There were few staples in Churchill that I stuck to in addition to eating in, mainly because they were conveniently located close to my B&B … and they were open. It could also be that they were the only available restaurants in Churchill (lol). It’s a small town, things close early.
So without further ado, let’s check out the Churchill eats.
They serve up home-cooked meals with a regional arctic twist. It is also home to the famous Beyond The Borealis Veggie Burger made with Quinoa & Black Bean Patty, Havarti Cheese, Lemon & Coriander Mayonnaise, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Toasted Brioche Bun, House Cut Fries – which I had.
The other meal I had was the Spinach Dip – Cream Cheese, Spinach & Artichoke Dip Topped with Mozzarella Cheese Served with Toasted Flatbreads & Vegetable Sticks I also added some hummus. Yum!
Beer deals to be had, check the board behind the bar for beer specials. The deal while was there was a bottle of Labatt Light for $4.00.
The vibe is good, laid back, just as you’d expect in a small town. It’s the perfect place to enjoy an evening after a full day of exploring Churchill’s wonders.
Dining room on one side, pub on the other.
2 – Seaport Hotel
Whether you’ve come to Churchill as part of a tour group or you are here by yourself, like me, the Seaport Restaurant and Coffee Shop has you covered. The restaurant is fully licensed, the dining room has a seating capacity of 72 while the coffee shop can accommodate another 36.
The food was decent.I ate there three times during my stay.I had the crispy chicken burger which was good but salty, as was the chipotle type sauce for my yam fries – which were good. The second and third times I visited, I had the club sandwich.It was actually really good.I had yam fries again the 2nd time and then I had a poutine the third time.
Overall the food is decent pub style food.I wanted to try the Jack Daniels ribs but they weren’t served until after 5:00 pm, I went for a late lunch.
The bonus to the Seaport, and the reason it’s my fave, is that they have a patio – perfect for enjoying a burger and a beer on a gorgeous, sunny Churchill day.
While I was there, it was patio dining only due to COVID (not sure why since The Tundra Inn had dine-in eating) and I was 100% ok with that …. the weather was stellar the whole week I was there!
Note: The patio only has 4-5 tables available, so you may have to wait for a table or go elsewhere.
“Food brings people together on many different levels. It’s nourishment of the soul and body; it’s truly love.”
– Giada De Laurentiis
Churchill Chinese Food
New to town as of August 2021, Churchill Chinese Food are using the kitchen at the Dancing Bear to offer delicious, authentic Chinese food to locals and tourists alike.
They currently only offer take out, there is no dine in option.
I orderedfrom here once during my visit.I had pre-arranged a pick-up for 7:00 pm after my beluga whale kayak.It’s not your Canadianized Chinese food, so expect more authentic dishes.It was really good. Definite recommend.
Dining out can get expensive, especially if you’re visiting for more than 3-4 days.Ifyou’re into saving money and less into ambience then, the café at the Churchill Health Centre in the Town Centre provides a budget friendly option.
I had breakfast there, and for $5.25 I got 2 eggs, 2 toasts and 3 meats (choice of bacon or sausage). Other options such as bagels or muffins are available, as are a selection of juices and coffee.
Prices are very reasonable!A friend went for lunch and got a steak, homemade mashed potato and corn on the cob for $12.95!
I wasn’t able to enjoy this café, the 2 days that I went they were closed.However from what I heard from others staying at my B&B … if you’re looking for the restaurant with the best ambiance in town, look no further than the Lazy Bear Cafe. The log-cabin style interior looks beautiful, and I’m sure the central stone fireplace makes you feel right at home. The restaurant serves Indigenous foods such as Braised Peppered Elk, Arctic Char and Manitoba Bison grace. They are also farm to table – they have their own local greenhouse.
(photos from the Lazy Bear Café website)
Note: the Café does not serve alcohol.
Note: It is the only place in town to get espresso.
If you’re staying at a B&B or some place that has some basic amenities for you to make use of, you may want to consider buying a few things for your room or to make at your B&B.
Set your expectations … this is a northern town,on the edge of the arctic with no road access – items are brought in my train or plane.Prices are not going to be what you’re accustomed to.I found that some things were wayyyyyyyy more expensive and others were more in line with what I was accustomed to paying.For example a 24 case of Nestle water was $24.95!
– The Northern Store
The Northern Sore is the town’s all purpose store. Fresh/Frozen Food. General Merchandise. Clothing. Electronics. Housewares and Liquor.You get it all here.
While I was there, I stocked up on a loaf of rye bread $3.09, a package of lunch meat $5.49 and a Pho Instant Noodles $3.49.I made a few sandwiches for lunch and for dinner one eve when I wasn’t feeling as hungry I had my Pho bowl.
– Tamarack Foods
Tamarack is a smaller local store further down on Kelsey Blvd beside Tamarack Car Rentals. They are usually open daily from 11:30 am – 6:00 pm. Prices are similar to The Northern, a few items had better prices.
So there you have it folks, the places I ate while visiting Churchill. Overall dining prices weren’t extraordinarily more than I would pay where I live in South Western Ontario, given the cost of shipping goods up. The portion sizes were large, wear your leggings ladies. Alcoholic beverages also within reason to what I would pay where I live.
Are you ever in for REAL treat! There are so many adventures to be had in this little town of less than 1,000 …. take in as many as you POSSIBLY CAN … you don’t wanna miss a thing. I stayed for 5 nights and I still had things I wasn’t able to do that I wanted to … I guess that means I’ll just have to go back 😉
This is a list of the things I did while in Churchill – in no particular order. This is my list of suggestions of places to visit, and it’s definitely not inclusive. As I said, there were many more things I wanted to do. It’s amazing how much there is to do in this culture rich town.
Welcome to earth’s most spectacular light show. Churchill is one of the most popular Northern Lights destinations in Canada. Along with Whitehorse, Yukon and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Churchill’s northern lights expeditions have become incredibly popular with tourists from around the world. And while the rocky coast of Churchill means that there are plenty of amazing foregrounds for the auroras, one of the best places to catch the view is by the Inukshuk on the beach in Churchill or on the Beluga. I prefer aboard the Beluga for its height and for its safety – lest there be any wandering bears. The Inukshuk provides a great spot to take some of the best aurora photos or time lapses.
The auroras can be seen in Churchill up to 300 nights a year. They were really strong 3/5 nights I was there and was in awe each time. I was in constant wonder of what I was seeing and how beautiful they were. Every night put on a different show. I have about 100 photos taken over 3 nights of watching the lights dance in the sky. For now I’ll post a few.
Photo Hunt for Polar Bears
If you’re going to Churchill with the specific intent of seeing the bears, you’re best to go during polar bear season which runs from October through mid November (total of about 6 weeks). Polar bears come onto land every July when the Hudson Bay ice breaks up. In autumn, scores of these great white bears gather along the shores of the bay, waiting for the ice to form so they can venture back out to hunt their favourite food – ring seal. Pregnant females go inland into dens to have cubs in late November and re-emerge in mid-February, when they return to the sea ice.
That’s not to say that you will not see bears if you’re visiting during the Summer months. Tundra buggy tours still operate and some of the people I met said they saw 2-3 bears as well as other wildlife on their excursions.
I was quite fortunate. My main goal was not for the bears, but rather the belugas. If I saw a bear that was a “bonus” and boy did I get lucky. On my tour days with my B&B host, Angela Mak, we saw a 3 separate bears. I saw a momma and her cub on 2 separate days and a single bear walking solo (at different locations).
The SS Ithaca
Off the coast of Churchill, you will find the remains of the SS Ithaca cargo ship, a small freighter, originally built as the Frank A. Augsbury for the Canadian George Hall Coal & Shipping Corporation in 1922.
She was chartered by the Clarke Steamship Company to deliver nickel concentrate from the works at Rankin Inlet. She sailed from Churchill on 10 September 1960 to collect her cargo and carried supplies to the settlement. She had delivered her first shipment of 2,700 tons of ore to Churchill and had loaded a small amount of mining equipment and building supplies for the return trip, when she encountered a storm with 130 kmh gale forced winds.
The Captain turned back toward the safety of the port, however, the weather was so bad he decided to drop anchor. The anchor chain broke, and her rudder was beaten off. Completely out of control, on 14 September, 1960, the vessel was driven into Bird Cove, a shallow gravel-bank 750 meters offshore.
Her bottom was completely ripped out when the storm pounded her on the gravel bank. The insurer, Lloyd’s of London, wrote the vessel off as a complete loss, and viewed the grounding as suspicious, therefore refusing to pay the insurance claim. All 37 crew members were rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard‘s CCGS Sir William Alexander and were taken to Winnipeg on 18 September 1960. The shallow water she grounded on meant that walking to the wreck at low tide was possible allowing for much of her navigational instruments, and cargo, consisting of two generators and some plywood panels, as well as mission supplies, were able to be salvaged.
Today, the rusted wreck attracts curious travellers and photographers. The ship is too dangerous to enter. Because of its position in the shallows of the Hudson, a low-tide hike to the Ithaca is possible. However, beware, polar bears are known to hang out in the wreck. If you want to attempt this hike, it’s best to hire a local guide who is experienced with both the bears and is familiar with the area.
The Itsanitaq Museum, formerly known as the Churchill Eskimo Museum is a must-visit for those who travel to town. The museum has a collection of over 1,100 Inuit carvings and artifacts which are amongst the finest and oldest in the world dating from Pre-Dorset (1700 B.C.) through Dorset, Thule, and modern Inuit times.
The Itsanitaq Museum also houses arctic wildlife including muskox, polar bear, and walrus as well and relics of some northern explorations.
There is no fee to visit the museum, donations are appreciated.
The gift shop specializes in northern books, Canadian Inuit art, unique postcards, art cards, stationery, and local wild berry preserves.
Churchill Rocket Research Range
The Churchill Rocket Research Range is a former rocket launch site located about 23 km outside of town. The facility was used by both Canada and the United States for sub-orbital launches of sounding rockets to study the upper atmosphere. The site was scientifically beneficial due to it laying in the centre of a zone containing high aurora activity. Over 3,500 sub-orbital flights were launched from the site.
The complex was first built in 1954 by the Canadian Army’s Defence Research Board to study the effects of auroras on long distance communications. The program ceased operation in 1955, and the site was re-opened and greatly expanded in 1956 as part of Canada’s participation in the International Geophysical Year. Launches for the experiments started in 1957 but ceased in December 1958.
The site was one again re-opened in August 1959 by the US Army, in collaboration with the Canadian government, as part of its network of sounding rocket stations. In September 1959 it was used to test new solid fuel propellant systems with PVT-1, the vehicle that would evolve into the Black Brant. In late 1960 a fire destroyed many of the facilities. It was announced that the Black Brant test series would be continued with an additional twelve launches at NASA‘s Wallops Flight Facility during 1961-62, while the facilities at Churchill were rebuilt.
The US Army ended its involvement at Churchill in June 1970, and the site was taken over by the Canadian National Research Council to support the Canadian Upper Atmosphere Research Program. The site was used sporadically during the 1970s and 1980s and was largely deserted by 1985.
In 1994 Akjuit Aerospace, a Canadian company, signed a 30-year lease with the Canadian government for the Churchill Rocket Research Range with the goal of developing the world’s first commercial spaceport. Akjuit assembled a technical team of 21 firms led by the American aerospace contractor Raytheon to plan the development of the site into SpacePort Canada, including polar orbital launch capability. Akjuit planned to launch commercial polar-orbiting payloads using Russian rockets. Churchill’s location in the western hemisphere combined with its range-safety for firing northwards made it an ideal location, with the exception of the extremely cold weather which would limit launch seasons.
Akjuit’s first and only rocket launch took place at 7:10 a.m. Central Time on 28 April 1998: a suborbital Black Brant IXB research rocket containing a physics payload for the Canadian Space Agency. Akjuit Aerospace ceased operations in May 1998.
Kayak With Beluga Whales
Besides polar bears, the beluga whales are one of the town’s biggest draws. And unlike the bears, you can easily get right up close to the white whales of the north. From June to end of August these social, white whales make their way into Hudson Bay and the Churchill River to feed and give birth. Visitors can observe these “canaries of the sea” (known for their whistles and chirps) by kayak, standup paddle board or on a Zodiac boat tour.
I joined Sea North Tours for a Beluga kayak experience on the mouth of the Churchill River where it empties into Hudson Bay. Kayaking with these magnificent creatures at sunset was all but the best thing I’ve done in my life. I loved every moment of the 2 hours I was on the water. They came right up to my kayak and nudged it multiple times, at one time there were 3! I felt kind of like their rubber ducky in their river during playtime. At first I was scared I would tip, but once I got a better feel for my kayak, I was no longer scared, I wanted them to come right up, stick their heads out and say “hi”. They followed and swam beside it as I paddled, I got some decent footage with my iPhone, while still trying to be present and take it all in.
Miss Piggy Plane Wreck
The cargo plane rests on a cliff edge north of the airport She was nicknamed Miss Piggy because of the size of the loads she carried from site to site in the North.
On November 13, 1979, Miss Piggy, a Curtiss C-46 freight plane, left Churchill airport when shortly into the flight her no.1 engine oil temperature rose, a drop in oil pressure forced the crew to descend and return to Churchill. The aircraft wasn’t able to maintain altitude and force landed in rough terrain about a 1/4 mile short of the runway. Reportedly, the aircraft was overloaded. There were 3 crewmen injured in the crash, all survived.
Churchill Golf Balls
This obsolete building overlooking Hudson Bay was a radar station in the 1960s during the cold ware era. It was used to track launches from the nearby rocket range. Its exterior was painted in 2017 as part of the Seawall public art program. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go in and explore since I love urbexing. I definitely could have spent more time here …. the views from the top are amazing.
Cape Merry Battery -(Prince of Wales National Historic Site)
Cape Merry is a Parks Canada National Historic Site and is unsupervised. The site includes a cannon battery and some remnants of the old stone walls (partially refurbished). The site can be easily accessed from town. It was built to protect the fort across the river.
A plaque commemorates Jens Munk, the Danish explorer who first landed there in 1619. He was commission by Denmark’s King to seek a new Northwest Passage to the Orient. In May 1619, his expedition of about 60 men sailed from Copenhagen. They entered Hudson Bay in late August. Munk and his crew went ashore in 7 November 1619 and spent a terrible winter battling the cold and scurvy – only Munk and 2 of his men survived. They returned to Norway in July 1620. His ill-fated wintering in Churchill is a great story for those who would underestimate the challenges of life in Canada’s north.
From the fort you can see the Prince of Wales Fort across the Churchill River as well as magnificent views of where fresh water of the river meets salt water of the arctic ocean. Look out at the vast water views to see the belugas swimming.
The Inuit meaning of Inukshuk is “in the likeness of a human” … Churchill has some impressive Inukshuks. Travellers often gravitate to and photograph them in the daytime or with dynamic northern lights over the Hudson Bay (the large one on the beach is best for that). I counted at least 4 in my time there.
Polar Bear Jail
As you can imagine, living in a migration path and in a place where the polar bear outnumber the human population, life can be a wee but dangerous. A stroll through town and you will uncover countless signs pointing to where you shouldn’t go lest you risk being made a snack. On occasion, a polar bear gets a little too curious close to town. Dangerous bears are tranquilized when captured and are marked with a bright paint on the neck. Closer to winter, when the ice in the Hudson Bay has set, the bears are relocated by helicopter far from the town. Prior to establishing the facility, polar bears which were considered dangerous used to be shot. The locals are very much aware that they are in the bears territory and they respect them. Visitors aren’t allowed inside the jail. However you can check out information signage and bear traps outside the facility. While I was there, I learned that two bears were trapped and taken to “jail”.
The holding facility was first established in 1982.
The front exterior was painted as part of the Seawall Project.
Beluga Tugboat / Beach
If you visit the Churchill beach, immediately behind the Town Complex you’ll find the remains of the Beluga, a former fishing boat which has been converted to a picnic structure. It’s understood that the Beluga was stationed there to act as a safety spot in the event of a bear encounter – you can climb up the Beluga where the bears cannot reach you.
The Beluga is also one of the best places in town to watch the moon rise over the bay and to catch the dancing light of the auroras. The beach is also home to the largest Inukshuk in town and seems to be placed just right for photography lovers and enthusiasts alike. Swimming is not recommended (there are posted signed to not go onto the beach area), but it’s the only place where you’re going to get close to salt water without going to British Columbia or Nova Scotia, PEI or Newfoundland. If you choose to ignore the posted Polar Bear Alert Program signage, be safe, have someone stand watch for you and plan an escape route. There are also a series of BBQs and fire pits on the beach to enjoy a fire with friends or family.
On the beach, you will also find a plaque mounted stone memorial to 3 youngsters who lost their lives – let this be a reminder as tourists … “Had they known. Lest we forget. The tides are strong and the rocks slippery when wet”.
Wander the Ruins of Ladoon’s Castle
The story of Brian Ladoon is a bit of Churchill legend. Brian is either loved, hated, or a little bit of both by residents of the town. You can read more about him here.
Brian dedicated his life to the preservation of the Canadian Eskimo Dog, he owned 5 Dog Sanctuary, which often attracted polar bears to his property. He saved the dog from extinction. The Canadian Eskimo Dog (Quimmiq) is the oldest indigenous domestic dog species still existing in North America. This rare species is an important icon in the Inuit (formerly Eskimo) history.In the 1970s, the Quimmiq was close to extinction, and Ladoon dedicated his life to keep them alive, helping to breed the dogs and see that they were cared for properly. He is either loved, hated, or a little bit of both by residents of the town. It was revealed that he had (as many suspected) been feeding local polar bears to keep them from harming his dogs (caught only when a bear killed one of his dogs after a night he had not fed the bears). People also strongly felt that he should not keep his dogs tied/chained up up in the middle of a polar bear migration path — they’d have no chance if they encountered a bear.
One of his many projects was his development of a castle-style hotel in Churchill on the Hudson Bay coast. The project was never completed, and the remains of it are often on the minds of many of those who travel to Churchill. You can find Ladoon’s Castle on La Vérendrye Ave as you leave Churchill, just before the cemetery. Brian died in 2019.
The Churchill Seawalls
Spend some time in Churchill, and you’ll likely notice a series of murals spanning the shores of the Hudson Bay. The SeaWalls CHURCHILL mural project was started as a way to educate and inspire the community and travellers to protect the oceans. Each piece takes inspiration from the natural history, community, resiliency, and heritage of Churchill.
Sayisi Dene Village
The few remnants of this village is about two miles southeast of Churchill. It was established by the Department of Indian Affairs for the Fort Churchill Indian Band, known today as the Sayisi Dene First Nation. Forced to relocate to Churchill in 1956, they lived in squalor at a site near the present-day cemetery.
In 1966, they were moved to this site into bungalows built by the federal government. The transition from nomadic, caribou-hunting culture to non-migratory urban life was unsuccessful and numerous people died
Many of the houses were destroyed by fire and most of the people relocated to Tadoule Lake by 1973. Within a few years, the village was completely abandoned. The concrete foundations for numerous buildings remain at a site. The commemorative monument was erected in October 1999.
The federal government formally acknowledged its role in relocating the First Nation 60 years ago and offer $33 million in compensation. The message is too late for many of the community members who were taken from their happy homes and placed into a situation of agony, poverty and hopelessness. By 1973, 117 of the more than 250 members who were originally moved had already died.
Parks CanadaVisitors Centre at the Churchill Train Station
Parks Canada attraction is in Churchill’s historic train station. It offers a variety of exhibits which highlight Wapusk National Park, Prince of Wales Fort and York Factory National Historic sites. Experience the ecology and human history of Wapusk through the “Our Land, Our Stories” exhibits. Look into a life-sized polar bear maternity den. Explore the connection between Indigenous people and the caribou.
Jockville Heritage Site
I wasn’t able to find any information online about this site, just that it’s a locality in Manitoba. What I what told is that that the province of Manitoba moved the residents from this community into town, into Manitoba Housing, apparently for safety reasons. I’m not sure if this is accurate.
From my exploration, it appears as of this settlement was established in/about 1929. One of the buildings on site has a handmade sign on the house which states that it was called 7th Ave Jockville and was previously surveyed by the Railways and Canals.
If anyone knows something more specific on this settlement, I’d love to hear about it. Please email me via the contact link or comment below.
FLORA AND FAUNA
There are diverse landscapes surrounding Churchill, from the boreal forest at its northern edge to the expansive sub-arctic tundra. More than 400 native plant species can be found here. I was here at the end of Summer, but there were remnants of colourful, the ground cover was filled with wild berries and downy white tufts of Arctic avens.
Most of the landscape is glacier-sculpted boulders – where the sea gives way to rolling tundra.
The Hudson Bay lowlands are part of a rich ecosystem teeming with wildlife … polar bears, beluga whales, splethora of migratory and shorebirds, I saw only 1 seal …
Things that I wasn’t able to fit in during my 5 days in Churchill
Prince of Wales Fort
York Factory National National Historic Site
Sloop Cove National Historic Site
Hike to the Ithaca
Find a local to take me by boat to Nunavut
All in all no matter what it is you do in Churchill you will enjoy every moment of it. There are so many things to do. On days when I felt like taking it easy a bit more, I would take my book to the parquet on Kelsey Rd, across from my B&B, read my book and soak in the sun, after all, it is still a vacation 😉
Related Blogs to Help You Plan Your Trip to Churchill
I can’t speak directly to other hotels, inns or B&Bs. However, I can say with absolute certainty that my experience in Churchill was greatly enhanced because of my B&B hosts. I couldn’t imagine my trip without them being part of it. I want to share as much as I can about where I stayed because I want you to experience the best of Churchill, the way I did.
I started off looking on Booking.com, I usually use this site to book because of my Genius Level 2 discount. I researched all the ones that came up and to be honest it was the Iceberg Inns that had me.
Every single review I read on Booking.com (9.5/10 rating) or Trip Advisor (9.7 rating) were all about how amazing the hosts were, how friendly they were and that they loved their experience at the inn. Traveling solo, it was important to me to stay somewhere that had excellent reviews and that the hosts felt like family.
I was also really wanting to take advantage of the Angela Mak tours and professional photography.
The next thing was that the prices were very reasonable.
And with all that, I booked the Iceberg Inn.
About the Iceberg Inn
The building itself dates from about 1980, it used to be the old Sears Canada building back in the day.
Angela and Bill are the current owners since just before the pandemic … and are amazing! I’d stay here again just for them. They are soooo friendly and really just want their guests to have the best time while in town. And, as I mentioned, it is one of the most highly ranked B&Bs in Churchill, and I understand why. My whole Churchill experience was as phenomenal as it was, thanks to Bill and Angela!
The inn is located a conveniently short 100 metre walk from the Churchill Train Station and the Parks Canada Visitor Centre.
All rooms are non-smoking.
The inn offers common sitting and dining areas as well as use of the kitchen.
It also offers a communal microwave as well as dishes and utensils for guest use.
Each room has it’s own private washroom, mini fridge and table.
The rooms are identified by local animals, I stayed in Wolf.
There is no eat-in dining service, however it is conveniently located within walking distance of all the restaurants and is situated directly across the street from The Northern Store which has groceries, clothes, alcohol etc. You can buy food and bring it back to the B&B, which I did on a few different occasions.
Guests have access to an on site washer and dryer at no extra cost.
All rooms include Wi-Fi.
I was greeted every morning coming out of my room with “Good morning Tina, how did you sleep?”. Bill already had my plate, coffee cup and utensils out on the table, My coffee was being poured just as a sat down. Ever the gracious host, he was there repeatedly to see if I or there other guests needed refills. Breakfast is available at $5.00/day which includes unlimited coffee and toast (rye bread or Angela’s homemade bread, if you’re lucky). The toast is served with butter, peanut butter and jam. Angela has also been known to make homemade muffins – which were yummy!
The B&B also has an assortment of pop you can buy onsite @ $2.00/ea.
As with the aurora borealis photography (an absolute must do!), the B&B also offers photography tours, guided by professional photographer and co-owner Angela Mak herself! The tour includes the Cape Merry Battery, the Miss Piggy plane wreck, the Polar Bear jail, the SS Ithaca shipwreck and lunch at Northern Study Center. After lunch, you visit the Rocket Research Range, Churchill Golf Balls, and drive down Launch Road (with the possibility to view polar bears and other wildlife). I saw 2 polar bears on Launch Road as well as an American Eagle, a Golden Eagle, a flock of Sandhill Cranes, a pair of Trumpeter Swans and more). Since your tour includes professional photos of your adventure, she’ll edit them and airdrop them to you. At only $99/pp for 2+ hours, this is a steal in my opinion. Other tours cost the same but with no professional photos. This is worth every penny in my opinion!
Suggestion: I did this tour twice, and my suggestion is to bring water (it can get quite dry due to the gravel roads and salt water air) and a snack (you can be out longer than 2 hours sometimes). You’ll also want to bring along your binoculars for scoping out wildlife and polar bears. Wear a solid pair or running shoes or hiking boots – you’ll be hiking over some rocks and uneven terrain at Cape Merry (but there are pathways in the event you want to stay on even surface) and again at Miss Piggy if you’d like to get up on the plane’s wing and explore inside. You’ll also want to apply bug spray and/or your mosquito jacket/hat.
The accommodation offers a tour desk – that is Bill will help you arrange tickets for whichever tour you’re wanting to go on from Tundra Buggy to kayaking with the belugas.
The site also offers luggage storage prior to check-in and after check out – which I needed on both occasions. This allowed me the opportunity the explore while waiting for check in or my departure train.
Angela and I even went wild blueberry picking before my train back to Thompson, so I could have some for the ride back . Not too many owners would take the time out of their day to do that with a guest.
The environment that was my home for 5 days was a place where I felt safe, relaxed and very comfortable. Bill and Angela were the friendliest and warmest people I could have asked for. They went out of their ways to ensure I had a great stay and because of that, my trip to Churchill was one for the ages.
As they stay … come for the place, stay for the people (I wish I could have stayed longer).
Related Blogs to Help You Plan Your Trip to Churchill
Churchill, Manitoba is as close to a frontier town as there is in Canada. Churchill is Manitoba’s northernmost community, and is located where the boreal forest meets the tundra, on the shores of Hudson Bay, bordering the newest Canadian territory of Nunavut. The town sits on a narrow point of land bound by the ocean to the north and the Churchill River to the south and west.
Churchill is the furthest North I’ve traveled in Canada, in fact, anywhere. Visiting this town in the far tundra north has been on my “bucket list” for ages and while I’m back here in Manitoba, renovating my house to sell, I thought “hey let’s do it … I’m here, why not?”.
The town is known for its polar bears, beluga whales (also known as ocean canaries) and is one of the most premier places in Canada to see the Northern Lights dance in the night sky. These things and more have made Churchill the pinnacle go to place for adventure and wildlife seekers from around the globe.
In this blog series I share with you my personal experiences of life and tourism in this amazing town full of culture, flora and fauna.
Are you ready? Let’s go …….
The town of Churchill has a year-round population of under 900.
Churchill’s human history goes back 4,000 years, with the Inuit, Dene, and Swampy Cree all having a connection to this land and the wildlife that sustained them.
Churchill is touted as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, the Beluga Whale Capital of the World, and one of the best places to experience sub-Arctic tundra AND the Northern Lights (aurora borealis).
Polar bears come onto land every July when the Hudson Bay ice breaks up. In autumn, scores of these great white bears gather along the shores of the bay, waiting for the ice to form so they can venture back out to hunt their favourite food – ring seal. Pregnant females go inland into dens to have cubs in late November and re-emerge in mid-February, when they return to the sea ice.
The Northern Lights can be seen 300/365 days per year!
From June to September, approximately 3,000 Beluga whales visit the Churchill River basin and approximately 60,000 come into the Hudson Bay area. Not only can you go whale watching but you will also have the chance to get up close and personal to these incredibly friendly creatures.
How to Get to Churchill
Churchill is located on the edge of the Arctic. This remote Canadian town on the shores of Hudson Bay is 1,006 km north of Winnipeg. There are no roads that lead to Churchill, you can only get there by train or plane (… planes, trains and no automobiles – insert John Candy and Steve Martin laugh here lol).
Air travel to Churchill is operated by Calm Air. The small Manitoba airline has flights from Winnipeg and Thompson through Churchill and up to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. Although flights to Churchill may be more expensive than the train, they usually only take about 2.5 hours from Winnipeg. While not cost effective, it is definitely time effective.
Many travellers opt for the scenic route, myself included. The Winnipeg-Churchill train is the only dry land connection to the community. The 1697 km journey takes about 45 hours from Manitoba’s capital of Winnipeg (count on it being longer, there are often delays, be flexible with your itinerary). The train travels at low speed due to the topography the rails lay on.
I am currently in Dauphin, Manitoba, so, I drove to Thompson, Manitoba, about a 7-hour drive. I could have taken the train from Dauphin, but I planned on making some stops on the way back to explore and it actually takes much less time to drive than take the train. The train to Churchill, takes about 19h20 to get from Dauphin to Thompson, as is goes through parts of Saskatchewan was well. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the sleeper cabins were not available, nor was the 360˚observation dome.
The seats are quite comfortable and recline most of the way back, there is a foot rest which goes up to level as well. There are no assigned seats in economy class, so I was able to choose my own seat. I located quad seating with two rows facing each other (if you can’t find one already turned, you can turn them yourself) … perfect for sleeping.
The seats have plugs to charge your phone or laptop. There is no available wi-fi because there isn’t any internet service along the route. You will not have service for the trip’s entirety, until just before you arrive in Churchill.
Each car has a filtered water fountain available at no charge.
VIA offers some on-board services such as sandwiches, snacks, coffee (it was decent) and alcohol (a standard 12 oz can or Coors light cost me $7.00).
It cost me $144.90 for this leg of the trip (return), I used the 33% discount offered to people of Indigenous heritage – have proof of identification when you board. You can book your train trip to Churchill via the VIA Rail website.
bring a blanket and a pillow
bring food – I purchased a pizza from Quiznos for the train ride up
bring your own drinks, if you prefer not to purchase on board
bring a few games – I brought a deck of cards, crossword puzzle and Yahtzee
download some podcasts to listen to or some audio books
download some Netflix shows
Welcome to Churchill
This small and quaint town hugs the western shore of Hudson Bay, the town lies directly in the path of the migratory route for the largest concentration of polar bears that come ashore to hunt for seals every Fall. As I mentioned, it’s the Polar Bear Capital of the World, and the town is built in the bears migration path. When the sun goes down here the locals know to watch their backs. Tourists are advised to do the same. An alarm sounds at 10:00 p.m. promptly, each night. Don’t be alarmed (no pun intended). No one warned me upon arrival, I was scared half to death it was a warning that there was a bear currently in town. The siren (long and loud) is a voluntary curfew as part of the Polar Bear Alert program.
** If travelling via train, you will arrive at the historic Churchill train station. Walking straight out of the station, about 100 metres will bring you to Kelsey Rd – the town’s main drag.
** The airport is just outside of town – you can likely make arrangements with your hotel, Inn or B&B to retrieve you. If not, there is a taxi in town – Churchill Taxi – (204) 675-2345.
** Car doors are never locked in case a passerby needs immediate protection from a polar bear and polar bear costumes are strictly prohibited for treat-or-treaters during Halloween.
What To Pack :
Summer is a beautiful time to visit Churchill, the flora is teeming with colourful blooms, the beluga whales are swimming into the Churchill River by the thousands, and the long Summer days offer plenty of daylight to view incredible wildlife. I went from August 26-August 31. It’s just at the end of the Summer season – the belugas are getting ready to leave and the polar bears aren’t quite ready to hitch a ride on the ice quite yet (that starts the beginning of October and lasts about 6 weeks), BUT my adventure DID NOT DISAPPOINT! I saw everything I came to see and more.
Although Churchill is considered a subarctic climate, you may be surprised to hear that it can get quite warm in the Summer. The 5 days I was there it was 21˚C-22˚C with the sun out, it was hot.
My list is for the Summer months, I’ve not included the basics you should pack (that’s up to you).
Boots, Socks and Jacket: In the Summer you can get by with a solid pair of running shoes or hiking boots. I arrived in Churchill on August 26, 2021 and it was 22˚C, it was GORGEOUS! This is my favourite weather. I was comfortable wearing my Adidas slides while out and about around town, for any distances I wore my hiking boots.
In terms of coats, I brought my light down filled puffer coat (that I normally wear for hiking) and a lined lumberjacket so I could layer. I didn’t require either of them during the day, however it did get cooler at night, especially by the bay watching the auroras.
Hat and Gloves: I brought a pair of mitts and a pair of thin knit gloves. I also brought a Carhartt toque. I only used these in the evenings watching the Northern Lights. But you never know when the weather will turn so come prepared for anything.
A Good Camera: Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my decent Sony Alpha, I wasn’t expecting to be in Manitoba as long as I have been, and I thought of it too late to have it shipped out to me. Even if I did, I still haven’t purchased a 300 mm lens. So, I managed as best I could with my iPhone 8 Plus which has dual cameras and takes decent photos.
Thankfully Angela at my B&B is a professional photographer and offers town tours if you stay that the B&B, for $99.00/pp for 2+ hours …. WORTH every cent! I will discuss where I stayed in a separate blog.
I also Airdrop swapped with others.
Binoculars: You could use a monocular if you prefer, you just need something that can help you see at a distance. I found these helpful to view birds and scope out polar bears. Binoculars are also an ideal way to view the night sky. Even inexpensive models can give depth to craters on the moon, and enhance the colour and shape of stars and planets. I picked mine up for under $20.00 at Walmart.
Deterrents: When visiting Churchill, you should be aware that a polar bear may be encountered anywhere at any time of the year and while not expected, be prepared (like a good Scout!). Before your trip, discuss possible plans of action for dealing with bears in a variety of circumstances and be sure everyone understands what to do. The actions of each individual either contribute to or detract from the safety of everyone else. For information on how to deal with a possible encounter read this pamphlet here, specifically created by the government of Manitoba to address visits to Churchill.
You can consider an air-horn and/or pepper spray (which may freeze in cold weather).
I brought a bear whistle and a bear bell, which I also picked up at Walmart. I don’t know why they’re so much more expensive online, I purchased mine in-store for $3.98.
Bug repellent and/or bug jacket, mosquito net hat: I can’t stress this enough. Depending on the time of year you come, you should give serious consideration to bringing one or all of these items. I can’t even start to count the mosquito bites on my neck and ankles. It’s also a good idea to bring some After Bite.
Lip balm and moisturizer: Churchill has a subarctic climate. It’s also on the ocean. It could be salt in the air, the days out walking as the wind swept or traveling in the van with the windows open but my skin and lips were constantly craving moisture.
Reusable travel mug or water bottle: The tap water in Churchill is excellent. I mainly drink water, from the tap if I can – I prefer not to purchase single use disposable water bottles or any type of single use bottle for that matter. It’s a good idea to bring one, I did and I used it daily. Also, cases of water up there are super expensive. I’ll write about food prices separately, but a case of Nestle water was $25.95 at Tamarack Foods. Do your pocketbook and the environment a favour by bringing a reusable water bottle.
Ok folks …. that takes care of how to get to Churchill and what to bring …. tune in for the next blog …. “Things I Did” … where I’ll go through all the things I did while in town (which is pretty much everything a tourist would want to do). I’ll also provide you with the historical significance and/or backstory of each of the site as well as some photos.
Related Blogs to Help You Plan Your Trip to Churchill