• slide 1
    Haida Heritage Centre
  • slide 2
    View From Tow Hill
  • slide 3
    Road To Naikoon Park
  • slide 4
    Old Masset
  • slide 5
    Pesuta Shipwreck
  • slide 6
    Moresby Island
  • slide 7
    Gwaii Haanas Park

Psst... Hey, click here to read about my detailed, first hand account of my experiences from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii.

Haida Gwaii Travel & Tourism Guide

Welcome To Haida Gwaii.

The very edge of the Earth you will find a unique archipelago called Haida Gwaii in the province of British Columbia in the country of Canada. Haida Gwaii is well known for its biodiversity and has been referred to as the Galapagos of the North. Haida Gwaii translates to the “land of the people” and this can be felt with the exceptional local hospitality the Queen Charlotte Islands are known for.

Most visitors come for the great salmon and halibut fishing, to visit the majestic Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and to experience the rich and unique cultural aspect of these islands. Other Haida Gwaii points of interest include the towering Tow Hill, the erupting Blow Hole and the ominous Pesuta Shipwreck in Naikoon Provincial Park. Go see the fallen and sacred Golden Spruce down the Golden Spruce Trail. Drink of the water at St. Mary's Spring and “you will one day find yourself back on Haida Gwaii”. Contemplate how Balance Rock has kept its precarious place for so long. The Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum will give you a glimpse of the pioneer life in Masset. See the white raven and other interesting artifacts at the Port Clements Settlers Museum. Fantastic bird watching opportunities are waiting for you at the Delkatla Nature Sanctuary.

Mountain view from Hot Spring Island

Haida Gwaii has a population of about 4000 people, though there are more than 150 islands in the archipelago, Graham Island and and to a lesser extent Moresby Island has the majority of the population. The main villages and towns on Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands are Masset, Old Masset, Port Clements, Tlell, Skidegate, Queen Charlotte City and Sandspit.

Haida Gwaii History & Facts


This You Tube video has glimpses of the Haida Heritage Centre and scenery from around Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands.

According to a version of Haida legend the trickster Raven is responsible for stealing the sun from his grandfather and separating it so that one piece became the moon and the others became stars. With two stone pebbles he created Hiada Gwaii. Raven then put them in the sea and grew the trees upon them, made the water flow through the rivers and stole the fish from Beaver to stock the lakes and streams. One day when Raven was flying over a beach he heard a strange noise coming from below. Perplexed he went to investigate and found creatures devoid of fur and feather hiding in a clam shell, he released them called them human and gave them the gift of fire.

Since the time when Raven gave us life the Haida people have inhabited Haida Gwaii for 9,000 years. During this time, and up to the time they made contact with Europeans, they were known as a proud warring nation and had ventured as far south as California.

The first European's to make contact was Jaun Parez in1774 and captain James Cook in 1778. Europeans and Americans attention was focused on Haida Gwaii in 1851 when there was gold to be had. The gold rush was made difficult by the Haida trying to protecting their land. Sir James Douglas was appointed governor over the area and named it the Queen Charlotte Islands. In 2009 the name was changed to Haida Gwaii to reflect the original name used by the indigenous peoples that live there.

Spanish Olive Jar Found off Coast of Haida Gwaii

Contact with Europeans came at a great cost. Small pox epidemics ravaged the Haida people killing 95 percent of the population. At one point there were only 350 Haida people left. Over time the Haida's numbers have increased and with the help of Bill Reid and others the Haida people have regained their culture and heritage.

In common times the main economic forces in Haida Gwaii were forestry and fishing. To a lesser extent they still are, but the declining need for these commodities and an environmental movements to scale back harvesting is pushing Haida Gwaii into a new direction. Tourism is fast becoming the new and growing economy on the islands with world class sports fishing, a rich culture and a one of a kind location. The secret is now out, Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands is a unique, mysterious and eclectic destination that is drawing more and more visitors from all over the world.

Haida Gwaii's Top Attractions

The biggest attraction on Haida Gwaii is arguably the incredible salmon and halibut fishing. The fishing season runs from May to October and there are many different fishing charter companies that will help you get the most out of your fishing experience, some will even arrange to clean, process and ship your catch back home to you. All types of salmon are native to Haida Gwaii rivers.

This You Tube video depicts fishing and crabbing on Haida Gwaii

Skedans small carving

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and draws many visitors every year to this beautiful, diverse and historical location that makes up the southern part of Haida Gwaii. Featuring several old Haida village sites including Ninstints where most of the original totem poles are best preserved. Haida Watchmen are present during the summer months at the cultural sites providing interpretation of buildings and artifacts as well as a history lesson. Whales, eagles and bears oh my! There is a lot of wildlife to view so bring your camera and binoculars. Soak in the warm pools on Hot Springs Island with the most incredible scenery as your background. Here is a list of Gwaii Haanas tour operators.

A very unique museum is in Skidegate called the Haida Heritage Centre. This detailed and specialized museum is housed in 7 long houses that includes teaching facilities and a carving shed. Come explore in detail the history and artifacts of the Haida's beginnings from the moment of creation to their first encounter with Europeans to their modern day cultural renaissance. Discover the flora and fauna that make Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands a unique place on the face of the Earth. Their Web Site.

Long Boat Haida Heritage Centre

Map of Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands Top Attractions

AFishing

BGwaii Haanas

CHaida Heritage Centre

DNaikoon Park

Naikoon Provincial Park

...is in the north east corner of Graham Island and is flanked by long beaches that merge out to a Rose Point and deep dark mossy forests. The mossy forests have been compared to fantasy fairy land artwork, there are striking similarities that make this place dream like.

Tow Hill is Naikoon park's biggest attraction. It is a basalt hill that rolls up gently from the south and has a shear, flat, striking face on its north side. Its a moderate hike up planked walkways to the summit where you will be treated to stunning views of Rose Point, Graham Island, the Pacific Ocean and on a clear day you can make out the outline of some Alaskan islands.

Tow Hill Naikoon Park Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands

The Blow Hole is at the foot of Tow Hill and it is common for visitors to visit this curiosity after their descent from said Tow Hill. You wont see too much on a calm day, but if its a bit stormy with the tide coming in the Blow Hole will erupt with a huge gush of water sending it high into the sky, a sight to behold.

The Pesuta Shipwreck is located just past the mouth of the Tlell River and can be a 3 hour or more light to moderate hike there and back. The Pesuta was a log carrier that ran aground during a storm in 1928, the bow is all that remains of the Pesuta Shipwreck, but it has character and is very photogenic. Make sure to pack snacks, plenty of water and warm clothes even on a nice day for this hike.

Pesuta Shipwreck

The Cape Fife Trail is another popular hike that cuts through the forest and connects East Beach to North Beach. This can be a long day hike, 20 km for the return trip and make sure you are prepared with food and clothing. Some people opt for a 2-3 day trip that takes them down the Cape Fife trail, north up East Beach to Rose Spit and then west down North Beach back to the trail head. For the real adventurous hiker you can take a 5-7 day hike from Tlell all the way up East Beach, cut over via the Fife Trail or around Rose Spit and end at the trail head by Tow Hill. For multiple day hikes check in with the park office at Misty Meadows in Tlell for tidal, drinking water and safety information.

Map of Naikoon Park Attractions

ATow Hill

BThe Blow Hole

CPesuta Shipwreck

DCape Fife Trail

ERose Point

Haida Gwaii Points of Interest

The Golden Spruce Trail is just a few kilometres outside the community of Port Clements. The trail is only about a 10 minute walk to the lookout to where the remnants of the Golden Spruce still can be seen. The trail continues on for some ways along the Yakoun River and you could make a half day of it. The 300 year old Golden Spruce had deep significance to Haida people and in 1997 a disgruntled logger, upset at the provinces forestry practices, cut down the tree as a personal protest. This brought deep sorrow to the community, but a cutting was saved and you can see the young tree at the Millennium Memorial Park in Port Clements. The trail is through old growth forest, don't walk through on windy or stormy days.

Dead Golden Spruce

Stop by the Port Clements Settlers Museum after visiting the Golden Spruce Trail. Here you will find all sorts of artifacts relating to Port Clements days as a pioneer town with heavy roots in the forest industry. Articles and artifacts related to the Golden Spruce are on display as well as the White Raven of Port Clements BC. This albino raven was the darling of the town and one day the raven was playing with a couple of crows, got disoriented and flew into an electrical transformer thus ending its short life. This combined with the felling of the Golden Spruce made 1997 a bad year for the community of Port Clements. Visit their web site for more details.

WHite Raven of Port Clements

St. Mary's Spring is an interesting road side curio with a carving of St. Mary by local carver Ted Bellis. The sign says “if you drink these waters you will one day find yourself back on Haida Gwaii”, there is also another sign right beside that one that says this is untreated water and to drink at your own risk.

St. Mary's Spring Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands

Balance Rock is just north of Skidegate on Hwy. 16 and worth a quick look and a photo opportunity. It is a boulder strangely balanced on a tiny bit of rock, definitely an interesting sight.

Balance Rock Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands

The Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum in Masset is worth a look see. Some artifacts, articles and period displays are some of the gems you will find here.

The Delkatla Nature Sanctuary is just outside of Masset and has some great bird and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Wandering around Old Masset is a great way to spend some time, see some carvers and artists plying their trade and view the abundance of Totem poles in the area. Queen Charlotte City is another great place to wander around with eclectic shops and homey restaurants.

AGolden Spruce

BSettlers Museum

CSt. Mary's Spring

DBalance Rock

EMaritime Museum

FDelkatla Nature Sanctuary

GOld Masset

HQueen Charlotte City

The Best Way to Get to Haida Gwaii

Getting to Haida Gwaii by car. BC Ferries operates a ferry between Prince Rupert and Skidegate on Graham Island and can cost around $35.00 per person and around $150.00 per vehicle, sailing time is around 7 hours. A smaller ferry runs between Skidegate and Alliford Bay, this can cost about $10.00 oer person and around $25.00 for car and driver. Please visit BC Ferries web site for accurate schedule and fare information.

Getting to Haida Gwaii by Air. Air Canada and Pacific Coastal Airlines offer regular service to the main airport in Sandspit and to the smaller airport in Masset. One way flights from Vancouver BC can start to cost around $150.00
Click here for a more detailed list of local Haida Gwaii airlines

Haida Gwaii has many public and private transportation options including a taxi service, a shuttle bus that travels up and down the islands and a few rental car agencies. An important thing to remember when renting a car, a lot of the attractions are on gravel roads and the franchise rental car agencies do not permit you to go down them, you may want to consider using a local car rental agency if you want to do a lot of sight seeing. Here are some lists of Haida Gwaii car rental agencies and Taxi services.

Haida Gwaii Climate and Weather

There has been some nasty rumours going around stating that Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands is a dark, gloomy and rainy place. This is not true, though they are islands in the Pacific Ocean it may be a fairer statement that sudden weather changes are more common place. Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands actually enjoys a relatively mild climate despite being so far north. There is very little varience in temperature from summer 15C to 20C to winter 0C to 10C. No matter what time of year you are in Haida Gwaii – Queen Charlotte Islands always bring clothes and foot wear for all weather conditions.

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