Craig’s Auto Camp

The late morning sun streams through into a clearing in the forest. The sound of the sea is in the distance and the flowers are blooming. For more than four decades starting in the 1930s for $1 per night road-weary overlanders could stay at Craig’s Auto Camp on the sea near Parksville. Today the last remaining cottage is one of the outdoor exhibits at the Parksville Museum.

Craig Bay’s original owner, James Craig was born in Prince Edward Island in 1863. In 1882, he and his brother, Robert, left Malpeque, worked and traveled their way across Canada and decided to settle near Englishman River. In 1887, James noticed a pretty cove nearby (now Craig Bay) and staked out 160 acres to establish a homestead. An acre cost $1.00 at the time. James “Cougar” Craig earned a reputation as a renowned cougar hunter, using his Louisiana Racoon Hounds to track down cougars for residents in the area and to protect the sheep on neighbouring farms. In 1889, Parksville had a population of 38 people and became an official settlement. In 1898, James married and had four children. A cabin was built for the engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and rented out as Montrose School. When James’ wife Gertrude passed away in 1928, James and his two sons opened an auto camp on the property. They built 15 cabins as accommodations which became one of the first facilities for tourists in the area. James also ran sheep during the off season with his two sons. The cabins did not have bathrooms or running water but were great if you didn’t have a tent to camp in. In 1946, James died at the age of 82 years and his sons continued taking care of the land. The photo below was taken from his son Fred’s farmhouse on the top of the hill.

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