The Sahtu's sacred Bear Rock. Angela Gzowski/NWT Tourism
This is the summer to make the most of the NWT. We’ve compiled a guide to staycation opportunities in the territory, sponsored by NWT Tourism.
Pandemic restrictions are not only stopping tourists visiting the territory – they’re making it tricky for NWT residents to spend time elsewhere this summer.
That provides the perfect opportunity to explore the NWT and help out local tour operators at the same time.
To complete this guide, we wrote to a list of tour operators provided by NWT Tourism and placed a callout on our Facebook page. Tour operators responded by telling us what they’re offering NWT residents this summer, and we’ve summarized their responses below.
Wood Buffalo National Park’s salt plains. Hannah Eden/NWT Tourism
We’ve tried to give a guide to prices where available, but please double-check with your operator before booking.
Remember that many packages may have additional restrictions to help keep everyone healthy and safe during the pandemic. Again, check with your operator for details.
Enjoy exploring the NWT and send us your best photos and video from your trip!
Ahmic Air continues to offer charter services using DHC-2 Beaver aircraft on floats.
“Yellowknife is surrounded by countless lakes and rivers. If you have a desire to spend time on the land and experience the power of nature, we can help,” the airline said.
You get to choose your destination: lakes surrounded by boreal forest, sites on Great Slave Lake’s East Arm overlooking spectacular cliff drops and rock faces, or past the treeline to the barrenlands, eskers, and glacial moraine.
“Bring your own gear and your ideas or let us supply you with the gear you need,” said Ahmic Air, suggesting trips ranging from fly-in picnics and fishing trips to overnight excursions.
The airline can provide fishing and outdoor equipment, canoes, boats, and motors on request.
Air Tindi is offering floatplane trips to the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and the Nahanni National Park Reserve.
The airline’s summer fishing trip package costs $399 per person, including taxes and fees.
The trip runs every Saturday from 9am until 7pm and takes people by floatplane from Yellowknife to the Etthen Island area of Great Slave Lake’s East Arm. The person who catches the heaviest fish gets a full refund.
Activities include canoeing, kayaking, boating, and hiking. The hot tub and sauna are currently closed and there are some other restrictions in place to keep guests safe. Cash can’t be accepted on-site.
The lodge prides itself on trophy-sized lake trout and northern pike.
The lodge is a 25-minute bush plane flight from Yellowknife. Scheduled departure days from Yellowknife to the lodge are Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. Most flights depart Yellowknife at 10am and return to Yellowknife by 12pm.
An evening at Blachford Lake Lodge. JF Bergeron/NWT Tourism
Bluefish Services offers personalized, guided fishing trips and boat tours on Great Slave Lake, starting from Yellowknife.
“We have been in business for over 30 years, making us the one of the most experienced tour operators in the Northwest Territories,” the company states on its website.
The trips are available for all ages, with no charge for children under 12 and a discount for seniors.
“As our guest, you will enjoy our experience and northern hospitality, which together with our modern equipment ensures you of a safe and memorable trip,” the company writes.
“Fish for Arctic grayling, northern pike, or lake trout, or travel out of Yellowknife Bay into the islands and see nesting bald eagles. Previous fishing experience is not necessary – we will be pleased to show you how!”
You can visit the Bluefish website to book or contact Greg at (867) 445-8553.
Yellowknife fish restaurant Bullocks Bistro says it is now open at half-capacity but still serving up fresh fish meals.
Fish sauce and salad dressing from the bistro is now available from the Yellowknife Co-op, Riverside Growers in Hay River, and Kaeser’s in Fort Smith.
Captain’s Cabins and Bridge-Less Lodging
Choose between three cabins and a four-bedroom lodge house on Mackenzie River just south of the Deh Cho Bridge.
Cabin one, with a queen bed, is $135 per night. Cabin two has two double beds, one in the loft, for $150 per night. Cabin three has a double and two singles for $150 per night.
All cabins have a small fridge and coffee maker. There’s a shared toilet and shower in a separate building, with hot water.
The lodge house has three bedrooms with queen beds plus an upstairs room with a double and a single. The lodge’s full kitchen is shared with the cabins. Rooms are $100 each per night or you can get a discount on the entire lodge house.
The owners say they have fire pits and a great view of the Mackenzie River and the bridge. There’s a boat launch at the old ferry landing, which is 200 metres down the road.
Message the owners on Facebook or call (867) 875-8625 for more information.
Fort Providence. Gerold Sigl/NWT Tourism
Chateau Nova Yellowknife
Yellowknife’s Chateau Nova Hotel is running a Summer Saver campaign.
The promotion provides residents with 20 percent off the hotel’s best available rate until September 8.
The company offers daytime activities only and can provide basic fishing gear, a BBQ, and kayaks.
Bookings are for one group or family at a time “at a reasonable price,” says the operator.
De’tan Cho Tourist Camp
The De’tan Cho tourist camp and fishing lodge is located on the river and mouth of Great Slave Lake, approximately 135 km east of Hay River and 25 km west of Fort Resolution, on Highway 6.
The owners offer cabin and boat rental and can accommodate private and large groups. Each cabin is fully furnished with propane and wood stoves and equipped with outdoor fire pits and screened-in verandas.
There is also access to a conference room or meeting room that can be rented hourly for celebrations and small gatherings.
Canoes and paddle boats are offered free of charge to guests, and the tourist camp has its own paintball field that can be rented hourly.
For more information, visit the tourist camp on Facebook or call (867) 394-4411.
Yellowknife’s Explorer Hotel and Trader’s Grill are offering Yellowknifers “a unique dining experience.”
You can now purchase a private dining experience in the hotel’s new, deluxe guest rooms. The hotel hopes it’ll give residents a chance to see the rooms and keep them in mind for the next time friends or family are in town.
Jackpine Paddle is offering a range of camps, courses, and expeditions to NWT residents.
Youth paddle camps take place on June 29-July 3 and July 6-10 for grades 3-8, and July 13-19 for grades 8-12. The camps give youth “the confidence to plan and take part in trips and what is required to be safe in the outdoors,” Jackpine Paddle says. “Skill development is a big focus.”
If you’re planning on paddling a wild northern river or just looking to take your skills to the next level with better boat control – or you’re starting from scratch – there are a range of paddling courses available. Contact Jackpine for details by email or at (867) 445-4512.
Jackpine offers a Great Slave Lake kayak adventure for three days July 31-August 2 ($650 plus GST) or five days July 8-12 ($900 plus GST). Explore the rocky islands and peaceful bays of Great Slave Lake in a fully guided trip suitable for families or first-time adventurers.
From August 7-16, the Great Bear River canoe expedition will take you through a world-class fishing area. It’s a 150-km trip costing $3,900 plus GST and departing from Délı̨nę. Suitable for novice and intermediate paddlers.
The East Arm kayak expedition runs from August 9-17 and travels 70 km over nine days for $3,800 plus GST, starting from Yellowknife.
The North Arm kayak expedition, to a “paradise of unexplored islands,” takes place from September 7-13 and covers 130 km in seven days by sea kayak for $2,300 plus GST.
Broken Skull River. Colin Field/NWT Tourism
Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation
The Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation is offering a two-night stay at Fort Simpson Territorial Park for $530 per couple, including canoe rental, a two-hour cultural experience, and a round of golf with cart rental and dinner for two.
Alternatively, for $1,090 per couple, a “stay and play” package is available.
That package includes a two-night stay at a local bed-and-breakfast with continental breakfast, a day-long historical river tour (with fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing), and a round of golf on the second day including cart rental and a steak dinner for two.
Mackenzie Rest Inn
The owners of Fort Simpson’s Mackenzie Rest Inn invite you to come over for some Dehcho downtime.
“Get away from the city and let us pamper you for two nights,” the owners said. A two-night package with cooked breakfasts starts at $440.
“Whether you’re just coming to relax on our deck overlooking the majestic MacKenzie River, checking Virginia Falls off your bucket list with a flight seeing tour, or looking to experience our lush nine-hole waterside golf course, we can assist you to make arrangements,” the owners said.
The inn has an essential worker special, too. “We appreciate that you’ve taken care of us thus far and hope to take care of you this summer,” the owners added.
Nahanni National Park Reserve
Nahanni National Park Reserve was scheduled to begin the resumption of services with day-use operations (including flightseeing tours to Nailicho) starting on June 19, 2020, and camping opportunities reopening starting July 1, 2020.
These dates are currently delayed because of high water levels, but once the danger from this lowers, resumption plans will continue. Updated information concerning Nahanni’s resumption plan will be posted as soon as possible.
The owners of the all-new Namushka Lodge, east of Yellowknife, say they are open for business for this summer.
Namusha Lodge is offering 10 percent off its 2020 listed prices to encourage local residents to visit for a staycation.
The new main lodge has all the comforts of home in the secluded wilderness. Each guest room has its own private bathroom with skylights over each bed.
You can enjoy Harding Lake to yourself on the lodge’s 16-ft lunds or new 22-ft Fishtail pontoon boat.
According to the lodge’s website, prices start at $800 per person for a one-night stay, up to $2,300 plus tax for seven nights. That’s before your 10-percent discount is factored in and the prices are based on double occupancy.
Rates include floatplane transportation from Yellowknife and accommodation at the lodge with full use of all lodge facilities.
The main lodge boasts a comfortable seating area with unobstructed views of Harding Lake, a fully equipped chef’s kitchen, dining for 14, games area, and screened-in sun deck.
Nonacho Lake Fishing Adventures
Nonacho Lake Fishing Adventures warmly invites NWT residents to experience incredible fishing, crystal-clear waters, and sandy beaches.
The company bills itself as one of the territory’s longest-standing tourism operators, with more than 60 years of “creating memories for a lifetime.”
With more than 700 square kilometres to explore, Nonacho Lake – southeast of Łutselkʼe – is the territory’s eighth-largest lake.
“We are the only operators on the entire lake, so don’t expect to see anyone else except for those in your party,” the company says.
“Experience nature how it was meant to be. See the majestic muskox along the sand eskers or just relax and enjoy your friends and family on our viewing deck, over the waters of spectacular Nonacho Lake.”
Hiking in the Nahanni National Park Reserve. Colin Field/NWT Tourism
North Star Adventures
North Star Adventures is offering canoe, camping, and Indigenous culture experiences on the Mackenzie River and in the Nahanni National Park Reserve.
The company says its adventure packages showcase the best of the Dehcho.
Starting on July 1, Dehcho packages include a three or four-day midnight sun road adventure, a four or five-day summer experience package, and a four or five-day Nahanni adventure package.
As an example, the list price for the Dehcho summer experience shown on North Star Adventures’ website is $1,279 per person for four days, or $2,429 per person for five days including a flight into the Nahanni. Prices are based on a minimum number of bookings.
“We will pick you up at your home in Yellowknife, enjoy an incredible Dehcho wilderness and Indigenous culture adventure, and then return you to your home,” the company states.
Also starting on July 1, local tours available to Yellowknifers include a three-hour monster pike fishing tour and a five-hour lake trout fishing tour.
The company is 100-percent Indigenous-owned.
Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre
Located in Fort Smith, the Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre says it holds one of the best collections of northern Indigenous and early white settlement material in Canada.
Made up of more than 17,000 artifacts, the museum’s collection includes the traditional work of the Inuit, Inuvialuit, Dene, and Métis, as well as mission, trade, pioneer, and portage items.
Displays include a reconstructed trapper’s cabin, trading post, and a natural history exhibit that offers the opportunity to view specimens such as the endangered whooping crane and wood bison at close range.
The patio and dining room open, while takeout and off-sales (liquor to take home) are available.
The Ptarmigan Inn, in Hay River, is offering staycation golf getaways: a one-night package and a weekend package.
The one-night package, for $195 per person plus GST, offers up to 27 holes at the beautiful Hay River Golf and Country Club alongside a one-night stay in a single queen deluxe room at the Ptarmigan Inn.
You also get breakfast at Key’s Dining and a course lunch. An extra golfer in the same room is $95 and power carts are available for $35.
Custom adventures include possible sightings of muskox, moose, Dall sheep, caribou, bears, wolves, and more.
Yellowknife’s Sundog Adventures is offering pack tours, described as an “energy-filled evening” with the company’s dogs as they head out on a boat ride to the islands in Yellowknife Bay.
Tours start and finish from Yvonne Quick Wharf (aka the Government Dock) and include a tour of the houseboat community. They take place on Thursdays at 5:30pm and 7:30pm and cost $25 per person, though different days and times can be requested. Minimum four people per trip.
Sundog also offers a shore lunch trip aboard a Beaver aircraft for a half-hour flight. The tour includes the flight, lunch, travel by boat, and your choice of activities, including hiking, fishing, “or just plain ol’ relaxing on your very own island.” The trip, starting from Yellowknife, costs $199 per person. A minimum of four people and two tours a day is required.
Day camps for kids operated by Sundog in partnership with Old Town tour operators offer fishing and other activities to keep children entertained.
Camps include a full day on Great Slave Lake with Bluefish Services, including plenty of time on land and a shore lunch. There’s also a sailboat-building workshop and sailing contest with Snowking, time on Pillow Island with some of the dogs, and age-specific games and activities. Call (867) 446-8687 to book.
Ten Stone Mountain Lodge
New for 2020, you can book this entire cabin in the remote wilderness of the stunning Mackenzie Mountains.
“This cabin is hands-down the best location to do some hiking, wildlife viewing, and get a staycation getaway from the stress of the outside world,” say owners North-Wright Airways.
The lodge is self-sustaining and equipped with solar power, an outhouse, and water for showers and washing. It is fully furnished with linens, furniture, and kitchen utilities.
A four-hour hiking and sightseeing tour for $125 plus GST transports guests down the Ingraham Trail to the Cameron River for a hike to the falls. Or, for $150 per person plus GST, a tour bus will take you south of Yellowknife to “look for bears, wolves, bison, and bird species.”
Lastly, an eight-hour fishing tour for $275 plus GST leaves Yellowknife at 8am to “cast some lines, relax, have a coo-out and enjoy the great outdoors.” Food is provided. You can camp overnight for an additional $120 plus GST.
Wood Buffalo National Park
How about an epic long weekend or week-long stay in Canada’s largest national park for your summer staycation plans?
All day-use areas, hiking trails, boat and canoe launches, and beaches have reopened in Wood Buffalo National Park.
From June 22, Pine Lake Campground resumes operations on a first-come, first-serve basis. Things may be a little different this year, but Parks Canada has put together a guide on what you can expect.
Backcountry camping resumes on Monday, June 29. You can get your backcountry camping permits over the phone on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays between the hours of 9-12 and 1-4pm (call 867-872-7960).
You won’t be able to rent the cabins at Pine Lake Cabin until at least July 15. More information will follow on Wood Buffalo National Park’s website. In the meantime, there are some great hotel and alternative options in Fort Smith.
Some visitor services remain suspended until further notice, such as personal interpretive programs, special events, picnic shelters, playgrounds, and public access to visitor centres in Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan. Roads into Hay Camp and the Parson’s Road remain closed until further notice.
The GNWT pass system applies in order to be able to visit the Pine Lake area of the Park. If travelling to areas along Highway 5 (such as the Salt Plains), a pass is not needed. Visit the GNWT’s website for more info on the pass system and how to apply for one.
Yellow Dog Lodge Inc
Yellow Dog Lodge, on Duncan Lake north of Yellowknife, is offering a special “do-it-yourself” rate this summer to any NWT or Nunavut resident.
Packages are $485 per night for the lodge’s floating tent camp (maximum three), $500 per night for a standard cabin (maximum four people), and $600 per night for the lodge’s executive cabin (maximum six people).
All packages include the use of a 16-ft deep V boat and 15 hp outboard motor.
Prices don’t include flights. The lodge recommends contacting Ahmic Air or the lodge can book flights for you.
Pedal boats, canoes, and kayaks can be rented.
“Please note we have closed our bar, dining room, hot tub, and sauna to guests this summer due to social distancing rules,” the lodge owners stated. “We are very sorry.”
Yellowknife Sportfishing Adventures
From July 1, Yellowknife Sportfishing Adventures says it will be providing “affordable and accessible fishing trips to all NWT residents.”
Those include day trips as well as multi-night trips to the East Arm of Great Slave Lake.
“Come aboard our fully loaded 24-ft Kingfisher boats and experience a trip of a lifetime,” said the company. “Between the breathtaking scenery and the world-class fishing, it’ll be a trip you’ll never forget.”