Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, Canada
There is a strong connection between the islands and the culture of Haida Indians, who inhabited the islands about 8,000 years ago. According to a Haida legend Haida Gwaii is the place where time begun. Especially the unique Haida arts are world renown. Some of these artefacts can only be found on Queen Charlotte Islands. Visitors are amazed by countless totem poles, carvings and jewels that can be viewed here. Many artists showcase their works in galleries and gift boutiques. Haida Gwaii Museum as well displays countless works. Abandoned Haida settlements can be found on Moresby Island, which are accessible only by boat. To view these sacred areas a reservation is required.
Located at Masset Sound on Northern Graham Island, Masset is situated on the most northerly of the Queen Charlotte Islands. With approx. 1,500 inhabitants Masset has the largest population out of the island's two cities. In 1961, Masset has been incorporated to be the island's oldest and largest community.
Being only few kilometres apart from the Haida village Old Masset the former community Graham City has been renamed in New Masset. The city offers the northerly access to Naikoon Provincial Park. There are some historical buildings worth a visit: St. Paul's Anglican Church (1912) and the Old Schoolhouse (1912) that is now used as private residence.
Government Wharf is ever interesting for viewing the ship's come and go.
Situated on the eastern shore of Masset Inlet, Old Masset can be reached from Masset within five minutes by coastal road. Also known as Haida, Old Masset marks the location of three antique Haida settlements. Today, approx. 600 Haida people live there. Visit Old Masset and discover art made of gold and silver, as well as carvings and jewels made by local Haida artists. Please respect the Haida people's culture and quiet while visiting Old Masset!
The private Ed Jones Haida Museum displays historic photographs and artefacts as well as Haida art and totem poles. Please refer to the Village Office for opening hours. Adjacent to the museum is a carving shed where artists can be seen at work during the summer months. Further information on Haida sites on Graham Island and on Haida artists can be obtained at Old Masset Village Council Office and Community Hall in Eagle Avenue. Apply here for permits to visit one of the Haida village sites on Graham Island.
Port Clements is located on the northern shores of Masset Inlet and has a population of 600. Fishing and logging are Port Clements' most important industries. Named after Herb S. Clements, the local member of parliament, Port Clements has been founded in 1907. The rain forest's tree giants can be found here.
Located on the waterfront, the Port Clements Museum offers an insight of the life of early day settlers and loggers. About six kilometres south of Port Clements is the location of the legendary Golden Sitka Spruce that grew on the western shore of the Yakoun River. This giant once brought Port Clements on the world's maps. In 1997, an incredible vandalism made an end to this impressive tree. A few kilometres south, on Juskatla Road, you can discover an unfinished cedar canoe as you can find many of them throughout the area. This particular one might have been there for a century. Juskatla is an old logger's camp dating back to the 1940's.
Originally a Haida fishing village, Tlell now has a population of 370. Tlell is the most northerly village of Graham Island's east coast and also marks the south-eastern border to Naikoon Provincial Park. Known for its fascinating art galleries, studios and shops, Tlell is often referred to as the islands' art centre. Tlell is also popular with fishing and hiking enthusiasts. Tlell River and Mayer Lake are known for a good catch. If for some hours or a few days, Naikoon Provincial Park's two hiking trails have something to offer for all levels.
Skidegate with its 700 inhabitants is one of the cultural centres of Queen Charlotte Islands' Haida people. Visitors can view arts and cultural artefacts first hand. Skidegate Landing with its two ferry terminals is located two kilometres away of Skidegate. Ferries have service to Prince Rupert on the mainland and Alliford Bay on Moresby Island.
Located between Skidegate and Skidegate Landing, the Haida Gwaii Museum showcases geological and human history of Haida Gwaii with an exceptional display. Next to the museum visitors can view the 15 metre Loo Taas Canoe that had been displayed at the Expo 1986 in Vancouver. Later it had been paddled to the Queen Charlotte Islands. There are many unique carvings to discover in Skidegate.
In spring you can witness the migration of grey whales that are on their way to Alaska at Skidegate Inlet. Spirit Lake Trail is an easy hiking trail along a stream through old-grown forests with many birds and rare plants to view. Picnic tables along the way invite for a rest or simply enjoy some hours at the lakeshore.
Queen Charlotte City
Queen Charlotte City is located on the shores of Bearskin Bay five kilometres west of the ferry terminal at Skidegate Landing. The city offers a wonderful view of Skidegate Inlet and countless activities for its 1,250 inhabitants and visitors alike. Photographers will find interesting motifs in the main street's historical buildings. The Premier Hotel, the Old Schoolhouse and the old sawmill offer an insight in early days.
Sleeping Beauty Trail is popular with hikers. The steep trail leads to the top of Mount Genevieve. Follow the trails to Rennell Sound with its rugged coastline und wonderful beaches, ideal for strolling, fishing and kayaking. Rennell Sound is the only point on the west coast accessible by car. However, the last part down to the shore is a startling 24% gradient that is not recommended for all cars. As a matter of fact it is one of the steepest public roads in North America.
The Queen Charlotte Islands' west coast makes a diver's paradise. Ask in Queen Charlotte City for the best spots for diving at Rennell Sound. Fishing enthusiasts will like it here as well. If you prefer freshwater fishing you should visit Yakoun Lake.
Sandspit is the only settlement on Moresby Island and is situated on the island's north-eastern tip that offers access to Gwaii Haanas. Sandspit is home to 568 people. Sandspit can be reached by ferry that connects Alliford Bay on Moresby Island with Skidegate Landing on Graham Island.
Sandspit acts as starting point for Gwaii Haanas National Park that is accessible by air and water only. Reservation prior to arrival is required. Helicopter and canoe tours as well as diving tours are offered.
Copper Bay, situated south of Sandspit is accessible by gravel road. A Haida reserve that is used by Haida people for sockeye fishing each year in spring is located at the mouth of the river. Hikers can find ideal terrain at Cumshewa Head Trail and Dover Trail. In season, Gray Bay offers excellent crabbing. 46 kilometres south-west of Sandspit there is Pallant Creek Hatchery that produces Steelhead, Chum, Coho and Pink Salmon. It is open for visitors year round.
Queen Charlotte Islands in Figures
The Queen Charlotte Islands can be reached by air via Masset Municipal Airport. Montair Aviation offers flights from Vancouver. The airport is located about 1 kilometre off the city centre. Harbour Air offers seaplane service from Prince Rupert.
Canadian Western Airlines offers daily scheduled flights from Vancouver to Masset.
For more information call 604-233-9292 or toll-free 1-866-835-9292.
If you prefer driving by car, there is ferry service by BC Ferries to Skidegate. The distance between Skidegate and Masset is about 70 miles.
Travelling on Queen Charlotte Islands
The majority of the islands' landmass is made by only two islands: Graham Island in the north and Morseby Island in the south. Both are connected by a paved highway that leads from Sandpit on Moresby Island to Masset and Old Masset on Graham Island. In between there are Queen Charlotte City, Skidegate and Port Clements.
Please be special cautious when using one of the many logging roads on Queen Charlotte Islands. Those roads are always busy with heavy logging trucks that make the use sometimes a little dangerous. Please inform yourself about regulations and precautions!
The climate is affected by the Gulf of Japan and is in general more mild. The yearly average temperature varies only by 20 degrees but may change regularly and unpredictably. In summer temperatures reach from 15 to 20 degrees Celsius with 18 to 20 hours of sunshine in the months of May to July. The most hours of sunshine are recorded in the months of August and May but there is lots of rain during summer. In winter temperatures reach from 0 to 8 degrees Celsius with almost no snowfall.
Parks and protected areas
There are two large parks on Queen Charlotte Islands: Naikoon Provincial Park and Gwaii Haanas National Park.
Gwaii Haanas National Park
Gwaii Haanas National Park is located on the southern Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia and has a size of 1495 square kilometre. Gwaii Haanas is a word of the Haida language and means "Islands of wonder and beauty". This wilderness archipelago consists out of 138 islands situated 640 kilometres north of Vancouver. The park not only protects the legacy of Haida culture, but features also some species of plants and animals not found anywhere else in the world.
Naikoon Provincial Park
Naikoon Provincial Park is located on Queen Charlotte Islands and offers beautiful nature, campgrounds, hiking, fishing and clam digging. The park's interior is undeveloped. Four hiking trails are waiting for you to discover. Rose Spit is one of the most prominent features in the park.
Pure Lake Provincial Park
This popular park is situated 10 miles south of Masset and is ideal for swimming and picnic.
Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary
Delkatla Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the main attractions Masset has to offer. The sanctuary is located at the head of Delkatla Inlet on the pacific route for hundreds of birds. Up to 140 species have been recorded. Delkatla plays an important role as coastal marsh area of British Columbia. There are observation towers, hiking trails and picnic areas.
Hiking Trails on Haida Gwaii
Queen Charlotte Islands' natural beauty is simply breathtaking. There are many marked trails in Naikoon Park. McIntyre Bay Beach and North Beach are ideal for beachcombing. There are hiking trails for all levels.
This 10 km long trail leads along the coast to Rose Spit. If you are considering to make the trail in one day, you should be aware that it will be a long one. It might be a good idea to do part of the trail by mountain bike. The last part can be done hiking. If you however prefer to go by car - four-wheel drive is mandatory - please stay on marked trails.
Cape Fife Trail
This 10 km long trail that follows an old settler's trail starts at Hiellen Bridge and can be made in 3.5 hours - one way. Please take sufficient water with you. Cape Fife can be very windy and cold!
East Coast Trail
Recommended for hard-baked hikers only! Consider 4 to 6 days and have a sufficient supply of water with you. Further information is available at the Naikoon Park Headquarters.
A very difficult trail that pays off with magnificent views. It is not recommended for kids. Take sufficient water with you.
On Ward Point Trail
On Ward Point Trail can be reached from Alliford Bay in a ten minute drive. There are parking lots, picnic tables, and restrooms. There are two trails available, both of which meet at the Gazebo that offers ideal whale watching. In spring time you can hike the trail in 10 to 15 minutes.
Spirit Lake Trail
This trail is located off the Highway (across George Brown Recreation Hall). The entrance is made of a magnificent carving of yellow cedar. The 3 kilometre trail can be done in about 90 minutes offering lots of rain forest to discover.
Fishing on Haida Gwaii
Lovers of fresh seafood will be amazed. Look out for local fishermen on Fisherman's Wharf who most probably will sell you some of their daily catch. You can also try your own luck. Charters are offered for salmon and halibut fishing or try some river fishing. Beaches offer an abundance of crab, mussels and scallops. Whether you prefer sea or freshwater fishing, you will find the right place. Please inform yourself about close seasons and licence requirements.
Honna River is located 4 miles west of Queen Charlotte City and offers steelhead fishing in early spring and cutthroat trout fishing in summer and fall.
Tlell River is situated 30 miles north of Queen Charlotte City and 14 miles south of Port Clements. During the months of September and October large coho salmon are waiting for you. In July big dolly varden can be caught. Cutthroat trout fishing is best in July and August.
Yakoun River is the largest river on Graham Island and can be reached from Port Clements or Queen Charlotte City via a private logging road. Coho salmon fishing is excellent in the months September and October. Year round fishing for rainbow trout, dolly varden and cutthroat trout.
In early spring chances for steelhead are best. Coho salmon can be best fished for in the months of October and November.
Mosquito Lake is accessible from Sandspit by a 24 mile logging road. Fish for cutthroat trout and dolly varden.
One of the most attractive ways to discover the mysterious islands is by kayak. The south-eastern shores of Queen Charlotte Islands are popular with kayakers from all over the world offering tiny islands, remote coves and a long sheltered coastline. Gwaii Haanas National Park offers a beautiful destination for kayak enthusiasts: Hotspring Island, Anthony Island, All Alone Stone, Rose Harbour, James Island, Flatrock Island and many more. Take your time to discover the beauty of this unique group of islands.
Festivals and Events
Masset Harbour Days on Victoria Day long weekend in May
Skidegate Days on second weekend in June
Logger Sport Day at Sandspit in July
Canada Day (July 1st) in Port Clements
Edge of the world Music Festival on second weekend in July, at Tlell.
Fall Fair in August (Sunday of long weekend) at Tlell
Queen Charlotte Islands mark the first location in British Columbia that was discovered by Europeans in 1774. This group of islands is home to the Haida people for more than 8,000 years. Following the discovery through the Europeans, the islands were used by fur trader for about 100 years before the first settlers arrived in the 1900s.