Visitors to Manitoba with time enough to venture north of the 53rd parallel may find petrol stations spread further and further apart along the major route up from Winnipeg, but rugged beauties compensate. Route 6 ends at Thompson, then trains from here link with Churchill on Hudson Bay, the "Polar Bear Capital of the World". Well off the beaten path, Churchill continues to lure visitors to the barren edge of America.
This historic and isolated settlement on Hudson Bay's icy shores boasts Beluga Whales, bright northern lights and butterflies, depending on the season. Book bear tours with local operators to make the most of your visit to the region, or take a course in artic botany at the Northern Studies Center before retreating south to warmer climes and big city amenities.
Stop for waterfalls at Pisew Falls Provincial Park on the road south of Thompson after filling up with petrol and perusing the town's Inco Nickel Mines. Get history at the Heritage North Museum and stock up on supplies on your way out.
Trains run all the way up to Churchill from Winnipeg, for visitors hoping to avoid drive time, though the trip requires an overnight in Thompson. Thompson is 474 miles north of Winnipeg by road, and trains leave three evenings a week for the 14-plus hour trip to Churchill. When the northern light show is on, the journey is a great way to take in one of the Arctic's most spectacular attractions.