Because significant global changes are currently underway in the Arctic, creating a large-scale standardized database for Arctic marine biodiversity is particularly pressing. This study evaluates the potential of aquatic environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding to detect Arctic coastal biodiversity changes and characterizes the local spatio-temporal distribution of eDNA in two locations. We extracted and amplified eDNA using two COI primer pairs from ~80 water samples that were collected across two Canadian Arctic ports, Churchill and Iqaluit, based on optimized sampling and preservation methods for remote regions surveys. Results demonstrate that aquatic eDNA surveys have the potential to document large-scale Arctic biodiversity change by providing a rapid overview of coastal metazoan biodiversity, detecting nonindigenous species, and allowing sampling in both open water and under the ice cover by local northern-based communities. We show that DNA sequences of ~50% of known Canadian Arctic species and potential invaders are currently present in public databases. A similar proportion of operational taxonomic units was identified at the species level with eDNA metabarcoding, for a total of 181 species identified at both sites. Despite the cold and well-mixed coastal environment, species composition was vertically heterogeneous, in part due to river inflow in the estuarine ecosystem, and differed between the water column and tide pools. Thus, COI-based eDNA metabarcoding may quickly improve large-scale Arctic biomonitoring using eDNA, but we caution that aquatic eDNA sampling needs to be standardized over space and time to accurately evaluate community structure changes.