after sailing from England. In the process of settling and clearing the land for cultivation and for construction of the settlement, it was necessary to purchase the land from the local indigenous peoples who, according to local written records, were given a standard payment of two blankets for a plot of land.
As indicated by its name, the principal commercial enterprise of the area was timber harvesting. Logs were dragged by oxen, an operation termed as ‘skidding’, to the sawmill on the bay to be cut into lumber. The town of Mill Bay was also the location of an early power-generating station for a sawmill operated by Henry Shepard. Later an American industrialist named W. Sayward took over the mill and transformed it into one of the major industries in the area.
Today, Mill Bay is a quiet community surrounded by parks and dramatic coastal scenery, located along the Malahat Highway. Numerous resorts and local attractions are located in and around the town, or in nearby communities. The village’s current population stands at approximately 3,250.
In addition to the steep mountain Malahat Highway, Mill Bay is also connected to the greater Victoria region by a ferry service that has been in operation since 1924. The current vessel, bearing the same name as the town it serves has operated the 20 minute crossing since 1956, connecting Mill Bay to the town of Brentwood Bay, a short journey to the south across the Saanich Inlet. The MV Mill Bay is both the smallest and oldest ferry in the BC Ferries fleet.