Rockhounding on Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands2019-01-14T23:42:12+00:00

Discover ancient fossils, sedimentary chert, or just regular old pretty stones. Vancouver Island’s volcanic origin and the ancient uplifting of tectonic plates promises the energetic hounder a constant supply of interesting treasures and precious finds. Combine rockhounding with casual strolls along the beach or strenuous hikes in search of exposed mineral veins – either way, you’re in for a memorable outing amid magnificent scenery!

Sedimentary Rock Formations, Conery Crescent Beach, Pender Island, Gulf Islands, British Columbia
Sedimentary Rock Formations, Conery Crescent Beach, Pender Island, Gulf Islands, British Columbia

The abundance and accessibility of beaches on Vancouver Island makes it a ‘gold mine’ for the rockhound. Most beaches are public with good access, and full of treasure at low tide. The glacial origin of the Island is responsible for large deposits of debris full of rocks, with the fascinating geology visible everywhere here and in the Gulf Islands. Ferocious winter storms constantly churn up the coastline, offering renewed bounty to the rock enthusiast.

Even the cobble beaches within Victoria can provide areas of interest to the rockhound. Dallasite, named after Dallas Road, is a volcanic rock found on almost any beach, and is not restricted to the Island. Just outside Victoria on the way to Swartz Bay is Island View beach, the site of several palaeontological finds and a good area for rocks and fossils. Large pieces of the sedimentary cliffs that overhang the beach often crumble to the ground below, revealing precious fossils and rock specimens.

West of the city, between Sooke and Jordan River, miles of rockhounding terrain include Whiffen Spit, Sooke Bay, Otter Point and Gordon Beach. Each of these areas has its own unique beauty, geography and rock finds.

Driving north up the Island will bring you to the Cowichan Lake region, including the ridge around Lake Cowichan and the community of Youbou, known for their supplies of rhodonite. At Nanaimo there is Petroglyph Provincial Park and the Horne Lake area (Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park), which is rich in dallasite. The beaches at Parksville and Qualicum Beach are wonderful for rockhounding, beachcombing and swimming.

Englishman River Falls Provincial Park has a spectacular series of waterfalls and pools with unusual geological formations and interesting rocks and boulders. The area has been made into a provincial park and campground, and it is an easy day trip from Victoria. To get there, drive west out of Parksville for ten minutes on well-marked roads.

Many of the Gulf Islands are home to interesting geology, and provide good areas for rock hounding, particularly Saltspring Island, Saturna Island and Hornby Island.

Wherever you travel on Vancouver Island, it is possible to discover interesting geological specimens. The experienced rockhound will not find it difficult to search through the overgrowth and vegetation of inland areas, while the novice may want to stick to the beach. Either way, the trails, roads and paths that crisscross the Island make it possible to have a rewarding rockhounding experience.