Courtesy of Haida House
Separated from mainland Canada by the stormy Hecate Strait, the 150-island archipelago of Haida Gwaii is tough to reach but rich in rewards. Here’s how to visit.
An archipelago off the western coast of mainland Canada, Haida Gwaii is tough to reach but well worth the trip. Most of the population and activities are concentrated on the two largest islands: Graham in the north—home to Queen Charlotte, the principal city—and Moresby, the gateway to Gwaii Haanas National Park, in the south. Here’s what you need to know before you go.
Haida Gwaii is accessible only by plane or ferry. The islands are most easily approached via a two-hour flight from Vancouver. (Air Canada is the only airline with connecting international flights.) You can also take the eight-hour ferry ride (cars allowed) from Prince Rupert, B.C., to Skidegate, a Haida village located five miles east of Queen Charlotte.
Haida House, a 10-room cedar lodge on the eastern coast of Graham emphasizes cultural tourism and serves food inspired by traditional Haida dishes (from $2,290 for a four-night minimum stay). Its new sister property, slated to open in May, is the Ocean House at Stads K’uns GawGa, a remote, fly-in lodge in the Peel Inlet on the Northwest side of Moresby Island with a focus on ecotourism (from $3,425 for a three-night minimum stay).
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Haida is dotted with small villages, each worthy of exploration. Learn about Haida specialties such as woodcarving and canoe making at the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate, dig into some of the island’s best local seafood (wild prawns, freshly caught halibut) at Charters Restaurant in Masset, or hike through mossy forests and across driftwood-strewn beaches in the coastal Naikoon Provincial Park.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve—part national park, part marine conservation area, part Haida heritage site—is one of the archipelago’s biggest draws. A guided tour can help you get the most out of the park’s 1,930 square miles, which are filled with wildlife, including orcas and black bears, and home to ancient Haida village sites. Both Moresby Explorers and Haida Style Expeditions offer single and multiday tours of Gwaii Haanas and can arrange in-park accommodations and activities such as Zodiac excursions and meetings with Haida Watchmen.
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