Birds, belugas and bears are just three of Churchill's calling cards. The town on the edge of Hudson Bay is also famous for its nightlife as one of the world's premiere viewing areas for the aurora borealis - "spirits" that dance in the sky some 300 nights each year.
Become an expert on the phenomenon at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, where you can enjoy the view under a warm dome. The centre offers learning vacations that let you dig into archeology at the historic Prince of Wales Fort trading post; study snow geese and more than 250 other species of birds; build an igloo as you learn about northern culture and winter ecology; enjoy a mystical experience on the water with white beluga whales; and, of course, visit majestic polar bears during their annual migration to winter feeding grounds.
Eco-tourism opportunities abound to see mother bears and cubs and photograph young males sparring on the shore from heated tundra vehicles. Stay in Winnipeg and take a one-day excursion with Heartland Travel. Go on safari at a secluded lodge with luxury accommodations and ground-level wildlife views with Churchill Wild. Or join Frontiers North and other tour operators on Churchill-based adventures. Whatever option you choose, watch for Arctic fox and hare, get a a birds-eye view of the tundra and boreal forest from a helicopter, or go mushing with a team of sled dogs. A visit to the Eskimo Museum, with its collection of historic artifacts and Inuit art, is a must. At the end of the day, relax with a pint and pub fare at the Tundra Inn or spend a cozy evening with a warm fire at the Lazy Bear Lodge, where fine dining options include muskox rouladen and fresh Hudson Bay trout.
Churchill, population 1,000, is accessible by air or the Hudson Bay Railway line, which was built over permafrost and muskeg in 1929 and required a crew of 3,000 to complete. The two-night, one-day trip on VIA Rail from Winnipeg to Churchill (1,600 km/1,000 mi) provides comfortable bedrooms or roomettes and fine Manitoba cuisine in the dining car. Calm Air, Kivalliq Air run regular scheduled air service from Winnipeg, Thompson and Gillam year-round.
In summer, white beluga whales surface and plunge in the blue-green waters of the Churchill River. You'll be talking distance of the most vocal whales in the world. More than 3,000 beluga whales come in early July to feed and calve. Seals can also be seen in the harbour and caribou are frequently sighted along the coast.
Visitors are awestruck upon seeing the haunting beauty of our aurora borealis (northern lights). Blue, green and white in colour, they swirl and dance in the still northern sky with performances that can be seen on clear nights. According to legend, the northern lights will dance their way down to earth if you whistle at them. Why not give it a try?
Churchill is a birdwatchers' paradise-some 250 species of birds including the rare Ross Gull, nest or pass through on their yearly migrations. Bird Cove is an excellent spot for bird-watching. The wreck of the Ithaca, caught in a windstorm in 1960 while carrying nickel ore from Rankin Inlet to Montreal, is at the western tip of the cove. Akudlik Marsh and Harbour Board Ponds are also very good spots for birdwatchers.
On the tundra, lichens and miniature shrubs and flowers bloom each spring and fall. A short distance inland are patches of taiga (subarctic) forest, with black spruce, scattered white spruce and a thick mat of lichens. Twin Lakes is an island of boreal forest rising out of the surrounding subarctic tundra.
Established in 1957, the Churchill Rocket Research Range is a National Historic Site located at the geographic centre of northern light activity. The skyline of the area is unique with the shapes of four launchers from which more than 3,000 rockets were fired into the atmosphere.
Trilobite Beach is a fossilized tropical beach nestled below the billion year old cliffs of Churchill quartzite. Four million years ago, this was the shoreline of a warm tropical sea located near the equator. The world's largest trilobite fossil, 72 cm long, was excavated in 1998.