The Five-Arctic Adventures in Churchill Manitoba

I never thought I would visit the edge of the Arctic Circle in the dead of winter. Nope. I never thought I’d brave -40 degree temperature either, but I did. You might too if you had the opportunity to see the Northern Lights in Churchill. Yes, they were amazing. Beyond amazing, but my trip was more than the lights. Not only did I see the night sky dance with majestic ribbons of green and purple light, but I spent three days in the northern Canadian town of Churchill, a place where I discovered a few Arctic adventures.

What did I discover? – Let’s take a look through my series “the five” and view five photos from Churchill, Manitoba

Welcome to Churchill

the welcome sign for Churchill, Manitoba, Canada - Polar Bear Capital of the World

Officially known and branded as the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” it is a place where polar bears out number people (1,000 to 880) at times. However, my visit was in March, when the polar bears were far away from town (hunting seals on the ice of frozen Hudson Bay).  Polar Bear season is October and November while winter is prime Northern Lights time (when it’s darkest).

On my trip, I also learned about the Beluga Whale migration takes place in summer. Visitors have a chance to swim (or float) beside 100s of whales and hear their songs. That will be my next trip Churchill – sorry Polar Bears.

Dave Daley and Dog Sledding at Wapusk Adventures

Dog sledding at Wapusk Adventure in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada


One activity, a highlight of the daytime adventures, was definitely the dog sledding adventure at Wapusk Adventures and the chance to take a winter ride and mush across the Arctic landscape.  At Wapusk, Dave Daley the legendary local racer tells you about the care (the love), the history, his competitive race history, all before he explains how to prepare for sledding with his dogs.

Many people wonder if the dogs can handle the cold weather, is it safe? Humane? All I can say is I’ve never seen a happier bunch of dogs wanting to pull a sled. My only complaint was that my first ride was too short as Dave and his crew needed to pack up and head out for the Hudson Bay Quest shortly after our visit. Next time, I hope to brave the elements longer.

The Tundra Buggy from Frontiers North Adventures

the Tundra Buggy out on an Arctic adventure in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

size matters in the arctic

How does one travel across the frozen landscape, stay warm, and navigate large ice hummocks en route to adventure?  By Tundra Buggy of course. These large people movers designed to brave the elements also provide a sense of luxury in the Arctic ice world. The one from Frontiers North included two fire places, a functioning bathroom, Chesterfield couches and space for all your gear. Also loaded with supplies such as water, hot chocolate, snacks and even at times of celebration (after viewing the Northern Lights) a few adult beverages too.

We took the Tundra Buggy across the terrain at night to find a dark viewing location for the northern lights, but we also took the Tundra Buggy out for a spin one morning to visit a cabin and do some snow shoeing. The scenic stillness and silence of winter in snow shoes made a lasting impression. Beautiful.

Eskimo Museum and Inuit Art

art atthe eskimo museum in

Eskimo is a term not often used publicly in Canada anymore. Apparently it is not a nice word. Who knew? However, in Churchill it is still used as the name of the local museum (a surprise for some Canadians on my adventure) since it still best describes the culture and artifacts inside.

The Assistant Curator gave us an overview of the Eskimo Museum and then we walked through single floor looking at all the exhibits.  This particular piece made me smile because it represented happy times and fun. Although created for kids, all art or sculptures were small until the indigenous people started a more westernized lifestyle with permanent settlements. Big Inuit sculptures such as ones made from whale bone were just too heavy to carry in such conditions, they are essentially modern art.

Churchill Northern Studies Center

outside the Churchill Northern Studies in

taking a photo of igloos outside in the arctic cold

Just a few miles out of town at the Churchill Northern Studies Center science meets the arctic climate. There is much to learn and tourists can even take learning vacations and spend time at the center – it is not just for scientists.

On our visit, in the most extreme weather conditions I’ve faced (until that evening when capturing the Churchill sunset) we exited the bus for a photo opportunity amongst igloos created by the Study Center.  Foolishly removing my glove to take a photo on my iPhone, I felt the initial sensation of frostbite. We didn’t last long in the -45 degree cold with strong winds, nope, but we did brave it long enough to have photographic evidence.

Sure Churchill will always be my Northern Lights, a trip that changed me and made me feel so alive, so wide awake. But I discovered more, I discovered a destination filled with Arctic adventure, many I enjoyed and some I want to return for when the weather is a bit warmer.

Stay adventurous, Craig

Special thanks to Travel Manitoba and Frontiers North for providing passage to the Arctic world in Northern Canada. 

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  • @mrsoaroundworld

    this looks amazing! what a trip!

  • lola

    definitely more of a beach girl over here, but to see the northern lights, this would be quite the trip! and i do have much love for oh canada!

    • craig zabransky

      Lola, the Northern Lights are something I’ll never ever let go of, they were simply amazing… one of my best travel experiences, or really life experiences ever. stay adventurous, Craig

  • TripsByLance

    I hate the cold, which makes me appreciate people who live in the brutal extremes even more. I have a friend who once lived in Alaska. He has talked about how much those dogs love to work. People sometimes look at animals working and think they’re being mistreated. But that’s not always the case. I would love to see those sled dogs doing their thing.

    • craig zabransky

      Lance, it is amazing how people think work is a four letter word and is bad for humans and for dogs too… these dogs were in the element – so happy, helpful and it was a treat to see that alone… although the sledding is quite cool too… stay extreme, Craig

  • Mary Anne Been

    I had 15 days of Winter fun in Canada this past Christmas too. BRRRR is all I can say.

    • craig zabransky

      Mary Anne this trip redefined cold for me, the recent Polar Vortex in New York mere child’s play. Stay warm, Craig

  • Francesca

    I think you know I’m a fan of arctic adventures. Churchill is a dream trip to me. I’m in complete awe that there were TWO fireplaces in that Tundra Buggy!

    • craig zabransky

      Yes two, perhaps they are hot stoves, but yes there were two – one in the front, one in the back… and you need two in such extreme cold to stay warm and happy, the “spiked” coffee and hot chocolate could only go so far… stay fireside, Craig

  • Traveling Ted

    Churchill sounds like an interesting place. I bet there are some true characters among those 800+ hardy souls. I would love to hit a tavern or two in between these adventures.

    • craig zabransky

      Ted, I definitely met some real interesting folks there over drinks… stay adventurous, Craig

  • Celine Rochon

    Loved Churchhill! And loved Bluesky bed and sled bed and breakfast. They made our stay in Churchill memorable! Jen and Getald Azure are amazing hosts. Two people with a heart for the land and a great love for there sled dogs. Once a sled dog retires they re-home the dogs and adopt them out to good families.

    • craig zabransky

      Celine, no surprise…I felt like everyone I met was warm and hospitable (even in the cold), The people really helped make my trip too. Thanks for commenting. Stay adventurous, Craig

  • Leah Travels

    I want to take a ride on the Tundra Buggy! Oh, and I’m dying to see the Northern Lights. This looks like a great trip.

    • craig zabransky

      The Tundra Buggy was an adventure, it really felt as if you were traversing a different planet too, an ice world.. And the Northern Lights – life changing. Definitely put this on your trips to do…. stay adventurous, Craig

  • The World of Deej

    Although seeing the Northern Lights is on my list, swimming with the belugas sounds like it just might top it. Great stuff Craig!

    • craig zabransky

      Deej, it just might, I hope to find out one day. Stay adventurous, Craig

  • Lazy Travelers

    OMG THE SNOW DOGS. sold.

  • Dan Thompson

    Hey man, so I’ve been looking in to the Churchill polar bear trips and there doesn’t seem to be one that isn’t super expensive. Did you notice any “budget” outfitters while you were there… or are they all pretty high? (like $500 per person for a day tour).

    • craig zabransky

      Dan, great question. I wasn’t there during Polar Bear season, but as I understand all adventures to this remote destination are costly. I asked people in Winnipeg why they don’t visit Churchill to see the Northern Lights and they told me it is because they can spend two weeks at an all inclusive in Mexico or take a trip to Thailand and pay less it costs for 5 days in Churchill…

      As for cheaper adventures, definitely send your inquiry to the Churchill Northern Studies Center (see link in last photo)… they might be a great resource for budget travel.

      stay adventurous, Craig

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