Polar bear season 2020: How to visit Churchill this year
Posted September 10, 2020
| Author Breanne Sewards
While Travel Manitoba strongly recommends that all tourism businesses adhere to the operating protocols and capacity restrictions allowed by the Manitoba government, we cannot guarantee the compliance of any business featured in the content below.
Please contact the business directly for operating hours and policies. Throughout the province, please continue to practise safe physical distancing and adhere to all recommended guidelines. #COVIDCarefulMB
You don't have to travel far in 2020 (and...you probably don't want to) to have an extraordinary adventure. Manitobans: this is the year to visit Churchill during the height of polar bear season. In an ordinary year, hotels and packages are booked well in advance and last-minute trips are rare. But this year is different...and we have all the details on how to make your trip north as smooth as possible.
While much of the north is closed to southern travel due to COVID-19, visitors are permitted to travel to Churchill.
For those travelling by plane or train, please be aware that masks are mandatory.
For those travelling by driving to Thompson and then taking the train, please note that you must proceed directly to the station or self-isolate in your hotel room until departure. Please do not visit any local stores or restaurants. We advise bringing plenty of food from home for both the car and train journey, as no meals are served on board.
Please check with your tour provider to get the latest procedures and always follow government guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
When to go
October and November*
*Mid-October to Mid-November tends to be the ideal time to visit
What you can see
Polar bears: If you've been wanting to find out why Churchill is known as the polar bear capital of the world, October and November are the time to visit, as polar bears are beginning to gather in the area to wait for the big freeze.
Northern lights: While peak northern lights season occurs from January to March, Churchill sees the sky light up with the aurora borealis 300 days a year.
Other wildlife: Come for the polar bears, stay for the (other) wildlife! Keep your eyes peeled for arctic fox, snowy owls, wolves and ptarmigan.
Itsanitaq Museum: This unassuming museum is open year-round and features one of the world's finest collections of Inuit carvings and artifacts. These delicate and intricate works of art date back to Pre-Dorset (1700 BC) times. Open Monday to Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday, 1:00 pm - 4:30 pm.
Sea walls murals: Initiated and led by celebrated Manitoban artist Kal Barteski, SeaWalls CHURCHILL is a collection of murals that not only inspire but also educate on the need to protect the world's oceans. The murals can be accessed by a self-guided driving tour.
Shopping: Don't leave Churchill without finding that perfect trip keepsake. Must-shops include the Arctic Trading Company, Fifty Eight North and Wapusk General Store.
While a DIY option is readily available in the summer months, we recommend booking a package tour during the busier polar bear season. Tour packages will typically cover your transportation from Winnipeg, all your meals, accommodations and excursions. Here are the tour companies running during the 2020 season - note each has their own COVID-19 rules and procedures - so please do your research before booking.
Not interested in a packaged tour? Here are some options for visiting Churchill, DIY style.
Flights: A flight with Calm Air from Winnipeg to Churchill takes approximately 2 hours. Some flights stop in Rankin Inlet, which adds a few hours onto the trip total. (tip: if you have Airmiles and are flying within Manitoba, try searching Winnipeg to Churchill. Typically, flights cost 1400 points, but the seats go quickly. During the week is your best option for finding flights.)
Train: Via Rail offers train service from Winnipeg to Churchill, leaving every Sunday and Tuesday from the VIA Rail Station in Winnipeg and arriving in Churchill 48 hours later. From Churchill, the train departs every Thursday and Saturday. Another option is to combine a train trip and flight with one-way trips!
Hey! I'm Breanne, Editorial Content Specialist for Travel Manitoba. First to jump in the lake and last to make it down the River Trail. Always up to try a new restaurant, cafe or bakery - as long as it has potential to go viral on TikTok. 😉