10 Tips on Exploring Manitoba’s Awesome Arctic in the Summer

There is a place in the northern region of Manitoba that will make you feel as though you are on a different planet. Exploring the foreign tundra brings you face to face with this area’s most famous attraction, the mighty polar bear.

Known as the polar bear capital of the world, Churchill is located 1,100 km from Winnipeg. For years, nature lovers from Toronto to Tokyo have been flying to this remote part of Canada during the months of October and November to watch polar bears in their natural element as they prepare to launch themselves onto the Hudson Bay once it freezes over.

While the Fall is Churchill’s hallmark busy season I strongly suggest planning your trip in the summer months as there are so many more things to see and do in the region when the weather is warm (and seriously who wants to fly up to the Arctic to see snow, I get enough of that at home all winter thank you!)

On my recent trip to Churchill this past August I saw a handful of polar bears (roaming the spongy tundra, tip toeing across rocky shore and swimming off the coast of Nunavut), enjoyed up-close-and-personal adventures with thousands of friendly Beluga whales (who come here each summer to feed and birth a new generation), mush with enthusiastic sleigh dogs, jaw drop at the awe inspiring Northern Lights, drive a massive tundra buggy and comfortably adventure outdoors to explore an old shipwreck, plane crash and ancient fort.

So how do you get way up there? From Winnipeg, Manitoba’s landscape shifts from prairie, to parkland, to boreal forest to tundra if you chose to hop on Via Rail’s two and half day long train ride north. Or you can enjoy incredible aerial views of Manitoba’s coastline along the Hudson Bay on descent after a short flight with Calm Air.

Here are my Top 10 Tips on Exploring Manitoba’s Awesome Arctic in the Summer! 

1) Lazy Bear Lodge

The town of Churchill has a wee population of 800. You’ll find one post office, one liquor store, one grocery store and one bank. The town “bustles” in the Summer and Fall when the population surges with tourists. There are a handful of operators in town so it’s best you do your due diligence and research online (thanks for visiting) before booking.

Two important things to remember: accommodation in Churchill is made up of humble inn’s and B&B’s, you won’t find any 5 Star digs here as there is no market for them. When you’re booking your trip remember the quality of your hotel/operator (and the food they serve) as well as the quality of their tour leaders, tundra buggy’s, kayak’s and other tour equipment are essentially what you are buying into on your vacation. Some operators have created their own unique offerings which you can’t find anywhere else (as of this writing Lazy Bear Lodge is the only operator offering boat tours of the Hudson Bay during the summer for example).

I spent 5 nights at Lazy Bear Lodge, the only accommodation in Churchill that offers guests a taste of authentic Canadian log cabin living. Lazy Bear Lodge was constructed using hand tools and trees bruised by a forest fire. Timbers garnished with hundreds of knots, burls, and furrows were, and are a type of spiritual paradigm of hardship overcome by beauty.

Wally Daudrich, Owner of The Lazy Bear recalls, “As a local Polar Bear guide who got his start here in Churchill back in the 80’s, I saw the potential of recycled timbers from two forest fires which burnt across Churchill’s tree line.” Construction started in 1995 when the temperature was hovering around -35 celsius. This allowed the logs to be hauled mostly in winter time over snow by snowmobile and trailer roughly 20 miles northwest to Churchill. Since its completion in its present form in 2005, it remains the largest handcrafted log building in Manitoba.

Each of the 33 guest rooms at Lazy Bear Lodge feature two cozy double beds, flat screen TV, spacious bathroom, work desk, WIFI and pretty views out the window which overlook the surrounding tundra. Comfy couches fill the lodge’s lounge, a popular spot to grab a hot cup of tea, read a book and warm up in front of a booming log fireplace. Past reception you’ll find a petite boutique which sells everything from Polar Bear postcards to Birch Syrup. The dining room and cafe is spacious and one of the most popular spots in town to grab a bite (so you’ll see locals enjoying a foamy latte here too).

The dinning room is decked out with polar bear pelt, stone fireplace and caribou antlers. If the weather isn’t too cool you can step through a door and enjoy a sun-splashed breakfast on screened in patio. The menu reads as a Taste of Northern Manitoba Cuisine which for curious culinary tourists offers an opportunity to sample wild bison, caribou pepper steak, dill crusted arctic char and muskox rouladen. Pub favourites such as jalapeno poppers, poutine, chicken wings, burgers and sandwiches also grace the menu. Be sure to sample through a hot slice of berry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream before bed!

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