The Ultimate Guide to Polar Bear Tours in Churchill Manitoba

A Manitoba Polar Bear sitting on a frozen, snow-covered Hudson Bay.

Updated May 2020

When you think of polar bears, does Churchill, Manitoba come to mind?

Never heard of it? You’re not alone. It’s a small, remote hole-in-the-wall town in north-eastern Canada, but for polar bears it’s the cat’s meow.

The tiny hamlet (population 900) is one of the best places in the world to see the white behemoths firsthand, earning it the nickname “The Polar Bear Capital of the World.”

Churchill is not a destination where you should wing it.

During the high season (October through November), a small group of experienced outfitters offers a variety of polar bear tours that also include an introduction to the region’s vast tundra and arctic wildlife (think wolf, Arctic hare and fox, moose, caribou, black bear, and ptarmigan) while highlighting Churchill’s unique history, heritage, and indigenous culture.

A view down Kelsey Blvd, the main drag in Churchill, Manitoba, one of the best places to see polar bears.
A look down Kelsey Boulevard, Churchill’s main street. | Photo: Travel Manitoba

(For a more thorough description of other cool things to do in Churchill, many of which are part of multi-day tours, see 17 Awesome Things To Do In Churchill Manitoba)

To help you choose the perfect polar bear tour for you, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the companies and the packages they offer.

Why Churchill is the Polar Bear Capital of the World

Situated at the convergence of the Churchill River and Hudson Bay, the former 18th-century trading post, is smack dab in the middle of a major polar bear migration route.

Why have the bears bequeathed this favored status upon the region? It’s simple. In winter, the area where the fresh water from the river feeds into the salty water of the Bay is the first to freeze. 

A Churchill, Canada polar bear nurses a cub on the rocks at the shore of Hudson Bay in Manitoba.
A mother nurses a cub on the shore of Hudson Bay

Polar bears are marine mammals and they use the ice floe for hunting seals––their main food supply––and after months of fasting on land, the sooner they can eat, the better. More time means they’ll, gain more weight, and for females, the potential to bare healthy offspring increases.

From June through August, the bears roam farther inland and are more challenging to see. They are most visible in October and November when the polar bears head toward the coast, and good ole Churchill, Manitoba. 

Why a Multi-day Polar Bear Tour is Better Than Booking Ala Carte

The best (and safest) way to experience Churchill polar bears (and all the other cool things around town) is by working with tour operators offering multi-day trips with expert expedition leaders, naturalists, activities, accommodations, transportation, and logistics included. Churchill is not a destination where you should wing it.

Though I’m stating the obvious, you should never try to see these Arctic wonders on your own. Male polar bears can weigh up to 1300 lbs and stand 10 feet tall (female polar bears are smaller but still huge compared to a human), and they have no problem attacking humans without warning––they are stealthy predators. They’re also fast. Really fast. Can outrun you in seconds fast. No Joke.

An Inukshuk on the edge of Hudson, Bay, one of the best places to see polar bears.
An Inukshuk, a traditional means of communication among the Inuit culture

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Polar Bear Tours in Churchill Manitoba

  1. Keith says:

    Now we are spoilt for choice! Love the polar bears and all the other wonderful wildlife. While the price tags are huge, it certainly qualifies for any bucket list 🙂

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