Exploring Sandstone Caves On Galiano Island

Last Updated on June 20, 2022

Each year my sister and I try to explore another island off of the mainland of Vancouver. Last year, we chose Mayne Island to begin this adventure goal. We knew we had to venture over to Galiano Island next when we found out that hidden away on the coast of this beautiful Gulf Island are mesmerizing sandstone caves.

Galiano Island is a haven for those wanting to explore the outdoors and its natural beauty.

About Galiano Island

What’s not to love about the picturesque Gulf Islands of British Columbia? There are so many gorgeous islands that it would take forever just to explore them all. But if you had your pick, one island in this group deserves a special place- Galiano Island. It is located next door (or rather across) from Valdes and Salt Spring Islands which makes for some amazing scenery while enjoying a relaxing lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.

Despite its semi-remote location, Galiano Island is easily accessible by ferry from Vancouver and Victoria. Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities on the island, including hiking, kayaking,  keeping an eye out for orcas, or simply relaxing on one of the many beaches.

Ocean views on Galiano Island
How perfect does this look? The best summer day.

Galiano Has Many Sea Caves To Explore

The sandstone caves on this island are among British Columbia’s most accessible.

The shores of Galiano Island are lined with a network of sea caves that have been carved by nature into its soft sandstone, and the formations on the shore are breathtaking.  Mother Nature worked her magic with this cave, eroding the side of the sandstone over centuries, leaving some wonderfully mesmerizing patterns. This particular sandstone cave is situated and easily accessible right along the shoreline at Retreat Cove, and you are able to go in and explore it. You’ll have to search a little bit for the cave, as it is hidden from plain view. It is truly a sight to behold, with such dreamy scenery to admire from the cave. The wild beauty of Galiano Island was gorgeous.

Other caves are accessible only by kayak. When kayaking by the sandstone caves, you’ll get an up-close look at the intricate rock formations. You might even see some wildlife. Best of all, kayaking is a great way to experience the cave in its natural state, without having to worry about damaging the delicate ecosystem. So if you’re looking for an exciting way to explore more sandstone caves, consider giving kayaking a try.

Related Story – Photo Essay: A Bird’s-Eye View From Galiano Island

Relaxing at a Sandstone cave on Galiano Island
Enjoying the summer sun and the glorious surroundings

How Do Sandstone Caves Form?

Sandstone caves are some of the most interesting and beautiful features of the natural world. They are formed over time by the erosion of sandstone, a type of rock that is composed of fine grains of quartz. The erosive force of wind and water slowly wears away at the sandstone, slowly carving out tunnels and chambers. Eventually, these chambers can become large enough to walk through. While the formation of Sandstone Caves can take millions of years, the end result is truly a wonder of nature. They are so intriguing to explore!

Today you will find gorgeous smooth curves from the waves wearing down the sandstone. The Galiano Island caves provide a fascinating glimpse into the island’s history!

Related Story – A Rustic Cabin In The Woods On Galiano Island

A Peaceful Discovery

What we loved about Galiano was how peaceful it was. Though the ferries arriving were full, there never seemed to be more than a few people around us in nature. We were lucky that we had this cave to ourselves for a full hour and then only one other family ventured down for a look. It was a perfect spot to take in the beauty of Galiano, enjoy the magic of British Columbia, and relax in the summer sun.

Sandstone cave on Galiano Island
How cool is this erosion result? Also, notice the carvings. Do not be stupid and vandalize nature. Leave no trace!

Related Story – Charmed By Galiano Island : A British Columbia Gem

We Did Not Want To Leave

It was so relaxing that we did not want to leave the cave, but there was more exploring to be done. Exploring the sea caves is one of the best things to do on Galiano Island!

The sandstone cave was another great reminder of how blessed we are to call British Columbia home, with endless gems around us, waiting for us to discover them. British Columbia is full of so many incredible places to explore nature. We often take it for granted because it is ‘home’, but reminders like these are truly humbling.

Next time you are looking for an amazing natural wonder to explore, do not overlook the humble sandstone cave.

Related Story – Mount Galiano Hike

Sandstone on Galiano Island
It made us wonder what this cave area will look like years from now!

Where To Find Sandstone Caves

Nature lovers will be enthralled with the many hidden gems tucked along the shorelines of Galiano Island. You will find one near Retreat Cove’s shoreline, or hop in a kayak to see if you can find more of these incredible feats of nature. Searching for these caves can sometimes feel like an adventure in itself since they’re not signposted.

Explore With Respect – Always!

We were messaged and told that this cave is on private property and that you are only able to access it if you stay below the high tide mark at all times. However, Tourism Galiano does have it promoted across their website and socials, which is how we found out about it. There was also no signage around the cave area to indicate to us that we would be on private property by visiting the Instagram famous cave.

It should go without saying to always be respectful and treat the cave with care; do not vandalize or leave any garbage behind. Take only photos, leave only footprints.

Sandstone erosion on Galiano Island


What is a great hidden gem you have found on your travels?


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