Haida Gwaii/The Queen Charlotte Islands is a group of several hundred islands of varying sizes. It is the most western archipelago in Canada, located parallel to the northwest coast of mainland British Columbia, approximately 150km/90 mi across the Hecate Strait from the mainland coast and 100km/60mi south of Alaska.
The islands are the traditional territory of the Haida First Nations. In December 2009, the Provincial Government of B.C. agreed to change the name of the archipelago from Queen Charlotte Islands to Haida Gwaii as part of a process of recognition and reconciliation with the Haida. Haida Gwaii means ‘Islands of the People’.
Most of the residents of Haida Gwaii live on the two largest islands. Graham Island in the north has six official communities, and the majority of inhabitants and infrastructure. Moresby Island, just to its south, is home to one community, Sandspit.
The main communities on Graham Island are Old Massett, Masset, Port Clements, Tlell, Skidegate, and Queen Charlotte.
Old Massett (population: 750) located on Masset Inlet near the north end of Graham Island, is a Haida reserve community that has gradually evolved and expanded on the site of a traditional village. Masset (population: 940), located adjacent to Old Massett, has one of the islands' airports and is the service and shopping centre for the north end of the islands.
A half hour drive south from Masset on the main highway is the centrally located Village of Port Clements (population: 440). This community was once a thriving logging town but is now in transition to a broader based economy. From this town you can access the waters of Masset Inlet and the Yakoun River basin. Less than a half hour drive from Port Clements is Tlell, (population: 400) an agricultural area located on the east coast of Graham Island.
Half an hour drive from Tlell is Skidegate (population: 780), which is another Haida reserve community and home to the Haida Heritage Centre at Kaay Llnagaay. This new museum is a must see for visitors, and includes a performance space and a carving shed, as well as many artifacts and poles.
The BC Ferries terminal for the islands is a few minutes from Skidegate and is called Skidegate Landing. The ferry from Prince Rupert on mainland B.C. arrives here, and this is also where the small ferry to Sandspit departs throughout the day.
Only a couple minutes drive south from Skidegate is the Village of Queen Charlotte (population: 950). Queen Charlotte has a good selection of accommodation, restaurants and stores. Its Visitor Centre is open year round, and is a great resource for information on any part of the islands.
Sandspit (pop: 400) is the only town on Moresby Island. It is known as the “Gateway to Gwaii Haanas" because it is the closest town to this amazing park reserve. It has the islands' largest airport, a modern marina, and a great Visitor Centre.
Visitor Centres are located in Sandspit and Queen Charlotte. There are also Visitor Info booths in Masset and Port Clements. Visitor guides are available at all locations, as are brochures for individual businesses. The locally produced visitor guide has an excellent map and lots of useful information.