Named one of National Geographic Traveler’s 20 must-see places in the world for 2015, the remote Haida Gwaii region is one of the most unique and spectacular destinations in Canada. Home to the Haida First Nations people, the area includes over 150 islands and more biomass per square yard than anywhere else on the planet.
The tropical wilderness, bountiful wildlife, and rich history of Haida Gwaii make for a truly unforgettable experience — and the best part is, there is something for every type of traveler. Want to immerse yourself in Haida culture, and learn the region’s history? How about a restorative spiritual retreat? Or would you rather go off-grid and backpack through the wilderness? Or take part in some of the best sport fishing in the world? It’s all there.
Quick Guide to Haida Gwaii
- Half of the population of Haida Gwaii are Haida First Nations.
- “Haida Gwaii” means “islands of the people” or “islands of the Haida” in the local language
- Established in 2010, the Gwaii Haanas National Park is the first area in the world to be protected from mountain top to sea floor
- 52% of the land mass lies within protected areas
- The archipelago is comprised of more than 200 islands
- About 4500 people live on Haida Gwaii
- The ubiquitous Sitka Blacktail Deer are an introduced species, as are red squirrels, raccoons, beavers, muskrats, rats and elk
Gwaii Haanas National Park
A trip to Haida Gwaii would not be complete without a visit to its spiritual centre, the Gwaii Haanas National Park. Visitors travel the area to experience the remote rainforest, surrounded by thousand-year-old trees and abundant wildlife. You can’t help but immerse yourself in the rich history of the Haida First Nations people as you discover ancient carved totem poles and fallen longhouses. Head to the seashore and you might see a black bear catching salmon, whales breaching in the distance, or other wildlife species that are exclusive to the region.
Haida Heritage Centre
at Kaay Llnagaay
It’s impossible to truly appreciate Haida Gwaii without understanding the living culture of the Haida First Nations people, and the rich heritage of their relationship with the land and sea. You’ll want to dedicate a good chunk of time to get through all 50,000 square feet of the Haida Heritage Centre, from the breathtaking hand carved totem poles in the Carving House, to the fascinating Canoe House and the stunning Haida Gwaii Museum. To purchase original, authentic Haida artwork, make sure to stop by the Gift Shop before you leave.
“The Haida Heritage Centre protects and fosters Haida culture by reaffirming our traditions and beliefs, encouraging artistic expression and serving as a keeper of all that we are. The Haida Heritage Centre is a place for the Haida voice to be heard.
This is our gift to the world. “
Naikoon Provincial Park
If you are looking to experience some of the most stunning wilderness and ocean landscapes in British Columbia, you’d be hard pressed to find somewhere more perfect than this. The 726 square kilometers of Naikoon Provincial Park boast a diverse array of geographic wonders, from lush coastal rainforest, to a vast shoreline and unique wildlife. Some of Haida Gwaii’s most popular attractions lie within its boundaries, including unmatched ocean views from atop Tow Hill, blowholes that shoot 7 metres high along Blow Hole Boardwalk, beachcombing and surfing on North Beach, and the popular 10-kilometre trek to Pesuta Shipwreck.
Sitting in the northernmost coast of British Columbia, Haida Gwaii is often referred to as “the Galapagos of the North” — home to more than 200 bird species, half of British Columbia’s sea lion population, and the most diverse marine wildlife in Canada. For both a relaxing and exhilarating experience, book a whale watching tour during your stay. Orcas frequent the area year-round, humpback whales arrive in February staying until the fall, gray whales visit from March to June, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a blue or fin whale off the west coast. Feeling adventurous? Book a kayak tour instead! Advance booking is recommended for all guided tours.
G̱andll K’in Gwaay.yaay (Hotspring Island)
Hot water is once again flowing in the sacred hot springs of Gwaii Haanas, 3 years after a 7.8 earthquake struck and mysteriously emptied the pools. It’s too soon to say if they will return to their former glory, but with a little luck, your next trip to the Haida Gwaii could include these soothing pools. Historically used by the Haida people for their healing properties, there are over a dozen warm pools where visitors can enter and experience this natural wonder.
Access to the site is by permit only, and we recommend booking as a part of your Gwaii Haanas tour.
A Word about Logging Roads
If you are traveling the backroads without a local guide, please consult the the most update information about logging road closures, deactivations, rules of the road and industrial traffic conditions at:
BRIDGES: Most bridges on resource roads are one lane. Make sure you yield to oncoming traffic; it is better to pull over and let the other vehicle through – play it safe!
ROAD DAMAGE: Resource roads might not be in use year round; they may sustain damage due to frost, flooding, vandalism, etc. – damage might not be marked. Roads may be overgrown or not plowed; the road might not be drivable—even though you found it on a map or GPS. Expect rough surfaces, potholes, sinkholes, washouts, water bars and cross ditches.
COMMUNICATION: Industrial traffic on active roads communicates using two–way radios; this is how drivers talk with each other so they know to “clear” when a vehicle is heading towards them. If you have a two–way radio, learn how to use it, ensure it is installed and working properly as well as programmed with the channels needed to communicate in areas you travel; follow communication instructions posted at the start of all active logging roads. If you are not equipped with a radio, wait for someone who does have one so you can follow them.