Whitehorse: A small town of unexpected charm

by • May 25, 2018 • 61 North, HighlightsComments (0)1084

I have lots of friends in the Lower 48 and their Facebook feeds are constantly touting their latest vacay to the beach, Disney World…Cleveland. Sure, they’re not all glamorous, but the one constant? They drive there.

So, this past Easter holiday, finding myself with a

An aerial view of Whitehorse shows the wilderness beckoning just a few miles away in any direction. This Canadian town is a bit of a stretch for a road trip from Alaska but doable in a long weekend for those wanting an alternative to boarding an airplane. YUKON INFO

long weekend and that quintessential Alaskan springtime itching-to-get-out-of- this-state-who-cares-where-it-is, the family and I resolved to get
out of Alaska by car. So, we opted for sunny Canada. Whitehorse, specifically. And, while we weren’t exactly on a tropical spring-break retreat, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised at our charming getaway.


Taking a cue from my Lower 48 friends, we set out on a good old- fashioned road trip: 704 miles (1132 kilometers for the Canadians out there), one-way to Whitehorse seemed just a pinch daunting, especially because we opted to bring our two (very vocal) husky mutts. So, to cut down on the stress for our pups, we split the drive, spending the first night in Tok at a bed-and-breakfast willing to ac- commodate our four-legged children.

Guests at the Fireweed Cabin enjoy a summertime barbecue while staying at Sundog Retreat in White horse. A road trip to this Canadian town can be a fun alternative to getting on a plane for vacation. COURTESY SUNDOG RETREAT

The next morning, we set off on The Alaska Highway. For the average Alaskan, the route boasts views we’re mostly accustomed too – trees, the occasional cabin and mountains. Even in the early spring of March, the road was fairly dry, requiring four-wheel drive only some of the time. But, in general we felt safe without studded tires.

Be warned though, during shoulder seasons, once you pass Tok, you’re mostly on your own for food. We were sure to make a stop at a grocery store before departing.


When I made our booking the
week prior to arriving at the Sun-
dog Retreat, I’ll admit, my hopes
were not high. I pictured a semi-
rustic cabin, likely surrounded by
many others. When we arrived
however, we were greeted with
more of a condo in a scenic forest
complete with a hot tub, cable
and Internet. And they not only 
tolerated, but accommodated (and
loved) our dogs. Our full kitchen
gave us the option to stay in and cook while keeping an eye out for northern lights and hanging in the.
hot tub.

Sundog has seven different cabins to choose from, all capable of accommodating small families or large groups.


Setting out on this trip, our main objec- tive was to kick back, cuddle the dogs and rest. But, of course we needed some other activities to supplement our lazy weekend. For that we had no shortage of options.

We started with a quick 20-minute cross- country ski through a wooded trail that led to the edge of the Yukon River. Thankfully, in the beginnings of spring, the river was still frozen, allowing us, and our dogs, a lovely ski/run for as long as our energy held out.

Tonks and Sarah get some needed R&R at the Sundog Retreat

Following that, we soothed our muscles with a dip in Takhini Hot Springs, a mere 10-minute drive from Sundog. Though not as scenic as a natural hot springs, Takhini funnels hot mineral water into their concrete pool making for a lovely way to kick back and enjoy the cool spring air without getting chilled.

Next it was on to Winterlong Brewery. Not different from many Alaska breweries, secluded in an industrial area, Winterlong’s rotating tap offered classic IPAs and Hefe- weizens among others. I opted for its rotat- ing sour beer and was not disappointed.

To finish off the day – and our dogs’ seem- ingly endless supply of energy – we brought them to the Whitehorse off-leash dog park, a small enclosure just at the end of the town’s Main Street.


Knowing we had a full kitchen, we made a stop at the first local grocery store we came across and stocked up for breakfasts, snacks and, of course, libations at the beginning of our stay. A note about grocery shopping: Be sure to drop in the fact that you’re a tourist, as they will drop the sales tax from your total bill.

The majority of our meals were either cooked in our full kitchen at Sundog or ut- terly unremarkable. But, if you ask around for a nice place to eat, you’ll definitely be di- rected toward Antoinette’s – and you won’t be disappointed. Similar to any small town, there’s a slew of get-in, get-out places where you can grab a decent burger and beer. But, Antoinette’s was a welcome change. While on the “fancier” end of dining in White- horse, I was still perfectly comfortable show- ing up to this Trinidadian diner in Xtratufs and a sweatshirt.


If you plan to go when there is still snow on the ground, bring skis or snowshoes if you have them. If you don’t own snowshoes they are available for free at Sundog.

Regardless of the time of year, bring a hardy pair of shoes. Whitehorse isn’t much for nightlife, so your suede flats or stilet- tos should definitely stay at home. And, of course, bring swimwear for the hot springs and hot tub.

Passports are required for border cross- ings and, if you plan to bring your dog, shot records are required as well.
So, the next time you’re looking to hit the

open road and get out of town – way out of town – consider Whitehorse. It might not have the same ring as a trip to Malibu, but it’s a springtime treasure just waiting to be explored.


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