Discovering Canada’s Haida Gwaii

Few things say “Canada” more than a set of regal totem poles, landscapes blanketed in conifers, and glimpses of rare wildlife. All these converge in the rugged archipelago of Haida Gwaii—formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands—a rain-soaked natural wonderland roughly 80 kilometers off the northern coast of British Columbia. Its moss-draped old-growth forests shelter native species like the Queen Charlotte black bear and the bald eagle, while sea lions, seals, and porpoises cavort in the waters offshore. Such is the abundance of creatures on both land and sea that Haida Gwaii has been termed “Canada’s Galápagos”—a comparison that’s best understood each summer when pods of migrating orcas and humpbacks pass through. The annual arrival of these marine giants has left its mark on the culture of the indigenous Haida people, who venerate and depict both animals in their artwork.

Orca sightings are commonplace in Haida Gwaii from May to October. Photo by Kevin Lanthier/ Getty Images.

Orca sightings are commonplace in Haida Gwaii from May to October. Photo by Kevin Lanthier/ Getty Images.

Getting There 

During the summer months, Air Canada Express flies twice daily between Vancouver and Haida Gwaii’s main airport at Sandspit.

Where to Stay 

Haida House at Tllaal (four-night stays 
from US$2,735 per person) opens its doors from late May to early September, with just 10 rooms on a 20-hectare property along the east coast of Graham Island, halfway between the Haida villages of Old Massett and Skidegate.
What Else?

UNESCO-listed Gwaii Haanas, a national park and Haida heritage site, sprawls across the remote southernmost third of the islands. Moresby Explorers runs two- and four-day boat tours with accommodation 
at a cozy floating lodge.

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2017 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Haida Seek”).

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