Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii is a perfect destination for travellers interested in western Canada’s natural history including First Nations peoples. The waters are internationally known for spectacular fishing, particularly for the serious anglers out there. This isn’t a place where you’ll find shopping malls and luxury amnesties. The population is roughly 5000 people and they are quite spread out. There are some resorts that offer all inclusive style vacations, with hotel, flights, and tours included. These packages are perfect for some tourists who don’t want to work out all the logistics of getting there – which in itself can be an adventure, but the location is worth every minute of it.
Places to Visit in Haida Gwaii
- Rose Harbour
- Queen Charlotte
- Port Clements
- Old Masset
- Tow Hill Road
Unique Things to See and Do in Haida Gwaii
- Walk through the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve
- Take a whale watching tour and view the majestic orca whales
- Go for hot dip in the Gwaii Haanas Hot Springs
- Charter a boat and fish for salmon, halibut, or collect crab, shrimp, shellfish
- Book a night at the Haida House in Tlell
- Learn about Haida culture by touring the longhouses
- Meet a Haida Gwaii pole carver at Skidgate
- Surf at one of Tow Hill Road’s beaches
Haida Gwaii Lands
The Haida Gwaii islands consist of 200+ islands in varying sizes, with the two main larger islands being Graham Island and Moresby Island. On the east side of the island is the Pacific Ocean, to the north is Dixon Entrance, to west is Hecate Staite, and to the south is Queen Charlotee Sound. The weather along the west coast is less turbulent and provides a perfect habitat for wildlife, which is abundant for seabirds, raptors (eagles), and fish. To provide some perspective, in the 2013 Land Use Plan by Anne Harfenist, it was reported that “the region supports 1.5 million breeding seabirds!” That’s a fair amount of birds!
Getting out into nature is a way of life on the Haida Gwaii islands. Activities range from kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, beach-combing, clamming, and even golfing! Tow Hill Road beaches are where a lot of people go for surfing. One of the most beautiful experiences you can have in a lifetime is going on a whale watching tour – nothing beats seeing an orca whale up close in the wild. You can also book charter boats for fishing that have glass bottoms too. Depending on the time of year, you can even book sailing trips.
Haida Cultual Sites
See the monumental poles at SGang Gwaay Llnagaay on Anthony Island. This is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another spot for totem poles is K’uuna Llnagaay. To see longhouses head over to T’aanuu Llnagaay after seeing the one at SGang Gwaay Llnagaay. And don’t forget to see the Legacy Pole at Hik’yah GawGa (Windy Bay). The pole was the first pole to be erected in 130 years and is a tribute to the working relationship between the Canadian government and the Haida Nation.
Did you know…?
That most totem poles are made from full western red cedars.
Did you ALSO know…?
While at Windy Bay you can request “watchmen” to take tourists out to see a Giant Sitka tree that is approximately 800 – 900 years old.
Getting around Haida Gwaii
Half the adventure of seeing Haida Gwaii is just traveling up there. There are only a couple of ways to get there, either by ferry or by plane. The views either from air or by boat are beautiful.
If you are looking to fly there is service from Vancouver (YVR) to Sandspit with Air Canada, or Pacific Coastal Airlines travels from YVR South Terminal to Masset Municipal Airport. You can also fly in with Inland Air between Prince Rupert and the village of Masset. Flights can be delayed due to weather conditions in the winter and some companies don’t fly at all at that time of year. Double check your dates before booking.
BC Ferries operates runs to Haida Gwaii from Prince Rupert and Port Hardy. You can walk on to the ferry, but the easiest way to travel once you are there is by car. You can rent a car in Sandspit, Queen Charlotte, and Masset, but be sure to book ahead.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Haida Gwaii
The farther north in Canada you go the cooler the conditions become, so many people prefer to travel to Haida Gwaii during the warmer months of summer. It depends on your activities though which would be the best time, for example for fishing season May to Sept is best. If you’re an angler, October to March is catch and release season for steelhead.
Ready to plan your visit to Haida Gwaii? Check out these popular guides and trips.