If you were lucky enough to nab the Via Rail Canada 150 Youth Pass, congratulations: your summer is about to be epic. And  now that bookings are officially open, you are likely starting to plan exactly what your cross-country adventure will look like. If you’ve spent some time musing over the Via Rail map, you’ll notice one thing: there is only one route that takes you into Canada’s north. So let us give you some advice; if you want to get off the beaten path, come face-to-face with some of Canada’s most captivating wildlife and have a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience this summer, please, go north. You will never forget the unbelievable experience that is summer in Churchill.

Got a VIA Rail Canada 150 Youth Pass? Embark on a northern summer safari in Manitoba!

You can snorkel, kayak and SUP with beluga whales

Whales? In Manitoba? Yes, you read that correctly. Each summer, thousands of whales make their way into the Churchill River estuary to raise their young and fill their bellies. There are several ways to get up close to these friendly whales. If you’re the adventurous type, opt to snorkel (with a wet or dry suit, depending on which company you go with), stand up paddle board or kayak among the canaries of the sea; and don’t forget to bring a catchy tune with you. Humming in the water will attract the whales!

You can see polar bears in the wild

While October and November remain as the most popular months to see bears in Churchill, you can still spot these majestic animals in the summer. Bears are most often seen roaming the shoreline, napping on boulders or swimming in the Hudson Bay. Last year, travel blogger Alex in Wanderland saw a bear within 10 minutes of arriving in Churchill!

You can experience Canada off the beaten path

There’s no road to Churchill. The remoteness of this northern town is just another draw that brings visitors in year after year. In Churchill, you will find everything from abandoned shipwrecks (the MV Ithaca) to the world’s only polar bear jail to a historic military fortress to scrumptious gourmet food  and bakeries (a real feat, considering the distance from Churchill to the nearest city) to summer dog carting adventures. Canada is certainly one of the most diverse countries in the world, and we can guarantee there will be no other place like this on your Via Rail adventure.

The details

When: July & August

Some excursions don’t start until the second week of July, so be sure to check your dates with the tour operator ahead of time.

Where: Churchill, Manitoba

The train from Winnipeg to Churchill covers 1000 miles and takes approximately 48 hours each way. If you’ve spent the weeks leading up to this adventure with a jam-packed schedule, this is a great time to relax, edit and sort through photos/video, read and meet other travelers.

Who: It depends on which experience you choose and if you want to see both bears and belugas.

It also depends on if you want your package to include accommodations, or if you just want to purchase an excursion. Lazy Bear Lodge offers a Beluga Whale Dream Tour which includes any two nights accommodation between June 20 and September 7 (based on availability), daily breakfast, one dinner and a boat and town tour, with options to add on snorkeling and kayaking. Sea North Tours offers a variety of excursions that you can purchase individually if you already have hotel accommodation. The Tundra Inn has two and four night packages that include kayaking (4 night only), a boat beluga and Prince of Wales Fort tour, accommodation and breakfast. By now you’re likely thinking: but what about the bears? While you might spot a bear on any one of these tours, Frontiers North is offering a Summer Tundra Buggy Day Tour that will take you into the Churchill Wildlife Management Area for a 6-hour tour.

If you choose to book your accommodation and excursions separately, The Tundra House Hostel is Churchill’s only hostel and accommodates 16 people with rates from $35 to $90 per night. Other hotel options include the Seaport Hotel, Churchill Hotel & Guest House and the Polar Inn & Suites. With the growing popularity of Churchill’s summer season, it goes without saying that you should book ahead of time.

How much: ~$120 to $1350

Again, the price range of these activites depends on how long you want to stay for and if you are bundling your beluga package with accommodation.

Have any questions? Feel free to email or ask us in the comments!