Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada
- Local Time
Despite its remoteness, the Yukon capital has a quirky mix of spots that stage poetry readings, serve craft beer and take you back in time – way back, to the arrival of the first humans on this continent. But the best part is that the 28,000 locals love to eat well, which works out just fine after a day exploring forest and mountain trails. Pack comfy shoes, pants with a loose waist and warm layers for chilly evenings.
Where to stay
- Stylish Edgewater Hotel room with white and pink accentsEdgewater HotelFor the river views
- Cozy bed at the Best Western Golden Rush Inn in Whitehorse, Yukon, CanadaBest Western Gold Rush InnFor the Canadiana touches
Eat & Drink
Wayfarer Oyster House
From the outside, it looks like a sheet–metal warehouse. Inside, it’s all polished concrete floors, a long wooden bar and white and French blue tiles. Perfectly shucked oysters are a given – preferably with a 2017 NK’MIP Chardonnay – while full vinyl albums play from Afro–harping Dorothy Ashby to the Jesus and Mary Chain. The daily menu and chalkboard offerings deliver on dishes of cold smoked bone marrow with a bright vinaigrette–slicked tangle of leeks, parsley and celery; seared scallops and ginger scallion jam; or an elegant tagliatelle dressed with pesto, pistachios and asparagus. This Whitehorse hot spot claimed the #7 spot on Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2019.
Klondike Rib and Salmon
Housed in an historic building that looks a bit like a greenhouse, this classic dinner joint is full of paraphernalia like wooden skis, gold pans and snowshoes – a nod to the fortune–seekers who stormed the area during the Klondike Gold Rush. Fittingly, the portions doled out here – yes, there’s ribs and salmon, but also elk carpaccio, bison steak with berry sauce and Alaskan halibut – are big enough to feed a miner, or a group of hikers returning from an adventure.
Baked Café + Bakery
Cranberry–coconut, blueberry–whole wheat, raspberry–pecan–spelt: You came for the coffee, but you’ll leave with a new–found love of scones. Baked each morning, they’re moist, filling and made with a touch of sweetness (you could almost justify them as a healthy breakfast). Pair your goodies with an espresso – the spot serves locally roasted beans by Bean North Coffee Roasters – topped with crema. If you’re a big morning eater, add the bacon–mushroom quiche or the ham–and–egg panini.
You may be thousands of kilometres from Mexico’s northern border, but stepping inside this little restaurant is a bit like walking into a cantina. The spice–coloured walls, hand–painted ceramic plates and wooden furniture lend the room a southern accent, while the shrimp ceviche, black–bean tacos and chiles rellenos bring on the full Mexican monty. (The owner, Señora Sanchez, has stuck with the recipes she brought from her homeland.) The place is always packed with patrons, so make sure to reserve a table or show up when the restaurant opens at 11:30 a.m.
Winterlong Brewing Co.
The unfiltered beers crafted here are poured in as small or as big a gulp as you want, from four–ounce sips to two–litre growlers to take away on a mountain–bike outing. If you have a hard time choosing, grab a seat in the bright tasting room and order a beer flight of four different brews, from the Mountain Hero saison and Weekend Warrior IPA to the Sweater Weather oatmeal stout and, depending on the season, the Spruce Tip Pale Ale. Food pairings include charcuterie, savoury pies and Scotch eggs.
By some standards, Whitehorse is a town where lots of businesses and restaurants close early. But this gastropub keeps the party going until 2 a.m. every day, serving Canadian wines from Laughing Stock and Painted Rock, as well as craft cocktails and beers. If hunger strikes, order a thin–crust pizza with Yukon Gold potatoes and bacon, or the Arctic char with dill butter.
What to Do
Explore the Yukon River in a canoe or in a kayak with a guide on a half– or a full–day tour for a glimpse of what it’s like to navigate one of Canada’s big northern rivers. If you’re an expert paddler, you can rent a canoe and set out on your own multi–day adventure.
If you’re enamoured of the work of British Columbia–based painter Meghan Hildebrand, you won’t be able to leave Whitehorse without some of her gorgeous handmade soap. Drawing inspiration from nature, Hildebrand makes soaps using wild–harvested ingredients like Slims River Valley glacial silt (found in the top–selling Kluane bar), fireweed and rosehip. Even the stylish packaging pays tribute to the landscape.
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre
Get an idea for what it might have felt like for the continent’s first humans to stare down – or rather up at – a woolly mammoth by standing below a three–metre–tall replica skeleton of the now–extinct animal. At this science centre dedicated to Beringia, the non–glaciated area that served as a land bridge between Asia and North America, you can also get up close with the likenesses of giant short–faced bears and American scimitar cats.
A glass–blowing studio–slash–gallery, this is the place to go for a hands–on experience of turning molten glass – liquefied at 1,200°C – into works of art. If that’s too hot to handle, shop off–the–shelf pieces, such as the Northern Lights Series wineglasses, featuring swirls of colours reminiscent of the aurora borealis.
Hop on your mountain bike and pedal the forested trails alongside the Yukon River toward Miles Canyon. The narrow section, where the water seems to turn turquoise, is the picturesque place that prompted the city’s name. (Before the hydroelectric dam was built downriver, close to the city, this section was rife with rapids so frothy, they resembled the unruly manes of white horses.) In winter, you can trek Miles Canyon on snowshoes or cross–country skis.
The Collective Good
Find hipster–friendly gifts and mementos at this design store, which stocks an array of clothing, accessories and homewares by indie artists and labels. For Yukon–themed goods, browse the shop’s own in–house line, which includes retro–vibe graphic tees, totes and tuques.
Whitehorse Fishladder and Hatchery
Five minutes from downtown, Whitehorse Fishladder and Hatchery lets visitors see a bypass point that helps migrating salmon navigate the treacherous route around the dam. On your stroll, you’ll learn about the fish and their spawning along one of the longest salmon migratory routes in the world.
Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre
The ancestors of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation have lived along the banks of the Chu Nínkwän, a.k.a. the Yukon River, for millennia. Here you can see cultural exhibitions and First Nations artwork, partake in daily interpretive programs during the summer season and visit the artists in residence.