The mystical lands of Haida Gwaii are making it on the bucket lists of more and more intrepid travellers, thanks to its unique cultural and ecological treasures. Located approximately 1700 kms off the coast of Vancouver in British Columbia, this lush archipelago is known for its unique wildlife, rich Haida culture, secluded location and raw beauty that emanates from the moss draped wilderness.
So what exactly does Haida Gwaii have to offer its visitors and how should you plan for this trip of a lifetime? Read on to find out…
GETTING TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD:
Fret not! Haida Gwaii’s extreme isolation doesn’t get in the way of it being accessible.
BC Ferries provide year round ferry services from Prince Rupert to Skidegate, with an average cost of $40 CAD for a one way ticket. Pacific Coastal Airlines fly all year round from Vancouver Airport to Masset; floatplanes are operated by Inlandair from Vancouver to Queen Charlotte and Masset; Air Canada also offers flights all year round from Vancouver Airport to Sandspit.
BASKING IN HAIDA CULTURE:
The best way to learn about Haida Culture is to live and breathe it. Here are some cultural lodges that give you a true taste of the eternal Haida hospitality and leave you with a unique understanding of the sacred and fierce lands of Haida Gwaii.
The Haida House at Tllaal is located on the banks of the Tlell river, has 10 guests rooms and is a landmark of Aboriginal Tourism. Learn about the Haida way of life from this cultural lodge that aims on educating its guests about the Haida philosophy of being one with nature. They offer all-inclusive stay packages that make exploring Haida Gwaii hassle-free. Packages range from three to seven nights, starting at about $3,000 per person, and they include round-trip travel from Vancouver, airport transfers, meals, stay, daily excursions and guided tours.
Another cozy spot to shack up at is the Copper Beech House in Masset. Owned and managed by the writer Susan Musgrave and her husband Stephen Ried, this eclectic lodge gives guests a rustic and funky taste of Haida Gwaii. The retreat has 5 large rooms with an average cost of $170 CAD.
But if you are a spa fanatic like myself The Ocean House at Stads K’uns GawGa should be the one stop solution to all your de-stressing vacation needs. A sister resort to the Haida House, this luxury lodge also contributes to the long term sustainability and preservation of the Haida people. Indulge in one of their relaxing spa treatments or learn about their efforts for environmental and cultural preservation, while enjoying ethnic Haida food and culture, right in the middle of nowhere.
LOSE YOURSELF IN HAIDA GWAII:
Are you a nature lover? Does walking through captivating cedar forests sound like something you’d like to do? Then the Naikoon Provincial Park should be your first stop at Haida Gwaii. Put those muscles to work with a long hike through moss covered forests, go surfing along 100 kms of beaches or camp under the Milky Way on a beach where you’re the only guest for the night. For more information about activities, peak seasons and provisions at camping grounds visit: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/naikoon/
Experience the raw energy of nature or immerse yourself in naturally occurring hot springs at the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. This ecologically and culturally abundant archipelago spreads over 5000 km2 and is a protected area that is home to diverse ecosystems, innumerable species of flora and fauna and ancient Haida Culture. The National Reserve has no demarcated campsites but visitors can experience the wilderness by setting up camp on the many small pebble beaches, sandy stretches, and headlands.
For all the music lovers out there, planning your trip around the second week of August would give you a chance to experience a spectacular three-day musical event at the Tlell Fall Fairgrounds. The Edge of the World Music Festival features a diverse mix of local and off-island musicians. The event also hosts vendors selling local art, crafts and ethnic food! Visit their official website for tickets and more details: https://edgefestival.ca/
Lose yourself in the rich Haida Culture at the Haida Heritage Center at Ḵay Llnagaay. Here, the culture of the Haida people is celebrated through their language, art and historical stories that highlight their strong bond with nature. The Haida Heritage Centre is a place for the Haida voice to be heard. They offer daily tours from June to September. For general admission rates and hours of operation visit their website: https://haidaheritagecentre.com/
When to visit:
Any time is a good time to visit this mystical utopia since most services and accommodations are open year round. But the peak season to visit Haida Gwaii is from May to early September. Owing to the calm weather, warmer temperatures and long sunny days most of the provincial parks and island tours only operate during these months.