If you’re a beginner caver or want to get into caving and don’t know where to start, the village of Gold River on north-central Vancouver Island is definitely worth the trip. According to Destination Campbell River, the nearby Upana Caves are easily accessible and offer visitors a safe, self-guided introduction to the art of spelunking.

In fact, they’re considered the deepest caves north of Mexico, landing Gold River the title of the “Cave Capital of Canada.” 

Upana Caves

Located within 10 miles of the town of Gold River, the Upana Caves were created from the movement of groundwater seeping into limestone, according to the Gold River Chamber of Commerce. This movement created an acid that slowly dissolved the limestone, forming underground caves and passageways, as well as icicle-like rock formations.

Visitors can check out nearly 1500 feet of passages via fifteen known cave entrances.

Once underground, the town’s Chamber of Commerce recommends spelunkers keep an eye out for the Upana River as it merges for a 90-foot stretch through the Main cave before disappearing, and then reappearing in the Resurgence Cave.

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For those who want to explore the Nootka Sound, there’s a deep-sea dock situated at the terminus of the Gold River where visitors can access seaplane services, water taxis, kayaks, and sports fishing.

What’s more, Gold River is known as a gateway to some of the most ‘varied and plentiful’ fishing grounds on the Canadian west coast, according to Destination Campbell River.

In addition to large amounts of Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, and Chum Salmon, visitors can often spot whales, black bears, eagles, and elk – particularly during the warmer months in the bordering Strathcona and Gold Muchalat Provincial Parks.

One of the dock’s main attractions is its converted US minesweeper which offers scheduled excursions to remote communities throughout the Sound.

National Historic Site

If you’re ready to make the quick trip out to Nootka Island, there’s another tiny village called Yuquot (Friendly Cove) that holds a lot of historical significance. It happens to be the site of the first meeting of English explorers and the local First Nations in BC.

Now a National Historic Site, the Village of Yuquot marks the location where Captain Hames Cook first landed on the Pacific Coast in 1778 and traded with the Mowachaht people, according to Destination Campbell River.

So there you have it, BC! If you’re ready to do some spelunking this fall, there’s no better place to start than Gold River. Don’t forget to bring your waterproof gear and warm, sturdy boots!

Gold River

Where: Campbell River, BC