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Haida Gwaii Adventures, British Columbia

Although I have travelled BC, especially between Vancouver and Prince George, more times than I can count, when my husband and I bought an RV we slowed down; really began to see this amazing province we call home.  In this blog I am sharing one of our many BC explorations.

Route from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and up to Masset

We had heard much about Haida Gwaii, the mystical secluded archipelago made up of a cluster of islands off the northern coast of BC.  We were eager to discover it for ourselves.  It’s sparsely populated and not easy to get to.  Most of the inhabitants are indigenous and live in villages located almost exclusively on Graham Island.

There is an expression about remote communities that there are only three ways to access them, by water, by air or by birth.  We chose water taking the ferry that is part of BC’s provincial ferry system from Prince Rupert to Skidegate on Haida Gwaii.  Reserve early as it fills up fast particularly during the busy season.  We encountered others who had not been so attentive in their planning.  They were stuck on the island until they could secure another sailing.  Not always easy with an RV. 

Sailing from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii, BC | M. Moulton

A curious fact about the ferry to Haida Gwaii, not only does it take eight hours, but oversized vehicles need to be backed onboard. “Excuse me, as in backing up all the way down the ramp and onto the ferry?”  Of course, if you need assistance the ferry workers have you covered.  They have professional drivers that will do it for you if you prefer.  As I do all the driving, I looked at my husband, “you got this,” he said.  And I did, but it’s a long ramp and a technical drive not for the faint of heart. 

Port Clements Pier on Haida Gwaii, BC | M. Moulton

Once on the island our first campsite was on the ocean surrounded by serene ancient forest just outside Daajing Giids (a more appropriate culturally representative name than the former Queen Charlotte City).  It was quintessential west coast.  A light rain fell, the kind that doesn’t really get you wet, but causes mist to form drifting across the beach and through the trees draped with moss. 

Sea Asparagus on Haida Gwaii

We walked the rugged beach, and to our delight came across wild sea asparagus which we harvested for our dinner.  In fact, wild harvest is a common practice.  You won’t find any fancy high-priced touristy seafood restaurants here.  The locals acquire and trade amongst themselves the abundance from the land and sea rather than marketing to visitors. 

First Nations Building and Art in Old Masset on Haida Gwaii | M. Moulton

Next, we drove to Masset on the northern end of Graham Island.  Along the way were many deer grazing beside the roadway, a local phenomenon.  We rode our bicycles around Old Masset enjoying the authentic aboriginal village, oceanfront, and a quick bite at one of several food trucks that serve as “eating out” Masset style.  You may also wish to trek just a bit further to Tow Hill to take in the vast Pacific Ocean vistas. 

Our RV parked at Halibut Bite on Haida Gwaii, BC | M. Moulton

Heading back south to catch our ferry off island we explored Port Clements mingling with the locals as they fished off the pier in the heart of town.  We also stopped for photos at area attractions Halibut Bite and Balance Rock.

Balance Rock on Haida Gwaii, BC | M. Moulton

The ferry between Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert runs during the day, or you can take it overnight.  Staterooms are available so you can get some rest as Transport Canada doesn’t allow you to stay in your vehicle below deck for safety reasons.  Hecate Strait is renowned for its turbulent seas.  We chose a daytime crossing on our way over to Haida Gwaii to take in the sights and an overnight on the way back to Prince Rupert (with a stateroom).  The overnight ferry from Haida Gwaii aligned perfectly with our intent to board yet another ferry, this time from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy on the northern tip of Vancouver Island.  This route might be known to those who have traversed the inside passage on an Alaskan cruise.  The scenery and the wildlife are spectacular! 

BC Ferry Stateroom

We recommend Haida Gwaii to the more adventurous.  Its natural beauty is stunning but it’s short on amenities so prepare accordingly.  The towns on Haida Gwaii are small.  Ideally take your own accommodation (we had our RV), your own food (groceries are limited) and fuel can be very expensive as it must be barged in so fill up before you come.  The number of eateries, coffee shops, stores and accommodations are sparse compared to mainland standards and the residents aren’t particularly fussed about catering to off-island interests so don’t expect much other than to supplement what you brought. 

In short, this is no tourist mecca.  You don’t come to Haida Gwaii for the modern-day amenities or atmosphere.  You come to appreciate the simplicity, the unspoiled First Nations culture and wild natural wonder of the west coast.

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Published: February 1, 2024
Last Updated: February 1, 2024

Marjorie Moulton by Marjorie Moulton

Marjorie Moulton is an avid RVer since serendipitously acquiring her 25’ Winnebago Via affectionately named Nike after the winged goddess of victory at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Since that time, she and her husband have immersed themselves in the lifestyle traveling both locally, around Vancouver Island from their home in Victoria, BC across the province and down into the western US states. The learning curve has been steep but enjoyable and they are always ready to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with fellow travelers.