Historic and meaningful adventures in Canada

hiker standing on rocky outcrop, yukon canada

July 2022 marked a uniquely Yukon milestone, with the serving of the 100,000th Sourtoe Cocktail at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City.

The Sourtoe Cocktail is a (horrifying) tradition dating back to 1973. It involves drinking a shot of whisky with a mummified human toe in it. Once the toe touches your lips, you have officially joined the club and get a certificate to commemorate the prestigious occasion. Yukon premier Sandy Silver became the 100,000th member of this one-of-a-kind club when he was served the historic tipple on 19 July.

Aussie visitors to Dawson City in Canada’s Yukon Territory can expect the unexpected. Dawson City, like a town frozen in time, resembles a movie set, with elaborate dance halls, wooden boardwalks and historical buildings that hark back to the late 1800s when 100,000 prospectors sought their fortunes during the Klondike Gold Rush.

From the quirky to the breathtaking, read on for six unforgettable adventures in Dawson City.

Can-can dancers in a gambling hall

Try your luck in Canada’s oldest casino, Diamond Tooth Gertie’s. Complete with can-can dancers and a flamboyant singing master of ceremonies, this non-profit gambling hall is named after an authentic dance hall queen who famously wedged a sparkling diamond between her two front teeth and made her fortune from the lonely prospectors who readily shared their gold in return for her affections. Catch one of three nightly can-can shows, from Thursday to Monday, and dance along with Gertie and her Goldrush Girls.         

Read: Plan your trip to Canada’s cultural hotspot

Pan for gold

Celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush in 2023 by finding a shiny nugget of your own! Learn the art of panning in the creek with Gold Bottom Mine Tours and listen to the incredible stories about life in the goldfields. Next, make your own golden dreams come true at Free Claim #6 where you can try your luck. Visitors are welcome to bring their own pan and take away whatever they find.

Walk in the footsteps of literary giants

Dawson City is a treasure trove of wordsmiths. Head to Eighth Avenue where actors in period costume will guide you through the rustic cabin of poet Robert Service, filled with goldrush relics. Known as the Bard of the Yukon, Service’s colourful verses brought the Klondike experience alive for millions around the world with his beautiful depictions of life in Canada’s great north, including the mystical northern lights.

On the same street, make a stop at Jack London’s Cabin and Interpretive Centre, legendary for his short stories and books, such as The Call of the Wild and White Fang. Browse through historical archives and photographs and hear about Jack London’s adventures during the Klondike Gold Rush.

First Nations immersion

The first people of Dawson, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, came well before the gold fever. A visit to the Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre is a must-do between June and September (or visit by appointment between October and April). Take a guided tour of the Hammerstone Gallery in the Dawson City Museum to understand the First Nations peoples’ perspective of the gold rush era. Check out the art shows and take home a piece of this dynamic culture from the gift shop – from hand-beaded footwear to books, artwork, and locally produced music.

Read: Canada dreaming: Calling all nature lovers

Hike the Tombstones

Just 55 kilometres from Dawson City lies one of the Yukon’s most striking natural phenomena and a world-class hiking destination, Tombstone Territorial Park. The park, with its dramatic wind-carved alps and the craggy granite peak of Tombstone Mountain, features rainbows of striking, windswept tundra in a treeless landscape, ground-hugging plants and unusual permafrost landforms.

A variety of habitats means a diversity of life. Keep the camera poised for caribou, moose, Dall’s sheep, grizzly and black bears, wolves, hoary marmots, pikas, shrews, voles and more than 148 species of birds. A network of hiking trails is waiting to be explored, tailored to all fitness levels, with maps available at the Tombstone Interpretive Centre.

Bed down in a former brothel

It’s not every day you get to stay in a glamorous former brothel. Built in 1900, Bombay Peggy’s is a beautifully restored Gold Rush inn featuring classic Victorian decor, antique furnishings, contemporary art and modern amenities. Stop by the adjoining pub for unique Yukon-brewed beers, a fine selection of single malt scotch, and the most creative martini menu in town. Chat to the welcoming locals on the sunny patio, enjoy some live music and check out the contemporary art adorning the walls.

Read: Canada’s weird – but wonderful – stays

Getting there

Air Canada offers daily direct flights to Vancouver from Sydney and direct flights between Brisbane and Vancouver four times per week. Direct flights from Sydney to Vancouver are also available on Qantas. Internal flights to Whitehorse and Dawson City are available on Air North and Air Canada.

For more information about Yukon visit www.travelyukon.com.

Have you travelled to Canada? Is it on your wish list? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Pip Macken

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