Monday, 26 December 2011

Sport Fishing on Haida Gwaii

The waters surrounding Haida Gwaii are well known for excellent salt water and fresh water fishing. Salmon and Halibut provide for exciting fishing adventures!
Crabbing and catching prawns is part of the experience too. Throw some traps over the side of your boat or place them on North Beach on Graham Island, and simply wait for the tide to roll in and out!

The most popular salmon species for recreational fishing are Chinook and Coho. Chinook salmon are the largest salmon and can be caught from spring to early fall. The 'smaller' Coho salmon can be caught in the summer and early fall.

Groundfish such as Halibut and Ling Cod are delicious! Halibut, the largest flatfish in BC waters can weigh over 200 kg!

The following is a general guide to salt water sport fishing schedules on Haida Gwaii:

Spring (Chinook) Salmon          April to September
Sockeye Salmon                      May to July
Coho Salmon                           July to September
Chum Salmon                          July to September
Halibut                                     March to September  

Spend a day on the water with a local guide. You can have your catch cleaned and packaged at a local fish processing facility in Masset or Queen Charlotte or ‘do it yourself’ and enjoy a feast of fresh caught fish.

Visit for a list of local charter

The best known areas for ocean fishing include the west coast (via
Skidegate Narrows) and north coast (via Masset). 

Freshwater fishing is also popular. Salmon are abundant in local rivers in the fall while Cutthroat Trout
and Dolly Varden are readily available year round.

Throughout the winter, there are excellent Steelhead runs on Haida Gwaii. The Tlell, Yakoun and 
Copper Rivers are great for Steelhead fishing. 

Come visit us - supper's waiting!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Local Food on Haida Gwaii – An Amazingly Fresh Experience!

By Lorette Smillie

My Husband and I came to Haida Gwaii and fell in love with the Islands many years ago. We found a perfect home in Port Clements on Masset Inlet. Thinking of retirement, we decided to open Smillie's Bed &  Breakfast in 2007 to share what we love – the ocean, the islands and fresh locally grown and wild harvested food (

We are blessed to have access to such an abundance of local food on Haida Gwaii. Fresh produce and locally raised meat can be found with ease on Haida Gwaii – I understand there is even a directory being published to make ‘shopping’ easier than ever.

Island farmers and producers bring their wares to weekly Farmers Markets in each of the island communities. Spend the morning at the markets - they are also a social event! Fresh greens, local produce and an abundance of wild fruit in the summer are excellent and well worth waiting for. 

Our family buys locally grown food to share with our guests. We buy our bacon at Island Meats across the street where it is freshly processed and packaged – now that’s convenience! I buy real free range eggs for my Bed and Breakfast as opposed to those from the stores that have been imported from many miles away. We have received numerous compliments on the ‘locally grown’ breakfasts that we serve. What a difference fresh can make!

I recently went to an island-wide food event in Port Clements (the Future of Food on Haida Gwaii) at which participants discussed various means to increase local food production on Haida Gwaii. We do appreciate having access to fresh healthy food on Haida Gwaii!

A visitor to Haida Gwaii may notice a significant number of backyard gardens throughout the islands… The local Farmers Institute and Islands Food organizations are proactive in organizing workshops to support food production on Haida Gwaii, from beginners to farmers.

Experience Haida Gwaii – our fresh healthy food will invigorate you while you tour the islands, walk the beaches and forests and kayak or sail around Haida Gwaii. Come visit!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Experience Haida Gwaii in 2012!

When you have reached the edge of your world, ours begins…

Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) is Canada’s most remote archipelago and is located approximately 90 nautical miles west of Prince Rupert, BC. Access to our islands is made by boat (BC Ferries) or air (Air Canada and Pacific Coastal).

Our climate is mild even in the winter and allows for outdoor recreation activities year round.  The summer months are busy ones for accommodation and service providers as it is our primary season for visitors. Life slows down for islanders from October through May. 

Photo Credit for Hot Spring Island: Gwaii Haanas Park

Fall and spring are ideal times to book a vacation – our numerous accommodation providers will have more time to spend talking with you and helping you identify attractions and activities that you may not have been aware of.

Activities on Haida Gwaii include sport fishing, surfing, crabbing, clam digging, beachcombing, wildlife watching, charters to Gwaii Haanas and other remote areas, kayak and boat rentals, museums, heritage sites, the Art Route Tour, and much more!

 Photo Credit: Anvil Cove Charters

Wildlife you may see when visiting on Haida Gwaii includes Sitka black-tailed deer, black bears, bald eagles,  ravens (they are BIG and very crafty!), Orca and Grey whales, sea lions and seals.

Photo Credit for Sitka Deer and Eagle: Anvil Cove Charters

 Photo Credit for Black Bear: Gwaii Haanas Park

The whales can most often be seen in the spring – something to consider when planning your vacation.

Surfing – one of the better kept secrets on Haida Gwaii, is becoming increasingly popular. The Annual Surfing Expression Session is held in November each year – come on over and experience the pristine Haida Gwaii surf! Lessons and equipment rentals are available any time at North Beach Surf Shop

 Photo Credit: Surf Haida Gwaii

Be your own guide or let one of our many knowledgeable tour operators serve you.

Accommodations are available in each community as well as ‘floating hotels’ on the water (fishing lodges) – check for more details. The Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre will also assist you to plan your vacation and have a reservation service

‘Like’ us on Facebook ( or follow us on Twitter (hgtourism)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Take the Art Route Tour

Haida Gwaii is home to many talented artists using a variety of mediums to produce art ranging from the traditional to contemporary forms.  

The Art Route program connects artists with visitors by maintaining a list of artists who open their studios to the public.

The Haida Gwaii Art Route program was developed through the volunteer efforts of the Queen Charlotte Island Arts Council ( in 2003. Haida Gwaii Tourism ( assumed responsibility for the program in 2008.

      · The brochure provides addresses, maps and information on each studio so that visitors can take a self-guided tour through the art community of the islands.

      · The islands are well known for the strong artistic tradition of the Haida people, and several well-known Haida artists are featured in the brochure. As well, these islands have attracted and nourished the artistic talent from other people.

      · The work of many local artists draw inspiration from the rich natural environment of the islands. Many incorporate local materials into their works.

Suggested Itinerary: Plan a route that takes you to several studios in each community. Plan ahead and make appointments with the artists you wish to visit since many do not have a set schedule.
Explore the connection of art to the land, for example: ask to accompany artists as they gather materials such as cedar bark for weaving or wood for carving, or visit sites that artists mention as inspirational to their art.

More Information: 

Download the Art Route brochure at or pick up a copy at a local Visitor Centre or participating studios.

For historical photos of traditional art and Haida villages, try Haida Monumental Art by George F. MacDonald (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1983) available at most local bookstores.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Haida Weavers

Haida weaving, once an important part of everyday life, is an art still being passed on through the generations. Some of the finest historic weavings are from the Haida and displayed prominently in museums. Today, Haidas have revived the weavings for ceremonial use as well as sale.


  • Weaving was traditionally practiced by women, although today there are a few men practicing this art.
  • As with many Haida traditions, weaving suffered during the 1800's when populations plummeted due to disease. Luckily, a handful of women kept the art alive.
  • Some of the best known Haida weavers in recent times have been residents of Haida communities in Alaska (the Kaigani Haida in Ketchikan, Craig and Hydaburg). 
  • Traditionally weaving materials included spruce root and red cedar bark. Today Haida basket weavers work mainly in cedar bark, but spruce root weaving continues. 
  • Historically, weavers created clothing, hats, sleeping mats, ceremonial objects, storage baskets and other items for everyday use. Haida weaving is now recognized internationally and many pieces sell for thousands of dollars at galleries and Native American markets. 
  • Red and yellow cedar bark is harvested by stripping a long, thin piece of bark from a standing tree. Only a small section of bark is removed so that the tree keeps growing. The strong, flexible inner bark is removed and cut into strips, which must be soaked in water before being used. Bark stripping is done in the Spring and early Summer.
  • Thin, strong spruce roots are harvested from around the base of a young living tree. The roots must be singed and stripped of the outer bark, then split several times before it can be stored for later use. Spruce root can be woven tightly enough to make water-resistant baskets and hats. Like cedar bark there is a limited time in early summer and fall for harvesting.
  • Haida weavers also use wool to created Ravenstail and Chilkat robes, aprons, leggings and other ceremonial regalia. The "finger weaving" technique employed mountain goat wool traded from the mainland. Today weavers use merino wool which is usually hand/thigh spun. Designs are a combination of traditional and contemporary.
  • At public events, you will see many Haida people wearing traditional wide-brimmed hats, but also woven ball-caps, top-hats and other creative/contemporary variations on traditional theme. You may also see chiefs and people of high rank wearing Ravenstail Robes, aprons and headbands which have yellow, black and aqua-blue patterns on a white background.

Suggested itinerary:
Contact a weaver by checking the Art Route brochure ( for artists who open their studios to the public. Make an appointment in advance since many studios are home based and are not open on a set schedule.

The Haida Heritage Centre sometimes has a weaver working on site. Call 250-559-7885 to inquire:

Ask weavers if you can arrange to accompany them as they gather materials for the forest.

Further information:
The best source of information is the weavers themselves. Some weavers have web sites that describe their work, but contacting them in person is usually the easiest way to get information.

Haida weavers Marlene Liddle and Dolly Garza can be contacted for more information.

Cedar. Stewart, Hilary. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1984 has a section on the use of cedar bark in weaving.

Mushroom Harvesting on Haida Gwaii

Picking mushrooms is a seasonal industry on the islands providing work for local and visiting harvesters. It is also a popular pastime for locals who are interested in gathering their own food.

Photo compliments of Haida Gwaii Culinary Coop


  • The primary species harvested commercially on Haida Gwaii is the Chanterelle, (Pacific Golden Chanterelle, Cantharellus formosus). There are several other common edible species such as Boletes, Oyster mushrooms, Shaggy Manes, Hedgehogs, Blue and Black Chanterelles and the occasional Pine mushroom.
  • The harvesting season ranges from late August until late October.
  • Chanterelles are found primarily in second growth Hemlock and Spruce forested areas. 
  • The best known area for harvesting is Skidegate Lake on Moresby Island (about 45 minutes by logging road from Sandspit). Harvesters from off-island frequently set up temporary camps along the shore of the lake.
  • Chanterelles are bought by agents for off-island companies and shipped directly to Vancouver and then on to the European and Asian markets. There are local efforts made to purchase the Chanterelles for locally made products.

Suggested itinerary:
In September and October, visit the mushroom camp at Skidegate Lake to meet pickers and buyers. The logging road from Sandspit to Skidegate Lake can be driven in a car, but some rental companies may not allow rental cars on the dirt roads.

Important note: Try picking mushrooms only with someone who is experienced at identified the species.

Further information:
You can find more on the biology of the chanterelle at

Contact the Queen Charlotte Visitor Centre at or (250) 559-8316 to get current road information for the logging roads.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Crabbing at North Beach

Visit North Beach on the north end of Graham Island. You can catch crabs on the beach without any special equipment in early summer. This is a popular day trip for visitors and a great way to get a taste of local seafood.


  • The crabs most commonly found are Dungeness crab which are usually considered the best species for  eating due to their large size and abundance. They can reach 23 cm across, weight up to 2 kg, an live up to 10 years.
  • Red rock crabs are another good eating species also found on the islands. 
  • The waters of the Hecate Strait and Dixon Entrance are ideal breeding grounds for crabs and are fished commercially by boats based in Masset (as well as vessels from other parts of the coast). 
  • On a low tide crabs can be caught just under the surface of the water on the shallow, sandy shoreline of North Beach and throughout the islands. The easiest method to collect them is with a strong dip net. 
  • A recreational salt-water fishing licence is required to collect crabs and can be obtained online: Dept of Fisheries Local Visitor Centres and stores selling fishing equipment can help.
  • It is illegal to keep undersized crabs. Dungeness crab must measure at least 165 mm across the widest point of the shell; also called the carapace. Red rock crab must measure at least 115 mm. 
  • It is illegal to keep female crabs. You can identify females by the wider shell on their abdomen (the flap of shell that points toward the crab's eyes when you hold it upside down). If in doubt, ask for advice or consult the fishing regulations.
  • If a crab is undersized or female, return it gently to the water. Never use sharp implements such as spears or rakes to collect crabs.
  • Crabs must molt (shed their hard outer shell) in order to grow larger. Most crabbers find that the meat is not as high quality in solft-shelled (recently molted) crabs, so if you find a crab with a soft shell, you may want to return it to the water.
  • You may see signs on the islands warning of red tide (PSP), a toxin that affects shellfish. Fortunately, this is not a concern with crabs.

Suggested itinerary
Go crabbing. Be sure to get a fishing licence first, and get advice on how to catch and hold crabs safely. Even if you don't have access to a kitchen you can easily boil your crabs over a campfire. 

More information
For information on fishing regulations check the Department of Fisheries and Oceans web site: Dept of Fisheries  or the Tidal Waters Sports Fishing Guide.

The local Department of Fisheries and Oceans office (in Queen Charlotte) can be contacted at (250) 559-4413

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Island Festivals

Each of the communities of Haida Gwaii hosts one or more exciting festivals each summer.

Loggers Sports Day (usually in August) is a celebration of the logging heritage of Sandspit. Events test chainsaw skills, axe-throwing accuracy, and even the competitors' talents at log-burling (staying on top of a rolling log in a pond). Also includes a basketball tournament. Contact Moresby Island Management Committee office for more information (250) 637-2466.

Queen Charlotte
Hospital Days is a long running event (now over 100 years old) that was created to raise funds for the local hospital. The day starts off with a parade and continues with a wide variety of events and competitions, a baseball tournament, a paper airplane competition in which you can win an Air Canada flight, and then later on a dance. Held in June. Hospital Day

Skidegate Days (mid-July) is a celebration of Haida culture and a chance to paddle a traditional canoe in the exciting canoe races. It also includes a baseball tournament, kid's activities, and traditional Haida games.
Another Skidegate event is the anniversary of the opening of the Haida Heritage Centre, marked by an impressive clan parade in August.

The Edge of the World Music Festival, held on the first weekend in August, is a well-attended festival which brings performers from all over the world as well as locals together for  a weekend of great music. Edge Festival
The Tlell Fall Fair in early August is a showcase of local agriculture and also has great live music. Both are held at the Tlell fairgrounds. Tlell Fall Fair

Port Clements
This community hosts Canada Day (July 1st) with a parade, baseball tournament, and other events. The highlight is the popular mud-bog races in which competitors from all over the islands bring their toughest trucks and cars to race through a winding, mud-filled track. Port Clements

Harbour Days in May celebrates the marine heritage of Masset with a parade, lots of kids events, a barbecue, chainsaw carving, and a baseball tournament. Masset BC

Suggested itinerary
Attend one of the festivals. Better yet, volunteer to help out with organization or ground-work for one of the festivals to get an inside perspective. Interview organizers to learn about the history of the festival, and have fun!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Skidegate Days

Saturday, July 16th is Skidegate Days. The day kicks off with a pancake breakfast to feed the hungry runners/walkers and everyone is invited to join. The main street is shut down to local traffic for the food booths lined with traditional fried bread, pies & cookies, corn on the cob, and hamburgers. Other booth include games for the kids, tourism information, free stuff and a popular item this year was the touch aquarium that housed local marine life.

The totem to totem race (3rd year) sponsored by the Skidegate Band Council begins at the Haida Heritage Centre; Norman Price's pole representing Skidegate Haida Village. The Amazing Race is loosely based on the TV Reality show of the same name. Also popular is the canoe races throughout the day, teams get together to see who can paddle the fastest. It gives everyone a chance to experience paddling in a traditionally constructed canoe based on the Haida culture. Another popular event this year was the fish splitting, everyone gathered around to watch the competition. The cleaned salmon was available for dinner as well as other dishes. A good turn-out and the weather cooperated, nice for the afternoon! There is a dance that follows the daily festivities. Come and visit to experience Skidegate Days in July, watch for local postings for the dates.

Photo Credit: S. Pryce

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Gwaii Haanas

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site is one of the world's top-rated national parks. The new Gwaii Haanas Marine
Protected Area and Haida Heritage Site created in 2010, makes this the first area in the world to be protected from mountain top to sea floor.
Gwaii Haanas has an extensive media kit which you are encouraged to access for detailed information.


  • The terrestrial portion of Gwaii Haanas covers the southern portion of Moresby Island. The marine portion extends 10 kilometres offshore from the coastline. The area is only accessible by boat or floatplane.
  • Gwaii Haanas was first protected after the well-publicized logging protest on Lyell Island in 1985. The Gwaii Haanas Agreement, signed in 1993, is an agreement between the government of Canada and the Haida Nation to cooperatively manage the area. This unique management allows both groups to cooperate in protecting Gwaii Haanas despite the fact that land claims in the area are not yet resolved.
  • Visitors are drawn to Gwaii Haanas for the wilderness experiences, Haida cultural sites, wildlife, natural hot springs and many other attractions. This area is underdeveloped and the emphasis is on wilderness rather than visitor services.
  • One of the best known Haida sites in Gwaii Haanas is the UNESCO World Heritage Site at SGang Gwaay (sometimes known as Ninstints or Anthony Island).
  • To visit Gwaii Haanas, you can travel with a guided tour, or plan your own trip. If travelling on your own, you must register in advance and take an orientation session to learn about rules and etiquette. For media, there is a special permit and orientation, so it is wise to arrange everything well in advance.
  • There are approximately two dozen tour operators who are licensed to provide tours in Gwaii Haanas, and they offer trips from one day to several weeks in length. 

Suggested Itinerary
Information about tours and accessing Gwaii Haanas can be found through the Gwaii Haanas web page or media kit. Gwaii Haanas also provides an outreach program in the summer months which includes community presentations, slideshows, interpretive walks and more.
It is interesting to talk to tour operators and local people about their opinions of Gwaii Haanas management and the histroy of the area.

More Information
Contact the Gwaii Haanas office in Skidegate to inquire about media kits, permits, or other organizational details. They also offer a free fact checking service. 1-877-559-8818.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Monumental Cedar

Monumental cedars are old growth cedar trees of high enough quality to be used in traditional Haida practices such as canoe and pole carving and traditional-style buildings. These trees have become increasingly rare due to logging, so in recent years, forestry practices have been modified to preserve these trees.


  • The two cedar species found on Haida Gwaii are the Western red cedar (Thunja plicata) and the Yellow cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis).
  • It appears that the cedar tree was not part of the landscape of Haida Gwaii until about 5000-3000 years ago, as changes in the climate after the last ice age gradually led to the establishment of the current vegetation of the islands.
  • Cedar trees often grow in twisted or bent shapes and have large branches all the way up the trunk. Because of this, it is challenging to find trees with large sections of clear wood. Clear (knot free) wood is needed to carve canoes or totem poles.
  • In the past, the Haida would cut test holes into standing trees to check the quality of the wood. Cedars often have hollow, rotten centers, so it was important to check the core of the tree before going to the great effort of falling it. Trees with test holes, as well as trees that show evidence of bark stripping or other traditional use, are called Culturally Modified Trees (CMTs).
  • In recent years, the Haida Nation became concerned that logging, if carried on as it was being done at the time, would soon result in a lack of appropriate cedar for culturally significant projects.
  • In 2007, a Strategic Land Use Agreement (SLUA) was signed between the Province of British Columbia and the Council of the Haida Nation. The SLUA covers many aspects of forestry management on Haida Gwaii, with an emphasis on Haida traditional uses of the forest.
  • To qualify as monumental cedar, a cedar tree must be "a visibly sound red or yellow cedar tree that is greater than 100cm dbh and have a log 7 metres or longer above the flare with at least one face that is suitable for cultural use" (from the Strategic Land Use Agreement).
  • Extensive rules and regulations have been put in place to protect monumental cedars and various other species. This has resulted in controversy as some locals feel that the rules are too strict and make it impossible to have a viable logging industry on the islands, while others feel that protecting these features is the top priority.
  • Visit the Cultural Wood program page for information that allow Haida carvers and builders to access wood that is necessary for culturally important projects:

Suggested Itinerary:
To see examples of how large cedar logs are used, visit Old Massett or Skidegate where you will see carved poles and examples of traditional building styles. Look for carvers working on canoes or poles in the carving shed at the Haida Heritage Centre.

Take a walk in the forest to view Culturally Modified Trees (CMTs). A convenient spot to find some CMTs is along the easily-accessible Spirit Lake Trail in Skidegate.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

European Contact

Haida Gwaii was "discovered" in 1774 by the Spanish explorer Juan Perez, although the Russians may have been aware of the islands earlier and there has been talk of the Chinese coming on their 1424 expedition. Soon after, the fur trade for sea pelts brought a rush of European and American ships to the islands.


  • In 1774, Juan Perez named Cape Santa Margarita (where the lighthouse on Langara Island now stands). This was the first European place name to be given to a site in what would become British Columbia.
  • The first explorers such as Juan Perez were not aware that the islands were separate from the rest of the coast. The French explorer Jean Francois de la Galaup, comte de La Perouse, was the first to identify them as islands in 1786.
  • Captain George Dixon (English), sailed most of the way around the islands in 1787 and traded for 2000 sea otter furs which he then sold in Asia. This sparked the rush of fur trading vessels to the islands.
  • Captain Dixon named the islands after his ship, the Queen Charlotte. Other names given to the islands in the early years of exploration include Nova Hibernia, the Great Island, and Washington's Island.
  • British and American ships traded for thousands of furs, leading to a steady decline in sea otter populations until they were extirpated (locally extinct) by the 1830's. As many as 250 ships may have visited the islands during the maritime fur trade years.
  • The fur trade was primarily peaceful, but occasional violence broke out including the notorious battle between Chief Koya of SGang Gwaay village and Captain Kendrick of the Lady Washington.
  • In 1851 - 1852, British Columbia's first gold rush took place at Gold Harbour on the west coast of the islands, but the deposits were shallow and the rush was short lived.
  • The first European to live on the islands was copper miner Francis Poole, who prospected in the Skincuttle Inlet area (south of Burnaby Island) in 1862 - 1864.

Suggested Itinerary:
Visit Haida Gwaii Museum in Skidegate. Port Clement's settlers Museum and the Dixon Entrance Maritime Museum in Masset for information and exhibits about early contact between Europeans and Haida.

Further information:
A good overview of the European history of the islands is Kathleen E. Dalzell's The Queen Charlotte Islands 1774 - 1966. (Terrace BC: C.M. Adam, 1968). Her second book, The Queen Charlotte Islands Volume 2: Places and Names (Madiera Park, BC: Harbour, 1973) is a great reference to the history of almost every place name on the islands. They can be found in most local bookstores and libraries.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Welcome to Haida Gwaii!

Located on a series of islands at the most westerly point of Canada, Haida Gwaii is made up of quaint villages, secluded inlets, and white-sand beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see. A place so remote that roads cannot bring you here, yet the warmest of welcomes await once you arrive.

Photo Credit: Ian Gould

Come visit us at or on Facebook

Photo Credit: Anvil Cove Charters