There’s no doubt that beautiful Haida Gwaii is unique. Miles of agate covered beaches, stunning forests, the incredible culture and history of the Haida, and wild, edible foods are just a few of the reasons people visit here every year. But as tourist numbers increase, the ability of the island’s infrastructure to accommodate them gets tested. Visitors often find themselves having to adjust to the complexities of staying in such an isolated place. Here are a few tips to keep in mind while exploring Haida Gwaii.

Eating Out
One of the first things visitors to Haida Gwaii discover is the lack of evening dining options. Although there are wonderful places to eat throughout Haida Gwaii, visitors must take care to check what amenities are available in each community and until what time. In the summer the sun may not set until almost midnight. Coming back from a beach walk to discover restaurants and grocery
stores already closed for the night can be frustrating, so check the hours of operation for local establishments before heading out on an adventure.

Driving on backroads or along the beach also has its challenges. There are only a few gas stations on Haida Gwaii and only one between Masset and Skidegate. Make sure you are aware of their operating hours, know the limitations of your vehicle and plan accordingly. If you’re planning a beach drive, make sure you have a copy of the local tide tables with  you. Many vehicles have been lost or stranded because of incoming tides. And here’s another local tip — never leave your vehicle idling for too long below the tide line. The vibrations can cause the vehicle to sink in the sand!
The logging roads of Haida Gwaii can take you to some of the most beautiful spots in the world. Most of these roads are still active and used by logging trucks. To avoid dangerous situations, check with local authorities as to which roads are safe for travel and learn the proper protocol for driving them. It’s a good idea to bring along a radio to communicate with truck drivers.

Hiking in the forest is another favourite pastime here. But be careful. The light fades quickly under the dense canopies of these forests and the darkness can catch hikers off guard. Always bring a flashlight as well as some extra water and warm clothing. Let someone know of your plans and when to expect you back. This is one of the most important things to remember when adventuring on Haida Gwaii. Rapidly changing weather and declining light pose formidable challenges here. Letting someone know when to expect you back and where to find you can be a lifesaver.

The forests are full of harvestable foods. But they are also full of non-harvestable foods that can make you ill. Check with locals for tips on finding and identifying edible foods. Always be respectful when exploring the forests and beaches. Obey posted rules and regulations and be aware of trespassing on private property.

Meeting the Locals
Haida Gwaii is full of welcoming people willing to help you explore this amazing place. Interacting with locals and asking questions is a great way to find hidden gems. If you are renting a vehicle, don’t forget to wave at other drivers on the road (a local custom) and have fun enjoying all the great things Haida Gwaii has to offer.

Story by Chris Williams, SOAR magazine contributer