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Canada: Treasure Island

You don't have to travel across the world to get off the map. British Columbia's Haida Gwaii boasts uncharted coastline, seaside hot springs, and more sea lions, whales, and bears than you can count.


Hot spring Island to SGang Gwaay/Ninstints

Experience tranquil hot springs, empty beaches, towering totems and trees, and lavish sea life on this 10-day paddle in Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and to the Haida Heritage Site (the journey includes highlights of the author’s route). A Zodiac shuttle from Moresby Camp plunks you onto Hot Spring Island, where you’ll warm up in an alfresco Jacuzzi, then paddle a half hour to nearby Murchinson or Ramsay Islands. The following day, make a tough two-hour crossing of Juan Perez Sound to camp on Burnaby Island. On day three, head southwest for Burnaby Narrows and its hallucinogenic intertidal zone, or circle around Burnaby’s outer shore to Skincuttle Inlet to spot endangered birds.

Press south past Ikeda Bay to the Rankin Islands, where nearby open water is home to Steller sea lions and orcas. Cross Carpenter Bay and peel around the headlands of Benjamin Point, then wait for an inward current (check your tide chart) to pull you into the Houston Stewart Channel. Turn south at Kunghit Island to pull ashore near Rose Harbour, an old whaling station. Grab a bed at the Rose Harbour Guest House ($120/night with meals;, or just dinner and a shower ($35). The last day, paddle to the western coast to see precipitous fjords. Your final stop: Hike with a Haida interpreter through SGang Gwaay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the most standing original totem poles in the world. Catch a Zodiac (or a seaplane) ride back to Moresby Camp.

Do it Consider hiring a guide. Rough weather and paddling conditions will test even expert kayakers. Guide Ocean Sound Kayaking ( offers full-service, 10-day trips from $2,395 CDN.
Park Independent visitors must attend an orientation with Parks Canada staff. Entry fees are $20 CDN/day, $118/season (
Transportation/gear rental Moresby Explorers ( offers shuttles from Sandspit to Gwaii Haanas ($175 to Hot Spring Island), plus kayak rentals ($360 CDN for 10 days).

Cape Fife/Rose Spit/Tow Hill Loop, Graham island

This 21.7-mile, three-day loop in Naikoon Provincial Park undulates through coastal forests and across driftwood-strewn sandscapes to Rose Spit, a 3.7-mile-long tongue of sand and gravel dunes lolling into the ocean. Start at the Cape Fife trailhead near Masset and hike through winding, mostly flat Sitka spruce forest. Grouse, bear, and Sitka deer hide here. At mile 6.2, you’ll hit the beach and the cozy Cape Fife shelter. On clear evenings, hike two more miles north along East Beach and find a campsite near the driftwood piles.

The next morning, continue two miles to your second camp at Rose Spit and watch for bald eagles perching in the trees and harbor seals offshore. Wander up the spit to spot more than 64 species of birds and round its point to see the blue-green waves of the North Pacific pound the shore (hike this section at low tide). Keep your eyes peeled for Steller sea lions (our scout saw four) in the kelp beds. Squint north and spot Alaska’s Prince of Wales and Dall Islands. Stay another night here, or cover the 12 miles back to Hiellen River and your car in one day.

Do it Expect fog, wind, and rain anytime; late July/August offers the best chance for optimal conditions. Hike counterclockwise to keep prevailing winds and blowing sand at your back. Tank up at unnamed streams and bogs on the eastern coast.Carry a tide chart, too.

Fly to Sandspit, B.C., on Moresby Island via Vancouver. Or, take a train to Vancouver (, then fly to Sandspit directly (approximately $450). Feeling adventurous? Drive to Prince Rupert and jump a seven-hour car ferry to Skidegate on Haida Gwaii ($126-$153;

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