I would use this to get around: You’ll need to have a vehicle if you’re planning on exploring Haida Gwaii by land. We brought our car on the ferry and it was nice to have once we got there because we had a limited time to move around and lots of camping/surfing/general adventure seeking gear. To get south to Gwaii Haanas and the rest of the archipelago, chartering a float plane and/or flotilla of kayaks will do the trick just fine. During the high season, there are plenty of options for both.
I would stay here: We camped while visiting the villages of Skidegate and Queen Charlotte at the free and virtually empty campground at the very edge of town. In fact, our directions from a local were to drive to the end of the pavement and hang a left until we hit the water. Our site was right on the beach, totally secluded and 100% stunning. While up near Masset, we stayed at North Beach Cabins. They were rustic (read: there is no running water or electricity) but absolutely gorgeous, and the location couldn’t have been more Instagrammable. I was on a bit of a romantic getaway (stop, I’m blushing) and there were honeymooners across the way from us, so it just goes to show that you don’t need running water or electricity to have a good time in a beautiful place.
I would eat here: Honestly, I would get a place with a kitchenette and pack a camp stove. It’s not that the food options aren’t worth writing about, because I’m sure they are, but we didn’t really eat out while on Haida Gwaii. There is fresh seafood aplenty and we were happy to cook it, so most of our meals consisted of food so fresh it took me a week to get over myself and feel good about eating anything else once we got home.
I would drink here: On a beach. There are a couple of bars here and there but the best atmosphere is out-of-doors so, unless it’s raining and you’re made of sugar, take it outside.
I would do this: Visit the Haida Heritage Centre in Skidegate. It is so incredibly beautiful and full of cultural importance pertaining to the Haida people that I feel as though it should be mandatory for tourists. Like, maybe they should divert newcomers straight to the museum from the offloading ramp at the ferry dock. I’d also be sure to spend time in or on the water, if I were you. Rent kayaks or surf or both. It’s an essential piece of the puzzle, given that Haida Gwaii is an archipelago and surrounded by A LOT of water. The most popular kayaking route is through Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve where you can wander among old longhouses and stare into the eyes of ancient totem poles, all artifacts of the native Haida people finding their way back to the land. For surfing, head north toward the town of Masset, especially if you happen to hit Haida Gwaii in the height of storm/surf season between October and May. North Beach Surf Shop has everything you need, including wetsuits that are thick enough to protect you from the frigid waters of the North Pacific (so no need to pee in it to keep warm, you weirdo).
I wouldn’t do this: Make the blunder of referring to it by it’s colonial tagline, the Queen Charlotte Islands. Haida Gwaii means “islands of the people” and was reclaimed by the Haida people who, in 2010, actually returned the name Queen Charlotte Islands to then Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, written and held inside a traditional bentwood box. To go over there and refer to it as the Queen Charlottes would be kind of like walking into a Tim Horton’s in rural New Brunswick and asking for a Venti, Non-Fat, No Foam, No water, 6 pump, extra hot, chai tea latte. Don’t be that person.