Haida Gwaii was previously known as The Queen Charlotte Islands. There has been much media coverage over the last two decades about this mystical archipelago made up of over 150 islands. Its beautiful pristine wilderness and rich local culture makes these “Misty Isles” – The Canadian Galapagos – a treasured jewel of Canada’s West Coast. There is a soothing energy; a magical spirituality to this unique place that can be experienced nowhere else in the world.
The towns of Haida Gwaii are Massett, Sandspit, Skidegate, Queen Charlotte City, Tlell, and Port Clements. Access to Massett and the rest of Haida Gwaii is available via air charter, seaplane or BC Ferries. Each of these communities has its own unique attractions to explore and enjoy. And do not forget the South Moresby National Park Reserve – also known as Gwaii Haanas or “place of wonder” to the Haida – with its breathtaking abundance of flora, fauna, and ancient Haida village sites.
Masset is at the northern end of the 150 Islands in Haida Gwaii chain. It is the largest community on the islands and most of the townspeople make their living from the fishing industry. There are many restaurants and stores for your convenience. Bed & breakfast facilities, lodges and motels provide visitor accommodation. Local fishermen offer charter services. In the village of Old Massett (Haida) there are many native artists who sell their silver, gold, argillite and wood carvings as well as prints and woven baskets. There are several totem poles located throughout the Village
It is located on the shore of Masset Sound on the northern end of the largest island in the archipelago – Graham Island. The community faces northward toward Dixon Entrance and Alaska. The northern gateway to the beautiful rain forests, lakes and rivers of Naikoon Provincial Park, Masset is a leisurely half-hour drive from the picturesque Tow Hill and the relaxing sandy shores of North Beach.
Enjoy self-guided hiking trips or hire eco-guides for a tour of the area and its history. Charter a boat and enjoy fishing or whale watching excursions. Spend an afternoon beachcombing along the beaches of MacIntyre Bay or digging for delicious Razor Clams on North Beach. Take a quiet stroll through the Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary, located next to the village centre, where over 150 different species of birds have been sighted. Go golfing at the Dixon Entrance Golf & Country Club (the most northwestern 9 + 9 hole ocean front golf course in Canada).
A short ferry ride from Skidegate Landing and then a 7.8 mile (13 km) drive. Sandspit was settled in the early 1900’s by farmers and ranchers, who built homes around the grassy flats.
During World War II an airport was built and a rough gravel road connected it to the air force base at Alliford Bay. This community is named for a spit of land that projects into the Pacific Ocean. Like other places on the Islands, Sandspit is mainly a logging community. It is the headquarters for TimberWest Forest Ltd. and is also home to many Ministry of Transport employees from the airport.
You can enjoy the pleasures offered by the local golf course, helicopter tours, forestry tours, beach combing and much more. Campgrounds can be found at Copper Bay, Sheldon’s Bay, Gray Bay, Mosquito Lake, and Pallant Creek.
Pronounced “Skid-uh-git” – this community’s official name is Skidegate Mission, otherwise known as The Village by the locals. It was well-developed Haida village for many years prior to the European arrival in July of 1787.
A traditional longhouse is home to the Skidegate Band Council and special art pieces. In front of the longhouse stands a totem pole by artist Bill Reid. Another of his works is called Loo Taa or “Wave Eater” and is the authentic replica of a Haida cedar canoe that was commissioned for the 1986 World Fair in Vancouver, BC. When Expo 86 ended, the canoe was paddled north to the community.
Skidegate is a great place to spot the gray whales as they feed and calf in the inlet during their annual migration from Mexico Baja coast to Alaska. They are usually seen in late spring or early summer.
Skidegate Landing is the official BC Ferry Terminal site for Haida Gwaii. Docking is available for the small Ferry that travels between Graham and Moresby Island, as well as the Ferry that travels between the Charlottes and Prince Rupert.
Queen Charlotte City
Queen Charlotte City got its start in 1891 when a crown Grant of 703 acres of choice waterfront property was deeded to James Shield, Thomas Gore and James MacKenzie. The town site was registered on July 22, 1908. The same year a sawmill was built which helped the development of the community.
Many of the town’s heritage buildings have been preserved. The Old school building has seen very little change since it was built in 1909. The Premier Hotel was built in 1910 and has seen changes, but the look of the outside is a reminder of Queen Charlotte’s past.
Near here is Slatechuck Mountain, home to the only known source of argillite (a soft, black slate that is reserved for the exclusive use of the Haida people). Sleeping Beauty Mountain provides a beautiful backdrop to this seaside community located on Bearskin Bay.
Queen Charlotte City is the administrative center for the islands. There are several government offices, including the Canadian Parks Service. Today’s economy is sustained by logging, fishing and tourism.
There are campgrounds, bike, kayak and vehicle rentals. The fishing is excellent for all species of fish caught locally.
Tlell can trace its roots back to agricultural pioneers. The settlement was started in 1904, when Mexican Tom started a ranch. Other homesteaders soon followed and in 1919, Eric Richardson, an Englishman, bought what is now the Richardson Ranch. Farming is still active in the area and Tlell is home to the headquarters for Naikoon Provincial Park. This is also a very active artisan community with many talented artists living here.
For the adventurous there is a two hour walk (each way) from the Tlell River that will take you to the weathered remains of the Pesuta. Start at the picnic site at the Tlell River Bridge where you will find a map of the well laid out trail. This 2,150-ton wooden cargo ship ran aground during a storm in December of 1928.
Queenstown was the original name, but a conflict with timber rights on the town site and duplication of Queenstown on the application for a Post Office, delayed the official registration. In March of 1914 it was named Port Clements to honor Herb S. Clements, the local Member of Parliament. In 1912, he arranged for a government wharf to be built and assisted with the building of the Kumdis Bridge.
During World War I Port Clements was a thriving community with a population of 1,000. It was a supply center for logging camps around Masset Inlet. The camps were cutting huge spruce for the airplane industry that was building planes for the war.
This charming, friendly community is situated on the shores of Masset Inlet between Kumdis River and Yakoun River. These rivers are spawning ground for all species of coastal Salmon and trout providing excellent fishing opportunities. The sheltered scenic waters of Masset Inlet are fast becoming one of the islands favorite destinations for kayakers, wildlife photographers and birders.
When your day of exploring is over sit back and relax as you take in some of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see. Port Clements also provides: free camping in the Community Park, sani-dump, two playgrounds, library, medical clinic, Post Office and an awesome Pioneer Museum.
Local businesses provide lodging, meals, groceries, souvenirs, camping supplies, vehicle repairs, gasoline and propane fills, fishing, hunting, sightseeing, scuba diving and Kayak guide services.