10 things to see and do in Haida Gwaii
BC Almanac listeners share their favourite spots on the Misty Isles
BC Almanac paid a visit to Haida Gwaii on Friday as part of the lead up to National Aboriginal Day on Saturday.
Host Mark Forsythe heard from islanders, mainlanders, residents and visitors, past and present, who told our listeners about their favourite places and activities on Haida Gwaii.
Here are 10 places and experiences not to miss on your next trip to Haida Gwaii:
1. Gwaii Haanas
The southern third of Haida Gwaii is a protected nature reserve jointly managed by Parks Canada and the Haida Nation. The land is home to grand forests and distinct wildlife such as the Haidi Gwaii black bear and the waters around these islands feature an abundance of coral reefs, kelp forests and all manner of sea life.
"The biggest thing for people to understand is you have to come here," says Jason Alsop of the Archipelago Management Board. "I couldn't even use words to describe it."
Also in Gwaii Haanas, visitors can explore Haida cultural sites dating back thousands of years. Guided tours are available from April to October from members of the Haida Nation who show visitors the remains of uniquely-constructed longhouses and the cultural practices of the Haida people.
3. Tow Hill
This massive 400-foot cliff is part of Naikoon Provincial Park on Graham Island. It was formed by erupting lava millions of years ago and visitors can go hiking and ATVing, and can explore cultural sites of both Haida and colonial origin. At the base of the cliff is the Blow Hole, a surge channel that sprays great clouds of mist when large ocean waves crash into it.
4. North Beach
Another attraction within Naikoon Provincial Park is the popular North Beach. The sloping beach on the Hecate Strait features several rental cabins, surfing and traditional activities like clam digging.
5. Whale Watching
During the spring, orcas can be seen in Haida Gwaii. Skidegate Inlet makes an ideal spot to see them and other whales in their natural habitat.
Grace Broadfoot, a tour operator, had a close encounter with a humpback on her first day of work on a boat off Haida Gwaii.
"We found ourselves in the midst of about 100 humpbacks migrating... 360 degrees around us they were feeding, calling to each other, you could hear them and smell them even at some points."
6. The Gwaii Haanas Hot Springs
A 2012 earthquake shut off the hot springs used by the Haida people for generations. It was a popular tourist attraction as well, but there's some slim hope the hot springs will return.
7. Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay
This multi-building facility in Skidegate is a place where Haida culture can be expressed in its many forms.
Performances are held in the auditorium, fine arts are taught at the Bill Reid Teaching Centre and large pieces like totem poles and canoes are made in the carving house. The Centre also offers tours of the land as well as tours of the sea on traditional canoes.
8. Haida Gwaii Museum
Founded in 1976, the museum covers the history of Haida Gwaii and the Haida people through the pre- and post-contact eras as well as their way of life today. The museum is also a tribute to the ancestors of the Haida people, many of whom are buried nearby.
Haida Gwaii is famous for the fishing opportunities. Over two dozen charter companies take anglers out to fish for salmon and halibut. Crab, shrimp and shellfish are also plentiful. Many of the fishing lodges provide valuable business opportunities for the Haida people.
10. Haida House at Tlall
This modern resort in Tlell is a cedar lodge situated on a river and between sand dunes and the sea. It was awarded the 2013 Aboriginal Tourism BC Award for outstanding accommodation and guest services. Cultural ambassadors are offered to guest for tours and local knowledge of Haida Gwaii.