Skip to main content

COVID Message

The NWT is open to leisure travel. See information on COVID-19 travel guidelines

The 11 Best Things About Summer Up North

11 best things about summer up north

Wide-open lakes. Endless hours of sunlight. Powerful landscapes and amazing wildlife right in your backyard. Summers in the Northwest Territories may seem short, but in reality, it’s easy to fill your days (and sun-lit nights) with all sorts of memorable and exciting summer experiences. What exactly makes summer in the NWT so spectacular? Here is a list of just a few of the best things about summer in the North that we look forward to every year.

people enjoy live music at Folk on the Rocks in Yellowknife NWT

11. Outdoor Cultural Festivals

During the warm summer months, there is no shortage of vibrant and unique cultural festivals to attend, and you’ll find everyone is taking the opportunity to connect and relish the beautiful outdoors. Live music fills the air at the Midway Lake Music Festival in Fort McPherson, high in the Western Arctic, and the well-renouned Folk on the Rocks Music Festival brings the city of Yellwoknife alive with excitement and dance in the middle of the summer. Any given week, you’ll find opportunities to take part in Indigenous cultural demonstrations, enjoy amazing food, and celebrate with Northerners across the territory well into the evening.

The spectacular Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories

10. Experiencing Great Slave Lake

The NWT is a land of lakes and waterways - a delight for paddlers and fishers alike. There’s no greater example of this than Great Slave Lake itself. This colossal lake is the largest lake in Canada, and its depths are home to fish that are just as massive. All of this makes it a truly extraordinary lake to get out on - whether you’re travelling between thriving communities, enjoying a day out on a secluded spot, or just quietly contemplating while you stare out onto a horizon that meets the sky almost seamlessly.

People swim in the beautiful waters in Nahanni National park reserve in the NWT

9.  Getting in the Water

There’s no shortage of lakes to explore beyond Great Slave Lake, and it’s only a matter of time before the remarkably clear waters pique your interest and your sense of adventure tells you it’s time to take a dip. There’s no better escape from the heat of the summer than wading into a lake from the edge of a day-use area or beach. 

NWT lakes are not only pristine, but you will also find they’re surprisingly warm! As the summer months continue, the increased hours of direct sunlight warm the surfaces of the lakes and make them a delight to swim in. That is unless you’re dipping into the waters of the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk - the refreshing shock is a necessary part of that memorable right of passage.

A person golfs under the midnight sun in the Northwest territories

8. A Round of Midnight Golf

Golf-lovers in the NWT have a limited window to enjoy the numerous golf courses around the territory, but what they miss in the colder months they make up for in the summer nights. It’s common to schedule your golf games for after dinner, knowing you can comfortably tee off at midnight and still get in a full 18 holes with the light of the midnight sun.

7. Fishing at any hour

Once you’ve discovered it’s possible to do anything at nearly any time of day, it’s easy to see the possibilities for your summer in the NWT open up and become endless. There’s no better place to let your love of fishing fly - and the fish are biting all the time. The NWT is the place to go if you’re looking for record-setting fish and a world-renowned good time - we’ve got crystal clear lakes and rivers teeming with Lake Trout, Northern Pike, and our iconic Whitefish. Summer is the time to cast off and see what you can reel in.

cooking on a fire in the Nahanni int he NWT

6. Sizzling Shore Lunches

The only thing better than catching a fish at any hour is being able to cook it up right then and there and enjoy an authentic NWT shore lunch. If you’re out on a day trip with an operator or enjoying one of the many fishing lodges around the territory, these mouth-watering meals will be a staple of your trip. Northerners know there’s just something different about eating a fresh-caught fish out on the land - a delicious highlight to any successful fishing trip.

Campers enjoy a campfire in Nahanni National Park reserve

5. Gathering around Bonfires

Getting out on the land with friends and family, gathered around a bonfire at your favourite camping spot - there’s simply nothing like it. One of the best things about summer in the NWT is how easy it is to get out like this and experience the quiet majesty of the landscape well into the evening. Time flies when you’re having fun, and Northerners know this better than most when the line between sunset and sunrise blends together.

Canoeing in the Northwest Territories

4. Paddling at Any Time

Summer in the NWT is a paddler’s dream - the waterways of the North form an extensive water highway system and people have used them for recreation and travel for time immemorial. Novice paddlers can wet their feet paddling around any number of the calm Northern lakes, and more experienced and adventurous paddlers are sure to recognize the names of our greatest river routes:  Nahanni, Broken Skull, Mountain, Thomsen, Mackenzie, Yellowknife, Coppermine, Thelon, or Hornaday

Best Road trips in the NWT

3. Amazing Road Trips

See how far the road really goes when you take the Dempster Highway up to the top of the world where it ends at the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Or maybe you want to make the trip up from the southern border, stopping at any number of vibrant communities on your way to the capital city of Yellowknife. Getting out on the road takes you through the vast land of the territory and there’s so much to see, from roaring waterfalls to scenic and serene campsites. You can map out your next adventure with one of these popular routes.

A muskox in the NWT

2. Welcoming Summer Wildlife

People aren’t the only ones excited to get out and enjoy the warmer weather in the summer - you don’t need to have a keen eye to easily spot all sorts of spectacular wildlife. There are opportunities for wildlife viewing almost everywhere - from the epic Northern highways you can see wood bison, moose, fox, black bear, beaver and muskrat, or the more elusive caribou, grizzly, muskox, whale from bush planes or boats.

The best northern lights in summer dance in the sky in the NWT

1. Watching Summer Aurora

The Summer Aurora season begins in mid-August when the sun finally begins to set and darkness returns to the skies of the NWT. There’s no better way to cap off the sheer variety of awe-inspiring and magical experiences you can have in the summer than witnessing the skies come to life with the dance of Northern lights in the cooling nights of late summer. 

Here, you can sit lakeside after a long day of paddling, enjoy the soft sound of a crackling fire, and look up into the sky to see the Aurora’s mesmerizing dance displayed above and reflected in the clear surface of the waters below. There’s only one way to describe it - Spectacular, and it’s what we love about summers in the NWT.

Get our Free Spectacular Guide

Is the Northwest Territories on your must-see list? Order or download our free Spectacular Guide to plan your trip of a lifetime.