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Ocean House at Haida Gwaii

First Nations hospitality in British Columbia

© by Michel Chicoine

Opened this past June, Ocean House is the new eco-tourism wilderness lodge owned and operated by HaiCo, a business entity of the Haida Nation from British Columbia’s rugged northern Haida Gwaii archipelago. This intimate 12-room floating lodge is located in a remote and secluded bay set off a shallow inlet called Stads K’uns GawGa.

These islands once had a flourishing culture and population of some 10,000 Haida. When European explorers came in the 1850s they brought along disease, which devastated the population. The 600 or so survivors were brought to the major settlements of Massat, Skidegate, Sandspit and Queen Charlotte City, leaving a multitude of their villages to erode into oblivion. Today there are about 5,500 people living on these serene and majestic islands.

After flying in a chartered jet from Vancouver, we arrived at Sandspit, the only community on northern Moresby Island. After a short 15-minute helicopter ride over dense forest, lakes, steep valleys and mountains, we reached this new luxurious retreat.

Complete with an intimate spa (including steam room and sauna), the lodge includes a beautiful dining room and a modern west-coast designed lounge and bar (complete with fireplace), a quiet library, small theatre and a spacious covered outdoor terrace. The full picture windows overlook towering mountains that fall dramatically into the ocean waters. The comfortable rooms are well appointed with Haida and contemporary artworks, full bathrooms and showers.

During our visit we were shuttled through protected calm waters to open ocean swells, visiting once-vibrant Haida villages, now overgrown with thick rain forest undergrowth and mossy carpets. The rugged rocky coastline scenery is magnificent, with hidden waterfalls, steep mountainsides and plunging cliffs.

After a half-hour boat ride, we arrived at the historic village site of Kaisun, long deserted. One has to imagine the longhouse and neighbouring homes set overlooking a small island and protected straight. Many of the corner and cross beams of the ancient structures have long been returned to the earth, but we come across some memorial poles and beams that have become nursery logs for various newer growths.

On another day trip, further up the coast boating in open waters with greater swells, we visited the historic former village of Ts’aahl. Hiking through the forest brush we were entranced by the mysterious and spiritual surroundings of ancient totem poles (many slowly rotting), old growth red cedars and Sitka spruce trees, and occasional bear dens and caves. We walked silently through this majestic area, realizing how special are these villages that have been deserted and forgotten for over a century.

Back at the floating lodge, it’s time for relaxation, and thankfully without any wifi, no need to check my email, but instead there’s time for kayaking, reading and just immersing myself in the spectacular vistas.

Meals at Ocean House are delicious, from local dishes such as razor clam fritters and  wonderful seafood, including wild salmon, halibut and sablefish, to duck and steaks. And for breakfast, smoked salmon benedict anyone? There are always the paddle boards and kayaks to wear off those extra calories!

This is a new venture for the Haida First Nation, developing a Cultural Lodge in such a remote and tranquil location. At the peak of the Haida civilization, there were some 14 sustainable villages in the vicinity of Ocean House. Today, there are memories, family histories and stories from the past, as many of the structures are long gone, returned to the rich earth of the Haida Gwaii.

The resort is open from June to September. More information can be found at Ocean House at Haida Gwaii website


Communal potlach dinner
Communal potlach dinner

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