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Home Story 15 Unique Experiences in the NWT

15 Unique Experiences in the NWT

You may have heard about the Northwest Territories’ enchanting polar bears, abundant gold mines, gigantic fish, awe-inspiring Northern Lights, and vast endless evergreen forests. But in a territory this big,1,346 million square kilometres (520,000 square miles) to be exact, there’s simply an endless list of experiences to enjoy

Witness the beauty of unique geographical features such as  colossal lakes, unclimbable mountains, distinctive pingos, and spectacular rushing waterfalls. Learn more about  traditional ways of life, or experience a completely different kind of nightlife under the world’s best Northern Lights. Canoe storied waterways, kayak under the Midnight Sun, or paddleboard your way through a colourful houseboat community. 

No matter where your journey takes you, the Northwest Territories is where you will find unforgettable experiences.

FIND A FLOATING COMMUNITY IN YELLOWKNIFE

The floating homes of Yellowknife Bay is arguably the most photographed real estate in the North. They’re also the world’s highest-latitude houseboats. Out along the bay you’ll discover dozens of off-beat, candy-coloured dwellings, from buoyant shacks to multi-unit apartments.  

 

 

Meet the Locals

The population of the NWT is about 45,000 spread across five unique regions with their own cultures and communities. Here, nine Indigenous languages, as well as English and French, are all recognized as official languages by the Government of the NWT. The cultures and histories of the people who live here are what make the territory so spectacular. Seize the opportunity to meet the locals and learn about their fascinating stories!

 

HOT SPRINGS TO SOOTHE YOUR SOUL

Even in the dead of winter, there are plenty of ways to keep warm. Have you ever tried a thermal pool? The best known is the 32 C (90 F) Kraus hot springs, a popular stop for paddlers on the shore of the South Nahanni River. Another popular spot to explore is Rabbitkettle Hot Springs, which is flanked by large calcium carbonate mounds, called tufa.

 

HERDS OF BISON IN THE SOUTH SLAVE

Herds of these iconic horned beasts roam undisturbed in the NWT, kicking up dust,  and gleaning from locals’ gardens Thousands of bison dwell in the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary near Fort Smith. You can see them right in town wandering the streets and grazing in yards. Traveling the Frontier Highway is still to this day one of the best ways to view the Mackenzie herd. This is the bison’s kingdom, one of the last places anywhere to watch them run wild.

 

GOLF AT ANY HOUR

Even here in the North, golfers love their greens. Several communities in the NWT  feature manicured golf courses, complete with lush fairways, and even clubhouses as in Hay River or Inuvik. Nothing can truly compare to a round of golf in the Western Arctic community of Uluhaktok on Victoria Island. If you want to play a round of golf underneath the Midnight Sun on truely unique terrain (the course is made of sand) try the Yellowknife Golf Club.  The club  host a  Midnight Sun golf tournament on the summer Soltice every year.  If you are okay with the occasional raven stealing your ball, the NWT is the wildest of places you’ll tee off.

 

DISCOVER MORE CULINARY DELIGHTS

“The best fish and chips in Canada ” as noted by Reader’s Digest magazine, when writing about beloved Yellowknife eatery, Bullock’s Bistro, Canada’s batter-dipped paradise. With lakes everywhere, you will find plenty of restaurants that serve up delectable fresh fish. Try Whitefish, Trout, Pike, Pickerel, Lingcod, and more. Don’t forget to wash it down with one of the NWT’s local brews!

 

SPOT THE RAREST BEAR IN THE WORLD

Only a handful of hybrid grizzly-polar bears have ever been spotted in the NWT or elsewhere in the Arctic. They’ve been called “pizzlies” or “grolars,” and Canadian wildlife officials have also suggested calling these hybrids “nanulaks” from the Inuktitut word for polar bear -nanuk and grizzly bear -aklak.  They’re one of the rarest  creatures in the North, and the world.

 

DIAMONDS ARE A VISITOR'S BEST FRIEND

The Northwest Territories holds three  active diamond mines worth more than a million dollars in diamonds each day. This resource has added a unique sparkle to the economy in the territory. The diamond-harvesting process is showcased at the Yellowknife Diamond Centre where you can observe how loose diamonds get mined, cut and polished.If you really take a shine to the NWT’s unique gemstones, they can be purchased at the NWT Diamond Centre!

 

REEL IN THE BIGGEST FISH FROM THE DEEPEST LAKES

The  mysterious, watery depths of Great Slave Lake are unrivalled in North America. If you sail offshore from the community of Łutselk’e on the lake’s fabled East Arm, you’ll find yourself in water at least two-thirds of a kilometre (nearly half a mile) deep. This makes Great Slave Lake the deepest lake on the continent and the sixth deepest in the world. This cold, wet abyss is heaven for supersized Lake Trout. Twenty-three kilo (50 lb) fish are commonplace in Great Slave. And far-larger fish are likely lurking in the depths just waiting to be caught.

 

WORLD-CLASS WHITEWATER AT PADDLEFEST

Among the greatest whitewater rivers, the NWT’s Slave River is a stand-out. Flowing past the town of Fort Smith, the Slave River rapids attract expert paddlers from around the globe. This is an ideal place to test their mettle in raging water features. The rapids range from easy class I on the International Scale of River Difficulty to unrunnable class VI holes. The river’s huge volume and massive waves make this river special. It’s also home to the northernmost river pelican colony in North America.

 

ROAD TRIP UP TO THE ARCTIC OCEAN

Rev your engine for the most intrepid road trip in the world. The route? North America’s first all-season highway to the Arctic Ocean, established in 2017. This final leg to the Arctic Ocean completes another historic roadtrip, the fabled Dempster Highway from Dawson City in the Yukon to Inuvik. From here, the “road to Tuktoyaktuk” takes you to the Arctic Ocean.  Here you will find a realm of beluga whales, polar bears, rich Arctic culture and ice-cored conical hills, referred to as pingos. Near Tukoyaktuk, you’ll pass by the second-largest pingo in the world, called Ibyuk, which is as tall as a 15 storey building and measures 304 m (1,000 ft) wide at its base.

 

NORTHERN LAKES ARE PERFECT IN SUMMER

The NWT is a picture-perfect summertime destination. Whether the sun sets late in the evening,  or the Midnight Sun keeps you company 24-7, here the summer days are gloriously endless and warm. That’s when Northerners and visitors head to the beach. Sandy waterfronts along lakes and rivers can be found in numerous Northern communities including Hay River and Yellowknife.

 

A CHURCH LIKE NO OTHER IN THE WESTERN ARCTIC

In Invuik, visit the  Our Lady of Victory Church, commonly known as the Igloo Church. Located on the MacKenzie Road in downtown Inuvik, the church was consecrated in 1960 after two years of construction by Catholic missionary Brother Maurice Larocque. In summer, the parish gives tours where you can view the interior, lavishly decorated with paintings by Inuvialuit artist Mona Thrasher. During the holiday season, the church hosts a concert with carols in Gwich’in,Inuvialuktun, and English. In recent years, a choir made up of Filipino residents has joined in on the fun, singing their hearts out in Tagalog.

 

WITNESS THE BEAUTY OF NÁÁTS'ĮHCH'OH NATIONAL PARK RESERVE

In Tulita, you will find Nááts’įhch’oh National Park Reserve’s office, a storehouse of information about the remote wilderness area. The ancestors of the Shúhtagot’ine (Mountain Dene) camped at Nááts’įhch’oh, (pronounced ‘Nats-inch-ohn’)  which resembled a spine-like peak, or a porcupine. They travelled by mooseskin boat to see Nááteho, the Nahanni prophet.  A traditional gathering place and a national park, Nááts’įhch’oh is  a spectacular and enduring example of how beautiful the natural landscapes of Canada’s North can be.

 

STEP INTO THE NORTHERN PACE OF LIFE

Enter the mindset of the North: where tranquillity reigns and fun abounds. When you’re poised over a stream waiting for that big fish to bite, listening to the trickling of water over the rocks, and the occasional bird song, the NWT provides a peaceful and calming background. And what really could be more relaxing than looking up at the Northern Lights, as green, purple, and yellow streams dance dreamily across the starry sky? The Northwest Territories is the ultimate unwind destination. 

If you’re searching for more adventure, look no further than these 15 strange and dangerous places across the NWT. From exhilarating to inspiring, you’ll find a deep appreciation for the North.

The Northwest Territories is home to some of the most pristine national parks in Canada. The humbling beauty and wild landscapes of the North are on full display. Read our guide to the 6 Canadian national parks in the NWT  for a taste of what awaits you there.

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