Steeped in history and surrounded by the natural beauty of the west coast of Vancouver Island, Nootka Sound is a paradise for sport anglers and outdoor adventurers seeking to explore and enjoy the magnificent wilderness surroundings.
The mountains and islands of north and central Vancouver Island have a mysterious sense about them, as if they’re always trying to hide some secret, and you do have to travel farther afield here in order to penetrate its cloud-laced valleys, coastal rain forest, and the open ocean waters of its two sounds, Nootka Sound and Kyuquot Sound.
In March 1778, Captain James Cook of the Royal Navy became the first European to set foot on British Columbian soil when he visited Friendly Cove on Nootka Island. While anchoring in Resolution Cove on Bligh Island, across from Friendly Cove, the natives hollered “itchme nutka, itchme nutka”, meaning “go around” (to Yuquot), but Cook misinterpreted their calls, believing the name of the area to be Nootka.
Yuquot, also known as Friendly Cove, was the summer home of Chief Maquinna and the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people for millennia, and retains historic significance today as the site of the first contact between Europeans and First Nations people in British Columbia.
A Spanish trading post, Santa Cruz de Nutka, was maintained here between 1789 and 1795, with Nootka becoming an important focal point for English, Spanish and American traders and explorers. The Canadian government declared Friendly Cove a National Historic Site in 1923, with recognition of the significance of the First Nations history following in 1997.
Nootka Sound and the community of Gold River received tremendous media coverage worldwide in July 2001 when Luna the Killer Whale became a media sensation when he turned up in Nootka Sound after being separated from his pod in Puget Sound in Washington. Attempts to reunite Luna (L98) with his family were suspended, as the Mowachaht and Muchalaht First Nations believed Luna, or Tsuxit, embodied the spirit of Chief Ambrose Maquinna, who had died just days before the whale was first seen in the area. The orca loved to play around boats, and sadly this ultimately led to his death in March 2006, when Luna got too close to the propellers of a tug boat in Mooyah Bay, one of Luna’s favourite places in winter.
Location: Nootka Sound is located on the west coast of North Vancouver Island, approximately 45 miles (70 km) north of Tofino. From Gold River and Tahsis you can travel to points in Nootka Sound and neighbouring Kyuquot Sound to the north on the MV Uchuck lll, a converted minesweeper that carries passengers, freight and kayakers into the sound. The Gold River Hwy 28 runs the width of central Vancouver Island, linking Campbell River on the east coast with Gold River and Nootka Sound on the rugged and windswept Pacific coast.