July 22- 29, 2019
This itinerary was developed in partnership with Times Journeys and Canada Keep Exploring.
Experience Churchill, Manitoba, along the shores of Canada’s majestic Hudson Bay, the polar bear capital of the world, on this active eight-day journey. See wildlife up close (depending on the animals, of course), including migrating beluga whales, Arctic foxes, seals and polar bears. Discover Churchill’s 3,000 years of indigenous and European history.
Start your journey in Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg, then travel to Churchill, home to three distinct eco-zones: Arctic marine, Arctic tundra and boreal forest. Learn about the impact of European explorers and fur trappers of the 17th and 18th centuries and the significance of living “up north” today. Try your hand at dogcarting, a version of sledding without snow, savor local delicacies and learn from researchers at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. Hike and get up close to sea life in small boats, making this a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Dr. Barber obtained his Bachelors and Masters from the University of Manitoba, and his Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, Ontario. He received a Canada Research Chair in Arctic system science in 2002. He is currently associate dean (research), CHR Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources.
Introduction to the Canadian North
Arrive in Winnipeg and transfer to the hotel and meet your fellow travelers. Head to Assiniboine Park Conservancy, home of the Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. In a private tour led by a conservation scientist, learn about the landscape, geography and wildlife that define the sub-Arctic. Walk through an underwater viewing tunnel, known as Sea Ice Passage, for unique views of polar bears swimming. Gather for a private reception and dinner under the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis Theatre.
With a guide, explore Winnipeg, Manitoba’s provincial capital, including Old St. Boniface in the French Quarter, home to a thriving Franco Manitoban community. Visit the Manitoba Legislative Building, made from fossil-rich Manitoba limestone and full of mysterious Masonic references. After lunch, take a private tour of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, followed by a special talk on the challenges facing the nation today. Created by an Act of Parliament and opened in 2014, the museum is dedicated to exploring the subject of human rights, focusing on Canada but not exclusively. The rest of your day is at leisure to discover Winnipeg and its diverse cuisine.
Check out of your hotel and transfer to the airport for the two-hour chartered flight to Churchill. After lunch, explore the surrounding landscape with a local guide. Learn more about Cape Merry, which was named after the deputy governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company from 1712 to 1718 and includes remnants of a defensive cannon battery. (The company was founded in 1670.) Visit the Polar Bear Jail, where misbehaving bears are temporarily held if they get too close to town and refuse to leave. Check into the hotel and have your first dinner at the Lazy Bear Café.
After breakfast, board the Sam Hearne, a modern vessel designed for exploring remote parts of Western Hudson Bay, for a day on the water. (Hearne explored the region in the mid-1700s.) Voyage to one of the more remote polar bear viewing areas on the west side of Hudson Bay to observe polar bears in their summer environment, swimming and walking around the rocks, and see the seasonal wildflowers. If the weather — and wildlife — cooperate, you can disembark and explore the polar bear habitat. This evening, explore Churchill on your own. Though its official population is less than 900, Churchill has a surprising number of restaurants and sights.
Travel to an excellent spot to view some of the 60,000 beluga whales that fill the Hudson Bay in summer. On this shoreline cruise, see where the whales come to feed, mate and give birth in the warm shallow coastal waters. Watch as the belugas surface just yards away before they dive under the boat. Disembark and hike with a Parks Canada guide to the Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site. Begun in 1717, it is the oldest and most northerly stone fort in the country. Later, take an off-road tundra tour to explore the stunning landscape. Keep an eye out for the magnificent summer wildlife, including a vast array of bird life, Arctic foxes and the occasional caribou. Return to Churchill for dinner as a group.
With a local guide, explore Churchill’s community and learn from some of the 900 people who live here. Visit stores like the Arctic Trading Company and St. Paul’s Anglican Church, the first prefabricated building in North America and the oldest church in the north still in use. Stop at the Itsanitaq Museum, home to one of Canada’s finest collections of Inuit carvings, kayaks and artifacts dating to before Inuit times. The museum is only one room, but it’s packed. In the afternoon, participate in a dogcart excursion hosted by a local Métis and dog-mushing expert. The Métis were originally mixed-race descendants of the First Nation and Europeans, and they have now developed their own culture and community. Meet the team of friendly dogs, hear stories and learn about the philosophy of dog running. After your dog run, enjoy traditional bannock, a flat bread, and sip berry tea as indigenous populations have for centuries. Subject to availability and weather conditions, an optional activity of either snorkeling or kayaking with the belugas can be arranged at extra cost.
Check out of the hotel and depart for the Churchill Northern Studies Centre, an independent, nonprofit research and education facility. Hear from visiting researchers focusing on the northern climate, including polar bear habitats, social issues, environmental impact and economic development. Go on an interpretive hike and visit the Churchill Rocket Research Range, established in 1957 to launch rockets to research auroras. (The aurora borealis is most visible between January and March.) Operated by various agencies over the years, including the Canadian Space Agency for a series of NASA launches, the range launched 3,500 sounding rockets before it closed in 1985. After the hike, go to the center for a presentation on the environment by a resident scientist. Return to Winnipeg by air, and gather for a farewell dinner.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.
This historic building in downtown Winnipeg is one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. Fitted with Italian linens, high ceilings and classic style, the polished rooms offer free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs.
Made from reclaimed wood from a boreal forest fire and windows recycled from an 1800s Hudson’s Bay trading post, this log cabin lodge features modern amenities including free Wi-Fi, modern bathrooms and cable television. Note: The Lazy Bear Café does not sell or serve alcohol; personal consumption is limited to guest rooms.