A Travellerspoint blog

Awesome Trip to Haida Gwaii

By James

semi-overcast 15 °C

We are still travelling, but just in shorter trips! And this one was a good one so we thought we would share:

Haida Gwaii used to be called the Queen Charlotte Islands. Its as far west in Canada as you can get! After a 2-hour flight in a thirty-seater plane, where I couldn't see anything because of the massive bank of clouds that blocked my the view, we eventually landed in Sandspit Airport. We rushed to the rental car service and drove 70k/h (the limit was fifty) to get to the ferry before it took off and we'd have to wait another 50 minutes until it came back across the gap between Moresby Island and Graham Island. We got there just as they were closing the gates and got on and about ten seconds later, the ferry left the shore.Twenty minutes later we arrived in Skidegate (pronounced SKI-duh-git) on Graham Island.

After a long two-hour drive up the island we got to Masset. We looked around for a restaurant to grab a bite to eat before driving to where we were staying for the night.We looked around town but all the restaurants were either closed or full. After about 20 minutes of searching we found this place called The Golden Pam and we ate dinner there. After that we drove along North Beach until we reached where we were staying, The Sand Dollar Cabin! It was a cute little cabin that had three beds and it was 60% sleeping space it had a table that was waaaayyy too small for all of us. The next day, we were all woken up by our neighbours in the scallop cabin driving off in their truck to go clam digging, we met them when they came back and they showed us their clams. Daddy had a conversation with them and they asked if they could teach us how to fish for crabs.That was how we ended up on North Beach watching my dad wade around in chest deep water trying to catch a five-inch male Dungeness crab. In the end he did end up catching one and we cooked it up and we (Neve not included) ate it. It's meat was sweet but kinda' rubbery and I didn't like it too much but my parents loved it! The next day, we walked the Tow Hill Trail. Tow Hill is an old volcano and the highest point around for miles and it is less than 125 meters. Pretty pathetic compared to what we have here in Alberta eh? So, anyways we climbed to the top of Tow Hill and we got our first view of the Alaskan panhandle. It wasn't much to see, just a bunch of snow-covered peaks peeking out from above the clouds.

The next day we packed up our stuff and began the drive to Queen Charlotte, the largest town in Haida Gwaii. On our way there, we made multiple stops, the first was the Golden Spruce Trail. Me and my dad hiked the fifteen-minute trail to the bank of a river and on the other side of the river was the skeleton of the golden spruce. For those of you that don't know the story of the golden spruce, here it is. The golden spruce was a large rare spruce tree that's needles were gold in colour. It was worshipped by the Haida People. When Haida Gwaii was logged, they left a small patch of trees including the golden spruce. One man thought this was stupid so one night, in protest against the logging companies, he put a large cut in the bottom of the tree. The next storm, the tree blew down. This angered the Haida People, so they set up a trial for the man in court. But he never made it there, he was lost at sea while kayaking to his trial in Haida Gwaii. To this day some Haida people say they will kill him if he ever returns.

So there it is, the story of the golden spruce. Now, back to my story. After doing the trail, we drove until we reached Port Clements. We then visited the church where we saw the Golden Spruce Jr. It had been grafted from the original tree but since had been grafted as a branch, it looked more like a bush. When we finally reached Queen Charlotte, we went straight to where we were staying, The Echo Bay Lodge! As soon as we got there we were greeted by our host, Terry. Before dinner, we decided to walk down to the visitor centre and we played in their touch pool. When we got back, Terry gave us a crab to have for dinner so we had crab cakes and chicken for dinner. The next day, we went straight to the Spirit Lake Trail, it was a guided hike and our guide was AWESOME! At the end of the hike he sung us a Haida song.

The following day, we drove down to Sandspit and stayed at a B&B for the night. The next morning, we left at 7 am to go on a 4-day Moresby Explorers zodiac tour of Gwaii Hanaas National Park. On our first day we drove for about three hours in our little zodiac boat with a few stops along the way, we stopped at the ancient village site of Skedans and toured around there and listened to the story of each totem pole told by the Haida watchman. After that, as we were zooming out of Skedans, we got a call over the radio that there were killer whales in the area. It was a pod of three or four whales and we followed them around for about an hour and then we continued our boating down to the floating lodge, where we were staying for the night. When we got to the floating lodge we were awestruck because we had counted 123 jellyfish on the way there! We were greeted by our cook, Sunny, and then we had a delicious dinner of salmon (my favourite) and it was DELICIOUS!! The next day me and Neve tried to catch a giant jellyfish with a net but since they are so fragile, we ended up straining it :(

The next day we had a very fun trip down to Rose Harbour. Because the waves were massive we would go flying through the air in our little zodiac boat and then we would hit the next wave with a crash. This continued for about 3 hours and we made a short stop for lunch and then continued on past Rose Harbour to go to S'Gang Gwaii, the most well preserved village in Haida Gwaii. We did a long tour with another Haida Watchman (named James) he told us many Haida stories. That day we also saw puffins, seals, sea lions, and humpback whales. We also watched a black bear hunting crabs. Back at Rose Harbour all the food is made from the seafood found around the harbour and the vegetables grown in the massive garden, all cooked over a wood-fired oven. They also grind their own flour.

The next day we stopped in the famous Burnaby Narrows for lunch. We walked along the beach until we found a shallow area filled with sea stars and giant red crabs that were super aggressive . We spent hours there, catching crabs and playing with sea stars. The clams were skirting out of the sand like a sprinkler system!

When we got to the floating lodge Sunny had prepared us another delicious meal, my mom and I borrowed a kayak and went looking for fossils and counted even more jellyfish. That night I was asleep before my head hit the pillow I was so tired. The next day we left and said good-bye to Sunny and then drove back to Sandspit. We stayed for three nights in Sandspit, did some hiking in old growth forest, and then we flew back to Alberta.

Parent's note: In addition to the stunning scenery and wildlife, the art and culture of Haida Gwaii is very vibrant. We very much appreciated the strong First Nation culture and their willingness to tell us their stories. Highly recommended ecotourism experience!


Posted by Arin MacDyer 18:18 Archived in Canada Tagged trees animals Comments (1)

Rating the Family Travelling Experience

We are back at home and life goes on. It has been wonderful to reconnect with friends and family. We get to experience the things we missed (perogies, more than one change of clothes, toys) and the things we didn't miss (alarm clocks, schedules, housework). Almost everyone asks us what our favourite places were and each of us has a slightly different answer. Below are our list of the top three places we enjoyed the most:


1) Sumatra
2) New Zealand
3) England

1) Australia
2) Sumatra
3) France

1) Sumatra
2) New Zealand
3) France

1) Sumatra
2) New Caledonia
3) Malaysia

But really, our entire year was full of wonderful experiences. 13 countries in all, and to put it another way, we didn't have a single negative experience - no sickness, no theft, no dangerous situations. Part of that was traveling to safe countries, hand washing and careful food choices, and choosing more cautious transportation methods. We still lived it up - ate at street vendors, hiked in jungle, swam in the ocean with sharks and jellyfish, and even managed to routinely cross four lanes of crazy traffic without aid of a crosswalk. Homeschooling was hard, but I would still recommend this type of travel for other families. Our kids were adored and pandered to everywhere. For Canadians with cold winters it was 10 years (or more) worth of winter vacations rolled into one, in places just too far to travel for a two week stint. It was also quality time together as a family that was so needed in our busy lives. Our children are better global citizens and definitely more confident. It is unlikely we'll make this exact type of trip happen again but for sure our family is going to keep travelling!

Posted by Arin MacDyer 09:40 Archived in Canada Tagged arin Comments (0)

Portsmouth is Fun

overcast 25 °C

By James

The last place we went in England was Portsmouth. When we got to Portsmouth we checked in at our hotel and went for a walk along the South Sea prom. We walked along the prom until we got to the Portsmouth castle. Then we decided to take a detour through town to the city center to have dinner.

The next day Joseph and Nora came to visit us in Portsmouth and we went to the historic dock yard and went on the Victory, Warrior, and the Mary Rose. We also went in the action station and inside were two climbing walls, a shooting game and two helicopter simulators.

By Arin

Portsmouth is the largest naval base in Europe and a great place to take kids. Our lot turned up when all the British kids were in school (did you know that they fine parents for taking kids out of school?) and that meant no lines and unlimited goes on all the fun exhibits. What James didn't mention was how very cool the ships were.

The Mary Rose is the only 16th century warship on display anywhere in the world. Henry VIII’s favourite warship – raised from the depths of the Solent in 1982 and painstakingly conserved. The story of the Mary Rose is one of the most fascinating in naval history and the museum does a great job of telling the tale of battles fought against the French for over 30 years before it sunk off the coast of Portsmouth in 1545.

The HMS Victory was Nelson’s flagship from the 1860s. Best known for her role in the Battle of Trafalgar, the Victory currently has a dual role as the Flagship of the First Sea Lord and as a living museum to the Georgian Navy.

Finally, the HMS Warrior was Britain's first iron-hulled, armoured warship and pride of the fleet.

Of course, the kids only wanted to talk about the climbing wall...

Here are some generic pics, our photos will follow soon:

Posted by Arin MacDyer 09:33 Archived in England Tagged boats james Comments (0)

A Year of Summer Ends in Iceland

all seasons in one day 15 °C

By Arin

Is it ironic to end a year of hot places in the chilliest destination yet? Maybe, but a free stopover on our way back home was too good to pass up!

My mom and I travelled separately from Simon and the kids. I thought travelling without the kids would be easier somehow, but they are so seasoned now that it is fairly effortless to travel along and sometimes they can act like pack monkeys and carry bags! Anyhow, my mom spent a busy four days touring as much of Iceland as we could. Tours lasted 10 to 12 hours and days on our own were packed with exploring Reykjavik, and we even managed a visit to the Blue Lagoon on our way to the airport.

We took a "Hot Golden Circle Tour" to see all the beautiful sights on the Golden Circle and finishing the day in a natural hot spring pool, relaxing the Viking way, before heading back to Reykjavik. If you haven't heard of the Golden Circle there are three impressive sights; Thingvellir, site of the World's first Parliament that met each year outdoors, beginning in 930 AD continuing until 1798; Gullfoss one of Europe's largest waterfalls; and the geothermal fields of Haukadalur to experience the original "Geyser" and the currently erupting geyser, Strokkur. The last stop was amazing, a hot spring natural bath which the locals named the Secret Lagoon because it was relatively unknown but recently renovated and opened to business. The use of geothermal energy for public pools, heating, and electricity was fascinating.

Our next tour was something special - it came with our Inspired B&B package and saw as bouncing along in a Range Rover exploring the glacier valleys and black sand beaches of the south coast. We saw two magnificent waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss a tall thin beauty of 73 meters and were able to walk right behind (so fun!) and Skogafoss, a 60 meter roaring giant with beautiful rainbows. At the black sand Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland´s southern most point, we marvelled at the basalt rock columns and couldn't get enough pictures. We also saw puffins, but not as many as the next day when we took a ferry out to a breeding bird island. We like seeing the glacier Gigjökull up close and learning about the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption in 2010 that melted a hole through the glacier and caused all kinds of infrastructure damage, not to mention the suspension of air travel over Europe. The Icelanders are a clever bunch, the house pictured in front the eruption ash cloud trademarked the image and was paid every time their photo was used in the media!

We liked Reykjavik, bought a nice icelandic sweater from the Red Cross charity shop but really couldn't afford anything else. Food was so expensive in restaurants -$16 for soup, really!???! And our trip to the Blue Lagoon was not worth $60 euros. I think there is some tourist gauging going on...

For fellow Canadians, I'm not sure you should spend your time or money in Iceland. The landscape was very much a cross between the Arctic and Newfoundland and the weather was marginal to poor (and that is mid-summer!). Volcanic tourism was better in NZ or Hawaii. Travel to these places in Canada and save your cash and your summer vacation.


Simon and the kids travelled to Reykjavik in June and had similar experiences. Except I will note that they found that kids were treated very well - free food, headphones and blankets on the flights (adults had to pay for all that), free entry into the Blue Lagoon, and coach tours were generally free for children. They loved the public hot pools and were happy to dine on $5 hotdogs and food packed in from England for the week.


Posted by Arin MacDyer 08:46 Archived in Iceland Tagged arin Comments (0)

One day until my dads birthday!

sunny 21 °C

It is now one day until my dads birthday. When we first got back from Morroco we stayed one night at Uncle Andrew and Auntie Lizzies house and the next day went to a garden party with Angus, Lulu, Flora, and Bebe my second cousins. Then we went home with Grandma and Grandad. We stayed six days there then we went to Milnrow near Manchester.

Milnrow was where Grandma was born and where the most famous Dyer story takes place. The first thing we did whe we got there was look on the cellar steps for uncle Bobobs blood when he cracked open his head for the second time in five hours when he was a kid like me. Sadly there was no internet so we had to go to the library to get some. On our fourth day we went to go to see Wicked it was really good live performance and it was all about how the wicked witch of the west became wicked.

We spent six nights there but on our last day we saw a parade and went to the fun fair that was at the fun fair near the house. Then we stayed another 5 nights in Mayland. Now we are here at uncle andrews house and tomorrow is my dads 40th birthday all the family is going to be there but Joseph and Nora will not because they have chicken pox.

Posted by Arin MacDyer 03:48 Archived in England Comments (1)

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