Also known as The Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii is absolutely paradise. This set of large islands off the coast of British Columbia are simply stunning. And – with two bears for every person, plenty of incredible landscapes, and a beautiful coastline – are any nature loving photographer’s dream location. Haida Gwaii is ripe with outdoor adventure opportunities. From salmon fishing to hiking to sea kayaking, there is plenty to keep you entertained on the islands. Moreover, on Haida Gwaii the native Canadian transitions and artifacts are perhaps more well preserved than anywhere else in British Columbia, which makes this a great cultural destination as well. Although my time on Haida Gwaii was far too short at 2 days, I’m sure that one could easily spend a couple weeks exploring the islands and still not see nearly everything. If you’re looking to get off the beaten path a bit in Canada, for my money, there is no better place in the country to do so than here.
Time Needed: 3-6 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: $60-80 a day
Things to do in Haida Gwaii
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t really have to be rich to travel around Haida Gwaii. Sure, to do many of the things on this list it’s going to cost you some serious cash. However, there are plenty of things you can do for very cheap as well. And, aside from the park passes, hiking is always free.
- Hiking: There are a seemingly endless amount of hiking trails on Haida Gwaii. For an easy afternoon hike give the pesuta shipwreck trail a shot.
- Kayaking: From day trips to massive week-long seakayaking journeys, there are few places in the world better to hit the water than here.
- Fishing: The fishing industry here is massive both commercially and for sport. You won’t have too much trouble finding a place to cast a reel.
- Boat Tours: The boat tour we did took us around Louise Island which was great. It gives you a nice cross section of the natural and cultural aspects of the islands.
- Surfing: Yes, you can surf Haida Gwaii. It’s becoming a popular place to ride the waves as well. In fact, most people come out here to surf in the winter while the waves are fueled by winter storms and much more fierce.
- Cultural Center: The Haida Gwaii Heritage Center is a beautiful building and has some stunning totmes and artwork. It’s very much worth a visit.
- Whale Watching: Like almost everwhere along the coast of British Columbia there are whale watching tours available.
- Golfing: There are two golf courses on Haida Gwaii.
Where to Eat in Haida Gwaii
In Queen Charlotte anyways, I was a little bit disappointed with the restaurant choices available. However, we did find some really good seafood at a place called Oceanview Restaurant. There was actually really decent Chinese Food as well at a restaurant down near the visitor information center.
Where to Stay in Haida Gwaii
As is the case basically all over British Columbia, you’ll have the option of hotel, hostel or camping in Haida Gwaii. Unless you really want to spend money to stay at a fancy lodge, your best bet is likely a bed and breakfast or a hostel. There are loads of camping options, but you’re likely going to be well out of town (which might be what you want of course). The hostel in Queen Charlotte is called Pioneer Creek Hostel and is $25 a night for a dorm bed of $50 a night for a double room. The campsite in Queen Charlotte is called Bunkhouse Campgroud Resort.
Also, when choosing your accommodation you’ll have to think about where you want to be. Queen Charlotte is the biggest town and is quite central and houses the ferry docks. Skidegate is nearby to Queen Charlotte but feels a bit more rundown. The other options are the smaller settlements of Thell, Masset or Port Clements.
Getting out of Town
While you can’t get here on wheels, you kind of can. There is a BC Ferries run from Prince Rupert to Queen Charlotte. It is expensive and long, but travelling overnight makes it an easy journey. There are actually even statehouses on board so you can get a room to crash in, although many people just toss a mat down on the floor in a corner.
There are also daily flights from Vancouver with AirCanada to Sandspit, although I’m not sure they are year round. There are also regularly scheduled flights on smaller airlines that run year round to the town of Masset.