In 2010, the Queen Charlotte Islands were renamed to become Haida Gwaii. I’m still getting used to calling them that, but since then the islands have reclaimed a part of their original history through the new name, as it helps bring into focus a new environment for the locals and visitors.
How to Reach Haida Gwaii
Admittedly, it’s not easy getting to Haida Gwaii unless you take a floatplane from Vancouver or Prince Rupert. Those who take the 7-hour ferry from Prince Rupert usually bring with them a car, an RV, or a camper; BC Ferries provides service in this region year-round.
Either way, in a vehicle, you can cover about 113 km of Highway 16, which is on the two largest islands, Graham and Moresby. It takes about an hour and a half to drive along this paved road, with no stops along the way. You can also rent a car from either Masset in the North part of the Islands, or Sandspit and Queen Charlotte villages in the South. Another small ferry runs between Graham and Moresby Islands several times a day and lasts about half an hour.
Ideal Times to Visit and What to Expect during Your Stay
It’s quite busy in the months of May to September and gradually tapers off towards the winter months, where most businesses close for the season or have minimal hours. The warm months are a prime time for all outdoor activities like camping, hiking, canoeing, or kayaking. The fishing around this area is a special opportunity to brag about, even if you don’t catch anything.
If boats are your passion, charting around Haida Gwaii will be amazing; you may get to see an ancient Haida village and visit the natural hot springs, both on Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. However, due to earthquake activity in the area, the spring has dried up. But like many things found in nature, there has been signs of the spring showing recovery!
Heritage History and an Artsy Atmosphere Keeps Visitors Coming
There is an unmistakeable artsy feel to the towns here, and it is likely you will wander into an art gallery or meet an artist. Perhaps you can bring a piece home with you for a special souvenir. These are great places to hang out in and people watch while you sip coffee and try the local food.
One popular attraction that really shows off the towns and islands’ passion mixed with knowledge is the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate for history, more exceptional art, and live performances. Last time I saw and heard a performance, all the hair on my body stood on end.
Today, it still takes a bit of work getting to Haida Gwaii, but it can offer so much in the way of outdoor exploration, original artwork, and an inside look at the nation’s deep ancestral heritage. Underneath the rugged beauty, there lies a gentleness.
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