I recently checked a massive dream trip off my bucket list and that was a Tuktoyaktuk travel adventure. You might ask, “What is special about Tuktoyaktuk?” Well, ‘Tuk’ as it’s known, is located in the Northwest Territories and is the most northern mainland community in Canada. Basically, it is the furthest north you can drive. I wanted to visit on June 21, the summer solstice, as it also happens to be my birthday. 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.
Tuktoyaktuk Travel Guide
How to Get to Tuktoyaktuk
“Can you drive to Tuktoyaktuk?” many have wondered. Tuktoyaktuk is 150 kilometers north of Inuvik, Northwest Territories. A brand new road – the Inuvik/Tuktoyaktuk Highway – was built in 2017 and had just opened ahead of my visit now making it possible to drive to Tuktoyaktuk. Prior to that, Tuk was only accessible during the cold winter months over the frozen ice highway or via cost-prohibiting charter flight in the summer months.
I have a travel guide to visiting Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Be sure to give it a read while planning your trip to Canada’s Arctic.
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 in Tuktoyaktuk
The permanent population of Tuk is only 900 people. There was only one B&B in Tuktoyaktuk when I went but now there are 4 plus an inn. You can find details on the Northwest Territories tourism website. I did also 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.
Looking for up-to-date details on accommodation? Check out these Tuktoyaktuk hotel options.
Where to Eat
We had been forewarned that dining in Tuktoyaktuk was 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.
Things to See and Do in Tuktoyaktuk
Make it Official
While in Tuktoyaktuk, I stopped by the Information Centre in the northern part of hamlet. Here you’ll get information on some of the local sights and receive an ‘official’ document marking your arrival at Canada’s most northern community.
Visit a Tradition Sod House
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.
Self-Guided Walking Tour
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!
See the Pingos
Tuktoyaktuk is known as the Land of the Pingos and rightly so. It is 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.
Celebrate the Locals
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. It felt like such a blessing to be part of it.
Tuktoyaktuk Travel Tip: Swim in the Arctic Ocean!
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 Arctic 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.
Tuktoyaktuk Travel: The Details
There are no bio break areas along the Tuk Highway. (Translation: there are no toilets along the way so plan accordingly). It took us about 2.5 hours as the speed limit is 70 km/hour. 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.
Your Questions about Tuktoyaktuk Travel, Answered
Is it possible to drive to Tuktoyaktuk?
Yes, since the highway opened in 2017 it is now possible to drive to Tuktoyaktuk.
Is the road to Tuktoyaktuk open?
The road to Tuktoyaktuk is open and accessible year round. I highly recommend visiting Tuktoyaktuk as a summer destination when the days are long and sunny.
Is there a shuttle from Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik?
At the time of my visit, there were no shuttles from Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik. You could hire a taxi to take you but I’d recommend renting your own vehicle and enjoying the road trip at your own pace.
What language do they speak in Tuktoyaktuk?
Local languages are Inuinnaqtun (Inuvialuktun) and English with a few North Slavey and Tłı̨chǫ (Dogrib) speakers.
What does Tuktoyaktuk mean in English?
Tuktoyaktuk means “place resembling a caribou” in Inuinnaqtun.
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