How to Get to Gwaii Haanas
Written by Maureen Gordon.
Embarking on the journey to Gwaii Haanas is an adventure in and of itself. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to reach this pristine wilderness.
There are four ways to get to Gwaii Haanas: book a tour by boat (single or multi-day), take a guided kayaking tour, book a transport boat for independent kayaking (very advanced skill required) or to access a private house. Details for each are below.
(There is a fifth way: a self-planned, self-guided, self-supported expedition, but we won’t cover this here as it’s for very experienced marine adventurers with expert knowledge of west coast tides, currents, topography, weather, navigation, expedition planning and preparation, and wilderness survival. This article is for the general traveller.)
Where Is Gwaii Haanas?
Gwaii Haanas, the protected southern third of the Haida Gwaii archipelago, is a remote haven of a few hundred islands, no roads or road connections to the rest of Haida Gwaii.
Ancient rainforest covers much of the land, and rich marine life including whales and other marine mammals, tens of thousands of seabirds and abundant fish populate the waters. Gwaii Haanas also contains several unoccupied Haida village sites, including UNESCO World Heritage Site SGang Gwaay.
All of this makes it a very desirable destination for travellers interested in nature and culture – yet also almost impossible to reach. With planning, you can do it.
A Common Mistake Travellers to Haida Gwaii Make About Gwaii Haanas
Many visitors to Haida Gwaii have thought they’d book a quick day trip to see the inspiring Haida villages and natural world in Gwaii Haanas once they reached the islands.
They left a day in their schedule for it. However, two factors mean that’s a route for potential disappointment: the region’s remoteness and the fact that weather determines whether planes can fly and how comfortable a boat ride will be means you can’t just pick a date on a calendar and schedule it in. Moreover, there is so much to see in Gwaii Haanas that many people would argue a day or half-day trip is not enough time.
To avoid this mistake:
- Decide how long you’d like to go (1 day, 2 days, 4 days, 1 week).
- Plan flexibility into your schedule to allow you to go when weather allows OR plan a weeklong trip by boat where the weather isn’t nearly as much of a factor.
- Contact operators in advance about when and how to book.
How to Get There: Gwaii Haanas
Go by Boat
There are several styles of boat tours or transports to Gwaii Haanas. All leave from Haida Gwaii.
Note: Gwaii Haanas is managed by the Archipelago Management board, which permits only licenced operators, who have met certain requirements, to offer services. Check the Gwaii Haanas Tour Operators.
Multi-day boat tours
If you can spare the time and the money, plan to visit Gwaii Haanas on a multi-day tour. With hundreds of islands and many village sites, bays, and waterways to visit, it takes time to see it all.
Furthermore, for a chance to make it to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is at the southwestern tip, you need flexibility to plan for good weather windows. And finally, by travelling through (like on a Galapagos cruise), going ashore a couple of times a day, and anchoring at night, you take the time to see the natural rhythms of this special place.
There are multi-day tours to fit a number of budgets, travel styles and schedules.
We offer one style: weeklong, boutique tours on yachts
Fast boat tour
If you have less time, you can book a fast boat tour. Check the tour operator website to see if this fits your physical ability and the way you envision travelling. These smaller boats can travel at around 30 knots, so you can visit one or two sites at the north end of the protected area in a day trip, weather permitting.
These are adventurous trips through the powerful natural world, and while exhilarating, they can have bumping and jarring for an hour or more on rough water. At least one operator has a lodge outside Gwaii Haanas and can offer multi day tours with overnights at the lodge in between.
Transport boat service
Several businesses will transport people, goods and kayaks into Gwaii Haanas. This is mainly for people and groups on pre-planned, self-guided expeditions. Some kayak tour companies may also hire these services.
Go by Guided Kayak Tour
For those who prefer to paddle under their own power for 4-6 hours a day, several companies offer guided kayaking tours of Gwaii Haanas.
Check the Gwaii Haanas Tour Operators page for companies permitted to operate in the region.
Required Orientation from the Archipelago Management Board
Note that all visitors into Gwaii Haanas require an orientation from the Archipelago Management Board before their visit. On guided tours, the tour guides are trained and authorized to give this briefing.
You might be interested in learning about our weeklong boutique expedition cruises in Gwaii Haanas here. Do not hesitate to reach out to our team to discuss the perfect trip for your needs and interests!