When we got married we talked about a few different honeymoon ideas but ultimately decided on Haida Gwaii! Easy to get to from where we live, prime outside adventuring and gorgeous landscape – the main things we were looking for. My husband and I are very different, but we do share a serious love for nature, camping and exploring. The variety that Haida Gwaii offers is awesome. We had both been there in the past on family trips as kids, but it was time to go back together and do it our way! Almost two years after the wedding, we did! Here’s a recap of our trip. I hope it inspires you to get there or get BACK there, and that it might also help with some trip planning.
Once we picked the dates and made ferry reservations, we were working with the first evening plus eight more full days. I feel like this was enough time to do all the things we wanted, but I also could have stayed WAY longer, or forever. On the other hand, I believe that a shorter trip would be totally worth it depending on what you want to get up to! If researched and planned well, even a few days would be so great.
We camped for seven of the eight nights. I love camping and we are pretty efficient about it. That being said, setting up and taking down camp does take a little extra time, so we had to keep that in mind.
Our trip began with the daytime ferry (10am departure) from Prince Rupert to Skidegate on a Friday. The crossing, I hear, can be anywhere from six to eight hours, and we were unloading by 5pm.
During the planning process, one thing I had wondered was if it’s possible after unloading from the Northern Adventure to make the Kwuna (smaller ferry that crosses Skidegate inlet down to Moresby Island) in the same day. We ran into a friend on board and that’s exactly what he was doing. Really good to know that we could have gone down to Gray Bay the first night if we wanted to.
First up, Rennell Sound (2 nights – evening, full day, morning)
Rennell Sound! The only vehicle access point on the west coast of Haida Gwaii. We got off the ferry, drove through Queen Charlotte and made our way there, which is all logging roads. We passed on Rennell Sound Rec. Site at the bottom of the steep hill just as you get to the sound – it was packed and busy with massive boats everywhere and that wasn’t where we wanted to go anyway. We drove to Bonanza Beach (at least 10k further northwest, at the end of the line) which you can’t access with a vehicle. We didn’t actually know that part. After checking out the approximately 500m trail into the beach, we decided it was a bit long to pack in the camping gear. Damn!
first glimpse of Bonanza Beach!
We hadn’t actually planned to pack gear anywhere. Whoops. There is also a two-spot mini camp spot called Cone Head just before Bonanza Beach, right along the road and with beach access, but it was occupied. Along the logging road a few groups were camped in small pull-outs here and there, but it was dusty and not what we were looking for. I consulted our Haida Gwaii bible, Haida Gwaii – a Guide to BC’s Islands of the People by Dennis Horwood and noticed that the trail into Gregory Beach looked shorter. It was!! So we packed in some gear for two nights! I love that we started the trip not knowing exactly where we would first camp!
is this real life?
We were the king and queen of Gregory Beach! All to ourselves!!! As far as I could see, pure magical beauty! The first night the waves sounded so close I kept waking up and looking outside to confirm the ocean wasn’t about to come into the tent ahaha.
The following day we jogged/biked to Bonanza Beach to explore and have lunch. On the way we learned here is another camping spot tucked in off the road along Gregory Creek. So cool! Maybe we will go there next time.
Rennell Sound is absolutely amazing. Like, secret enchanted beaches at the edge of the world. If I come to Haida Gwaii for a similar length of time, or longer, I will absolutely go back.
For a shorter trip, however, it’s slightly out of the way, and more of a hassle than just arriving to a campground. The drive was a little long for just a day trip. Even though this ended up being my favourite spot that we went, I think I’d save it for week or longer visits.
Gray Bay! (2 nights – half day, full day, morning)
On Sunday morning it started to rain (for like an hour..lucky!), which lit a fire under our asses and we packed up quickly and hit the road back to Skidegate Landing. We got on the Kwuna over to Moresby Island (20 minutes, under $40 for two people in a truck) and had breakfast at the Sandspit Inn. Then we made the drive south to Gray Bay.
The Gray Bay Rec Site has nineteen spots. We turned into the first section to find that there were people in #1 and #2 who were packing up. Turns out this crew is good friends with our good friends!!! Small world. They suggested we wait and take the spot because it was the best. It really was. We were basically surrounded by water on three sides – the ocean, plus in the bend of Gray Bay Creek!
view from behind the creek. See our tent?
I had a long run to do so once we were set up I hit the beach. I ran the length of the bay twice, as well as the length of the short campsite road. Unbelievable. All sites have beach view and access. This campsite is the shit!!!!! Gray Bay is actually breathtaking.
Later we tried to find our own way to Secret Cove but missed the trail. We started too close to the mouth of the creek and only hiked in enough to find the first mini cove north of Gray Bay. Still awesome!!
The next day we went the real way to Secret Cove (turn-off about 200m before the Gray Bay Creek Bridge). We rode our bikes until it was no longer bikable, then hiked in. It’s a short trail and super cool spot!
Gray Bay is amazing. It’s easy to get to and the campsite is awesome and right at the greatest beach. On another shorter run, I checked out every single camp spot, since there was no one else there! Site #10/11 wins second place after #1! I’d prioritize this place even if I only came for a few days! The ferry to Moresby Island is so short and the drive to Gray Bay was quick. Do it.
Sandspit to hike the Dover Trail!
On our way back to the Kwuna to go back to Graham Island, we stopped in the Sandspit area for a hike. I heard about the Dover Trail on both the @gohaidagwaii Instagram page as well as their fantastic website! We also tried to go to the famous Dick’s Wok Inn for Chinese Food but it wasn’t open at that time. Damn!
It was an easy hike in a beautiful old growth forest trail. It follows a creek for a while and there are cool spots where you walk along old logs, and some semi-steep parts with rope for assistance.
At one point there’s a short side trail that takes you to the waterfall. It was the muggyest day EVER and arriving at that waterfall was heavenly. I really loved this hike and I’m glad we made time for it, but I wouldn’t feel compelled to go back unless I was on an extended visit to Haida Gwaii with lots of time on my hands.
Tow Hill & North Beach area (3 nights – evening, 2 full days, morning)
After crossing back to Graham Island, we hit the highway and stopped for coffee at Jag’s on the way. COFFEEEEEEEE!!
Around five we got to Agate Beach Campground. Tow Hill Road alone was so cool! The campsite is busy and windy, but it is the most stunning location with crazy views. We picked one of the few open spots and set up shop. The wind was really cold, I couldn’t believe it. I had all my layers on, everything I brought basically! It felt like we went from summer camping to Fall/Winter camping, so bring warm clothes.
Then I got my tempo run in on Tow Hill Road. It was the best. I had my husband with me on the bike! So gorgeous.
The next day our first adventure was exploring North Beach. We biked from the campsite past Tow Hill and across the Hiellen River Bridge and rode as far as we could before the sand wasn’t as good for bike riding. Probably about 10k. Then we walked another 5km to get to Rose Spit.
That was a very long and tiring adventure. North Beach is really cool and very long ahah. Next time I won’t feel the need to explore so far down – it’s great but not a lot changes until you get to the spit. I think I’d go for a max 5k out along the beach, either on a bike or a run. I would also take a vehicle down towards the spit but I wouldn’t do it again on bike/foot!
Later on after dinner, we went to Tow Hill! I am IN LOVE with it. The boardwalk to the blow-hole is flat and wheelchair accessible, which I think is really cool.
The boardwalks to the other viewing platforms are steep but not that long. The views were amazing! Unfortunately it wasn’t a rising tide when we were there so we didn’t see much spray going on at the blow-hole, but it was still the coolest spot. The beauty here is overwhelming.
North Beach/Rose Spit viewing platform
I doubt I will ever come to Haida Gwaii again without visiting Tow Hill. It’s too cool, easy to get to and there are so many accommodation options in the area besides camping, if you plan far enough ahead that is.
The next morning I went back to Tow Hill by myself on a 10k run because I loved it so much! It was worth getting up before 6am for that. After breakfast we headed to the Cape Fife trailhead which is just over the Hiellen Bridge past the Tow Hill parking lot.
This trail is flat, easy and beautiful! It’s 10k across the spit, over to East Beach!
East Beach is the shit and, in my opinion, kicks North Beach’s ass. It looks like freaking Cancun! There is a hiking shelter at Cape Fife and it’s LEGIT. I am so happy we checked it out because now I know that next time it would totally be an option to stay overnight! It’s a longhouse style cabin with a wood stove and two sets of bunk beds that have a double on the lower level so six could sleep comfortably. It’s AWESOME.
Since I love hikes and trails but I am also a serious beach bum, next time I will hit this trail in the early morning and spend the whole day at Cape Fife, and either spend the night in the shelter or hike back in the evening.
Twenty kilometers of trail made for a long day (plus the 10k before hand) and we were pretty over it by the time we got back to the campsite. Also, the wind kept getting stronger and by this time we had nicknamed our campsite “Everest Base Camp” LOL. It was now the seventh night in the tent. We were reaching a turning point with respect to camping and being filthy dirty. HAHAHHAA.
In the morning we cleaned up and headed out. Breakfast at the Island Sunrise Cafe in Masset was really good and SO needed. From there we hit the road to head south again.
Port Clements, etc
Our first stop along the way after leaving Masset was to go swimming at Pure Lake! This lake is perfect! I wish I had it for triathlon training! Tip: don’t try to go swimming at Mayer Lake (unless you’re out on a boat) or Spirit Lake, we learned this the next day. Nice places, not good swimming spots! Pure Lake was so ideal for a quick swim for two dirty honeymooners but with all the cool places to explore, I wouldn’t come here for the day or anything like that.
We went to Port Clements to check it out and stopped at the little museum. It was interesting reading old newspaper clippings about the Golden Spruce. There was a lot of cool old logging equipment and in general it was just a neat little spot. I’m glad we made the stop, Port Clements is really beautiful. I might look into adventures around here for next time.
Tlell (one night – late afternoon until the next morning)
We continued south and had the most AMAZING lunch at the Crow’s Nest at Tlell!!! I picked up a calendar of the most literally breathtaking artwork – paintings of local landscapes by my newly decided favourite artist, Maryanne Wettlaufer. The magic of Haida Gwaii plus tourist syndrome got me so I also got a glass Crow’s Nest travel mug, but managed to escape friendship bracelets and dangly earrings. The Crow’s Nest is amazing in so many ways. Cafe, convenience store with local farm items too, gifts and jewelry, ICE CREAM. Such a cool little hub in the hamlet that is Tlell. You absolutely need to go here, and it’s on the way to everywhere both ways anyway!
From there we went to the Crystal Cabin. We booked the Sleeping Beauty Cabin for our last night, a miniature one-room cabin in the yard of the Crystal Cabin gallery. It was awesome! Tourist syndrome continued and I got this incredible Tow Hill hoodie from the gallery while we were checking in.
We went for a drive to explore and find more ice for the cooler. Up until now we hadn’t really driven around, just to wherever our next camping spot was. St. Mary’s Spring, which also happens to be the turnaround point in the Totem to Totem full marathon, was a spot I wanted to stop at. Since I believe in magic and legends, I needed to drink from the spring. My husband even gave in and drank some of the spring water and he’s the skeptic. LOL.
After our cruise we went to the Pesuta Shipwreck trail. I friggin loved this. It’s about 2k of an easy hike through a beautiful forest, then 3k on an old road along the river until it meets the ocean and East Beach. The shipwreck itself is fascinating, and the beach where it’s located is like paradise on a nice day.
I personally would prioritize this adventure. We did it in an evening and didn’t stay at the beach nearly long enough, and it was still so worth it. Next time I will take at least half a day so that I can spend a few hours on the beach between the hikes in and out. East Beach, like I said, is amazing!
Then it was bed time in the Sleeping Beauty Cabin! Okay the outhouse is so radical, test it out if you go to the Crystal Cabin gallery, which you should!
Skidegate & Queen Charlotte (Saturday)
Woohoo race day!! We got up around six and forty-five minutes later made the short drive from Tlell to the Haida Heritage Centre. Both of us were running the 10k in the Totem to Totem race, but there is also a half marathon and full marathon! Such an awesome event! I vow to come back for this race next year, not sure which distance!
Both of us agreed it was such a wicked race!! After we finished running, we went back to Jag’s Beanstalk for more coffee and breakfast snacks. A swim was in order so first we went to the Spirit Lake trails just a few minutes away, but discovered it’s not a good spot to swim. We had heard about Mayer Lake as well, and since we had all day and the race awards weren’t til around 2:30, we figured we’d go check it out. Also not a good swimming spot. We were just two happy, stinky honeymooners on the best trip of our lives, so we just kept driving and ended up back at Pure Lake, 80km from where we started HAHAHAHA. Worth it! Wish I had some pics from Pure Lake but there was some public nudity going on. Sorry.
After the glorious swim we cruised back down to Skidegate and got to check out Skidegate Days! We had shishkebabs and chow mein and then went to the Longhouse Gift Shop, which we’d run past in the race. This is a cool store and you should go!
Then the awards were presented for the race. It was sweet it was just on the balcony of someone’s house, right on the main street in the village where Skidegate Days was happening! Look what I friggin won!
1st place female!
I have a tendency to not fully enjoy the last day of any trip. I get sad that it’s ending, and a bit of travel anxiety, etc. Not today! It was so hot and beautiful out, there was lots going on and it was nice to be done camping and just touristing at this point. So beautiful and relaxing!
Prawn & Scallop Restaurant (formerly known as Oceanview Restaurant??) was where we ended up for dinner in Queen Charlotte. The Chinese food was really good! From there we walked around a bit by the ocean side square by the visitor’s centre and talked about how next time we definitely need to rent kayaks or SUPs from Green Coast or the like. That’s on my list for next time for sure, a full day or most of a day on a SUP in Queen Charlotte. Most of the shops were closed at the time we were there so next time I’d really like to check them out!
On the way back to the ferry at Skidegate Landing there is a new little smoothie shack called Green Eggs Market. The location is prime and it’s the cutest little juice and smoothie bar! You should go here. It’s on the way anyways, whether you’re coming or going 😀
That was the end of the trip 😦 We had a visit in the ferry lineup with some of the ladies who also ran in the Totem to Totem, and then it was time to board for the 10pm sailing. In our state-room we watched a couple episodes of Netflix we’d downloaded at dinner (no wifi, FYI), and then crashed pretty hard. Around 4:30am we arrived in Prince Rupert, and made our way home..
This was actually the best trip of my life. Sure, I was with my favourite person on the planet, and we lucked out hard with excellent weather, but Haida Gwaii is just seriously unbelievable. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, with such strong culture and connections to nature. I’ve heard many people say it’s a very spiritual place and I’m sure anyone who has spent time there would agree – I do. Grateful to have spent such quality time in such a special place. Thank you to Mother Nature and the Haida Nation!