Review of the Rose Harbour Guest House
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada
This is a lengthy and multifaceted review. There is a summary at the end.
I have accumulated well over a quarter-century of experience in Rose Harbour and I’m very familiar with this community’s fascinating, eccentric inhabitants.
I own and operate a small sea kayak outfitting business that works closely with Götz and Susan in Rose Harbour.
Since I have a business relationship with the proprietor of the Rose Harbour Guest House, I do not qualify to post a TripAdvisor review for this establishment. I respect that.
Most of my kayak tour guests spend a night at Götz’s guesthouse and enjoy a meal at Susan’s place. Some of my tours are based in Rose Harbour for several days. Year after year, my guests and I have awesome experiences in Rose Harbour.
Guests of Rose Harbour can be warmly welcomed as temporary members of this remote homesteading community. Integrating into Rose Harbour is like passing through a portal that spans the threshold between the “default world” and the “real world". However, not everyone truly seeks to appreciate this style of transition. It’s entirely possible to enjoy Rose Harbour without fully embracing the self-sufficient homesteading lifestyle. Yet, if you’re at all inclined to delve into sampling a delightfully alternative way of being, Rose Harbour can offer so much more than excellent food and a warm place to sleep.
Accurate expectations are important.
Developing realistic preconceptions can make the difference between participating in an incredible Rose Harbour experience, or quarrelling with an eccentric guesthouse proprietor.
The proprietor is forthright, knowledgeable and opinionated. If Götz takes an interest in you and you’re willing to engage in a depth of conversation with him, it’s possible that you may come to believe he talks too much. He possesses a particular genius. His ability to coherently articulate intricate concepts is nearly unmatched in my experience. This brilliant and well-spoken man will align himself with higher truths if they are intelligently presented to him. He will listen intently if you offer him something meaningful and appealing. I’ve witnessed fascinating conversations that have resulted in Götz changing his tune, though the transformation may only be apparent the next day; after he has carefully pondered the freshly introduced concept.
Rarely, a person may initiate a conversation with Götz while believing; “this isolated hippie will only benefit from hearing my superior world view". This type of approach may lead to receiving a detailed explanation of the profound disconnects that exist between a “default world view” and a “real world perspective". A conversation like this may be perceived as a pivotal and liberating moment, or an awkward encounter punctuated by one’s own resistance to hearing bold, unvarnished truths. Some conversations can be meaty and may require time to properly digest. Some topics may be frustratingly difficult to form rational counter-arguments to. I have unfortunately seen a few people resort to “Ad Hominem” arguments, sometimes only later, online. (Ad Hominem is a logical fallacy in which an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument.)
If deep, meaningful and possibly challenging discussions are not your thing, I suggest you do not engage with Götz in this fashion.
Thankfully, Götz’s conversational talents include genuinely friendly, animated story-telling. He has a vast repertoire of very insightful and humorous material. It is generally not difficult to encourage him to share his many entertaining stories. He is also a very knowledgable interpreter of the unique natural and cultural elements within Gwaii Haanas.
Rose Harbour has no air conditioning and no electrical outlets in guest rooms. Windows can be opened to cool the rooms. It’s best to close the windows before dusk to prevent evening mosquitoes from entering. Guests are provided with solar-recharged table lamps. Bringing your own headlamp is suggested.
This is a remote location with limited indoor space; rooms may be shared. Some upstairs rooms have very steep stairs. If you don’t want to navigate the stairs at night, you have the option of using the pee-bucket provided in each room. Guests are asked to empty and rinse their buckets in the ocean each morning.
Rose Harbour has no flush toilets. Well-maintained composting outhouses and toilet paper are provided. If people rapidly consume paper, the stock can quickly diminish. More will be provided if you ask. For my own guests staying in Rose Harbour, I simply issue them a private supply to avoid them having to ask for a restock. Bringing a roll of your own is not a bad idea.
Götz’s house and his separate guesthouse were hand-built from beachcombed logs, milled onsite. Some of the finishing consists of cleverly repurposed salvaged materials. Even the wallpaper has a unique origin. Each household component seems to have an interesting story; ask Götz how he moved his piano into his house. These are just a few of the impressive aspects of this craftsman-built remote outpost.
The guesthouse proprietor wears many hats, including those of an accomplished musician and remarkably self-reliant wilderness homesteader. There are guest rooms within his house, as well as within the entirely separate guesthouse.
In regards to room cleanliness, the proprietor has higher standards for his guest rooms than for his own personal spaces within his home. All guest areas are properly cleaned once visitors depart. However, the kitchen in the proprietor’s own house sometimes appears to be a multi-purpose workshop/laboratory. All sorts of projects exist in various stages of completion. Keep in mind that this is not where food is prepared for guests.
Meals are prepared and served at Susan’s house, a short walk from the guesthouse. Susan and her helpers create truly incredible meals. The atmosphere in Susan’s place is entirely authentic and delightful. This is not a restaurant, it’s a homestead.
Before preparing peppermint tea to serve with dessert, Susan may walk barefoot into her organic garden to pick some peppermint. Many people will appreciate the fantastic flavours steeped from the freshest mint they’ve ever experienced. Some people may become focussed on the fact that the cook’s bare feet now have garden soil on them. As mentioned earlier, not everyone seeks to appreciate this alternative way of being.
(Update: Susan has retired as Rose Harbour’s primary cook. Talented chefs are hired during summer months to continue providing quality meals at Susan’s place.)
Years ago, there was an unpleasant flu that seemed to exist for some days in Rose Harbour. It’s possible that an infected traveller had left the bug and it found host in one or two residents, as well as a few subsequent visitors. I’ve seen this occur in a few places throughout my world travels. When it occurred in Rose Harbour, I was impressed with the clear call to action demonstrated by the community’s inhabitants. They went through each guest room with a clean cloth and a bucket of soapy bleach-water to disinfect every surface a person would likely touch.
The flu was contained and extinguished.
One day upon my arrival in Rose Harbour, I was immersed in the somewhat humorous drama that ensued after a guest had lodged a complaint regarding an unpleasant aroma in their room. Unfortunately, the guest had communicated their concern only after leaving Rose Harbour. Subsequently, several residents of Rose Harbour were urged to conduct comprehensive sniff tests throughout the guest rooms. Results were consistent and conclusive; no offending aroma was detected. Many possible explanations for the puzzling complaint were discussed at length.
I recall a trip when a guest complained that their kayak stunk. Upon examination, it was discovered that the guest had collected a beautiful, tiny starfish that had washed up and expired on the beach. They picked it up and placed it in their kayak. It turned out that the starfish looked a lot better than it smelled. I was grateful to have had the opportunity to investigate and resolve the situation while the guest was still with us on the trip.
The mysterious case of the guest room aroma complaint was never solved. No further complaint on this topic has been received to date as far as I am aware.
In summary, I would suggest that prospective guests understand that the Rose Harbour Guest House is not to be compared with a hotel, or even with many other guesthouses. This is a rustic wilderness facility embedded within a small, authentic homesteading community. Rose Harbour residents welcome visitors, yet they may not demonstrate the same style of customer service one might expect in an all-inclusive resort. Rose Harbour provides an alternative vacation opportunity in a spectacular, remote location.
I give the Rose Harbour Guest House a four star review across all categories except location, which I consider a solid five stars. I know from long experience that when people arrive with accurate expectations, they enjoy exceptional vacations here. Of course, there is almost always room for improvement.