Haida Gwaii has been dubbed one of the top destinations to visit in the world, according to the list ‘52 Places to Go in 2020’ put out by the New York Times.
The islands were selected for their bevy of natural and scenic wonders, the storied history of the Haida peoples, and the focus on sustainable tourism.
“People say ‘what can we do when we come here?’ And I say it’s a question of being, rather than doing,” said Susan Musgrave, operator of the Copper Beech House in Masset, adding that Haida Gwaii offers a unique tourist experience for those looking to chart their own course during their adventure. “If you just go expecting to have ziplines and pony trecking and whale watching tours, nothing is left to you, the participant. Here, it’s the sort of place where you get to participate in your own life. I think that tourists like that.”
|(Flavien Mabit photo)
Musgrave did mention certain places that are worthwhile to check out, although perhaps not for the reasons one might normally expect. “I think our most famous attractions are things that aren’t there anymore. We have the Golden Spruce (Kiidk’yaas), that was cut down. We have the white raven, that was electrocuted. We have the church that Emily Carr painted, that burned down. So you could do a whole tour on Haida Gwaii of things that used to be there,” Musgrave said.
The New York Times highlighed SG̱ang Gwaay UNESCO World Heritage site in the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve as one of the main focal points, where the Haida Gwaii Watchmen, local guides, escort visitors on a tour of an abandoned 19th century Haida village, now occupied only by totem poles, longhouses and the spirits of their ancestors.
|(Flavien Mabit photo)
Evan Putterill, North Coast Regional District director for Electoral Area E, feels Haida Gwaii’s placement on the list will assist with tourism to the island, despite some lodging not being in top shape.
“Some campsites are not very well maintained but it does not matter. They do not need to be in tip-top shape because most people who come here spend their time outside,” he said.
Putterill suggested Gray Bay near Sandspit as an attractive campground destination, as are any of the many outdoor activities on the island, including surfing on the north beach or exploring Gwaii Haanas.
He added the Haida Heritage Centre at the historical village of Ḵay Llnagaay is a must-see for any visitor due to its cultural significance, along with the other museums on the islands.
|Cumshewa Village, located along the northern entrance to the Cumshewa Inlet. (Flavien Mabit photo)
Starting in June 2020 a Haida Gwaii Islands Expedition will be available, an eight day journey of Haida Gwaii and the surrounding waters. The Haida House also offers tourist packages that are led by Haida guides, and involve various cultural activities.
Musgrave, though, recommends an organic approach to visiting Haida Gwaii, if people want to get the most fulfilling experience. “People find it so magical that there’s somewhere left in the world where it’s up to you how to spend your days, and nobody’s telling you how to do it. It used to be that the world was more like that, but it’s not so much now,” Musgrave said.
”People discover the islands themselves, and therefore they feel more special. You have to find what the islands have to offer.”
-with files from Jenna Cocullo
Alex Kurial | Journalist
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