The hamlet of Sandspit, the Gateway to Gwaii Haanas, is well located on the northeastern tip of Moresby Island. The only settlement on Moresby Island, Sandspit lines both sides of the low-lying spit of land protruding into Hecate Strait that houses the airstrip, the main airport for Haida Gwaii, formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands.
A 25-minute ferry crossing connects Alliford Bay on Moresby Island with Skidegate Landing on Graham Island, the terminal for ferries from Prince Rupert on the BC mainland.
Sandspit’s history goes back to at least one ancient Haida Village, Kil, which was situated east of Haans Creek. The first settlers at Sandspit established farms and ranches around the grassy flats, but there is only scant evidence of their homesteads and past presence today.
One of the first industries in 1910 was a dogfish oilery, followed by a fish cannery in 1913. Today, transportation and logging are the mainstays of the Sandspit economy, with tourism following close behind.
Location: Sandspit is located on the northeastern tip of Moresby Island, 15 minutes (9 miles/14 km) east of Alliford Bay. The Haida Gwaii islands are accessed by ferry from Prince Rupert on the BC mainland to the Skidegate Landing Ferry Terminal on Graham Island, by air from Vancouver to Sandspit on Moresby Island (770 km), and by air from Prince Rupert to Sandspit. Other commercial air services (including float planes and helicopters) are available at Sandspit, Queen Charlotte City and Masset. A 20-minute ferry ride connects Graham and Moresby Islands.
The Sandspit Airport is located on the largest area of flat land on Moresby Island, which protrudes out between Hecate Strait and Shingle Bay. The Sandspit Airport is the major transportation gateway to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) offering charter and regularly scheduled passenger services, air ambulance, and other services. Every year over 40,000 passengers travel through Sandspit Airport, and close to 14,000 aircraft take off or land annually. There are two scheduled daily flights from Vancouver to Sandspit, one from Prince Rupert.
Harbour and Boat Launch: An 80-berth small craft harbour and boat launch ramp at Haans Creek, 2 miles (3.5 km) west of the Sandspit village centre, caters to commercial and recreational boats and serves as a good base for fishing. The original site chosen for the harbour by the community had potentially significant environmental effects relating to over-wintering Brant geese and fish habitat. Through a process of mediation and public consultation, the location at Haans Creek was viewed to meet both the environmental concerns and the objective of the new harbour, namely to serve recreational boaters and create new economic opportunities for the community.
Golf: The Willows Golf Course was one of the original homesteads in Sandspit, and members of the family still live in Sandspit today. The golf course on Copper Bay Road has 18 tees to 9 large greens on a combination of oceanfront and natural forest terrain. The club hosts the annual Willows Open mixed tournament in August. the Willows Golf Course is one of two golf courses on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands). Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
The small houses along School Road were built by the air base personnel stationed at Alliford Bay during World War ll. They were moved from the beach at Sachs Creek into Sandspit after the base closed down.
Sandspit is the departure point for the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve by air or water, as there are no roads. Reservations are therefore a necessity – Parks Canada operates an information office in Sandspit. Helicopter tours are available, as are canoeing and scuba diving trips.
The logging road south of Sandspit follows the coastline to Copper Bay, where early homesteaders lived in the 1800s. There is a 38-acre Haida Reserve at the mouth of the river, and every spring the Haida from Skidegate return to their cabins at Copper Bay to fish for sockeye salmon. The Haida Sockeye food fishery is an important part of their annual food gathering. The rich red salmon are usually smoked and canned, or sliced into thin strips and dried. Copper Bay offers a convenient boat launch ramp.
Stroll down the beach along Shingle Bay, on the west side of the Spit, and treat yourself to a wonderful view of the mountains in the distance and the serene waters of the inlet.
In the spring, it is usual to see a pod of Gray Whales frolicking close to the beach at Onward or Welcome Point.
Camping: There are campsites and great picnic areas at Shelden’s Bay, with an interesting marsh lagoon that is home to a variety of birds.
Camping in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).
A circle tour on Moresby Island known as The Loop incorporates Sandspit, Alliford Bay, a drive south alongside Hecate Strait to Copper Bay, and a detour to Gray Bay. Back on the road, head west along the Copper River, past Skidegate Lake, and another optional detour to Mosquito Lake and Moresby Camp, before returning to your starting point at Sandspit. With so many gravel beaches to explore, trails to walk, and lakes and communities to visit, this drive makes for a very pleasant day-trip.
Hiking: Hike the fabulous Cumshewa Head Trail or the Dover Trail, or try the hike at Secret Cove.
Gray Bay is a beautiful crescent-shaped gray sand beach offering excellent crabbing in season, and beachcombing for shells. There are established campsites at two locations at Gray Bay Campground, and a fabulous walk from the south end of Gray Bay leads south to Cumshewa Head. The Gray Bay-Cumshewa Head Trail leads 3 miles (4.5km) along the shoreline to Cumshewa Head, one of the easternmost points on Moresby Island.
Hiking & Backpacking in Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands).
Sightseeing trips can be arranged out of Sandspit to ancient and uninhabited Haida villages; Skedans and New Clew on Louise Island, Cumshewa Village (Cumshewa Inlet), and a longer trip to the village of Ninstints on Anthony Island, near the southeast end of Moresby Island.
Mosquito Lake offers a boat launch, excellent cutthroat trout fishing, swimming, and an 11-vehicle campsite nestled in the forest around the picturesque lake. Visitors will be happy to know that Mosquito Lake is named after the Second World War Mosquito bombers, not after the wretched bugs!
Fish Hatchery: Visitors are welcome throughout the year at the large fish hatchery project at Pallant Creek, about 46 kilometres southwest of Sandspit. Pallant Creek Hatchery, operated by Federal Fisheries and Oceans, produces steelhead, and chum, pink and coho salmon. Eggs are collected in late August through to mid-October.
Moresby Camp at the head of Cumshewa Inlet is the favoured location to launch small boats and kayaks to explore the Gwaii Haanas/South Moresby Park Reserve. Moresby Camp offers a 7-vehicle campsite and good Coho and Spring salmon fishing in the fall. Pinks are caught from June to August, and Halibut are generally present throughout the year in Cumshewa Inlet.
Fishing in the Sandspit area is very productive, with Bluejacks, Springs and Halibut caught off Sandspit Bar, and Pinks and Coho caught in Deena River, South Bay and Haans Creek. The best lake fishing on Moresby Island is found in Mosquito Lake and Skidegate Lake both of which are southwest of Sandspit. Mosquito Lake is close to Moresby Camp, about 3 miles (5 km) to the northwest, and anglers fishing for cutthroat and dolly varden will be relieved to know that Mosquito Lake was named after the Second World War bomber, and not the wretched bug. The Pallant River flows out of Mosquito Lake to Cumshewa Inlet, and has a good steelhead run in the winter and spring months. Skidegate Lake is about 10 miles (16 km) south of Alliford Bay, and offers good cutthroat fishing during the spring, early summer and fall months. Accessible by car from Sandspit, the Copper River offers a run of sea-run cutthroat and good dolly varden fishing between May and July. Coho salmon run the Copper River from mid-September to mid-October.
The Coho Salmon Derby runs for consecutive weekends at the end of September, to coincide with the return of the bright silver coho salmon from the deep Pacific Ocean. The coho derby is open to anglers of all ages, and is one of the largest on Moresby Island. Competitors launch at boat ramps at Alliford Bay, Sandspit, Copper Bay, and Cumshewa Inlet, and fishing is restricted to the region between Gray Bay and the Deena River, west of Alliford Bay. The popular event closes with the equally popular Coho Derby Dance.
Logger Sports Days in July offers a day of fun, with concessions, booths, dinner and dance. The day hosts stiff competitions for men and women in axe throw, sawing, choker set, burling and pole climb, as loggers compete for the coveted King Logger Trophy and Queen Logger Trophy. A favourite amongst spectators is the log rolling contest, when competitors on logs in the water attempt to dislodge their opponent.
Logging Roads: Logging has always been important to the community’s economy, and visitors should join locals in exercising caution on logging roads. When travelling to Gray Bay, Copper Bay, Mosquito Lake, Shelden’s Bay, or any of the other popular attractions around Sandspit, visitors should contact the J.S. Jones office to determine whether active logging is in progress. The logging roads are narrow, and the truckers do not have the room to pull over or stop at short notice. Motorists should therefore be aware of the safety procedure to follow when travelling these roads, likely turning vehicle headlights on etc.
To the east of Sandspit is Alliford Bay, the Moresby Island terminus of the important inter-island ferry between Alliford Bay and Skidegate Landing on Graham Island.
To the southwest of Sandspit is the old logging site at Moresby Camp, the closest road access to Gwaii Haanas National Park. Moresby Camp serves as a floatplane and kayak departure point for those venturing into the park, 30 miles (50 km) to the south.
Circle Tours: See the best of Northern BC and Haida Gwaii on one of the Circle Tours that capture the wonders of the north. The Inside Passage Circle Tour and the Native Heritage Circle Tour include Haida Gwaii by catching a ferry from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands).
Circle Tours in British Columbia.