Attractions Within Gwaii Haanas National Park, Haida Heritage Site
Gwaii Haanas | History | Heritage Sites | Attractions | Natural History | Where are the Charlottes? | How to Get There | National Geographic Award | Reference Books

In 2005, Gwaii Haanas was rated #1 Park Destination in North America by a panel of experts polled by National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read the article online at The survey considered ecological and cultural integrity, condition of archaeological sites, quality of management, and the outlook for the future. Gwaii Haanas National Park scored 88 points with supporting comments from the panelist such as:

  • "One of the most beautiful, bountiful, and unbelievably hard places to access I've ever visited. South Moresby Island and Archipelago are a natural paradise. They should remain as is forever."

  • "One of the most spectacular parks in all of Canada—unique in the co-management with the Haida Nation and their well-developed watchman programs."

  • "Perhaps one of the best examples in Canada of a mutually beneficial relationship between the government and local indigenous peoples—the Haida Nation."

  • "Archaeological and historic artifacts are left to their natural process as per Haida tradition"

  • "The strong co-management of the park with the Haida people has significantly improved the management of this park, and it largely retains its wilderness character and cultural significance. Tourists undertake some cultural education before they enter the area."

Gwaii Haanas - "Place of Wonder" - is well named, for within it lies many special places and special experiences for those who visit. The area was declared a National Park Reserve in 1987, and is jointly managed by Parks Canada and the Haida people. The waters surrounding Gwaii Haanas are about to become a Marine Protected Area as soon as the legislation is in place to accommodate this. The areas described below as well as the village sites noted above (excepting only K'una), are all within Gwaii Haanas National Park.

Darwin Sound and Juan Perez Sound
Situated in the northern part of Gwaii Haanas National Park, these waterways provide spectacular scenery with many options to get off the boat to explore mountain lakes and short hikes to low elevation alpine areas with great vistas. There's also a rich history of early pioneering industrial activities, particularly in Darwin Sound, providing lots of opportunities for exploring the remains of old cannery operations and mining sites. A few day-activities in this area:

  • Short hikes to Anna Lake or your choice of numerous small lakes running in to the inlets on the west side of Quan Perez Sound. Swimming, relaxing and experiencing a diversity of micro geo-climatic forest vegetation environments are some of the attractions in this area.
  • Yatza Mountain above Island Bay provides a great view out to the west coast, looking over upper and Lower Victoria Lakes. The summit at 2400 feet is a fairly easy day hike for someone in good shape. A climb half way gives a great view to the east over Burnaby Straits and Skincuttle Inlet.
  • The Bischof Islands are a jewel set in the northern portion of Quan Perez Sound. A group of about seven small islands make up this mini archipelago and offer interesting bird and sealife viewing, beach and forest prowling as well as a great anchorage.

Burnaby Straits
Burnaby Strait is a narrow water body separating Burnaby Island from Moresby Island. There are several great Bays to explore north and south of Dolomite Narrows which is a very shallow channel navigable only at high tide. A few of the attractions in this area:

  • Dolomite Narrows (known usually as Burnaby Narrows) has an incredible display of sea life - colorful sea stars, moon snails and other shelled sea creatures, crabs,.... to mention but a few. This area is best viewed at a low tide while drifting through in a small vessel. As well as providing the best views of the sea life in action, it avoids any damage to the rich but sensitive shellfish beds.
  • Bag Harbour south of Dolomite Narrows is a beautiful anchorage with a small salmon stream often frequented by black bears at the head. Also the site of a turn of the century clam cannery and the long abandoned Haida Village of Lanahawa.

Skincuttle Inlet
A large body of water south of Burnaby Island with numerous spectacular islands and inlets to explore. As well as being incredibly picturesque, Skincuttle is full of history. Ten Haida villages stood along it's shores at one time and there's ample evidence of 19th and 20th century attempts to extract iron ore and copper from this beautiful inlet.

  • Bolkus Islands - home of Foam Woman, the ancestress of all Middle-Town-Raven Crest people. According to Haida legend, these were the first islands to rise from the waters following the Flood.
  • Copper Islands - an Ecological Reserve featuring high concentrations of nesting seabirds
  • Skincuttle Island - beautiful but haunted with the memory of it being the site of the first terrible smallpox epidemic among the Haidas.
  • Jedway Bay and Ikeda Cove - much evidence of early and late (to the mid-1960's at Jedway) mining activity as well as fish processing of abalone and salmon in the early part of the century.
  • Slim Inlet has another small but productive salmon stream at it's head. A walk along the stream takes you through a spectacular old growth forest and offers a good chance to see a black bear, particularly in salmon season.

Kunghit Island and Houston Stewart Channel
Check the map and let your imagination go. If you have the time to explore some of the spectacular sand beaches and bays along the west and east side of Kunghit you won't be disappointed. The marine and terrestrial environment changes quite noticeably as one nears the southern end of the archipelago. The St. Christoval range starts to taper off and the vegetation, particularly on the exposed points and offshore islands, begins to get a little scrubbier as it is exposed to the increasingly harsh west coast environment. The chances of observing whales and other sea mammals increases as one moves further south.

Although the operating window becomes a little smaller as you begin to deal with the extremes of west coast weather, the benefits are great in terms of experiencing the rugged and raw beauty of an archipelago fully exposed to the power of the Pacific.

  • Luxana, Howe and Woodruff Bays on the east side; Gilbert Bay and Bowles Point on the west side are spectacular - no other word for it. These little visited beaches provide great beach walking with no shortage of interesting flotsam and jetsam arriving courtesy of the North Pacific current.
  • The Gordon Islands are a group of wooded islands that are connected by drying reeks. Surrounded by great kelp forests, these islands are interesting to explore if you've got the time.
  • Sgaan Gwaii (Anthony Island.) Aside from the incredible village site of Ninstints described above, this island is a magical place. The west side is easily accessible by trail and offers spectacular viewscapes and photographic opportunities. There's also a magnificent sea lion rookery off the southwest side of the island which can be visited if the sea conditions allow.
  • Adam Rocks north of Sgan Gwaii always have a variety of seabirds including puffins, petrels and murrelets.
  • Rose Harbour offers the safest anchorage in the area and has an interesting history of whaling at the turn of the century.

West Coast
The myriad of interesting fjords, inlets and bays provide enough opportunities for a trip in itself. Spectacular, rugged, awe inspiring are a few of the words used to describe the west side. Travel along this coast is always weather dependent but it can be done safely with appropriate planning.

  • Louscoone, Flamingo, and Gowgaia Inlets offer unparalleled beachcombing, photography and exploring of marine and land environments.

Gwaii Haanas | History | Heritage Sites | Attractions | Natural History | Where are the Charlottes? | How to Get There | National Geographic Award | Reference Books