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Why We’ve Been Returning to Haida Gwaii for over 43 Years

We’ve been taking adventurous travellers to Haida Gwaii since 1978, and while we’ve seen the popularity of many other destinations ebb and flow, there is a wild magic and mystery in these islands that keeps drawing curious visitors year after year. Each summer we offer multiple tours to Haida Gwaii and they are almost always completely sold out months in advance.

So, what is it about our Haida Gwaii tours that makes them so popular?

Haida Gwaii is an archipelago of over 150 islands off the northwest coast of BC. Until 2009, the islands were known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, but were formally renamed Haida Gwaii (the name translates as ‘islands of the Haida people’) as part of a historic reconciliation agreement between the province and the Haida Nation. With rugged coastlines, lush cedar forests, vibrant Haida culture, and a wide array of marine life, Haida Gwaii is stunningly beautiful at any time of year, in any weather (and yes, it rains A LOT!)

With over 43 years of experience visiting Haida Gwaii, we’ve refined our tours to include the best combination of cultural experiences and outdoor adventures that will give you a real taste of the islands. We only partner with the most experienced and responsible local operators and guides who bring in-depth personal knowledge of the places we visit. We also keep our groups very small (with a maximum of 20 guests) to allow us to visit some beautiful spots large groups can’t enjoy.

Exploring the moss covered forest trails

Here are a few of the highlights of our Haida Gwaii tours:

Experience the story of the Haida people at the Haida Heritage Centre
Opened in 2008, the Haida Heritage Centre was built on the ancient village site of Ḵay Llnagaay or ‘Sea-Lion Town’ and designed to resemble the traditional village that once stood in its place. The site features six impressive totem poles representing each of the six villages of Skidegate. The exhibits tell the story of the Haida people from ancient traditions until the modern day. Archaeological sites have established human habitation on the islands as far back as 13,000 years ago so there is a lot of history to cover! When we visit, we have a guided tour which really helps bring the stories to life. Don’t miss the wonderful gift shop showcasing the work of local artists and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to see carvers at work in the carving house.

The Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate

Enjoy a traditional Haida feast at Keenawaii’s Kitchen
One of our favourite parts of the tour is a traditional Haida feast at Keenawaii’s Kitchen. Roberta Olson invites us into her beautiful home and shares a dinner of wild local foods. The meal includes whatever is in season that day and might include salmon, halibut, prawns, crab, mussels, venison, or even traditional herring roe on kelp. Roberta, whose Haida name is Keenawaii, is a wonderful host and her home is filled with an impressive collection of Haida art and history.

Take a float plane tour to SG̱ang Gwaay Llnaagay (Nan Sdins)
On our tours we offer an optional floatplane tour to SG̱ang Gwaay (Anthony Island) with a guided visit to the village of SG̱ang Gwaay Llnaagay (Nan Sdins). In a sheltered cove on the eastern side of the island you’ll find an ancient Haida village with the remains of cedar long houses and standing totem poles. The site was occupied until the 1880s and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic site of Canada. The Haida people maintain a presence at SG̱ang Gwaay and four other village sites each summer as part of the Haida Gwaii Watchmen Program. Several Watchmen live at each site serving as guardians to protect the natural and cultural heritage of these important sites.

Totem poles at SGang Gwaay Llnaagay

Explore the wild shores of Naikoon Provincial Park
Located on the northeastern corner of Graham Island, Naikoon Provincial Park is a beach lover’s dream. Wide sandy beaches stretch for nearly 100 km and the wild weather makes for dramatic views. Take the boardwalk trail to reach the famous Blow Hole where surge channels in the shoreline push water about 25 feet into the air. Next take a hike up Tow Hill to get an amazing view of the coast below. And don’t forget to hunt for agates on aptly-named Agate Beach.

Looking up at Tow Hill from near the Blowhole in Naikoon Provincial Park

Walk the famous Kiidk’yaas (Golden Spruce) Trail
Take a short but beautiful walk through the moss-covered forest of giant red cedar and Sitka spruce to the Yakoun River and the site where the world-famous Kiidk’yaas (Golden Spruce) once stood. The tree had a rare genetic mutation that caused its needles to be golden in colour and was considered sacred by the Haida people. Kiidk’yaas was felled in 1997 by Grant Hadwin as an act of protest against the logging industry and the story was made famous by the book The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant.

Circumnavigate Louise Island and visit the village of Ḵ’uuna Llnagaay (Skedans)
One of the special experiences on this tour is full-day zodiac circumnavigation of Louise Island, the third largest island in Haida Gwaii. Louise Island is rich with history, from ancient Haida sites to World War II logging operations. And, if we’re lucky, we might run across some wildlife! The main stop on this trip is the ancient Haida village site of Ḵ’uuna Llnagaay (Skedans). Although this site has been uninhabited since the 1880s, you can still see an array of poles standing in their original locations. We’ll also enjoy a delicious picnic.

Want to learn more? Check out our recent webinar!

We recently hosted a webinar to share the details of our Haida Gwaii tours. Our Director of Marketing and Sales, Kerrie Niemeier, and Tour Director, Marion Wienhold, were excited to describe our tour itinerary in detail and share their own experiences in Haida Gwaii. Marion has been taking Wells Gray Tours groups to Haida Gwaii since 2012 so she has visited all of the locations many times and could answer any questions. Kerrie joined our Haida Gwaii tour a few years ago as a guest and can’t wait to go back. If you missed the webinar, it can be viewed here.

Totem Pole carving at the Haida Heritage Centre

2021 Haida Gwaii tours

From the Interior: July 21, July 31, Aug 5, Aug 10 – 7 days
From Vancouver Island: July 26 – 7 days
From the Lower Mainland: July 22, Aug 1, Aug 6, Aug 11 – 6 days

Many of these departures are almost full already, so contact your local office ASAP if you’d like to learn more.