© 2012; 2006 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Patricia Redman. Information
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
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Summertime in Churchill Manitoba – A Solo Travel Report

By Patricia Redman

Photo credits: Mike Macri, Sea North Tours

Churchill Manitoba is well known as the place to see polar bears hanging around town while waiting for autumn freeze-up and good seal hunting on Hudson Bay. But the town has summertime attractions too.

Belugas, tourists eye one another. Photo  Mike Macri Sea North ToursI wanted to go in summer to see beluga whales. Called "sea canaries" because of their whistling and squealing vocalizations, thousands of the white whales come to the Churchill River during summer calving season.

My research showed that the road ends at Thompson, some distance to the south, and there are only 40-odd miles of drivable roads around the town. There are regular two-hour flights from Winnipeg by Calm Air, and Via Rail's Hudson Bay train runs three days a week, but I decided against making the trip independently. I'd read that it is likely bears will be around, even in summer, and for this reason it isn't smart to roam about freely. Warnings are posted in town where a bear has been spotted.

Frontiers North Adventures

So I chose to be part of a guided group and used a small Winnipeg tour company to look after my arrangements. Dealing with Frontiers North Adventures was a pleasure. I could have requested a twin share but preferred a room to myself. The fully escorted, 6-day trip cost C$2,580 plus a C$350 single supplement fee, which included one-way train fare from Winnipeg and return via air, three nights' hotel in Churchill, some meals, and sightseeing excursions by zodiac and tundra buggy.

My group companions were two women from Quadra Island, BC and a farm couple from the US. Our excellent guide, a retired RCMP officer who had lived in Churchill, met us at the Winnipeg train station and left us at Winnipeg airport.

To Churchill by Train

The Hudson Bay rail line covers 1,700 kilometers (1,056 miles) between Winnipeg in Canada's southern prairies and sub-arctic Churchill, a small community of about 1,000 residents located on the flat, rocky, western coast of Hudson Bay.

Equipped with a dining car and sleepers, including single roomettes, the train left Winnipeg at 8:30pm and arrived in Churchill at 8:30am two days later. In July, days are long in this part of the world, so we had plenty of daylight hours to view caribou and other wildlife as the landscape changed from lush boreal forest to taiga then tundra. Further north the trees were stunted and standing in muskeg. There weren't many people on our car until we got to Thompson, one of the few major towns en route. Most of the newcomers appeared to me to be European tourists.

A True North Nature Show

The sign that greeted us on detraining at Churchill's rail station proclaimed the town's attractions: "Bird Watcher's Paradise," "Beluga Whale Capital of the World," and "Nature's Light Show – Aurora Borealis." It didn't mention the hordes of overly-friendly insects that also await summer tourists. A bug jacket and repellent were definitely necessary. But the wild flowers were amazingly abundant, and we certainly saw many of the 200-plus species of birds that frequent this area.

Churchill, I found, has comfortable motels and some good restaurants. I stayed at the Polar Inn and can recommend it.

A trip by tundra buggy provided lots of opportunity for seeing birds, as well as foxes, hare, and even a bear.

Despite Churchill's northern location, the weather was hot at times, so heavy clothing wasn't needed – except for the ride on a zodiac when we got a close-up, thrilling look at the whales. For that trip warm, waterproof clothing was essential.

The bugs were bad, and the price was high for my budget, but for a nature lover like me, Churchill was heaven.

If You Go


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