Family Travel Guide: Haida Gwaii

There are four areas of Haida Gwaii to discover

  • South Haida Gwaii: Skidegate and Queen Charlotte
  • North Haida Gwaii: Tow Hill
  • West Haida Gwaii: Rennell Sound
  • Gwaii Hannas: National Park Reserve

Getting to Haida Gwaii

From Edmonton, there are sixteen hours of driving time, and eight hours of ferry time via BC Ferries (plus a few hours of waiting in your vehicle at the Ferry Dock) to get to Haida Gwaii. Gas costs make the road trip with multiple children more affordable than flights and the ferry is reasonably priced at $143/vehicle, $40/adult and $20/child. There was no fee for Stella (21 months).

Read: Guide to Northern Adventure to Haida Gwaii via BC Ferries

You’ve got two options when it comes to the ferry, spending the day on the Ferry, or travelling overnight. The overnight ferry boards at 10 pm – so to have a place to contain the kids we rented one of the cabins for $97/night. During the day, the cabin was unnecessary as there was so much to see and explore on the ferry, spending time outside searching for dolphins and birds, exploring the multiple docks and spending time in the kids zone with new friends. At night though, after spending about an hour waiting in the vehicle, they were ready for a quick walk around the boat and to head to our cabin and tuck-in for the night. The cabin had four bunks, two upper and two lower, with enough space for us to set-up a travel pack and play on between the bunks.

The overnight ferry, though a convenient way to decrease your travel days, because you can literally travel while everyone sleeps, will land you in Haida Gwaii bright and early at 6 am – so unless you’ve made accomodations for early check-in, the day time option would be our recommendation on the way to Haida Gwaii, with the night time option for the way back, getting you on the road nice and early – making it easier to complete a drive from Prince Rupert to Edmonton in one day.

Read: How we did the sixteen hour road trip from Prince Rupert to Edmonton in one day

Getting Around Haida Gwaii

To travel with the kids and see everything that there is to see, we’re going to suggest bringing a vehicle to the island. Travelling from Skidegate to Masset is a ninety minute drive, and we have things to see on our list between the two towns. To best explore everything, you’re going to want to have transportation.

It’s one simple highway from end to the other, so finding your way (and things to explore along the way) is very, very easy. There is often no cel service in between towns though, so make sure to load those coordinates into Google Maps (Apple Maps wasn’t very helpful in knowing where to go), before you leave the town.

Where to Stay in Haida Gwaii with Kids

  • North Beach Cabins
    North Beach Cabins located at Tow Hill are eco-resort style of cabins that put you seconds from the shoreline or nestled in a bed of moss. These comfortable, rustic cabins should be booked well in advance of your vacation. 
  • AirBNB Rentals
    There are a number of Air BNB properties on the island. Whatever the size, and whatever your preferences – from off the grid in front of the ocean to a family-friendly house in a neighbourhood with playgrounds and Wi-fi, you’ve got many options. Get $45 off of your stay, sign up using this link
  • Agate Beach Camping
    There are many places to camp on the island, but if you want magic (and don’t mind the wind), camp in front of Agate Beach at the first come first serve campsite, for $15/night.

Things to do in Haida Gwaii with Kids

  • Balance Rock
    Near Skidegate, located a short walk down a set of hand-made stairs to the beach is a rock that balances seemingly precariously on it’s own. Visit at low tide. Bonus: there’s a rope swing that someone has fashioned at the entrance to the left from a large tree branch.
  • Jungle Beach
    Located near Skidegate, Jungle Beach is a warm oasis compared to the beaches of the North side of the island. The water is warm enough for the youngest of kids, and the sand is soft and ready to play with (don’t forget your sand toys for this beach!). The shore was relatively free of seaweeds and rocks, and easily navigated in bare feet. It’s not one of the best places for shells and rock collecting, but if you’re searching for a relaxing day at the beach – this is it. There’s an incredible driftwood and cement lookout tower that was created to the left of the entrance path, and the entrance is located near the pull-out point on the road.
  • Tow Hill
    There are two different boardwalked trails at Tow Hill that are worth exploring, both overlooking the Blowhole, an area where water pushed up from the tide escapes the rocks appearing like a Blowhole. Both trails are under 800 m and easily traversed, even by toddlers. Skip the stroller, though it’s accessible – it’s easier without. Visit the lower trail during low tide to explore the tide pools, and during high tide to experience the magic of ‘the Blowhole’.
  • The Blowhole
    At the end of the trails at Tow Hill is the ‘Blowhole’, where water is forced through the rocks from the power of the waves and it looks like a Whale’s Blowhole. There are two different experiences, when you visit at low tide, and at high tide.
  • Ops Beach 
    Searching for starfish in the incredible tide pools of North Beach, created from lava formations hundreds of millions of years ago, is a must-do experience. We found tide pools full of bright coloured starfish, for the kids to discover and explore. Ops beach is located on a gravel road, just past the ‘S’ bend in the road, immediately past the naval base outside of Masset. Visit at low tide, it’s an incredible landscape.
  • Pure Lake 
    Rent a Stand up Paddleboard from North Beach Surf Shop in town and make the short drive to Pure Lake, outside of Masset. It’s a welcome change from the windy shores of the ocean, and the kids will love the clay deposits to play in, and enjoy the shallow water.
  • Trail of the Golden Spruce 
    Learn the story behind the Golden Spruce and explore this trail outside of Port Clements that will bring you through old growth forest, and teach you more about the local culture on the way. You’ll learn the tale of the Spruce, and to the left of the entrance of the path you’ll find a ten foot wide tree with a corridor inside that the kids can run and walk through. The old-growth, moss covered forest, is incredible.
  • North Beach 
    Our favourite beachcombing experience, where we collected a diverse amount of shells, was 14.2 kilometres down Tow Hill Road. Look for a small sign that says ‘beach access’ on the left side of the road and you’ll find a magical assortment of shells. We visited twice, and the second time had to walk only down the path to find incredible scallop shells, agates, and more – so it’s a short walk. It’s very windy though, dress the kids warmer than you think you need to for a trip to the beach.
  • Pesuta Shipwreck
    The ten kilometre return hike begins at the day use area at Tlell River Bridge. The hike is best for older children, as our younger ones did not fare well and even make it close to the shipwreck. East beach is a fantastic place to explore, and as long as you stick to the upper trail and time your hike with the tide so you’re able to explore the wreck, it’s an interesting place to explore.

READ: The best beaches for beach combing in Haida Gwaii.

Where to Eat in Haida Gwaii with Kids

Co-op | Masset
has a decent selection of pizza and hot items that are ready to eat, in Masset. It was one of our go-to stops when the kids wanted something quick and on the go. Pizza slices, mini pizzas, sausage rolls and spanakopita were some of the items that we grabbed regularly for the kids.

Moons over Naikoon | Tow Hill Road
Cinnamon buns, five dollar slices of pizza at lunch time and cheese and cinnamon buns to take home and enjoy later, this quaint bakery on a bus was a great stop on the way to adventures at North Beach.

Charter’s | Masset
A local food truck, you’ll find juicy chicken burgers, beef burgers and pulled pork sandwiches. Don’t miss the five-dollar seared tuna tacos – they’re a delicious dinner option for the summer season!

Sandy’s Seafood | Masset
Fish and chips to go where you’ll get two pieces of fish and fries for $18, this fish and chips joint is worth a stop for the fresh fish and friendly service. While you’re there, check out the shore for pieces of sea glass.

There aren’t an excessive amount of places to eat on the island – and I would suggest bringing along with you the basics, because though the prices aren’t completely exorbitant at the local grocery store, it does make things easier when the meals are planned ahead of time and you’ve got snacks for the road!

How Long should You Spend Exploring Haida Gwaii with Kids

Time slows down when you visit Haida Gwaii, there’s no rush to do anything and we spent a lot of downtime walking across the shores, beach combing and searching for shells and just sitting in the sand. Though there is plenty to see and explore with the kids, you could see everything in a few days on the island. We spent a full seven days on the island, and we explored slowly, you could explore everything that we explored in three to four days, easily.

As we were travelling with young children, we didn’t explore Gwaii Hanaas National Park. To get to the nation park, it was a ten hour round trip on a Zodiac boat, and travelling with a toddler doesn’t allow for that long of a day trip, in our house. Spending a few hours on the Zodiac boat to Louise Island would have been an incredible experience, and we’ve added it to our list for next time.