This is our Arctic Bay travel guide for visitors, part of our series of crowd-sourced Nunavutcommunity travel guides. If you would like to write a guide for your community, please send us an email! This guide was written by Clare Kines.
Arctic Bay, or Ikpiarjuk as it is known in Inuktitut, is a wonderful small community of around 800 people, nestled in Canada’s High Arctic. Canada’s third most northerly permanent community, it is also one of the country’s most beautiful. Because of the expense and challenges of getting there, it sees few visitors, and as such, has a dearth of amenities for travellers. The good news is that Arctic Bay is working hard to change that and there are few places in the world that will give you a warmer welcome.
Climate wise, it is both what you’d expect and warmer than you’d expect. Those in the know will tell you it is no colder in Arctic Bay than on the Prairies, just colder longer. Winter lasts a long time in Arctic Bay, and you can expect temperatures in the mid minus 20s to 30s from November to late March. It rarely reaches minus 40 Celsius. It also rarely experiences the blizzards that much of the rest of Nunavut experiences. Summers are cool, often around 8 degrees Celsius, but the air temperature belies the warmth you feel from a 24-hour sun, especially close to the ground or out of any breeze.
Ah yes, the 24-hour sun. When the sun rises on the 8th or so of May, it doesn’t set again until the first week in August. Conversely, it sets for three months on the 5th of November. Don’t let that fool you though; it is not “dark” for three months, as there is an ever changing amount of twilight after the sun sets. Early in the dark season the sun spends a lot of time just below the horizon. The photographers amongst you will find the light here magical.
Where to Eat
Tangmaarvik Inn is the only game in town, usually for their guests, although prior arrangements can be made for those not staying at the Inn. It is a fixed menu, prepared by a professional chef. Prices are also fixed. $40.00 for Breakfast, $50.00 for Lunch and $60.00 for Dinner.
Where to Sleep
Again, the Tangmaarvik Inn is the only game in town. It is a relatively new hotel with pretty average accommodations, with room for up to 20 guests. It also has the former Bed and Breakfast, which it operates as an annex, with room for an additional 11 guests. The B&B is a stunning building with a great room filled with light and a view over looking the bay. It is possible to book the B&B as a meeting centre or for a group. Prices: $250.00/person/night.
What to Do
Arctic Bay is in a stunning location, truly one of the most scenic places in the Arctic. People have lived in the area for almost 5,000 years and it is rich in history, culture, and wildlife. Trips out on the land are amongst the best ways to experience this. The floe edge here is second to none, and one of the best places in the world to see narwhal, bowhead whales, spectacular bird life, and polar bears.
Arctic Bay Adventures. Although organized activities have been difficult to find that is about to change. The Hamlet of Arctic Bay is in the final stages of operating a total service tourism outfitter, which will be capable of offering package tours, custom tours, day trips, and expeditions. It is expected to be in operation starting in 2015.
Dog Sledding. Arctic Bay has kept close the tradition of keeping working dog teams. Several of the owners have made themselves available for day trips and short excursions. Just ask around.
Nunavut Quest. Speaking of dog teams, the annual Nunavut Quest dog race is a must-see event and one of the highlights of the early spring in the North Baffin. Now in its 16th year, it is an annual week-long race between several communities, accompanied by celebrations and ceremony. Start and finish hamlets alternate each year, but it is a highly anticipated even locally. The race is in early April every spring; in 2015, it will start in Mitimaatalik (Pond Inlet) and end in Ikpiarjuk (Arctic Bay).
Games. Arctic Bay loves to get together as a community and play. Most major events are celebrated with games (think Canada Day, Nunavut Day, the return of the sun, Aboriginal Day/summer solstice). More than anything else, Christmas is the time for games, every night for over two weeks, followed by dancing until the wee hours of the morning. All are welcome and its something to experience.
Northern Lights. There are better places in the world to view the aurora, but few this far north. We’re close to the magnetic north pole and that puts us close to the northern edge of activity. But the displays increase every year as the pole moves further away. There is activity most nights in the winter, with some spectacular displays, under intensely dark skies. And those dark skies make stargazing especially special here. Sure it's cold, but the stars seem closer, brighter, and more plentiful here. Aurora and stargazing are purely winter activities though, because hey, 24-hour sun come summer.
Victor Bay. Just over the hills above town, connected by 4 km of roads, is Victor Bay. In the spring and summer it is dotted with tents and cabins, and it is where residents go to escape the hustle and bustle of town. It also boasts one of, if not the, most northerly golf courses in Canada, built entirely by local golf enthusiasts (who are there every evening, rain or shine. It is likely the only golf course in the world where it is possible to see narwhal.
Cultural Activities. Arctic Bay holds close its traditions. This is a community very tied to the land, language, and culture. As school ends in June, almost the entire community heads out onto the land, reconnecting with life as it was meant to be up here. Archaeological sites, ancient and recent, dot the shoreline all up and down the coasts here. Uluksa Point, connected by road with the community, has remains of old qarmat (sod houses), some of which pre-date European contact - an accessible portal to the past. Drumming, throat singing, dog sledding, etc., are all kept alive by elders and youth, and activities worth viewing. Arctic Bay’s Qimatuligvik Heritage Centre is the best place to see cultural artifacts and fantastic traditional clothes. It also hosts a gift shop where one can buy local art, crafts, and clothing at very reasonable prices. Art for sale can also be found at Taqqut Co-op and through individual artists.
For now, until Arctic Bay Adventures comes fully into being, information for visiting Arctic Bay can be made through the office of the Economic Development officer (me!) at 867-439-8276 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Arctic Bay is well worth the challenges of visiting, and we hope to see you soon.
Clare Kines is a retired Mountie who moved to Arctic Bay a long time ago, fell in love, retired, and stayed. He is currently the Economic Development Officer for Arctic Bay, after a brief foray into the hospitality business. He has an amazing wife, and a son and daughter who are his world. He dabbles in writing, loves birds and sometimes fancies himself a photographer. Above all, he's easily distracted by shiny things.