Inuvik NWT Travel Guide
“Place of Man” – Where the Dempster Highway ends and the journey is just beginning.
Table of Contents
It is a great feeling of accomplishment driving into Inuvik with my old Toyota RAV4. Like most visitors who come to this community, I arrived via the rugged, amazing 735 km Dempster Highway from the Yukon. This all-weather road is definitely a challenge and adventure. It is an exciting journey through tundra and boreal forest on top of permafrost. Inuvik feels like a city after driving so many miles of superb emptiness.
The town was built in 1955 as an administration centre for the Western Arctic. It was intended to replace the hamlet of Aklavik in the Mackenzie Delta, where they had a flooding problem and limited space for expansion. Today Inuvik is the largest administrative and commercial centre for Western Arctic and is Canada’s largest community north of the Arctic Circle. The town’s population is about 3,400.
The town is located on the Mackenzie River, which flows to the Arctic Ocean. The Mackenzie River, along with its many lakes and streams make up the amazing Mackenzie Delta.
Some locals earn their living by hunting, trapping, and fishing. Others are employed in government and aboriginal offices, or in transportation, construction, petroleum exploration, and tourism companies.
Looking for a car wash was the first thing I did after checking into the Happy Valley Territorial Campground.
Getting There and Away
Inuvik is the hub and gateway to other communities in the Western Arctic and the Beaufort Sea.
By Road – The Dempster Highway connects Inuvik to the south and the new Highway 10 connects to Tuktoyaktuk to the north. There is an ice road to Alavik in winter only.
By Air – Inuvik Mike Zubko Airport is located 14 km east of town. Regular flights operate daily between southern and northern communities. The entire runway sits on a thick gravel pad to protect it from corruption by the permafrost. Like myself, many visitors to Inuvik travel on to Tuktoyaktuk on the Arctic Ocean. You can book the flight with Aklak Air yourself or book with a tour operator and include a guided tour of Tuktoyaktuk, which is definitely worth the extra costs.
Tourist Information and Tour Operators
Make sure you drop in at the friendly Western Arctic Regional Centre. It is an excellent facility with interpretive displays of local wildlife and history as well as a great selection of brochures and flyers. I didn’t get to see and do everything that was offered. Watch their video collection on the Dempster Highway, Herschel Island, and the caribou migration.
Pick up a” Things to do list”. Various guided tours are offered during the summer. The list also gives you information on places to eat and where to buy art and souvenirs.
Western Arctic Regional Centre has also information on tour operators.
Things to See and Do
You won’t have a problem spending a couple of days in this community. With the summer’s 24-hour sunlight, there is plenty of time to experience the vast wilderness at Inuvik’s doorstep.
Winter is the time for driving on ice roads, snowmobiling, and dog sledding. The Inuvik area is a snowmobiler’s heaven. You have 10,000 km of Mackenzie Delta Channels to explore as well as tundra trails north to the Beaufort Sea coast and west into the Richardson Mountains.
The aurora borealis (northern lights) can be seen during the dark winter months. Locals say that Inuvik is so far north that they have to look south to see the northern lights!
Tour the Igloo Church
The first thing you notice in Inuvik is the beautiful Igloo Church. The Lady of Victory Church is a major landmark. It was built by volunteer labour and took two years to build from start to completion.
Walk around town and stop at the coffee shop
It is a friendly town with its rainbow-coloured rows of houses and the large above-ground heated pipes.
Other Things To Do in Inuvik
- Tour the Northernmost Greenhouse in North America (the only Community Greenhouse of its kind in the world!)
- Visit the Centennial Library where you can access free WiFi and discover a wealth of information about the North. This is a good place to spend a few hours on a cold and wet day.
- Check out the view of the Delta from the observation tower at Jak Park, close to the Happy Valley Territorial Campground.
- Tour the Aurora Research Institute if you’re in Inuvik on a Friday.
- Drive the Bypass road, which gives a spectacular view of the town and the Richardson Mountains on a clear day.
- Check out the Northernmost Legion.
- Drop in at some of the stores to browse and talk to locals.
Inuvik enjoys 56 days of 24 hours of daylight (from late June to July, and part of August). As great as this may sound, there is the month of December when Inuvik has 30 days without sunlight.
The day of my arrival in the middle of August it was wet, miserable, and cold and 4 degrees Celsius the next morning. Make sure to bring warm clothes, no matter what time of year you’re visiting.
When I took a plane to Tuktuyaktuk on the Beaufort Sea a day later, the sun was out with beautiful blue skies and we had reasonably warm temperatures.
Places to Stay
Happy Valley Territorial Campground – 28 sites, 20 with power, nice hot showers, and tent platforms. Very nice staff. Ask them for information about trips to other communities and where to get the cheapest gasoline.
There is plenty of good accommodation available in Inuvik.