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The Trip To Rose Harbour In Haida Gwaii

The Trip to Rose Harbour in Haida Gwaii

It took 20 years of dreaming to make my kayaking trip to Gwaii Haanas National Park Preserve, located at the tip of Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlottes), a reality. My husband and I along with two very good friends joined a tour organized by Green Coast Kayaking.

The trip to Rose Harbour started in Sandspit with a bouncy shuttle on a rough forest road to a boat launch. From there it was a four hour  chilly boat ride to Rose Harbour where the actual kayaking tour started.

We were a congenial group of nine – two guides plus seven guests. The whole trip was eight days in length – which included the better part of a day just to get to our launch site.

Sandspit is a place that lives up to its name. It’s just a narrow strip of sandy land with an airport at one end. Most people fly into Sandspit from Vancouver, an especially pretty flight if the day is clear.  

From the logistics perspective, you must spend the night in Sandspit before heading out on a boat shuttle from Moresby Camp to Rose Harbour. Some time in Sandspit allows you to pick up any last minute groceries you might have forgotten – and to walk the pretty beach.

The landing strip in Sandspit is on the spit of sand in the distance
The landing strip in Sandspit is on the spit of sand in the distance

Kayaking from Rose Harbour

The plan for our trip was to boat down to Rose Harbour with Moresby Explorers and then spend a week paddling back to Burnaby Narrows. We would get a pick-up from Moresby Explorers seven days later, organized via a SAT phone.

The boat ride is notoriously chilly. We were warned ahead of time to pull out all of our warm clothes. Once you get moving, it’s virtually impossible to put any clothing on as you’re speeding along at such a fast clip. I had six layers on!

Dressed in 6 layers for the boat ride
Dressed in 6 layers for the boat ride to Rose Harbour
Our launch site is about an hour's drive from Sandspit
Our launch site is about an hour’s drive from Sandspit
Checking the route to Rose Harbour
Checking the route
We'll be on this boat for almost four hours
We’ll be on this boat for almost four hours
Bundled up while getting the safety briefing
Bundled up while getting the safety briefing

The boat ride to Rose Harbour

The boat ride to Rose Harbour sure lived up to its reputation. It was very cold and so windy that we all tucked our faces into jackets for most of the journey.

On the rare occasion, when we did look around, the landscape was very beautiful – and in one area we were lucky enough to see a humpback whale.

Calmest waters are are the start of the boat trip
Calmest waters are are the start of the boat trip
Open water where we did spot a humpback whale
Open water where we did spot a humpback whale
Landed and off-loaded at Rose Harbour
Landed and off-loaded at Rose Harbour

Rose Harbour is an abandoned whaling station

Rose Harbour gets its name for the blood-coloured waters that once filled the bay. Now, it’s a peaceful spot with only traces of rusted whaling equipment around.

We ended up camping nearby as this part of the rainforest offers a blanket of soft, thick moss that makes for very comfortable sleeping.

Of note was the number of skinny deer around. As they can’t be hunted, their numbers are growing but their food supply is dwindling. We saw loads of them eating the seaweed along the shore.

Old iron ??? leftover from the days when Rose Harbour was a whaling station
Remnants from the days when the harbour was a whaling station
Deer munching on seaweed
Deer munching on seaweed
Our home on the first night out, just a 15 minute paddle from Rose Harbour
Our home on the first night out, just a 15 minute paddle from Rose Harbour

The first day gave us a small taste of the landscape we’d see and the beauty of the area. I don’t think anything beats the west coast for a kayaking trip.

Where to stay at Rose Harbour

There is actually a beautiful though rustic guest house in Rose Harbour called the Rose Harbour Guest House. Since we were on a week long kayaking trip and camping we didn’t need any accommodation. But we did have dinner here at the end of our trip and it was beautifully presented – think gourmet dining in the rainforest – see below.

There are also some interesting tours and things to do in and out of Rose Harbour. Try their giant swing if you dare. Do a forest walk and discover the remains of a partially carved Haida canoe. Admire the beautiful flower and vegetable garden. Then arrange for specialized side-trips to complement your stay.

A Haida canoe that was never finished, perhaps because smallpox decimated the population
A Haida canoe that was never finished, perhaps because smallpox decimated the population
The giant swing
John having a blast on the giant swing

Eating in the rainforest

Susan, along with her one helper, offers up gorgeous meals from organic produce grown in her garden supplemented with food her son (who owns Moresby Explorers) brings from Sandspit.

She’s been doing this for years and as a kayaker, it’s a real treat to be having fresh vegetables after you’ve been out for a week. We’d only been out for three days, but the meal was still a sensory delight. No wonder she gets so booked up. We were lucky she could accommodate our big group.

Eating in the rainforest
Delicious food and gorgeous presentation in the rainforest
Stuffed grape leaves are divine
Stuffed grape leaves are divine
Lots of hungry kayakers
Lots of hungry kayakers

Further reading on kayaking in Gwaii Haanas 

Check out the Haida Gwaii website for ideas on what to do on a visit.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A trip to Rose Harbour in Haida Gwaii, BC

 

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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