The polar bear capital of the world: Churchill, Manitoba

Churchill is famous for the many polar bears that congregate here in the autumn — leading to the town's nickname and unoffical title as "Polar Bear Capital of the World". As Canada's polar bears migrate from their summer homes on the tundra to the shores of Hudson Bay, many of them converge in Churchill. 

Three polar bears walking over the tundra

It is estimated that 1,200 or more of these creatures move through the area each autumn.
The window period to see these bears is very brief, lasting from October to early November. As soon as sturdy ice forms on Hudson Bay, they leave the area to hunt seals for the winter. The short migration period of the polar bears makes it very important to book your trip to Churchill as soon as possible.

If you wish to see the beauty of this vulnerable species, plan a 5 to 7-day trip to Churchill, Manitoba this fall. Canada Polar Bears offers a wide variety of packages that will allow you and your family to get a close up view of these large predators. You will be escorted by trained professionals in an enclosed Tundra Buggy to ensure that you stay safe, but still get a face-to-face look at possibly hundreds of Canada's polar bears.

Located along Manitoba's 1400 km coastline on the Hudson Bay, Churchill is the meeting of three major biomes: marine, boreal forest and tundra, each supporting a variety of flora and fauna. If you're interested in exploring more than just Polar Bears, you can experience Beluga whales, arctic birds and owls, arctic wolves, and the rich history of Inuit, Chipewyan, Swampy and Cree tribes that have long inhabited the pristine area.

Popular polar-bear tours in Churchill

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Churchill Polar-Bear Tours via Tundra Buggy

Tourists can safely view polar bears from specially modified buses known as tundra buggies. October and early November are the most feasible times to see the polar bears, hundreds of which wait on the vast peninsula until the water freezes on Hudson Bay so that they can return to hunt their primary food source, ringed seals. Whether you're looking to experience an ecotourism adventure among Polar Bears, Beluga Whales, or just see the magnificent Hudson Bay - let us make it an unforgettable experience.

Visit Churchill for the Experience of a Lifetime 

Manitoba's polar bear migration is a spectacle that leaves many with lifelong memories, but don't worry if you can't make it during the community's peak travel period. There is plenty more to do in Churchill, including snowshoeing, bus tours and Tundra Buggy adventures. There is plenty to do in Churchill year round. Here are just a few of the many activities the area has to offer.

Bird Watching in Churchill 

Avian-lovers can find a complete paradise in Manitoba. About 200 species of birds pass through Churchill each year as they complete their migratory cycles. Churchill's long daylight hours (5am to 10pm at their longest) provide you with plenty of opportunities to see the town's large number of winged visitors.

Beluga Whale Boat Tours

The town of Churchill claims to have the best beluga whale watching in the world. These claims are not unsubstantiated, as the Churchill River sees the migration of 3,000 or more beluga whales each year. You can go on a boat tour on the river to watch these playful, aquatic mammals socialize in their natural habitat.

Northern Lights Tours

Aurora Borealis is visible at most points throughout the year, but the phenomenon is especially evident between January and March. You can get a great view of the Northern Lights from the comfort of your Churchill hotel, or take a guided group tour into the Canadian wilderness to see the spectacle in a secluded location. Some tour operators have clothing rentals so you can stay safe and comfortable outside during the cold, arctic nights. Our travel site can help you plan your Northern Lights tour. 


Many people spend years training themselves and a pack of canines in order to form a talented dog sled team. It takes a great deal of discipline and endurance for both mushers and their teams to stay level headed and energetic in arctic conditions. Luckily, you can enjoy a world-class dog sled tour without years of preparation! The town of Churchill is home to dog sledding professionals who can be hired to lead brief excursion. In one afternoon, you can experience the excitement of the Iditarod! There's positively no better way to catch the Spirit of the North than by taking a dog sled adventure. Visitors that come to Churchill to view polar bears often comment that their dog sledding adventure was among the unexpected highlights of their trip. 

  • Dogsledding History in Churchill
    • Dog power has been utilized for hunting and travel for hundreds of years. As far back as the tenth century these dogs have contributed to the Northern culture. Several distinct dog breeds are used as sled dogs, although any medium-sized breed may be used to pull a sled. Purebred sled dog breeds range from the well-known Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute to rarer breeds such as the Mackenzie River Husky or the Canadian Eskimo Dog. Dog sled teams are put together with great care. Generally, a dog sled team involves putting together a team of leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs. Throughout the history of Churchill, dogsledding has remained an important piece of the city's culture and heritage. In fact, a few northern mushers in the Churchill area still use sled dogs as their primary form of transportation in the winter months.
  • Experience Canadian Sled Dogs Firsthand
    • There are no better ambassadors to the Churchill area than the famous sled dogs of Churchill, Manitoba! Today, the carefully groomed trails around the Churchill area make dogsledding an exhilarating experience you'll never forget. Learn about the rich history of the Inuit and other native tribes who first embraced the majestic northern-dog-sledding breeds. After you acquaint yourself with the history, meet the dogs and saddle up in the sleigh. The highly trained dog sled teams will take you on a winter wonderland sleigh ride through the pristine boreal forests of the Hudson Bay area. After sledding through the array of scenic vistas and panoramas—take a pit stop at a number of lodges to grab a cup of hot cocoa.
      Whatever type of Canadian sled dog tour you decide to take in Churchill, it'll undoubtedly be the adventure of a lifetime. Just make sure to snap a photo with the dogs before you leave.

Culture in Churchill

About half of the population is Caucasian and the other half are Aboriginal, mostly Chipewyan and Swampy Cree. A minority is composed of Inuit natives. Hunting, trapping and fishing is still an important activity to most of these men; although there are some summer trails, snowmobiles, are their main way of transport. Nearby is the Itsanitaq Museum, with over 850 high quality Inuit carvings on permanent display.

The exhibits include historic and contemporary sculptures of stone, bone, and ivory, as well as archaeological and wildlife specimens. Parks Canada visitor centre also has artifacts on display and makes use of audiovisual presentations of various topics involving the region's natural and archaeological history.

History of Churchill

Churchill has a history steeped in rich history and tradition. A variety of nomadic Arctic people lived and hunted in this region. The Thule people arrived around 1000 A.D. from farther west, and later evolved into the present-day Inuit culture. The Dene people arrived around 500 from farther north. Since before the time of European contact, the region around Churchill has been predominantly inhabited by the Chipewyan and Cree cultures.

After an abortive attempt in 1688-89, in 1717 the Hudson's Bay Company built the first permanent settlement, which was a log fort a few miles upstream from the mouth of the Churchill River. The trading post and river were named after John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, an ancestor of Winston Churchill, who was governor of the Hudson's Bay Company in the late 1600s. The fort was built mostly to capitalize on the northern trade, out of the reach of York Factory. It dealt mainly with the Chipewyan peoples living north of the boreal forest. Much of the fur came from as far away as Lake Athabasca and the Rocky Mountains.

Today, the great presence of Polar Bears has made Churchill The Polar Bear Capital of the World. Each October and November, the town braces itself for an influx of 8000 tourists who flock to Churchill annually in a six-week window of opportunity that has become known as the Polar Bear migration.

Historic Sites in Churchill 

While visiting one of the world's most pristine ecotourism locations in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada there is an abundance of activities to keep you occupied in between your ecotourism adventures. After you've experienced the magnificent polar bear encounters or observed the fascinating Beluga Whale communities on the Hudson - take a day to explore some of Churchill's historic sites.

  • The Prince Of Wales Fort
    • The Prince of Wales Fort, considered to be one of the most magnificent stone structures ever built in North America, sits on the banks of the Churchill River in Northern Manitoba. This massive, star-shaped fortress began as a simple log fort in 1719 and took more than 40 years to complete. Though it had walls 5 m (16 ft) high and 40 mounted guns, in 1783 it fell to the French without a single shot being fired. Subsequently, it sat in ruins until 1920, when the government of Canada declared Prince of Wales Fort to be of national historic significance and had the cannons remounted and the walls repaired. Today, the partially restored fort is a National Historic Site and one of the main tourist attractions of the area. The Parks Canada Visitor Centre in Churchill provides an excellent introduction to the site as well as an in-depth look into the diverse history of the Hudson's Bay Company and its fur trade.
  • The York Factory
    • During the 17th through late 19th century, the depot at York Factory and its predecessors were the central base of operations for company's control of the fur trade and other business dealings with the First Nations throughout Rupert's Land: The vast territory comprising the entire watershed of Hudson Bay that now forms much of Canada. Today, the York Factory offers visitors the opportunity to experience the fur trading headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Company from the 1600s to the 1800s. Tours through the historic settlement also offer information on the HBC's main competitor, the famous North West Company.
  • Itsanitaq Museum
    • The Itsanitaq Museum showcases an extensive collection of Inuit artifacts and carvings, with a beautiful collection of ancient arts and crafts on display that contain two animal-hide canoes and several taxidermy animals. In addition, you can observe an extensive Inuit art display, intriguing caribou antler pictographs, and the Inuit's culturally significant soapstone statues.
  • Cape Merry National Historic Site
    • The Cape Merry National Historic Site, located a couple of minutes walking distance from Churchill's town centre, has the remains of an eighteenth-century gun emplacement and a cairn commemorating Jens Munck—a Danish explorer who lead a famous expedition where his crew was forced to camp throughout the entire winter. Aside from it historical significance, the cape is an excellent vantage point for observing the Beluga Whales that frequent the tidal area of the river throughout the summer. Cape Merry is also a must for bird watchers in search of Harlequin Ducks and King Eiders.

While experiencing the ecotourism adventure of a lifetime in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada - make sure to check out Churchill's array of amazing historical sites in the area.

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This collection of beautiful murals was painted by Canadian and international artists. You can find them along the shore of the Hudson Bay

Katherine Foxcroft
Product Manager, Tours and Vacations
A mural of a polar bear in Churchill Manitoba

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What Our Customers Say

It was an adventure of a lifetime

I don't know how to top this trip. It was an adventure of a lifetime. I loved seeing all the polar bears in their natural habitat and the dog sledding.

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Lori and Mike


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