This Year, Beat the Crowds—Intimate Coastal Safaris in BC & Alaska

This travel year began with Venice, Italy, limiting the size of tour groups in the city to 25 people. How delightful to see this leadership! 

It’s something we on the coast of BC and Alaska have believed for decades: limit our size, our impact. This both protects the environment (natural or cultural) but also makes a better experience: a small group of people can interact in a natural, unstructured way. A large group requires crowd control, systematization, line-ups…

In Gwaii Haanas, site of famed Haida village sites, and Pack Creek’s brown bear sanctuary in Alaska, rules limit shore group size to 12. This is a perfect size for our coast’s small creeks, estuaries and beaches.

CN Traveler also believes that this is the year people seek a deeper relationship in the places they travel, leave a positive impact, and move away from crowded times and ‘known’ places. 

We invite you to find all that and more here on the outer reaches of the BC and Alaska coast, among the islands and fjords.

Photo by Jeff ReynoldsMake it the year you journey to Haida Gwaii—an archipelago protected from the sea floors to the mountain tops, rich in natural wonders and Haida culture. 
One hundred kilometres off the BC coast, the abrupt transition from the upthrust islands to the deep ocean abyss creates “ecological edges,” fostering remarkable biological richness, including magnificent old-growth and vibrant kelp forests.
When people picture visiting Haida Gwaii, it’s the unroaded rainforest and legendary Haida village sites, that they picture. To experience it, you have to travel by water. Highlights include ancient village and UNESCO World Heritage Site SGang Gwaay, wandering lush rainforest with Haida guides, and viewing magnificent wildlife found nowhere else. 
Haida Gwaii (8 or 9 days) sailings depart May or June (multiple dates) starting at $9,030 aboard Maple Leaf, or $12,460 aboard Cascadia before taxes, based on cabin category.  Book aboard Cascadia and your airfare between Vancouver and Haida Gwaii is covered! See our Special Offers
Photo by Dan Batchelor
Travelling is a divine state, and exploring by tall ship is its purest form. While much of Canada is still blanketed in snow, semi-Mediterranean climactic conditions bring an early spring here. A network of protected areas throughout the Gulf Islands make up the National Park Reserve, a strategy that is ecologically and community-minded. 
Berry blossoms, wildflowers, and migrations of birds will greet us at each island passage. Whales will be returning to the area too, making sightings of humpback and killer whales possible.
Although it’s easy to access from Victoria or Vancouver, this trip takes you far off the beaten path, deep into the natural world of the Salish Sea region in spring. Come to know the home territory of the Coast Salish First Nations. Learn about significant cultural sights and practices, and how alive and vibrant the culture is today.
Gulf Islands and Salish Sea Expeditions (4 or 5 days) sailings depart in April and October (multiple dates) starting at $3,100 aboard Maple Leaf and $4,280 aboard Swell before taxes, based on cabin category. 
Photo by Dan BatchelorExperience the magic of the Great Bear Rainforest throughout the seasons. From the vibrant blooms and newborn cubs of spring; to wild summer islands where wolfpacks roam; to the salmon’s return in fall, a nourishing source for the whole ecosystem (bears, eagles, orcas).
Each time offers a unique perspective into one of Earth’s greatest wild places, featured recently on David Attenborough’s Planet Earth III. 
Great Bear Rainforest Spring (8 days) departs May and June (multiple dates) starting at $6,615 aboard Maple Leaf (waitlist only), $7,520 aboard Swell before taxes, based on cabin category. 
Whales and Wild Isles of the Great Bear Rainforest (9 days) aboard Cascadia this July 23-31 and August 3-11 starting at $10,100 before taxes, based on cabin category.  Book a qualifying summer sailing before March 31st and get a travel credit deducted from your fare. See our Special Offers for qualifying trips, deadlines and more offers.
Great Bear Rainforest Fall (8 or 9 days) departs September and October starting at $9,450 aboard Maple Leaf, $11,920 aboard Swell and $11,740 aboard Cascadia for 2024 (before taxes, based on cabin category). 
Photo by Dan BathchelorEscape the summer crowds and follow the call of the sea to discover Vancouver Island’s hidden reach—a rugged northwest coast that even many locals never see.
Here, the Brooks Peninsula rises from the rich Pacific Ocean, creating stunning white-sand beaches and rugged seabird habitat, all backed by clear rivers running through ancient rainforest and lily-filled meadows. This unroaded glacial refugium is hidden from most by Vancouver Island’s mountainous spine.
Secluded shores offer a chance to unwind. Lesser-known inlets are a pleasant scene for kayaking, where the only sounds are the gentle dip of your paddle and the whispers of nature. Moss-covered trees stand as silent witnesses to centuries of natural beauty. Abundant wildlife—including sea otters, puffins and the odd bear—give a glimpse into Island life long before European settlement.
On the northwest coast, we’re in the territory of the Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth, where we visit with an extended family from Kyuquot who share their history and culture with us, including through a traditional salmon bake and learning how to weave cedar.
Vancouver Island Wild Side (7 days) aboard Cascadia this July 9-15 starting at $8,190 before taxes, based on cabin category. Vancouver Island Wild Side with Canadian Geographic (7 days) aboard Cascadia this July 16-22 starting at $8,670 before taxes, based on cabin category.
Photo by Jeff ReynoldsThere’s better ways to get your sea legs in Alaska than aboard a tricked-out ocean liner; small ship expedition cruises provide the most immersive way to experience the sprawling Southeast, beating out the cruises in every category from frequent zodiac trips and shore walks, to special access to remote brown bear viewing sanctuaries.Glaciers, bears, whales, rainforest and historic towns await on this 10 or 12-day supervoyage. It’s an up-close adventure for those who love nature, aboard a tug with a century of history.

Desolation Sound in Spring (5 days) sailings depart April and May (multiple dates) starting at $3,100 aboard Maple Leaf, $3,710 aboard Swell, and $5,170 aboard Cascadia before taxes, based on cabin category.
Desolation Sound and Fjords of BC (8 days) sailings depart in October (multiple dates) starting at $5,950 aboard Swell, and $6,800 aboard Cascadia before taxes, based on cabin category. Book a qualifying fall sailing and get a credit deducted from your fares to cover local airfare. See our Special Offers for qualifying trips, deadlines and more offers.
Photo by Jenny WongImmerse yourself in the awe-inspiring scenery, rich biodiversity, and the unique charm of Southeast Alaska, all while enjoying the comforts and historic allure of the Swell—a vessel like no other.
Traverse whale-rich channels, explore temperate rainforests, stroll along remote beaches, and follow salmon-bearing streams to the mighty brown bear, all accompanied by expert coastal guides. Witness the glacial grandeur as we nose through electric-blue ice to see thousand-year carving events in the making. Then, return to Swell for a drink chilled with the same ice. Millions of cruisers travel Alaska’s Inside Passage each year, few ever experience it like this.
Alaska Supervoyage (10 or 12 days) sailings depart in July and August (multiple dates) starting at $12,460 aboard Swell before taxes, based on cabin category. Many sailings have sold out, so inquire now to avoid disappointment!
Tales from the Coast
Visiting Haida Gwaii, The West Coast’s Wondrous Archipelago
For Lynne Freeman Haque, the dream of visiting Haida Gwaii began in high school. Her fascination with the fabled archipelago deepened during a stint at the Royal British Columbia Museum.
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On this week’s episode of Travel Tales by AFAR, we travel to Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest, where one tour operator is saving this special place, one traveler at a time.
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7 Strange (and Wonderful) Cruise Ships You Didn’t Know About
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About the author

Nicola is the Managing Director of Micro-Cruising. Small ships great trips. Micro-Cruising sells trips on ships of 100 passengers or fewer. We are the specialists in small ships with over 700 vessels worldwide.