Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site

sights / Parks & gardens

Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Area Reserve & Haida Heritage Site information

This huge Unesco World Heritage site, with a name that's a mouthful, encompasses Moresby and 137 smaller islands at its southern end. It combines a time-capsule look at abandoned Haida villages, hot springs, amazing natural beauty and some of the continent's best kayaking.

Archaeological finds have documented more than 500 ancient Haida sites, including villages and burial caves throughout the islands. The most famous village is SGang Gwaay (Ninstints) on Anthony Island, where rows of weathered totem poles stare eerily out to sea. Other major sights include the ancient village of Skedans , on Louise Island, and Hotspring Island , whose natural springs disappeared, possibly temporarily, as a result of the October 2012 earthquakes. The sites are protected by Haida Gwaii watchmen, who live on the islands in summer.

Access to the park is by boat or plane only. A visit demands a decent amount of advance planning and usually requires several days. From May to September, you must obtain a reservation, unless you're with a tour operator.

Contact Parks Canada with questions. The website has links to the essential annual trip planner . Any visitor not on a guided tour and who has not visited the park during the previous three years must attend a free orientation at the park office. All visitors must register.

The number of daily reservations is limited: plan well in advance. There are user fees (adult/child $20/10 per night). Nightly fees are waived if you have a Parks Canada Season Excursion Pass. A few much-coveted standby spaces are made available daily: call Parks Canada.

The easiest way to get into the park is with a tour company. Parks Canada can provide you with lists of operators; tours last from one day to two weeks. Many can also set you up with rental kayaks (average per day/week $60/300) and gear for independent travel.

Moresby Explorers has one-day zodiac tours from $185, including the Louise Island trip that takes in Skedans and its totem poles, as well as much longer trips. It rents kayaks and gear.

Queen Charlotte Adventures offers lots of one- to 10-day trips using boats and kayaks, including a three-day kayak trip to the remote south for $550. It rents kayaks and gear.