Port McNeill, BC, incorporated as a town in 1984, population 2505 (2011c), 2623 (2006c). The Town of Port McNeill is located on the northeast coast of VANCOUVER ISLAND on Broughton Strait, 200 km northwest of CAMPBELL RIVER. The town is named after William Henry McNeill, who was the captain of the Hudson's Bay Co's (HBC) steamship the S.S. BEAVER, the first steamship on the Pacific Northwest Coast. Coal was discovered in the area in 1835, part of the Suquash deposit. In 1850 the HBC brought some miners from Durham, England to mine the coal, but it was not of high quality. The discovery of better-quality coal at Nanaimo soon led the HBC to abandon the experiment.
The first permanent settlement was not established until 1939, when Pioneer Timber Co moved its operations from nearby Malcolm Island. Iron and copper mines around 1960 brought more people to live in the community. At incorporation as a village in 1966 the population was around 450. Completion of the Island Highway in 1979 greatly improved access to Port McNeill and the other communities along the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.
Today forestry is the town's main industry and 2 million ha of forested land are administered out of Port McNeill. AQUACULTURE is a growing industry. Salmon farms and related processing and supply companies are located in or near Port McNeill. Tourism includes whale watching and both fresh- and saltwater fishing and boating, as well as caving, skiing and hiking.