Top Five Reasons To Visit Churchill Manitoba
The tiny town of Churchill is located on the southwestern edge of Hudson Bay in Northern Manitoba and is home to about 900 year-round residents. Although there is no road that leads here, this remote northern town is quickly becoming a must-visit destination. Adventurers can fly to Churchill in a manner of hours from Winnipeg or Thompson, or take a more leisurely route from either city by train. Visitors flock here to check off some big-ticket items from their bucket list of once-in-a-lifetime experiences: seeing polar bears frolicking in the wild, swimming with thousands of beluga whales, being awed by the dazzling Northern Lights and so much more. Discover below why Churchill Manitoba is a perennial favourite on the Canadian Signature Experiences list and why it should be your next dream vacation!
The Top Five Reasons to Visit Churchill
1. The Polar Bears
While you may think that winter would be the best time to view polar bears, it is actually July to November when they can best be seen in Churchill. In the warmer months, the bears are further away from town but can be observed on specialty tours. In the colder months of October and November, about a thousand polar bears gather on the shores of Hudson Bay, waiting for the waters to freeze so they can head out on the ice and begin their annual winter feast. They can be seen lounging, playing and sparring with each other.
Seeing these majestic animals in the wild is truly a breathtaking experience. Polar bears are the largest land carnivores in the world. Males can grow up to ten feet tall when standing on their hind legs and weigh the same as ten grown men. Sixty percent of the world’s polar bear population lives in northern Canada and they depend on sea ice to survive. Churchill is one of the few human settlements in the world where polar bears can be observed in the wild. Discover the power of these creatures on an ultimate polar bear adventure.
2. Beluga Whales
While polar bears get much of the attention when it comes to Churchill, they aren’t the only breathtaking white mammal to call this area home. Summer in Churchill is announced by the arrival of thousands of beluga whales that make their way into the Churchill River and Seal River estuaries to feed, mate and give birth. Over the course of the summer, it is estimated that roughly 4,000 beluga whales swim in the waters closest to Churchill, with nearly 60,000 making up the population in the western Hudson Bay area.
For an up-close and personal experience, visitors can head out on the water in a boat or kayak and watch these magnificent creatures swim and play — and listen to their unique noises. Belugas are the most vocal whales in the world and can emit 11 distinct sounds as they communicate with each other: from whistling and squealing to chirping and clicking. They are curious creatures and will often swim around and under boats.
Take an ultimate arctic tour to experience the beauty of this wild place and the glory of seeing pods of these gorgeous creatures in the water.
3. The Northern Lights
The wonders of Churchill don’t end with polar bears and belugas. After the sun goes down, Churchill lights up with the spectacular spirals and flickers of the colourful Aurora Borealis — the famed Northern Lights. Located as it is in the Auroral Oval, Churchill is one of the top places in Canada to see this natural phenomenon. The Aurora Borealis can be seen in Churchill up to 300 nights a year but are best observed on dark, clear nights.
The Aurora Borealis is caused by a collision between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere and charged particles released by the sun’s atmosphere. Different colours can be seen depending on which gas is involved. Oxygen in the lower altitude causes yellow-green (the most common colour) and, if in a higher altitude, red. If nitrogen is involved, you’ll see purple and blue (although blue is rare). The aurora can appear as patches, streams, curtains or rays that light up the sky in an almost eerie glow. Cross this incredible sight off your bucket list with a tour in Churchill or the Yukon. If you’d like to arrange a special custom trip, don’t hesitate to contact us.
4. Arctic Wildlife
Although polar bears and beluga whales often take centre stage in Churchill, they are not the only creatures that make this unique area home. Churchill is located at the convergence of three major Canadian biomes — the tundra, the boreal forest and marine environments — making this unique area home to a vast array of iconic Canadian animals. Visitors will have the chance to see the adorable arctic hare, the beautiful arctic fox, the majestic moose, or the elusive wolf. Other incredible animals to look for are the wolverine, the snowy owl and the mischievous siksik (also referred to as the arctic squirrel).
In the spring and fall, Churchill turns into a birder’s paradise as hundreds of bird species flock to the area. Over 250 species of birds nest or pass through Churchill during their annual migrations, including falcons, hawks and the Tundra Swans. Those interested in uncommon bird species will want to visit for a chance to spot some extremely rare birds such as Ross’s Gulls and Harlequin Ducks.
5. Northern Adventures
The surrounding wild beauty of Northern Manitoba makes Churchill a prime destination for visitors looking for cool adventures off the beaten path. Close encounters with wildlife aside, Churchill offers outdoor enthusiasts a myriad of adventurous options from kayaking and hiking to dog mushing and stand up paddle boarding. Each season brings its own beauty and the surrounding sub-arctic scenery will take your breath away.
Explore the history of the town and its importance as a saltwater northern port, indulge in delicious cuisine and get swept up in the local hospitality. Churchill is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Photos courtesy of Dennis Fast, Build Films and Travel Manitoba