The Hidden Treasure That Is Haida Gwaii

“My interest in Haida Gwaii spiked when I mentioned it to a few more worldly adventure writers than myself — folks who spend their weekends traversing Mongolia on skis —  and got a collective “Haida what?” in response.  Can’t blame ’em.  Though it’s only 80 miles off  Canada’s Pacific coast, Haida Gwaii (previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) gets perpetually bypassed for the cruise-ship-frequented shores of nearby Alaska, just 50 miles to the north.  Getting to the island chain is also logistically challenging enough that the spoils remain a step removed.  . . . If you’re looking for a Lost World, these islands — isolated since the last Ice Age — fit the bill in every way that counts:  geographically, biologically, and culturally.”

Ted Alvarez, in “Canada: Treasure Island,” in Backpacker (Jan. 2013)

Haida Gwaii 2 Map

(Photo credits: Upyernoz per Wikimedia; Map credit: Koba-chan per Wikimedia)

60 responses

      • Anchorage is breathtakingly beautiful (my hometown although i live in texas) and your incredible photography would def. do it justice…thank you for liking my blog post, have a great day! emmy

      • Emmy, Anchorage along with many other parts of Alaska are on my must-see list — and my camera will be nearby! Other than its size, Texas is quite a contrast from Alaska! Best, Brett

  1. Thank you for visiting catnipoflife 🙂 I found this post so interesting. My husband and I had planned a cross country trip ending with an Alaskan cruise before he became ill. [We live in southwestern Georgia.] Not giving up! Tomorrow is another day 🙂

    • Sharla, thanks for your comments. I hope your husband recovers well. Visiting Haida Gwaii and doing an Alaska cruise would both be amazing.

  2. I love this part of the world… when i was going to E. Carr College, they taught us that the Haida Gwaii actually kidnapped a couple of artists from Japan in their big seagoing canoes… thus the singular curvalinear designs so treasured by their people, unlike any other coastal tribes… thank you, i’ll be back for more…

  3. Nice! Always wanted to visit. Hope to get the chance in the next few years, perhaps through Outward Bound’s programs for adults. I’ll have to check out the article in Backpacker…

    Have you been yourself? Does it live up to its reputation as a “power spot”?

  4. We have been on the inner passage cruise, and it was awesome. But I did not know of this place until your post. Viewing it on Google Maps intensifies my curiosity. I can see exploring and photographing for a week or so. Thanks for liking my blog as well.

  5. Brett, These islands are amazing. I first discovered them while researching the coastline of north America, then I googled the islands and explored the photos of this wonderland, I was hooked. Since then it’s been my dream to visit. If Robinson Crusoe wound up on these island he never would wanted to leave. Please don’t tell anyone. They need to remain a secret 🙂

    • The double edged sword of discovering a beautiful place and wanting to share it, which risks it being spoiled. Tricky proposition! I agree that the islands are gorgeous.

  6. I’ve never seen it myself in person, but I have relatives who say it is one of the most beautiful areas in Canada. Haida Gwaii was also recently featured on the program “Canada Over the Edge”, which airs on the Smithsonian Channel. Thanks for bringing to light such a precious gem of the West Coast, Brett. 🙂

  7. Great post! I’m always looking for new places to explore and this area looks wonderful! Thanks for the likes on Messy Kitchen, Happy Belly! Looking forward to more of your great posts in the future!

  8. Haida Gwaii is definitely a treasure as is the whole of the BC North Coast. When you go make sure to visit the people, meet the local artists, get to know and enjoy the local culture.

  9. Brett, this is a nice piece. You are right that most people are unaware of this treasure – even a lot of Canadians skip Haida Gwaii, opting for Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and ignoring everything just a few kilometres north. You might be interested in a new book, published this year, called “Searching for the Origins of Haida Gwaii” by a Canadian geologist. I read his book, it has a nice mix of culture, history, and geology.
    Here is a short review:

  10. Wonderful blog, Brett! I lived in Alaska for 15+ years. I’ve been up the Inside Passage and into some of the communities there, but have never backpacked or hiked in those areas. I used to spend a lot of time in the high Sierras in California. Alaska is a whole other story.

    • Thanks! Those places — Alaska and high Sierras — are quite beautiful from what I understand. I’m sure you’d have some good stories of Alaska after 15 or so years.

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