The Northwest Territories is 1,144,000 square kilometres of wilderness, dotted with towns like Yellowknife. A road trip through this rugged region, with its subarctic to polar climate, deep lakes, massive rivers, and strong First Nations culture, is an adventure unlike any other. The town of Fort Providence is an unforgettable destination for any traveller. Where else can you watch bison roam through town, take in views from the longest bridge in Northern Canada, and take part in celebrations of the indigenous culture?
Start your road trip with some fun in the capital (and only city of the Northwest Territories), Yellowknife. Named after the Dene Tribe, the “Yellowknife Indians,” Yellowknife is rich in Canadian history and one of Canada’s most popular tourist attractions, thanks to incredibly long summer days, and nature views you won’t find elsewhere. With a wide range of places to stay, a diversity of delicious food, and activities for all ages, a visit to Yellowknife ensures your trip starts on the right foot.
Next up is Aurora Village, a place you honestly have to “see to believe.” Home to a mystical green aurora that has allegedly inspired dozens of Canada’s northern legends, there’s nothing quite like staring into the mesmerizing Aurora Village sky. With friendly and informative guides and several “full service” packages to choose from, you can grab a flight, hotel, and viewing package for a price that won’t break the bank. Stay the night in Yurt-style accommodations, and stare into the beautiful green aurora until your eyes gently close. Not just for nighttime viewing, Aurora Village also offers some great tours and packages to get the most out of Yellowknife. Don’t forget your camera!
After a long and incredible night at Aurora Village, make your way to Wildcat Cafe to get your caffeine fix, along with your choice of delicious food. The historical log-cabin cafe represents the mining lifestyle when the city of Yellowknife was first founded. Renovated in 2011, Wildcat is a popular destination for visitors from around the world. A replica of the cabin was recently added to the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Go for the food and drink, stay for the history.
For a complete and thorough showcasing of the Northwest Territories’ culture and heritage, make your way to the wonderful Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Welcoming over 60,000 visitors each year, the museum is loaded with historical artifacts, cultural exhibits, museum collections, Northwest Territories-inspired art, and more. After seeing boots from 500 B.C.E., a sewing kit from 1907, and moccasins from 1979, you’ll have a vivid idea of the history that makes the Northwest Territories so unique.
Need to get away from the stresses of modern life? Become one with nature at the breathtaking Reid Lake Territorial Park. With over 65 non-powered campsites and 11 tent pads to set up your temporary home, Reid Lake Territorial Park is the perfect place to fish, swim, canoe, hike and observe the virtually endless diversity of wildlife that calls the park home. Canoe down Lower Cameron River or the Jennejohn Canoe Route, or hike your way through the Waterfalls Route. Reid Lake Territorial Park is home to world-class nature views and plenty to keep the entire group entertained for days.
The second of three incredible parks during your trip through the Northwest Territories, North Arm Territorial Park does not disappoint. Home to magnificent views of the Great Slave Lake and an endless number of spots to have a picnic or relax, it’s the perfect day getaway to enjoy nature and the sun. Just off the highway, you’ll have access to free parking, restrooms, and wooden benches on which to sit back and relax.
Another gorgeous day park, Chan Lake Territorial Park is just at the northern tip of Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary. If you haven’t seen any buffalo yet, that’s likely to change as the local bison frequently walk on the highway. This quiet spot just off the road gives access to picturesque views of the surrounding land and has picnic tables and fire pits perfect for a world-class cookout. Easily accessible, clean and modern, you’ll be glad you took a few hours to stop and take in the sights.
Get up close and personal with one of nature’s most majestic animals at the Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary. Established in 1963, the sanctuary allows thousands of bison to roam free in their natural habitat. Home to two distinct types of bison, you’ll quickly see the beauty of these large mammals. The Mackenzie Bison Sanctuary is the first recorded successful bison relocation program and is sure to increase your sense of appreciation and wonder for these incredible animals.
Be sure to pack some food and drinks for the trip, because the 3.5-hour drive doesn’t offer much in the way of food or drink stops.
End your trip on a high note by stopping at Fort Providence, one of Canada’s most iconic towns which has just north of 750 residents. Located on the banks of the Mackenzie River, Fort Providence is surrounded by the river, bison, Yellowknife and Hay River. Explore some of the surrounding forests and waterfront trails, or go out for a paddleboat excursion. The town is stocked with a wide assortment of rental cabins, delicious restaurants, supermarkets, craft shops and more. If you ever needed an excuse to extend your trip, Fort Providence is just what the doctor ordered.
Begin to wind down your trip through the Northwest Territories with a drive along the Mackenzie River, the longest river system in Canada. Covering five Canadian provinces, the “great river” is an essential part of the Canadian landscape, and views of the calm river can’t be missed. Twisting and turning through forest and tundra, the Mackenzie River makes for a great place to use up your remaining camera space.
If you have any pizza fans in your group, be sure to check out Mackenzie River Pizza for some great eats.
From Yellowknife to Fort Providence, a journey through the Northwest Territories has the makings of a trip of a lifetime. Experience Aurora Village firsthand, get up close and personal with magnificent bison, or immerse yourself in history at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. Whether you’re with family or friends, this trip gives you some of the best Canada has to offer. It won’t be long before you decide to go for round two.
In the Canadian Dream, it's our experiences that make us richer. That's why we're encouraging all Canadians to get out and experience everything that Canada has to offer. You don't have to go far. Incredible, engaging experiences are all around us, all you have to do is start exploring.