Sail Haida Gwaii...the Queen Charlotte Islands
Islands on the Edge of the World
Selected by National Geographic Traveler Magazine as one of the World's 50 Best Trips!
Sail Haida Gwaii with Bluewater Adventures...Experience a Natural High
Sail the Queen Charlotte Islands and tour the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. Our 8 and 9 day eco-tour adventures in British Columbia through Gwaii Haanas are emotional journeys through a past full of rich history. Now known as "Haida Gwaii", these islands are not to be missed. Sailing Haida Gwaii was voted "One of the 50 things to do before you die" in British Columbia Magazine in 2009. Known to some as the Canadian Galapagos, these islands are home to many different species.
View the TV special on our Gwaii Haanas Adventure and tour Haida Gwaii!
The ancient Haida sites are powerful places, and the wildlife showcases how truly unique and diverse the BC Coast is. Come aboard on the Island Roamer for an adventure through the isles of Gwaii Haanas and experience diverse wilderness and wildlife on our nature cruise. Our trips to Haida Gwaii have been recently featured on Global TV, the Knowledge Network and in February 2010 they were featured on CTV during the Winter Olympic Games. The segment was called 'MY BC' and highlighted Bluewater Captain Ian Giles and his life onboard the Island Roamer. You can view the segment on our 'in the news page'. We have a variety of onboard natuarlists with various specialities including birders, ethnobotanists, whale researchers and guides with extensive knowledge in natural history and Haida culture.
Download a sample itinerary!
Natural History of Haida Gwaii
Haida Gwaii, formally known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, is one of the richest biological and cultural areas in North America. This remote archipelago provides unparalleled wilderness cruising and exploring. Aboard our 68’ sailing vessel, we will see ancient native Haida villages, an incredible abundance of wildlife and outstanding wilderness scenery. Our trips primarily explore the eastern and southern shores of Moresby Island, and area called Gwaii Haanas. When you sail Haida Gwaii on a small ship vessel, you can explore Haida Gwaii in a way few people ever get to.
|Photo By Bruce Whittington|
This is a fabulous area with over 100 islands, beautiful forested creek walks, rugged exposed headlands, and protected passageways between towering mountains. Theories suggest that parts of Haida Gwaii escaped the last ice age, forming a glacier refuge for certain forms of plant and animal life. How else to explain the presence of plant species found nowhere else in the world, and noticeably different sub-species of bird, fish and mammal? The Charlottes provide a remarkable evolutionary showcase - thus, their description as the “Canadian Galapagos”.
|Photo By Lindsay Janes|
Tidal changes of up to 23 feet between high and low tide create remarkably rich shoreline marine life. A highlight of the Gwaii Haanas/ South Moresby region is Burnaby Narrows, a 150 foot wide channel connecting the waters of Juan Perez Sound and Skincuttle Inlet. With our naturalist we explore intertidal areas to find many varieties of sea stars, giant barnacles, mussels, clams, snails, urchins, crabs, sponges, chitons, sea cucumbers, nudibranchs and a wealth of other colourful and interesting creatures. We often float through the shallow waters observing the variety of life just beneath the surface.
Trip Highlights for Haida Gwaii Canada’s Galapagos
The Wilderness of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve
Totem Poles/Haida Culture at Ninstints
Whales in Hecate Strait
Native Haida Culture
Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) is home to the Haida - one of the most culturally rich and developed groups of people to inhabit early North America. The Haida name for the southern islands, Gwaii Haanas, appropriately translates as “islands of beauty” or “place of wonder”. Among the southern islands are many ancient villages - K’uuna (Skedans), Cumshewa, T’annu and SGaang Gwaii (Ninstints). These sites contain the remains of the great long houses and the best remaining examples of original totem poles in the world. The United Nations has recognized the cultural value of these sites and designated SGaang Gwaii as a “World Heritage Site, of importance to the history of mankind”. Many totem poles still stand in the old Haida village of K’uuna (Skedans), or can be found fallen and decomposing in the grass.
The old villages are now uninhabited. However, each summer the Haida have Watchmen at several of the old villages to protect their heritage and greet visitors. For many people, the highlight of their trip is the opportunity to listen to a Haida story and learn about the traditional and modern Haida way of life. It is a unique opportunity and wonderful experience found almost nowhere else on the coast.
Our crew are experienced sailors and naturalists with extensive knowledge of Haida Gwaii. They will help you learn about the diverse natural history and about issues that made preservation of Gwaii Haanas a vital environmental battle for more than a decade. In 1987, the ‘South Moresby’ wilderness was protected by joint agreement of the Haida Nation and the Canadian government, and is now known as the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve / Haida Heritage Site. This was a significant step to protect the fragile ecological and cultural sites for the future. The number of visitors is now limited, and only a select group of companies and guess are permitted to bring visitors to Gwaii Haanas. We often go ashore in smaller groups to minimize our impact, and generally follow the management guidelines that have now been developed. Bluewater Adventures is proud to have been one of the original companies that helped develop an ethical and ecological Code of Conduct for Gwaii Hannas - a model of responsible operation across North America.
Some of our trips include a tour of the newly renovated Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate, as well as a traditional Haida Feast. If your tour does not include the museum tour, be sure to get to the islands early and check it out! www.haidaheritagecentre.com
Wildlife in the Queen Charlotte Islands
|Photo by Bruce Whittington||Photo by Bruce Whittington|
These islands lie perched on the outer edge of the continental shelf. From the western shore the Pacific Ocean drops off to incredible depths. Blue, sperm, minke, sei, gray, finback, humpback and killer whales (orca) all historically frequent these waters. In early season it is not uncommon to see large groups of Humpback Whales. Harbour seals are seen either swimming near shore or hauled out on beaches. In early summer, several thousand Steller sea lions congregate at Cape St. James - at the southern tip of Haida Gwaii - to mate and give birth to their pups. It is quite a sight to see a large male Steller weighing over a ton.
| Land Animals:
The Queen Charlotte Islands black bear is the largest black bear in the world. Through isolation from their mainland cousins these black bears have developed a larger lower jaw because of frequent foraging and feeding along the shoreline.
Black-tailed deer and raccoons are introduced species to the islands.
The spring plankton bloom which provides a rich influx of food into the ecosystem and supports breeding colonies of up to one million seabirds. Some of the more colourful species include: tufted puffins, horned puffins, rhinoceros auklets, black-footed albatross, black oystercatchers, and pigeon guillemots. With such abundant bird life, raptors, such as the peregrine falcon, are common in the Charlottes. Heavy concentration of Bald eagles. Our constant companions will be the smaller seabirds such as ancient murrelets, marbled murrelets, common murres, phalaropes, and gulls. If you are an avid birder, the best time to be in the area is May and June.
Haida Gwaii / Queen Charlotte Islands - Trip Brochure
Download Now! Download your 4-page brochure on Haida Gwaii
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This brochure highlights the wildlife, Haida culture and more...
Getting to Sandspit
The quickest way to get to Haida Gwaii is by plane. All of our guests must arrive the day before their departure and we will cover the cost of your evening accommodation at a local hotel or B&B. Day 1 starts early morning and scheduled service with the airlines does not allow for our guests to arrive the same day.
- Air Canada Jazz has daily scheduled service between Vancouver and Sandspit www.aircanada.com
- Pacific Coastal Airlines has daily scheduled service between Vancouver and Masset www.pacificcoastal.com
Unless you plan on coming by plane to the islands, you will have to reserve a space on BC Ferries. During the months of June to September, BC Ferries provides daily sailings to the Queen Charlotte Islands. Your departure point to Haida Gwaii is Prince Rupert and you will arrive approximately 6.5 hours later in Skidegate. Some travelers may wish to take the gorgeous Inside Passage route. This is a two (2) day day ferry trip departing from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island, sailing up the scenic coast of British Columbia to Prince Rupert. From Prince Rupert you will catch a second ferry to Haida Gwaii.
Note* We strongly recommend pre-booking with BC Ferries, as space is limited and the summer months are busy. www.bcferries.com
There is no bus service on Haida Gwaii. There are taxi and shuttle services available.
Sandspit Taxi, Sandspit (250) 637-5655
Tiiyaan Taxi, Masset (250) 626-3535
Golden Raven, Skidegate (250) 559-8622
Eagle Transit, Airport shuttle 1-877-747-4461
Extending your stay in the Queen Charlotte Islands
We recommend to all of our guests to extend their stay in the Charlottes and do some further exploring on Graham Island.
For more information on Haida Gwaii visit the online information centre. http://www.qcinfo.ca/
If you are looking for fishing tours, Harbour tours or local tours in and around Queen Charlotte City, contact Captain Arch's!