DescriptionOff the British Columbia coast west of Prince Rupert, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site is in the southern part of Haida Gwaii, a remote island chain formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. Haida Gwaii translates to “islands of the people.” This protected area is jointly managed by the Government of Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation. In 2010, Gwaii Haanas became the only area in the world protected from mountain top to ocean floor.
The 1,470 square kilometres (912 sq. mi.) of Gwaii Haanas offer a rich and fascinating diversity of flora, sea creatures and wildlife. Whales, bald eagles, nesting seabirds, black bears, sea lions and river otters are commonly seen.
Remnants of Haida village sites on the 138 islands capture the history of the Haida. Haida Gwaii Watchmen basecamps have been established at major sites of cultural significance. Watchmen act as hosts and also provide site security and protection of the cultural features.
Access is challenging: The only way to and around Gwaii Haanas is by air or sea. Solo travel is recommended only for the experienced outdoor traveler. Licensed tour operators provide a variety of excursions. Sea kayaking, sailboat and powerboat charters are the most popular ways to tour Gwaii Haanas. There are no maintained trails or designated campsites, and only limited visitor facilities are provided within the protected area.
Haida Gwaii can be reached by air from Vancouver and Prince Rupert. BC Ferries also provides year-round service between the islands and Prince Rupert. Arrangements for ferry transportation should be made well in advance and reservations are highly recommended; phone (250) 386-3431 from the Victoria area and outside British Columbia or (888) 223-3779 from elsewhere in the province.
Single-day admission is free in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. Otherwise admission is $18.67; $15.81 (ages 65+); $9.33 (ages 6-16); $46.67 (all occupants of a private vehicle with up to seven people). Reservations are required to visit the reserve May through September. Regulations allow for no more than 12 people on shore in one place at one time. An annual pass, valid at most Canadian national parks, marine areas and historic sites, is available.
Note: If traveling independently (without a guide), visitors must participate in one 60-minute orientation session offered daily at visitor centers in Sandspit and Queen Charlotte; phone (250) 559-8818 to guarantee a place. For more information, phone (250) 559-8818 or (877) 559-8818.