Best Things To Do In The Northwest Territories

Highlights From The Road to 150 Northwest Territories Adventure

With more than one million square kilometres of land area and a population of less than 50,000, the Northwest Territories is about as wild as it gets. It’s certainly not an easy area to visit (many places are fly-in, many roads are gravel, and distances are vast) but for those who make the effort, there are incredible things to experience.

With boreal forest, arctic tundra, some of Canada’s greatest waterfalls, a vibrant indigenous culture, and boundless wilderness, this is an adventurers paradise!

While in the NWT, we visited many beautiful waterfalls, took a float plane to a secluded lodge nestled between two lakes, learned about the first nations at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, took a spectacular trip over Nahanni National Park, and drove all the way up to  Tuktoyaktuk where we jumped into the Arctic Ocean. We also toured Inuvik, took a boat tour through narrow channels of the Mackenzie Delta, and saw heaps of wildlife, including bears and bison. We packed a lot of adventures into our short visit and can’t wait to return one day and explore the territory further.

We also learned many new things, including:

  • Nahanni National Park was the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site!
  • The new highway to Tuktoyaktuk is the first Canadian highway to reach the Arctic Ocean!

There is so much to do in the Northwest Territories, especially for those who love the outdoors. Whether you’re looking for incredible natural parks to explore, secluded lakes, or first nations culture, NWT is the place to be!

Things to do in the northwest territories

Things To Do in the Northwest Territories

We started our trip off by stopping at Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park to see the spectacular Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls. We broke down near Hay River and ended up staying at the lovely Ptarmigan Hotel. We then drove to Yellowknife, visited the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre, had an incredible meal at Bullock’s, and then took a float plane to Yellowdog Lodge, a secluded lodge nestled between two lakes. After, we drove to Fort Simpson and took another float plane over spectacular Nahanni National Park before driving through the Yukon, up the Dempster Highway, and into the Inuvialuit communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. Here we toured the Mackenzie Delta and jumped in the Arctic Ocean, to name a few.

Below is a list of what we did, where we stayed, and the companies that helped make this journey possible. We’d also love to give a special shout out to Best Western International for helping to make this entire 150-day road trip happen.

Things To Do Around Hay River

Hay River is not a typical town for most tourists visiting the NWT but it’s  just a 30-minute drive from Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, which is home to two of the best waterfalls in the Northwest Territories. It’s also a great place to rest if you’re on the way to Yellowknife or Fort Simpson.

Ptarmigan Inn

This is the best place to stay in Hay River. It’s clean, comfortable, and has a variety of amenities, including a restaurant, pub, bank, a real fitness centre, and a place to get a haircut. They also have a really massive and delicious breakfast that we truly looked forward to each and every morning. Highly recommended if you’re in Hay River.

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Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park

This beautiful park is home to both Alexandra Falls and Louise Falls. Both are spectacular and you can get super close to Alexandra Falls if you’re looking for that classic adventure photograph. You can either camp at the park or stay in nearby Hay River or Enterprise.

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best things to do in the northwest territories

Things To Do Around Yellowknife

NWT’s capital city is a great base for exploring the wild territories. Here you’ll find a variety of accommodation, shops, and amenities, as well as float planes ready to take you where you need to go. There’s also a lot of cool modern architecture to check out and amazing views from Bush Pilot’s Monument.

Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre

This is the top attraction in Yellowknife, thanks to its exhibits and artifacts dedicated to the cultures and history of the NWT. If you’re interested in learning about the place you’re exploring, make this a priority when visiting Yellowknife.

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Bullocks’ Bistro

I came in expecting fish n’ chips and left with a full tummy of grilled Arctic Char, fried halibut, curry seafood chowder, and caribou! It was incredibly delicious and the place has so much character. We really loved it here. If you visit, see if you can find our Must Do Canada business card on the wall.

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Day’s Inn & Suites

Located in the heart of Yellowknife, the Day’s Inn is a great place to rest your head. Comfortable beds, cozy atmosphere, airport shuttles, and kitchen suites. What more could you ask for?

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Driving the Dempster Highway Highway

Ahmic Air

If you’re looking for flightseeing tours around Yellowknife or transportation to remote wilderness and secluded cabins, Ahmic Air is a great choice. They flew us to Yellowdog Lodge.

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Open Water Charters

This is another float plane service that helped fly us back to Yellowknife from Yellowdog Lodge. If you’re interested in visiting secluded lakes, fly-in fishing spots, or flightseeing tours, this is another great option!

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Yellow Dog Lodge

Words can barely describe how awesome our stay was at Yellow Dog Lodge. It’s a beautiful lodge nestled between two secluded lakes, just a 15-minute flight from Yellowknife. When we were there, it was just us and the incredible staff. They brought us around both lakes, helped us catch lake trout and northern pike, made campfires for us on secluded islands, prepared a hot tub heated by wood fire, and cooked us delicious meals three times per day. As if that’s not perfect enough, there’s also a floating raft that you can spend a night on. They parked it in a secluded bay and we were surrounded by complete silence. We made a wood fire on the barge and woke up to an eagle flying overhead. Simply incredible. We’ll definitely be writing about this in more detail!

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best things to do in canada

Things To Do Around Nahanni National Park

Nahanni National Park absolutely blew us away. All national parks are beautiful but Nahanni NP took things to a whole new level. We flew over sharp mountain peaks, plateaus, valley’s, canyons, rivers, and more. We also hiked to Virginia Falls and learned that Nahanni NP is the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. How cool is that!

Simpson Air

There are basically two ways to see Nahanni National Park. You can take a multi-week, very expensive canoe trip or you can take a 5-hour+ scenic flight tour with Simpson Air. We were so blown away by the beauty we witnessed from the air and the owner, Ted, was a great person to guide us around. After all, he’s been doing this for over 30 years! He’s full of stories and incredibly passionate about what he does. This is an outstanding park and quite possibly the most diverse park in Canada. Add this to your Canadian bucket list for sure!

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Janor Guest House

This lovely guesthouse might be one of the best we’ve stayed in. The rooms were very comfortable, the place was super clean, and everything was so well organized. Basically, you make your own breakfast but everything is provided. They provided eggs, bread, cereal, yogurt, coffee, and more. The owners are friendly and the WiFi is good. We would definitely stay here again!

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things to do in inuvik

Things To Do in Inuvik

Located at the end of the Dempster Highway, Inuvik is a regional hub for the Arctic region of NWT. Here you’ll find a vibrant mix of Inuvialuit, Gwich’in and non-Native residents, all gathered in a town near the beautiful Mackenzie Delta.

MacKenzie Delta Hotel

This was one of the best hotels we stayed at during our trip and a breath of fresh air after a long drive on the Dempster Highway. We had huge spacious rooms, great WiFi, and even a sink, fridge, and microwave. The hotel is beautiful and there’s also a restaurant and a pub on-site. It’s also located in the heart of town, right across from the Igloo Church.

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Igloo Church

This is one of the most popular attractions in Inuvik. I mean, where else can you find an igloo church!

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Community Greenhouse

One thing we didn’t expect to see in Inuvik was a greenhouse, especially the largest of its kind in the world with over 16,000 square feet of space in an old hockey arena. Scheduled tours available June-September and we loved learning about how it got started and how it’s helping the community. I want to start my own greenhouse when I get home.

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Tundra North Tours

While we didn’t get to experience one of their multi-day excursions, we did get to go out on a boat tour of the Mackenzie Delta, which led us through narrow channels, stopping to see beavers making a dam and a flock of swans frolicking in a nearby lake. We also fished for Northern Pike (caught one with every cast) and had a big eagle lead us back home. Beautiful experience.

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Western Arctic Visitor Centre

Our short tour here provided us with so much history and knowledge about the area. Staff was so friendly and proud to share their culture with us. There’s a variety of artifacts on art, flora and fauna, neighboring communities and wildlife. You can also pick up your official Arctic Circle Adventurer Certificate here.

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Alistine’s Restaurant

If you only visit one restaurant in Inuvik, make it this one. It’s such a fun-looking restaurant with the kitchen inside an old school bus. There’s also a rooftop patio for sunny days. We actually came here twice as we couldn’t get enough of the delicious fish tacos!

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best things to do in tuktoyaktuk

Things To Do in Tuktoyaktuk

Located right on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, Tuktoyaktuk is almost as far North as it gets. Once accessible only by plane, boat, and ice road, the new Mackenzie Valley Highway now offers Canada’s only road to the Arctic! We were granted special permission to drive the new highway before it was open but due to weather, we had to drive up and down in the same day, giving us only 3-4 hours in the small hamlet. Luckily, we took a tour with a local elder, which gave us some good insight into the culture and of course, we jumped in the Arctic Ocean! One day, we hope to come back for a much longer time. Maybe in the winter!

Joanne’s Taxi and Tours

Not only does Joanne run a taxi business but they also offer local tours around the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk. It’s a great way to learn about the area, try some local food, climb a pingo, and step in to the Arctic Ocean. They were so friendly and we can’t wait to return and learn more from them.

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Exploring the Northwest Territories

We were so excited to explore this off-the-beaten-path territory. We got to fly to lodge on a secluded lake, stand next to amazing waterfalls, drive to the Western Canadian Arctic, and fly over one of the most beautiful national parks in the world. There’s just so much wild to see in the NWT and we can’t wait to return one day and see more beautiful nature while learning more about the first nations culture.

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We offer trip planning for creating the ultimate Canadian adventure. Just email us at matt (at) mustdocanada (dot) com.

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