Haida Gwaii visit
January 23, 2020 3:44 PM   Subscribe

We're thinking of visiting Haida Gwaii this summer. If you've visited (or live there), any information would useful.

There will be three of us, including one 15-year-old.

I do know it's a big place, with a lot travel time between places.

We have friends who did the 7 day package at Haida House last summer, but at $5000 a person, it's way too expensive for us.
posted by ShooBoo to Travel & Transportation around British Columbia (4 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I visited in early summer 2019. We flew into Sandspit and did a 4 day boat tour of Gwaii Haanas with Moresby Explorers that was really great at a reasonable price. Lots of highlights: the scenery (of course), ancient Haida villages, a super cool floating lodge, an old hippie outpost (Rose Harbour), and remarkably good food. That felt like the right amount of time to explore Gwaii Haanas – less would be rushed, more might get a bit repetitive.

One interesting option for leaving Haida Gwaii: you can take a long ferry to Prince Rupert on the northern BC coast, then take a Via Rail train to Jasper and then Vancouver. The train route is gorgeous (though often delayed).
posted by ripley_ at 3:55 PM on January 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

I spent nearly 3 weeks in Skidegate, in an RV Airbnb last summer. I decided the take the Inside Passage up to Prince Rupert, then over to Haida Gwaii after that. The way the boats run, I had to spend the night in Port Hardy, a full day in passage, another night in Prince Rupert, and then an overnight run to Skidegate on the ferry. I was exhausted! Literally 3 days of travel just to get there - but I had wanted that feeling of really travelling a long way away... so I got that.

I also did not take a vehicle, which would be a mistake if you want to explore. Car rentals are difficult to arrange, and they often break down. Taxis and rentals are also not allowed on logging roads, so you wouldn't be able to explore very far. I was lucky that my host had a bicycle for me to use - and it took me an hour to ride the bike in to Queen Charlotte every so often. Oh, and the ferry arrives very early in the morning. I was lucky that my Airbnb host was willing to allow me to check in around 6am - and sleep off the horrible crossing that felt like an earthquake on that ship all night long. It was worth it on both ferries to have arranged for a berth.

There aren't many shops or restaurants on the island to enjoy - I had to buy my food at the Co-op and prepare most of my meals, and the one coffee shop that was nearby, was only open for limited hours and would run out of some preferred foods quite early. Queen Charlotte (south end of Graham Island) has the most options for food and such. Masset has a few, but the village seems to be somewhat run down.

The Haida Heritage Centre is an absolute must-see. It's world class and worth the visit. I would have spent many more hours touring inside, and quite enjoyed the pole tour and canoes. Spirit Lake is has free guided walks if you look for them (usually posted on a bulletin board at the Co-op), and is also lovely to hike alone. I would also recommend taking a tour with Haida Style Expeditions (or Moresby Explorers, if you'd like). I managed to book a day trip to the Hot Springs and Windy Bay, and that was a highlight of my trip. I also rented a vehicle for 3 days, and spent 2 nights in Masset in order to visit Tow Hill and North Beach, which was also lovely, but since I live on Vancouver Island, it seemed much like the beautiful west coast that I have available to me year-round.

If I were to truly experience Haida Gwaii another time, I would do things differently. I really wanted to see the remote and natural areas, and the ancient heritage totems/sites - but these are in the southern islands that can only be reached by float plane or smaller boats. I would just fly up from Vancouver, and stay at Rose Harbour (a floating weather station) for 4-7 days to see those places and truly experience the remoteness. Alternately, I would most definitely take a vehicle across instead of relying on my legs and two pedals. With my own vehicle, I could have visited a lake and gone swimming off a logging road, or taken a quick ferry over to the Sandspit side and explored some places down there. I could have driven up and down the one paved road along Graham Island more than once, and I would've been able to spend time hiking up the beaches more (I was too tired to do much beach walking with all the biking!)

Oh, and I ended up with an eye infection while there - just started around the July 1st holiday weekend - and the pharmacy in Queen Charlotte was not open until Tuesday - even if I had gone to the (only place) hospital on the weekend. Make sure you bring any and all medical necessities you might need! You could be on your own for a while.
posted by itsflyable at 11:46 PM on January 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

In 2002 I did the Waters of SGang with Butterfly Tours. That was great and a 15-year-old should be able to handle the paddling. Gord is a fantastic guide for learning wilderness craft. If you aren't campers then disregard this suggestion.
posted by TORunner at 7:05 AM on January 24, 2020

Last summer, my husband and I kayaked Haida Gwaii with Tofino Expeditions. The weather was poor, but everything else was great. Moresby Explorers handled the transportation to the starting point, and they were great, too.
posted by TrarNoir at 7:37 AM on January 24, 2020

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