The ULTIMATE guide to polar bear season in Churchill, Manitoba
July 25, 2019
| Author Breanne Sewards
Wildlife enthusiasts know that Manitoba is one of the most magical places in the world to visit in the autumn months. And it's not for the wicked fall foliage. 1000 kilometres north of capital city Winnipeg lies the northern port town of Churchill, made famous by its annual congregation of polar bears. Plan your once-in-a-lifetime trek north with this ultimate guide.
When to go
October and November*
*Mid-October to Mid-November tends to be the ideal time to visit
What you can see
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. Polar bears are beginning to gather in the area to wait for the big freeze - when they can travel onto the ice of the Hudson Bay to hunt for seal (polar bears don't hibernate).
While peak northern lights season occurs from January to March, Churchill sees the sky light up with the aurora borealis 300 days a year. In other words, you'll definitely want to keep an eye on the aurora app to track activity, keep an eye on the forecast (clear skies are necessary) and be prepared to stay up late or set an alarm for the middle of the night when the sky is at its darkest.
Come for the polar bears, stay for the (other) wildlife! Don't be surprised if arctic fox, snowy owls, wolves and ptarmigan catch the attention of your camera lens.
Other things to do
Cape Merry provides one of the best views in Churchill, overlooking the Churchill River, Hudson Bay and the Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site. A FREE guided tour of Cape Merry will provide an in depth look at this historic spot and BONUS, bookings are not required at this time of the year.
Meet the dogs and embark on a quintessential winter activity: dog sledding! With snowfall coming rather early in northern Manitoba (compared to the rest of the province, that is), you can enjoy flying through picturesque scenes with one of Churchill's dogsledding companies: Wapusk Adventures or Churchill River Mushing.
Don't leave Churchill without finding that perfect trip keepsake. Must-shops include the Arctic Trading Company, Fifty Eight North and Wapusk General Store. Keep an eye on the Churchill Creative Collective Facebook page for upcoming pop-up markets from local artisans.
Get a closer look at this ghost ship (which ran aground in the 1960's) on a guided tour with Subarctic Explorers, North Star Tours or Discover Churchill.
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. Check out these awesome options!
Lazy Bear Expeditions: Ultimate Polar Bear Adventure
Natural Habitat Adventures: Classic Polar Bear Adventure, Classic Polar Bear Photo Adventure, Ultimate Churchill Adventure, Tundra Lodge & Town Adventure, Tundra Lodge Adventure, Churchill Arctic Family Adventure
Frontiers North: Classic Churchill Polar Bear Adventure, Classic Churchill Polar Bear Adventure by Train, Photo Adventure: Polar Bears at Tundra Buggy Lodge, Polar Bears at Tundra Buggy Lodge, Subarctic Discovery: Churchill Polar Bears, Subarctic Discovery: Churchill Polar Bears by Train, Conservation Journey: Polar Bears
Churchill Wild: Fall Dual Lodge Safari, Great Ice Bear Adventure, Polar Bear Photo Safari (Nanuk), Polar Bear Photo Safari (Seal)
Churchill Northern Studies Centre: Lords of the Arctic
If you haven't managed to nab a spot on a packaged tour this year, there are still ways to visit Churchill in DIY style. This option is best for travellers with flexibility and requires planning ahead of time, as many hotels will be booked solid well in advance.
If you do find yourself in Churchill during this busy season, here are several options to take if you aren't already on a packaged tour.
Where to stay
With limited accommodations in the town of Churchill, it's best to make your reservations as far ahead of time as possible.
Where to eat
About The Author
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. Lover of croissants, cats, and croissant-shaped cats. Got a story idea? Email me at email@example.com.
Editorial Content Specialist