HAIDA GWAII - WHAT TO SEE & DO
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Activities and Outdoor Experiences in Haida Gwaii
Biking on Haida Gwaii
As you may know, the island has quite a simple infrastructure with a small network of maintained roads. For this reason, if you decide to cycle on the island, there is only so far you can travel on paved roads.
But why keep to the paved roads when you can get off the beaten track?
You see, there is also an extensive network of unpaved roads, which are perfect for exploring on mountain bikes. These roads are mostly unused and considered logging roads or backroads. Needless to say, this allows visitors to get off the beaten path and further into the wilderness.
If you wanted to take a multi-day tour by bike, you could start at Tlell bridge and travel along the coastline while the tide is low. On this stretch, Pesuta shipwreck presents a fascinating sight but the scenery is spectacular all the way to Cape Ball, Hoyagundla and beyond.
Boat Trips on Haida Gwaii
Gwaii Havana’s National Park is truly stunning where you will find a large expanse of water in between luscious canopies and towering peaks. With knowledgeable guides, it’s also possible to explore this region on boat and there’s always something new to see on every trip.
For example, black bears are often found swimming in and out of the narrows and as if that’s not enough, orcas and gray whales are also common! It’s true, you can witness these beautiful mammals up close before jumping into the ocean to snorkel with giant mussels, sea stars, rock scallops and more.
About Camping on the Islands
Campsites are common on Haida Gwaii and this is a great way to keep prices down while feeling immersed in nature.
Gray Bay is one of the most fantastic places to go camping on Harida Gwaii. Featuring a quiet, sandy shore and a beautiful body of water, this is also a great place to use as a base for hiking. After all, the nearby grassy trail travels all the way to Gray point, which offers unrivalled views across the region.
Nature on Haida Gawii
Well, it would simply be wrong to talk about Haida Gwaii without emphasizing the sheer beauty of the archipelago. Featuring endless trees, mountains, flora, beaches, lakes and forests; this is truly one of the most remote and spectacular places to explore.
Also, I mention beaches above and this something that really stands out on the islands. You can easily reach these beautiful stretches of sand and beach combing is hugely popular all over the archipelago in places like Masset, Tlell and Sandspit on Moresby Island.
About the Wildlife in Haida Gwaii
As it turns out, this archipelago is also blessed with a wide variety of fauna and flora, which the islands have cultivated over thousands of years, some of which are found nowehre else on earth. In fact, there are more unique sub-species on Haida Gwaii than in any other equal-sized area in Canada, and they're often referred to as “the Canadian Galapagos.”
Distinctive sub-species include the Saw-whet Owl, Hairy Woodpecker, Steller’s Jay and Peale’s Peregrine Falcon.
Eleven species of mammals are native the islands including the Black Bear, Pine Marten, River Otter, Haida Ermine, Dusky Shrew, Silver-haired Bat, California Myotis, Keen’s Myotis, Little brown Bat and Deer Mouse. The eleventh species, the Dawson Caribou, became extinct in 1908.
The islands are known for their huge seabird colonies, and approximately 1.5 million seabirds nest on the island. These include the "at risk" Ancient Murrelet, for which Haida Gwaii is the only nesting site in Canada. Cassin’s Auklets and Rhinocerus Auklets also nest in globally-significant populations. Storm Petrels and Pigeon Guillemots are also found here.
Twenty-three species of marine mammals call the surrounding ocean home, including humpback and orca whales, dolphins and the largest colony of Steller’s sea lions on Canada’s west coast.
Visitors can explore the Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary trails in search of these animals and bird enthusiasts should be especially impressed with the inhabitants. After all, both Delkatla and Yamuna Estuary have impressive interpretive centres and many bird species in the local area.
Kayaking and Surfing
If you enjoy either of the above, you will absolutely love Haida Gwaii. At $50 per day, kayaks may not be the cheapest piece of equipment to rent but the rewards for kayaking around the island is priceless. Similarly, visitors can take too stand up paddle board on the lakes of inlets and if you happen to surf, the North Beach is an incredibly fun spot to get out there!
Hiking on Haida Gwaii
Whether you want something gentle or something rugged, hiking on Haida Gwaii is one of the true highlights of the archipelago. For many people, the chance to climb to the peak of Mt Moresby is irresistible but the “easier” maintained trails offer just as much excitement.
Take Flavian Mabit Sunset Trail for example, an easy, well maintained hiking trail that offers stunning views in every direction. You will not need any experience or hiking knowledge to enjoy many of these trails and there is little to no risk of getting lost.
On the other hand, the Cape Fife Trail stretched for 10km and allows visitors to gain insight into the old ways of the old locals. In other words, this part of Naikoon Provincial Park was where ancient settlements can be found and they day back to the start of last century.
As you can see, there is so much to do on Haida Gwaii and this is especially true in terms of outdoor activities. But what other adventures can you find on the islands? Well, I mentioned the boat tour above and there is actually a Whale-watching tour in Skidegate. During spring-time, you can even see these whales from the edge of Skidegate Inlet and Jags’ Beanstalk is the perfect coffee shop to keep an eye out for them.
Uncovering the Culture on the Islands
In my honest opinion, aside from the outdoor activities, Haida culture is the most mystical and intriguing thing about visiting the islands. The truth is, wherever you go in Haida Gwaii, a certain sense of mystery seems to hang in the air. That is to say, these islands are steeped in local myths and legends, and the Haida villages are testament to this unusual feeling.
You see, the Haida history traces back to the ice age and the opportunity to experience some of their local traditions is such a privilege. With watchmen standing over each village, it can feel rather intimidating at first but friendliness always prevails and the experience can feel like stepping back in time.
As already mentioned, there are also a number of museums on the islands but one I have yet to mention is the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate. In this museum, you can find everything from ancient canoes and totem poles to beautiful designs, which were produced through weaving.
About Tours in Haida Gwaii
As you can imagine, several days are needed to uncover the most interesting aspects of the islands and no matter how long you stay, Haida Gwaii never disappoints. You can opt for the skies or take a ferry with the car but either way there are so many hidden treasures on the islands to discover.
At the same time, if you’re like me, you want to get out there but then also understand the local culture along the way and with this in mind, an customized tour might be the best way to truly experience Haida Gwaii.