I recently checked a massive dream trip off my bucket list and that was visiting Tuktoyaktuk - the most northern mainland community in Canada - on June 21, the summer solstice. The solstice also happens to be my birthday, which makes it extra special. Is there really anything better for a sun-worshiper than to spend the day where the sun does not set? I think not!
If you’re planning a trip to Canada’s Arctic Ocean and want a unique adventure to add to your travel bucket list this summer, read on for all the details.
Tuktoyaktuk is 150 kilometers north of Inuvik, Northwest Territories. (You can read about getting to Inuvik here.) A brand new road - the Inuvik/Tuktoyaktuk Highway - was built in 2017 and just opened. Prior to that, Tuktoyaktuk was only accessible during the cold winter months over the frozen ice highway or via cost-prohibiting charter flight in the summer months.
I was happy (and relieved) to see that this robust gravel road is well constructed. Personally, I found it super interesting to watch the evolution of terrain as we drove north. And to know so few people have travelled that road before me is kind of mind-blowing.
What starts out as arctic cotton and tundra quickly changed to many, many small lakes all in close proximity to each other in varying shapes and sizes but somehow keeping their individual form. The scenery was as breathtaking as it was vast.
WHERE TO STAY
The permanent population of Tuktoyaktuk is only 900 people. There is currently one B&B in Tuktoyaktuk but I couldn’t find any information on it. However I did see that there’s camping available at The Point in Tuktoyaktuk so if you’re adventurous and have your own gear this is a great option. Otherwise, your best bet is to stay in Inuvik and do Tuktoyaktuk as a day trip like I did.
WHERE TO EAT
We had been forewarned that dining options in Tuktoyaktuk were limited so we came prepared with our own picnic lunch and snacks. However, Grandma’s Kitchen is a casual snack shack that serves fish and chips, sandwiches, chicken fingers, coffee, tea, and soda. It’s right at the beach so you can grab a tea to warm up after your swim (yes you read that right). There’s also supposed to be a sit down restaurant opening in Tuk but we couldn’t find any information on it.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
While in Tuktoyaktuk, stop by the Information Centre in the northern part of hamlet to get information on some of the local sights and receive an ‘official’ document marking your arrival at Canada’s most northern community. Visiting the traditional sod house and the Our Lady of Lourdes schooner - both on display near the Information Centre - will provide varying looks into the history of the Tuktoyaktuk people.
I highly recommend spending time walking around Tuktoyaktuk. I found it so interesting to see all the different homes with various pelts and antlers adorning them, and children playing outside. Oh and adorable husky puppies - so many puppies!
Tuktoyaktuk is known as the Land of the Pingos and rightly so as it’s home to the world’s largest concentration of pingos with some 1,350 of these frozen, volcano-like mounds. Guided tours will take you out to Canada’s only Pingo Canadian Landmark or you can rent a canoe and paddle out to them yourself. It’s quite extraordinary to see them dotted on the flat horizon around Tuktoyaktuk.
If you’re in Tuktoyaktuk on summer solstice, which is also National Indigenous Peoples Day and a holiday in Northwest Territories, make time to celebrate with the locals. The community gathers for song, dance, drumming, and traditional games, and it felt like such a blessing to be part of it.
And lastly, if you’re going to Tuktoyaktuk the one thing you MUST do is swim in the Arctic Ocean - or at least dip your toe in it. As much as I hate cold water, I knew I couldn’t go all the way there and not go into the ocean. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m so glad I fully went for it. And honestly, the water wasn’t nearly as cold as I expected - I’d compare it to the temperature of the lakes in Whistler.
There are no bio break areas along the Tuk Highway. (translation: there are no toilets along the way to plan accordingly). It took us about 2.5 hours as the speed limit is 70 km/hour (and quite frankly given the amount of gravel, it would be challenging to go faster).
You can rent a truck or SUV in Inuvik. The rental will cost between CAD $100-150 per day plus mileage. We were told to expect the tally to be about $250 but we parked as soon as we arrived at Tuk and walked everyone so with mileage we only paid $200. Gas is surprisingly cheap; it costs less to fill up in Tuk than it does in Vancouver. The cheapest place to rent a vehicle in Inuvik is Arctic Chalet, where we stayed.
Is a summer road trip to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories in Canada’s arctic on your adventure bucket list? Tell me below!