A trip to Arctic Watch or Arctic Haven starts from the northern city of Yellowknife. Few roads extend beyond the territory’s capital, and the city serves as a gateway to the remote regions of the Arctic.
On the shores of Great Slave Lake, Yellowknife is a vibrant mix of cultures living on the fringes of Canada’s far North. The small city of roughly 20,000 people offers a diversity of cultures in an unlikely setting. The fabric of Yellowknife is made up of residents originating from nearly 100 different countries. Authentic Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese and Ethiopian cuisine can be found interspersed between iconic northern landmarks. This eclectic mix of northern and southern cultures make Yellowknife a truly unique place to explore.
A number of artisan studios pepper the streets of Yellowknife including Old Town Glassworks, Fireweed Studio and Frozen Rock Studio. Be sure to check out the local farmers market which takes place on Tuesdays from 5:15-7:30pm. Stopping in at the Northern Frontier Visitor Centre will ensure you have the most up-to-date information, helpful maps and the inside scoop on events while you are in town. Check out the Extraordinary Yellowknife website for a list of all the great summer events including Yellowknife’s own music festival, Folk on the Rocks.
Without further ado, here’s our list of the top five things to do in Yellowknife!
With the discovery of a gold deposit in 1898, the city of Yellowknife was slowly settled by southern prospectors. By the 1930’s a small community established themselves on the rocky outcrop of Graham Island and its adjoining peninsula. The grit of the gold rush era is still present as you walk the narrow, winding streets of Old Town. Bestrewn among the upscale housing, historic shacks and shops are well preserved and give this area its charm. The nearby dirt street of Ragged Ass Road has become a popular tourist attraction and showcases the former atmosphere of Yellowknife’s wild past. A walking tour brochure or audio soundtrack adds depth and richness to your walking tour of Old Town.
Be sure to stop at Wildcat Cafe or Bullocks Bistro. Each reflect the style and lifestyle of early Yellowknife. The interior of Bullocks is an experience in its own right and the restaurant serves wild-caught fish and chips locally sourced from Yellowknife’s Great Slave Lake. Meanwhile, Wildcat Cafe is Yellowknife’s oldest restaurant, serving burgers and steaks from a historic log cabin. The Pilot’s Monument is the highest point in Old Town and offers breathtaking views of the city, nearby islands and blue water of Great Slave Lake.
The Prince of Wales Heritage Centre has free admission and is a great destination for a rainy day in Yellowknife. The museum houses the Northwest Territories archives and has an impressive collection of cultural artifacts on display. Impressive archaeological artifacts found in the territory, such as 10,000-year-old mammoth teeth, are also on display. Rotating exhibits feature the human and natural history of the Northwest Territories. The museum is located near downtown Yellowknife and within walking distance from many of the hotels. It is open daily from 10:30am-5pm.
Great Slave Lake is the tenth largest lake in the world and the deepest lake in North America. The lake offers a myriad of activities on the water from fishing trips, to sightseeing excursions. An eclectic community of houseboaters have established themselves on the lake and add yet another element to the cultural melting pot that is Yellowknife. You can rent paddle boards from Old Town Paddle & Co or take a lesson with their fully certified SUP instructors. Carlos with Yellowknife Outdoor Adventures offers guided sightseeing trips, fishing and dinner cruises on Great Slave Lake.
Frame Lake is situated in the heart of Yellowknife’s growing metropolis and offers a quick escape to nature. The 7 km loop follows the contours of the lake and will take you through black spruce forests and rocky outcrops of the Canadian Shield. The trail is a great way to stretch your legs before boarding a mid-afternoon flight home. Frame Lake can be accessed from a number of different locations but is best found from the Prince of Wales Heritage Centre. To learn more about the geology of the area, check out the Frame Lake Geological Guide!
If you are looking to venture further afield, we suggest renting a car and driving the Ingraham Trail. The road provides great views of the taiga landscape and several territorial parks offer great hiking opportunities. The 2.5 km interpretive trail in Prelude Lake Territorial Park provides a great introduction to the flora and fauna of the area. While the Cameron Falls trail offers a short hike with a rewarding view. Our friends at Northwest Territories Tourism have put together a list of other trails to visit along the Ingraham Trail here.
For more information and ideas on extending the adventure visit: http://spectacularnwt.com and https://extraordinaryyk.com/. We hope you take advantage of your time in Yellowknife and enjoy the unique sights and history the city has to offer.