Horne Lake Caves • Underground Family Adventure

Today we take you on an underground journey with Horne Lake Cave Tours! We put on hard hats with headlamps attached and ventured off into the unknown. As we headed to the mouth of the cave, the kids began to…

Written By: Gretta Kennedy, Traveling Islanders
Location: Upper Vancouver Island, Horne Lake. An hour drive from Parksville. Visit Horne Lake Caves online 

Horne Lake Caves Tours, Vancouver Island, Parksville activities, Family activities

I love trying new things.  Usually I love it for my own sake.  But since becoming a parent, I have learned that I love watching my children discover something new.

And really, it could be most anything, although I find when it has an adventurous tilt to whatever the new thing is, I tend to love it even more.  I’m almost giddy when I see them needing to figure out hand and foot holds for climbing a big rock.

I delight to watch them discover new life at the ocean.  It’s fun. All of it.

Horne Lake Caves, Vancouver Island, Family Activity, Drive to Horne LakeThe drive out to Horne Lake Caves takes you down a windy gravel road in a beautiful forest setting.

Well, today, we ALL tried something new.  Together. For the first time.  And it was fun.  It rained. It was a bit chilly. But it was fun and we all learned a bit along the way.

Today we journeyed as a family underground at Horne Lake Caves!

We are enjoying a holiday at the beach and woke up to rain.  Rain at the beach is only fun in Hawaii where it’s really warm.  So we decided to head up to Horne Lake Caves. I’ve been in caves before.  The caves I’ve visited were either filled with bats and freaked me out or they were so huge, they felt more like a large tunnel. But today was different.  We went with a guide into a tunnel closed to the general public.  We donned hard hats with headlamps attached and ventured off into the unknown.

We began by crossing a long suspension bridge. The adults in the tour crossed once, but my kids enjoyed it at least 3 times each.  Oh, to be a kid!

Vancouver Island, Family Activities, Horne Lake Caves

Then we proceeded on a 30 minute hike up the mountain to the entrance of the cave.  Paul, our Horne Lake Caves guide, went slow enough we were all still able to breathe, yet fast enough to keep us warm.  We stopped periodically to learn about the landscape, the limestone rock, and how it all comes together to form the caves.

Let me just say right here and now…I am so glad we went with a guided tour!

There were many cool things I learned. And the kids too!  We talked about how limestone is created. About three components necessary for caves to form. And most interesting to me…how formations are created inside the cave itself.

Horne Lake Caves guided tours, Vancouver Island, Vancouver Island Caves, Family activities Photo Credit for this image: hornelake.com • Horne Lake Caves. 

As we neared the mouth of the cave, the kids began to get a bit nervous.

The steps down were quite steep and the chill from within made them not too sure they wanted to go in. But once they got to turn on their lights and realize it wasn’t scary at all inside, they were ready for some fun exploring!

Horne Lake Caves, Kids activities, family activities, Vancouver Island

Paul, our guide told us stories and showcased some of the more interesting formations and allowed us time to look up and all around, taking it all in. The wonder of it all was pretty cool. I had no idea how long these formations can take to build.

One of the fastest growing formations is called the “soda straw” due to its resemblance to…yep, the straw.  It grows at an astonishing rate of about 1 inch per 100 years.  Hold it!  Seriously?  ONE HUNDRED years for just an inch?

That kind of put into perspective why these Horne Lake Caves are so special and why touching things inside can be so detrimental to their growth.

I sat next to Koen as Paul shared some of his favourites from this section of the cave.  When he saw the “elephant head” and “alligator” appear on the wall, Koen’s giggle was priceless.  I believe the wall  began coming alive for him…in a good way, of course.

Horne Lake, Horne Lake caves, Caves on Vancouver Island

As we ventured farther into the cave, we saw an ice-cream cone waterfall, sparkling like diamonds from the lights on our heads. We carefully ducked our heads to avoid hitting formations coming from the ceiling. We even stepped up a wall to view a little “buddha” sitting in a pool.

We just kept exploring and exploring.

Horne Lake Caves, Horne Lake, Family Tours

Then, just before it was time to turn around and head back to the entrance, Paul asked us to all turn off our lights and experience total darkness.

Have you ever had the opportunity to do that?

And no, closing your eyes at night as you drift off to sleep doesn’t count.

Our brain does crazy things in total darkness.  There, in the belly of the earth, in total darkness, we waved our hands in front of our faces and even though I knew I wasn’t actually seeing my hand, my brain could almost “see” my fingers waving back and forth before my eyes.  It was so odd and quite funny as we discovered this phenomenon!

As we turned our lights back on and our eyes adjusted to the cave once again, we ventured back to the opening. Back to the surface. Back to the trail. Back to the suspension bridge.

And it was fantastic.  We had all learned new things, discovered new territory and made good memories. Together.

Now it’s time for a caving adventure of your own!

Directions to Horne Lake Caves:

Horne Lake Caves have many different tours to choose from at different levels of intensity. We chose the appropriate family tour this time around!

Been Caving Before? Do Tell! • Comment Below



While our families experience at the Horne Lake Caves was complimentary, you can rest assured that our thoughts, opinions, and findings are our own as always.


  • Looks like fun! I worked and lived at an old haunted Hotel at the famous Waitomo Caves in New Zealand when I was 19 and got to go into the caves a couple of times to see the famous glow worms - so beautiful - Reply

    • I would love to see glow worms, Katie! Caves have so many cool things inside to explore! - Reply

  • What a fun trip! We went caving at Mammoth Cave in our home state (KY, USA), it's the largest known cave in the world It was a blast, but I would never do it without a guide, too freaked out I'd get lost and no one would ever find me haha. - Reply

    • Katie, I definitely wouldn't want to die in a cave...too cold! And I'm with you, I'd get lost without a guide. Especially in the world's largest known cave! - Reply

  • Looks like a cool experience! I've been to a couple caves along the east coast of the US and they're always pretty interesting, but they do freak me out. I never thought I had claustrophobia until I experienced my first cave. I'll still keep going to see them, they're just too interesting, to pass up, but I definitely like the idea of having a guide! - Reply

    • I think a guide will make all the difference for you, Amy. They provide so many interesting facts and point out all the cool stuff that you won't even think about the space you're in. You'll just be in awe. - Reply

  • I love exploring caves, been to quite a few across England and some in Spain too. It's so great that you enjoy spending time with your family and taking enjoyment in seeing your children learn and experience new things. I always end up scaring myself in caves after watching the movie "The Descent", keep expecting weird creatures to jump out around every corner haha! - Reply

  • You guys keep introducing me to so many new things on the island that I didn't know about even though I've lived in BC for 30 years. Your kids are so lucky to be exploring and doing all this 'research' with you! We went caving in Semuc Champey, Guatemala earlier this year and it was an amazing experience. - Reply

    • This island never ceases to amaze me with the copious amounts of things there are to do and see here! I bet I will still be finding new places even after 30 years. - Reply

  • How cool!! We just went on a cave tour recently too but it was in Central Oregon and it was a big lava tube so not nearly as much to see but still very fun to be off exploring where very few other people get to go. - Reply

    • Even lava tubes can be cool! I remember going in some with Jay when we were in Hawaii! It sure is fun to see what many others don't, isn't it!? G - Reply

  • You guys are always doing something fun. Your kids are going to have some great stories to tell! - Reply

  • This looks like so much fun. I haven't been walking through caves since I was kid. I actually nearly stopped by some caves on the way home from our weekend away this weekend but was too exhausted. I've definitely made a mental note to head back there soon. - Reply

    • I'm sure you will enjoy heading through your caves the next time you pass through. They are almost magical! Let us know when you venture in one and tell us all about it! - Reply

  • I love caves too, especially when they have some Prehistoric art! But usually for those you don't need a helmet with lights... - Reply

    • For sure, Lily. I've seen some old art on rock wall in Washington in a spot I used to go rock climbing. That's cool too. Do you have a place you have seen some? -g - Reply