Queen Charlotte Islands

Queen Charlotte Islands make up an archipelago just to the north of Vancouver Island. Officially called Haida Gwaii (meaning Islands of the People), the name of the group of islands was changed in the spring of 2010 as part of the Reconciliation Act between the province of British Columbia and the Haida people who were the first inhabitants of the area. This tribe of people still lives here, and spreads into the United States. They were known for their seamanship, living off the bounty the sea, and Queen Charlotte Islands fishing remains one of the most important financial sectors of the island group. The land itself was revered and protected by the indigenous peoples.

Another name for Haida Gwaii is Xhaaidlagha Gwaayaai, (meaning Islands at the Boundary of the World), and that is what this magical archipelago just off the mainland must have seemed like. It is located just on the border of Alaska and less than 100 miles from Ketchikan. The two main islands are Graham Island and Moresby Island. There are about 150 other smaller islands, and the total land mass is close to 4,000 square miles.

The Queen Charlotte Islands contain one of the last stands of super old growth rainforest in the world, with some of the world's largest spruce and cedar trees. Here are bald eagles and both the world's smallest and largest subspecies of black bear. Offshore, you can spot sea lions and orcas galore on kayaking tours. During the summer whale watching months, you might be lucky enough to spot a pod of blue whales—the first to be seen in this region in decades.

Other tours will reveal the vibrant Haida Gwaii culture that remains strong despite a great deal of destruction after Europeans arrived (due primarily to small pox and other devastating western diseases). Many of the most expert Queen Charlotte Islands fishing guides are members of this group, displaying uncanny abilities on the water. Their unique totem poles are considered by many to be the first such art to be carved in the Northwest, and Haida carvers are among the most skilled in the world. In spite of the incredible natural beauty of these islands, the Haida culture is one of the biggest attractions of the region. After the Haida culture, it is Queen Charlotte Islands fishing that draws most visitors. You can book charters from several operators on the islands. You can also charter cruises from Vancouver. Prime species that angling enthusiasts seek are salmon, halibut, lingcod, and yelloweye.

There are several established campgrounds on the Queen Charlotte Islands, as well as rough camping available even in the national park areas. You will find several economical motels and bed and breakfasts on the islands, as well as rustic fishing lodges. Several of these can be considered small resorts, especially when you consider that the forests, sea, and beaches are some of their "facilities." Look especially for the Queen Charlotte Lodge, a lovely property on Naden Harbor on Graham Island. Its twelve-person Masset House lodge can be rented out to a single group - ideal for family vacations or for small groups of anglers. The main lodge offers 24 rooms, all with waterfront views. There are several smaller lodges. There is a spa, fitness center, a spacious central lounge, and an excellent dining venue. You can get here on flights to the main airport on Moresby Island or by ferry from Prince Rupert.

Image: Tourism British Columbia

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