Well I expected a small town in the semi wilderness and I was not disappointed, Churchill Manitoba which is about 1000 km north of Winnipeg and has a population of around 900 people, over 3000 beluga whales and in the peak season (October to November)  thousands of polar bears.

The housing is small and basic but I suppose that makes it easier to heat.  The town has a lot of murals on their buildings which brightens the town up, along with the occasional statue.

The town is small in size but has a large tourist footprint, there are several different accommodation options which caters for all types of travellers from large lodges, inns and homestays.  Most visitors only stay for three or four days and tours only run (whale tours) if the weather allows, so if you arrive and you cannot reschedule your tour day/time you may lose your money.  Digby and I chose to stay 8 days in Churchill for this reason as we wanted to try and get the most out of our visit here.  You can either fly or catch a train to Churchill, the train takes 48 hours from Winnipeg and is a slow trip so if you like trains – go for it, otherwise I would recommend flying in.

It is always a risk to come at the wrong time of the year and there are very specific times to view wildlife in Churchill.  May to September is bird season, mid June to late August is beluga whale season and October to November is polar bear season (but start their journey to Churchill in September), however there is a small window of opportunity that you may get to see all, plus if you are really lucky to see the northern lights as well.  We were lucky but we only got to see the occasional polar bear from a distance and a small showing of the Aurora.

The Tundra landscape is amazing.

So why do the bears come to Churchill? Well they wait on the peninsula until the Hudson Bay freezes over so they can hunt their primary food source ringed seals, and how do they know when it is time to make their way to Churchill? When it starts to get cold and believe me it is starting to get cold, 5 degrees not so bad but with the winds at 50 km an hour it feels like -6.9 degrees.

Many locals leave their cars unlocked in case someone needs to make a quick escape from a polar bear, some bears who loiter in town are tranquillised and held in “polar bear jail” until being released into the wild.


Oh the bears! –  we did get a couple of photos.


The Beluga whales start to arrive in Churchill River Estuary about mid June to calf before making their way back to the Arctic Ocean at the end of August.  Even though the Beluga isn’t as awe inspiring as the Humpback whale (which I am partial to), it is amazing to see so many whales in one small location.  They are not shy and come right up to the boat, they like to swim behind the motor of the raft.

Another reason visitors arrive in Churchill is to bird watch as there are over 270 species within a 40 km radius of Churchill.  

You can see the Aurora here but you have to be here at the right time in the right weather conditions, so hopefully we will have more luck in Alaska, which is our next road trip after entertaining our visitors from Australia.