Monday 29 August 2022

Haida Gwaii with Kids (and Grandparents)!

We just got back from an amazing trip to Haida Gwaii with the boys and Sarah's parents, so thought I'd share some of our experiences. 

If you've never heard of Haida Gwaii, you're probably not alone.  Haida Gwaii is a collection of islands off the North Western coast of British Columbia, Canada.  Previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, they were formally renamed under the Haida Gwaii Reconcilliation Act in 2010.

The two main islands of Haida Gwaii are Graham Island in the north and Moresby Island in the south, but there are around 400 other small islands.  The southern part of Moresby Island along with a number of small islands form the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve and Haida Heritage Site - often called Canada's Galapagos.

Haida Gwaii Map

We originally planned to visit Haida Gwaii in 2020, but had to cancel our trip due to the dreaded c-word, when the Council of the Haida Nation sensibly decided to close the islands to non-essential visitors.  We were so excited to be able to re-plan our visit for this summer.

Getting There

We chose to travel to Haida Gwaii by ferry, and I would highly recommend it.  For us this involved a beautiful (16 hour) sail up the Inside Passage from Port Hardy (Northern Vancouver Island) to Prince Rupert on the BC mainland, followed by another (7 hour) ferry from Prince Rupert to Skidegate* on Graham Island.                                                                                                                                             * Skidegate is pronounced as Skid-a-git! 

Haida Gwaii Route Planning

Working out joining ferries was the hardest part of our planning, as although the Inside Passage service is almost daily, there are certain days in each month when they don't sail.  We had a quick overnight stop in an AirBnB in Prince Rupert between the two ferries.

I'd also recommend booking at least one cabin on the Inside Passage ferry, and on the Prince Rupert to Skidegate ferry if you're travelling overnight.  For us this allowed us somewhere for the boys to catch up on some sleep, to leave our bags, and have a shower.  There are a limited number of adjoining twin cabins which worked perfectly for us.  Booking early is essential!  

All of the ferries are operated by BC Ferries, and you can find the schedules here.

It is also possible to fly to Haida Gwaii from Vancouver (YVR) to Sandspit (YZP) on Moresby Island with Air Canada; or to Massett (ZMT) on Graham Island with Pacific Coastal Airlines.  Inland Air Charters also have scheduled flights from Prince Rupert to Massett.

Getting Around

There is no public transport on Haida Gwaii, so I'd recommend taking your own car or hiring one on arrival so that you can explore as much of the islands as possible.  The major communities of Skidegate, Daajing Giids (Queen Charlotte), Sandspit and Masset have car rentals or taxi services, and it's also possible to rent a bike.  You can find more details on the GoHaidaGwaii site, which has lots of useful planning info.

Moresby Explorers 

The highlight of our trip was our two-day expedition with Moresby Explorers.  Our holiday planning started with booking this trip, then working backwards to find ferries that fit, and then finding  accommodation options that fit around the ferry times.  We ended up with a nice combination of places on the islands, and stayed two nights in most of the locations, so it didn't feel rushed and gave us plenty of opportunity to explore.  You can view our full itinerary here.

Moresby Explorers Two Day Trip Map

The Moresby tour began with the 0730 ferry from Skidegate Landing on Graham Island to Alliford Bay on Moresby Island.  This small ferry is also operated by BC Ferries and takes around 20 minutes, you can't book in advance and just buy tickets at the ferry landing in the morning.  There is plenty of parking by the roadside just outside the terminal to leave your car.  If the weather is on your side, you can go up to a small outside viewing area for the trip across.  We saw seals and dolphins on our journey across, which was a good omen for things to come on the Moresby trip.

On arrival at Alliford Bay, we were met by our guide for the trip, Tyler, and jumped into a minibus with the rest of the group, who had stayed on Moresby Island the night before.  From here we travelled down Forest Service Roads for about an hour to Moresby Camp.  Moresby Camp is a small BC Recreation Site with a few campsites, a couple of outhouses, a boat launch and, most importantly, the Moresby Explorers base.

After Tyler prepared the boat for our trip, we loaded up our (small) bags under the seats and got kitted up with welly boots, waterproofs and floatation coats.  Then we were ready for the off!

Family departing for Gwaii Haanas

Day 1 of the trip included stops at the World War II era logging sites of Aero Camp and Mathers Creek. At Mathers Creek there are lots of abandoned remnants of the logging industry from boots to steam donkeys, and even vehicles.  Whilst they make some interesting artefacts to view, it's pretty shocking by modern standards that the industry was allowed to leave so much debris behind.


From Mathers Creek we travelled onwards to K'uuna Llnagaay (Skedans), pausing to watch a pod of rare Risso's Dolphins (well spotted Sarah!) in the Cumshewa Inlet on the way.

K'uuna Lnagaay was our first Haida Heritage site; an ancient Haida village which was once home to around 30 longhouses.  Today the site is protected by the Haida Watchmen, who look after the heritage sites and welcome visitors.  There are a number of carved memorial and mortuary poles, some still standing and others now fallen; as well as the remaining dug-outs and corner posts of a few of the longhouses, including Chief Gida'nsta's ancestral home.  The anglicised name for the village, Skedans, is an interpretation of Gida'nsta given to the village by fur traders in the 1800s.

Boys with the Moresby Explorers Zodiac RIBHaida Long House Pit

Haida Long House PitHaida Memorial Totem Pole
After spending some time exploring K'uuna, we jumped back in the boat and headed towards the floating lodge, which would be our home for the night.  On the way we stopped at another island which is an important breeding colony for Pigeon Guillemots, and we also spotted a Humpback Whale.  Tyler stopped the boat for a while so we could watch the whale; the sound of the blow is one of my favourite noises!  Tyler had been alerted that there were lots of Pink Salmon making their way up river to spawn at a river mouth near the lodge, so we took a trip there before making our way to the lodge.
Moresby Explorers Floating Lodge

The lodge is a beautiful floating cabin, moored in a sheltered inlet.  On arrival at the lodge, we were met by the camp chef, Etta, who told us a bit about the arrangements for the night.  Then stripped off our wet clothes and made our way inside for a hot drink and a warm up in front of the fire!
Etta prepared a delicious meal of ling cod, rice and roasted vegetables, followed by an amazing pear cake.  Don't forget to take along something to drink if you would like an alcoholic beverage with dinner. 
After dinner Etta took a few of us back out in the boat, and travelled a little further up the inlet to set a crab trap, in the hope we would catch something overnight.

Day 2 started with a quick kayak trip around the bay for me and Struan, admiring the huge Fried Egg Jellyfish.  We arrived back at the lodge just in time for a lovely breakfast.  After kitting up in our gear again, we boarded the boat and headed up the inlet to check on our crab trap.  Struan and Innes had fun pulling up the trap, but unfortunately we hadn't caught anything, so we re-set the trap in a different position.  Hopefully the next guests had more luck!

Our first stop of the day was at Gandll K'in Gwaay.yaay (Hotspring Island).  These natural hotsprings are another Haida Heritage site.  After a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the islands in 2012, the pools emptied and it was feared they would not return, but the pools gradually began to refill and in 2017 three new pools were built.  The water temperature varies between the pools, but was a very pleasant 45 degrees centigrade in the top pool.

Kayaking at Moresby ExplorersFried Egg Jelly Fish

Couple in Haida Gwaii HotspringsKids in Haida Gwaii Hotsprings

After eating lunch on the beach, we boarded the boat again and headed to Hlk' yah Gaw.Ga (Windy Bay).  This was an important place during the Haida protests against logging, which ultimately led to the creation of Gwaii Haanas.  There now stands a monumental pole which was raised in 2013 on the 20th anniversary of co-operative management of the reserve by the Council of the Haida Nation and the Government of Canada.  It was great hearing the story of the pole, and the nearby longhouse, from the Haida Watchman.

Windy Bay Monumental Totem PoleHaida Gwaii Long House Windy Bay

From Windy Bay, we headed north back towards Moresby Camp, taking the sheltered route inside the islands and through the narrow, tidal, Louise Channel. 

After unloading the boat and returning our gear, Tyler drove us back to the ferry terminal to catch the boat back to Graham Island and on to our next destination...

Thursday 25 August 2022

Our First Post!

 Well, hello World!

This is a first for me, but I thought I'd give blogging a try.  

People often comment that we do a lot of "cool stuff" as a family, so I'm hoping we can inspire other families to get out there and Explore Your Home.  We're currently based in Victoria, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada; but hopefully the content will be relevant wherever your home may be.

We're extremely lucky to have been posted abroad with my work; first to Ottawa, and now Victoria.  Living abroad for a pre-determined period of time (although extended twice at our request), really does focus the mind and encourage you to make the most of the limited time you have available to adventure and explore.  I think we've always been adventurers at heart though!  

Born and raised in the North East of England, I joined the Royal Navy at 18 and travelled widely with work, before being posted to Canada.  Sarah was born and raised in Scotland, travelled to Australia and China as a student, and lived in Honduras working as a PADI Dive Master, before we met at University in Glasgow.

Most of my military career has been spent in Plymouth, Devon, in the South West of England.  Our two boys were born there, although Innes (6) considers himself Scottish and Struan (8) definitely speaks with a Canadian accent!

I hope you'll follow along, as we try to capture some of our adventures.