Thursday, July 24th15°C
Weekly Travel Review

Haida Gwaii

Formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands - Haida Gwaii is 300 km long, in a rough triangular shape from 100 km wide across the top, tapering to a point at Cape St. James at the south end. Tucked under the coastline of islands that form the Alaska panhandle they are 75 km from the American border, approximately 120 km west of the outer islands of the northern BC coastline and 770 km by air from Vancouver, BC.

The climate of the Queen Charlottes is very mild. The annual temperature is a balmy 8°C (46°F). The summer temperatures are similar to those in Northern and Central BC. It is the winter temperatures, which are moderated by the Japanese current that are much higher than winter temperatures of inland BC and the rest of Canada. This makes these waters the perfect spot for both land animals and sea creatures.

Queen Charlotte Islands is a collection of about 150 islands resting on the western edge of the continental shelf. There are two main islands, Graham Island to the north and Moresby Island to the south. About 5,000 people share these islands, most residing on Graham Island in the communities of Queen Charlotte City, Tlell, Port Clements, Masset and the two Haida communities of Skidegate and Old Masset. Sandspit is located on the northeastern tip of Moresby Island. A 20 minute ferry ride and 130 kilometers of pavement connect the two islands and their communities.

The southern part of Moresby Island is Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve/Haida Heritage Site. The area, unique because of its spectacular west coast scenery, rich ecology and Haida culture is cooperatively managed by Parks Canada and the Council of the Haida Nation - the Archipelago Management Board, plans, operates and shares the management of Gwaii Haanas. Experience wilderness, solitude, adventure, discovery and Haida culture. Wildlife encounters may include whales, bald eagles, colourful ocean life, or some of the one million seabirds nesting along the shores, as well as black bears, river otters and sea lions.

These islands have been home to the Haida for thousands of years. A recent archaeological inventory of the area has documented more than 500 Haida archaeological and historical sites. The village of SGang Gwaay, located at the southern end of Gwaii Haanas is considered to have the world's finest display of Haida mortuary poles, all over one hundred years old. In consultation with the Haida, UNESCO declared Nan Sdins Illnagaay (Ninstints) a World Heritage Site in 1981. Gwaii Haanas is considered a wilderness park and is accessible by air or water and reservations and participation in an orientation are required if traveling independently.

Naikoon Provincial Park is situated on the northeast part of Graham Island and covers an area of 72,640 hectare of Haida Gwaii. It is a park of diverse environments - sandy beaches, sand dunes, old-growth forests, rivers, and oceans. Sitka spruce and hemlock flourish in well drained areas. The vegetation on the beaches is similar along the whole coastline of the park. The main attraction of Naikoon Provincial Park is its seemingly endless kilometres of broad sand beaches. Towl Hill, a 100 metre outcrop of basalt columns stands out as a prominent landmark on the north beach and Rose Spit, an ecological reserve that offers great opportunities to observe migrating birds traveling south on the Pacific flyway. Add to this the rich heritage and mystic of the Haida culture and the more recent settler history and you have a truly unique experience. Naikoon has two vehicle access campgrounds and endless opportunities for wilderness walk-in camping.

Misty Meadows campground is located at the south end of the park just behind the sand dunes in the community of Tlell and provides a great central base for fishing the Tlell River, boating on Mayer Lake, hiking East Beach, and exploring the rest of the islands. Agate Beach campground, located 26 km east of Masset offers beachfront campsites and easy access to Tow Hill, North Beach, and the Cape Fife Trailhead. Both campgrounds offer picnic shelters to dry out on rainy days, pit toilets, water, and firewood. Open year round there is a fee collected from mid May through September.

Reservations are not available for either campground. Wilderness camping is permitted throughout the park, with three rustic shelters located along East Beach at the mouths of the Cape Ball and Oceanda Rivers, and at Fife Point. Naikoon is considered a wilderness park without supplies of any kind. For more information on Naikoon park and hiking the East beach, please visit BC Parks.

Most famous though is the Queen Charlotte's for its amazing fishing for all levels of fisherman. Not only can you arrange all types of fishing tours and excursions, but through your local travel agent you can make arrangements for kayaking, air and land tours, sail boating, power boating tours, diving excursions and much more!

Air Canada offers regular daily flights from Vancouver International Airport to Sandspit.

North Pacific Seaplanes has daily float plane service between Prince Rupert and Masset and service three times a week between Prince Rupert and Sandspit/Queen Charlotte City.

Pacific Coastal Airlines also provides daily service from Vancouver's South Terminal to Masset during the summer and service three times a week during the shoulder and winter season.

If flying is not for you then how about an adventure on BC Ferries. The Queen Charlotte Islands are accessed by a six hour ferry trip from the port city of Prince Rupert on the mainland coast of British Columbia three times a week. Reservations are highly recommended and the earlier the better.
For more information on this Canadian Coastal Treasure of Islands, have a chat with your Travel Agent or visit this website: 


Newfoundland & Labrador

Perhaps most famous for its language and food, Newfoundland & Labrador is an adventure of its own waiting to be discovered by the inquisitive traveller. Boasting of impressive landscapes, Viking ruins and landing sites of the early explorers John Cabot and Leif Erickson, this land also offers a wide array of sea and land wildlife as well as amazing ocean views and iceberg watching.
  With enough coastline to stretch back and forth across Canada four times over, there's no shortage of places to explore on this island known to locals as "The Rock". Have a stroll along many trails, some along ancient footpaths, through inlets, coves and bays. You'll find plenty of salt box houses, icebergs, whales and seabirds. And likely chances are you'll encounter a moose or two. A spin up the Cape Shore is like an escape to the Emerald Isle, or travel down to Port au Port for a taste of France.

Newfoundlanders are a warm and welcoming people with a vibrant spirit and more colourful sayings and expressions than you could 'shake a stick at'. Known to be the friendliest people on earth, they are undeniably full of quick wit, hospitality, and charm. They have more dialects of English than anywhere else in the world, with their very own encyclopedia and dictionary. The Island language stems from Newfoundland's English, Irish, French, and Aboriginal influences which have done and still do much to colour the cultural landscape. And even the supposedly dead language of Gaelic can still be found if you know where to listen. The multitude of dialects found here has been steadfastly preserved, even if it varies up and down the very same stretch of coast.

With ingredients from their oceans, lakes, rivers, game, plants and gardens they have some of the most unique recipes on earth. Lobster, cod, caribou, salmon and moose. Recipes handed down from generation to generation have created Newfoundland and Labrador's cuisine. Taste recipes you’ve never heard of with names you’ll never forget: Colcannon, Doughboys, Pea soup, Salt Fish and Brewis, Toutons, and Cod Tongues to name a few. Try a Jigg’s Dinner, a staple of traditional Newfoundland ‘scoff’. For dessert try Figgy Duff, a delicious 16th-century pudding that’s a favourite! And how about Salmon Ravioli, Braised Rabbit Pie, Caribou Bourguignon and Bakeapple Cheesecake?

Newfoundland and Labrador is the best place in the world to view icebergs. They can even be viewed from shore on a warm summer’s day. Thousands of these icebergs break off from glaciers along the Greenland coast and are carried south along the Labrador Current before lingering along shorelines. Most are seen in the late spring and early summer which is the best time to go viewing. And as for the wildlife, the bears roam free, as do the moose and the caribou, by the hundreds of thousands. There are 22 species of whales alone, including the world’s largest migrating population of humpbacks. The 35 million seabirds that fill the air above the cliffs can be easily viewed by birders of any experience level. View kittiwakes and gannets, bald eagles, storm petrels and the infamous Puffins.

For more information on visiting this spectacular Canadian island, have a chat with your local travel agent.

Canada by rail

What better way to experience Canada than by a great Canadian travel tradition ... rail!

Why travel by rail? For one, peace of mind. Anyone who's experienced air travel over the last few years has experienced long lines, heightened security, and a general sense of insanity. (JK) Rail travel on the other hand is a very relaxing experience. Self check-in online or at kiosks in the station, no lines to worry about for security, luggage, etc. Check in and hop on. Comfortable seating allows a more enjoyable trip with amazing views. Rail has become a more charming experience than other forms of travel offering a heightened level of service than conventional means of transportation. With freedom of movement and no lengthy safety spiels or too tight seat belts, you're free to browse about the cabin moving from car to car. Have a meal, take a nap, enjoy a book or take pictures of the ever changing views.. all without disturbance. Enjoy the comfortable seating that provides ample leg room along with a turbulence free experience - all while enjoying scenery (and wildlife) seen no where else on earth.
Since its birth in 1990, the Rocky Mountaineer rail company, (a B.C. family owned business) has become the largest privately owned passenger rail service in North America and has treated over one million guests in its 24 years. The goal of such a company: provide the most spectacular and unforgettable travel experiences in the world. And where else to institute such an experience than right here in our own beautiful British Columbia? The Rocky Mountaineer offers over 45 different Canadian rail packages on five distinctive rail routes through British Columbia and Alberta. This world renowned, award winning, luxurious train, travels by daylight through the beauty of Canada’s West and is the best way to experience the Canadian Rockies, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Add an Alaskan Cruise or a trip to the beautiful mountains of Whistler. With over 45 itineraries to choose from there are a variety of options and travel dates for most budgets and travel styles.
Want to venture further than B.C. and Alberta? Then VIA Rail has just what you're looking for! With 19 cross country rail routes you can literally rail road it form west coast to east coast and back. Divided into 4 sections of options you can experience the Rockies & Pacific, Prairies & Northern Manitoba, Ontario & Quebec or, Atlantic Canada. With free onboard WiFi and consistent cell phone usage coverage areas, you can stay in touch while experiencing breathtaking scenery and views. Add a hotel stop in each location and experience places not easily accessible other than by rail (or road) such as Pakatawagan Manitoba, White River Ontario or Jasper Alberta. With sleeping cars and lounges the ride is smooth and comfortable all the way. There are a variety of fares and schedules to choose from as well as deals and discounts to be had such as senior's rates, children's fares, booking bonuses and more!
Heading somewhere in Canada this summer? Talk to your Travel Agent today about a rail option versus an air option.


Spring fever anyone?

It's that time of year where we're so close to summer yet it seems so far from the sun, sand and warmth. And those of us who never got a chance to get away over winter have got it.... spring fever! The nagging need for a quick get-away, a rumble outside the valley. A break from life in general to recharge and prepare our minds and soul for the beautiful summer we await. How to tamper this beast within? How about that quick trip south to recharge and rejuvenate! Here are a few suggestions for a 3 to 5 day holiday that won't break the bank but will re-energize the soul to hang on for just a little longer..... Just what the doctor ordered!!

San Diego California - with average daily temperatures in the mid 20s for May, there's rarely a cloud in the sky or an overcast day! And with warm sandy beaches open for play there's plenty of places to work on that time in the San Diego bay area. Spend a day shopping in the famed San Diego Zoo or the Wild Animal Park. Or spend time at some of the world's finest eateries along the marina or in the Little Italy district. With great connections from Kelowna, San Diego is only a couple quick hops away! Visit the official tourism site here : 

Cabo San Lucas - what a better place to get away to than the Baja Peninsula on the pacific coast of Mexico. With average May/June temperatures in the high 20s to low 30s the climate resembles Palm Springs and has little to no rainfall. With great connections from Kelowna with WestJet, a 5 day stay in sunny Cabo may be just what you need! A variety of accommodations are available from home or condo rentals to luxury 5-star all inclusive resorts. Your travel agent can help you with flights and the best accommodations for your needs. See more about Cabo here : 

Yuma Arizona - the 100 year old desert oasis sits on the edge of the Colorado River and is a short drive away from the Mexican border. An RV lovers hot spot with an abundance of RV parks and campgrounds awaits. With agriculture being the #1 industry in Arizona, Yuma has developed Agro-Tourism. Visit some great farms, wineries and local butcher shops, eateries and bakeries. See more about Yuma here:

With many more amazing places to visit just south of the border the variety of locations for a quick get-away are endless! Stop in to see a professional travel consultant today to arrange your get-away!

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About the Author

Laura has been a successful Certified Travel Counsellor since February 1999. She has worked in both Corporate and Vacation travel departments and has extensive experience as an avid traveller. She currently works as a Senior Consultant at one of the Okanagan's most popular agencies.

To reach her for inquiries you can email: [email protected]


"If you look like your passport photo - you probably need the vacation!"

Your Travel Agent

Laura-Beth Konschuh-Penney


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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