Should I get travel insurance?
Travel insurance and/or trip cancellation insurance is always recommended. Frequently, many transportation routes (both plane and ferry), as well as land and ocean tours on Haida Gwaii are postponed or cancelled due to weather and sea conditions. This applies year-round.
Is there public transit available on island?
Unfortunately, there is no public transportation on island. Most communities will have vehicle rentals and/or taxi service. There are several companies on island that will provide taxi services and tours.
Are all roads on Haida Gwaii passable for a camper? A small vehicle? Are there unpaved roads?
There are about 140kms of paved/maintained highway and municipal roads on the islands that are suitable for most vehicles. It's always advisable to check Drive BC for up-to-date road conditions. There is also an extensive network of gravel forest service roads, some suitable for a camper-van on short distances, and some not advisable. Enquire locally at the Visitor Information Centres for information on the state of the roads.
How safe is it to bike around the islands?
Cycling is a great way to experience Haida Gwaii for experienced cyclists. There are bike rental shops to help with your island adventure. Haida Gwaii has a limited network of paved roads, some of which have a small shoulder, oftentimes no shoulder. There are also many blind corners and traffic travels at a high rate of speed on many sections of the highway. Make sure you have bright / reflective clothing and lights on. There is a much more extensive network of forest service roads that can take you farther into the wilderness, though it is not for everybody. If you decide to head into the more remote parts of the islands, make sure you are well-equipped, extensively prepared for yourself and your bike, and know what to due in case of emergencies.
I would like to go to Gwaii Haanas, how can one get there?
There is no road access to Gwaii Haanas - the park is limited to floatplane or boat. Visitors who come to explore Gwaii Haanas do so either as part of a guided trip, travelling with a licensed tour operator, or on a self-guided adventure. For a list of licensed tour operators, including floatplane service, visit the Gwaii Haanas website at https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/bc/gwaiihaanas/visit
Is it necessary to book tours in advance (e.g. day tours around Haida Gwaii or excursions to Gwaii Haanas, etc)?
All tours on Haida Gwaii, especially to Gwaii Haanas National Park, should be booked in advance. Most tour companies offer excursions from May to September only. Sometimes tour operators may have an extra seat or two available day-of, but for peace of mind it's better to secure your spot before you get here. Off-season (October-April) tours are sometimes available by advance arangement - they vary by operator. Places like the Haida Heritage Centre & Saahlinda Naay Haida Gwaii Museum are open year-round, but may change hours - always check their website for updated information. Naikoon Provincial Park does not require reservations to enter the park.
What about earth quake or tsunami danger?
Haida Gwaii is one of Canada's most seimically active areas. If you are near the shoreline and feel a major earthquake making it difficult to stand, you must “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” and then evacuate to higher ground immediately. High ground on is considered anything over 10m above the high water mark. Ask your accommodation provider about evacuation spots and muster points. In 2018, BC Hydro poles were painted with blue arrows to indicate the path to evacuation areas.
If a tsunami threat (or any other emergency like flooding or wildfires) is identified, authorities will notify the public via Environment Canada EC Alert, VHF 16, media like radio or TV, and directly to all LTE cell phones through AlertReady in the impacted area. Tsunami Sirens are located in the communities of Queen Charlotte Daajing Giids, HlG̲aagilda Skidegate, Masset and G̲aw Tlagee Old Massett. The warnings sound like an air-raid siren. Every Tuesday at 7 pm, the Village of Masset tests their emergency sirens; the fire department call out warning is first, and the tsunami warning siren is second. The Village of Queen Charlotte & HlG̲aagilda test their sirens every third Thursday in October during the provincial-wide Shake Out BC day.
Can I drive on the beach?
Rental companies will not allow you to drive their vehicles on the beaches. Make sure you check and abide by those directives. Every year vehicles get stuck out on the beaches. Additionally, irresponsible vehicle driving causes damage to the sensitive beach environment, river crossings, clam beds and more. We advise all visitors to keep their vehicles off the beaches. Better to explore with your feet or by bicyle.
How do I travel on forest service roads?
If you have your own vehicle and want to explore, it's always a good idea to check road conditions at any of the local visitor information centres, Drive BC or the Haida Gwaii FLNRO office. Nearly all of the forest service roads are without cellphone service and sparsely travelled. Forest access roads may be rough, not all hazards are necessarily signed, and road conditions can change at any time. Roads to more remote recreation sites and trails (like Rennell Sound) are generally maintained to a 'wilderness standard', which means that they can be rugged in sections. Motorists should expect rough surfaces, potholes and cross-ditches. Not all vehicles are suitable for wilderness standard roads in all weather conditions.
Since roads to recreation sites are often used by logging trucks, drivers with two-way radios may benefit from tuning into the appropriate frequencies to communicate with other road users. Forest Service Roads have signs at their entrances indicating the name of the road and the radio frequency to tune in. If you are a user of a two-way radio, you should tune in to the appropriate frequency and then call in your location and direction. Keep in mind that not all road users will have radios. Logging trucks use all or most of the road width because of their size and loads. Please give logging trucks and other industrial traffic the right-of-way. Due to their size, they just can’t manoeuvre the way personal vehicles can. When driving on these roads, turn your lights on and go slow! Day or night, the more visible you are, the better your chances of avoiding trouble. All drivers must be prepared to react to unexpected conditions and to be able to stop safely. For your own sake, stay alert and always be ready to take evasive action. Remember, lots of dust means oncoming traffic.