Manitoba: through the heart of Canada
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the heart of Canada

There are few landscapes as endlessly scenic and inspiring as Manitoba. In the span of just seven days, the adventurous traveller can experience the best of the province’s offerings, from wilderness excursions to historic sites to delicious eats.

This week-long itinerary will help you plan a trip that gives your heart room to roam – alongside a soundtrack that pairs perfectly with the drive.

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No road trip is complete without the perfect playlist to serve as your soundtrack. Take a listen to our Spotify playlist, featuring the sounds of some of Manitoba's top established and emerging artists.

Fresh air on
Falcon Lake

illustration of a Squirrel

First thing’s first: You’ll want to start out at one of Falcon Trails Resort’s hand-crafted cabin rentals, which sit on the shores of Falcon Lake and High Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park. This destination is an hour and half outside of Winnipeg if you’re flying in for the trip, or just a stone’s throw away from Northwest Ontario if you’re driving in from the neighbouring province. With private hot tubs and wood fireplaces, you’re guaranteed a relaxing stay immersed in nature.

During your stay, further explore lush Whiteshell Provincial Park, which offers a year-round playground for the kids and endless outdoor activity for the adults, including hiking and rock climbing. Or, for the ultimate beach day, head to West Hawk Lake, the deepest lake in Manitoba. (Fun fact: It was created by a meteor impact.) Avid cyclists should definitely check out Blue Highway, a 14-kilometre cycling trail that’s surrounded by lush boreal forest. Mind the rocky terrain!

To wind down, head to Bannock Point, home to a number of petroforms, which are stones laid out in the shapes of animals and geometric designs by Indigenous Peoples centuries ago. The best way to see the petroforms is on a guided walk-through of the area, which allows visitors to learn more about its history and hear stories from local Indigenous Knowledge Keepers.

For meals, you’ll have a few delicious options around, including Nite Hawk Café’s home-cooking, the family-run Falcon’s Nest Café, or the welcoming Hi-Point Restaurant and Lounge, which always offers a fun night out.

Get back to nature with a stay at one of Falcon Trail Resort's hand-crafted cabins.
Stretch your legs on a hike that will give you unparalleled views of the area.

Easy living
in Pinawa

illustration of a Waterfall

The next morning, drive over to the resort-like community of Pinawa less than two hours away, where you’ll be able to rent a Canadian-made houseboat through Voyageur Houseboats. If relaxation is your goal, go for an hours-long scenic tube float down the Pinawa Channel, taking in the breathtaking sights around you.

If play is more your vibe, head to Pinawa Golf & Country Club, or round up the kids and take in the stunning Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Park, located on the Winnipeg River and home to Manitoba’s first hydro-electric generating station. Seriously, you’ll want to keep the camera out. Or take things up a notch with a hike along the Trans-Canada Trail.

Whatever activity you opt for, your lunch plans should involve downing a tasty bite at The Burger Boat. For dinner, head to nearby community spots Spicy Radish Cafe, or Drifter’s Inn, which offers delicious comfort food and a bar and cocktail lounge.

Stay cool with a relaxing tube trip down the Pinawa Channel.
The Burger Boat might be the most unique burger joint in Canada.
illustration of a Burger

Cultural discoveries
around Lake Winnipeg

The next day, head to Lake Winnipeg’s western shore – but make sure to leave time for a stop at the sprawling Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site. Located just outside the city of Selkirk, Lower Fort Garry is where the numbered treaties were signed between the Crown and the area's First Nations.

For brunch, check out Roxi’s by the Red Uptown Café, where you can choose from a satisfying breakfast poutine, eggs Benedict or farmer’s breakfast – or, indulge your sweet tooth with a grilled cinnamon bun or apple bacon pancakes. From there, drive another half hour or so to Winnipeg Beach, where you can swim, check out the boardwalk or build a sandcastle.

Then, continue the fun in Gimli. You can have a beach day here, too – located on the eastern shoreline, Gimli Beach is massive so you’re sure to score a prime spot on the sand. Score treasures from local makers at the Gimli Farmers’ Market and the Arnes Farmers’ Market, both of which run all summer long. Be sure to check out HP Tergesen & Sons, an iconic shop that has served the community for more than 120 years. Offerings include clothing, unique gifts, candles and more.

The town is known as the “heart of New Iceland,” so be sure to check out the famous statue at Viking Park. And if you happen to be around in early August, don’t miss the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, where you can explore a Viking village, see a battle reenactment, catch live music from local and Icelandic musicians and, of course, indulge in Icelandic food and drinks.

While you’re in the area, be sure hit Beach Boy for lunch. A popular seasonal restaurant, it’s known for its pan-fried or battered pickerel, which was caught fresh in Lake Winnipeg. For dinner, make a stop at Seagulls Restaurant, which offers a stunning view of Lake Winnipeg, or Ship & Plough, which boasts live music and plenty of locals to get acquainted with (many of whom would be more than happy to share a story or two).

This giant Viking statue was designed to commemorate Canada’s centennial in 1967.
The Icelandic influence is strong in Gimli, which is known as the "heart of New Iceland."

Historic highlights
and chic shops in Brandon

You can’t wrap up your road trip without a stop in Brandon, Manitoba’s second-largest city, which is rich with history and culture. After a three-hour drive – and some brunch at Komfort Kitchen – kick off your first activity of the day with a stop at the Daly House Museum. Located in the heart of the city, it recreates a Brandon home from the late 19th century. In addition to its beautiful Italianate architecture, the museum features antique furnishings and historical displays.

A second day in the city gives you time to check out the shops, including local-first Chez Angela Bakery (filled with the enticing aroma of fresh bread), Lady of the Lake (which doubles as a café in case you’re craving a coffee), and George Strange’s Prairie Showcase and Bookmart. Be sure to check out the Riverbank Discovery Centre, where guests can explore a network of trails bordering the Assiniboine River, explore the waterway via rented kayak and take in performances at the outdoor amphitheatre. Then, treat yourself at Crow’s General Store, a combination antique shop and ice cream store that’s tucked in the forest along the river. At the end of the day, make your way to dinner at The Dock on Princess, a friendly pub that prioritizes local ingredients and vendors.

Brandon's Daly House Museum is located in a 19th-century home.
Locally grown and sourced ingredients are the stars of the menu at The Dock on Princess.

Active adventures
in Wasagaming

For the last leg of the trip, head to the quaint town of Wasagaming just over an hour north of Brandon, where you’ll find Riding Mountain National Park, one of the province’s most popular destinations. Home to 40 plains bison that roam in a large enclosure, it’s the ideal spot for wildlife spotting. Stay at nearby Elkhorn Resort, which boasts a full-service mineral pool and spa, a nine-hole golf course, riding stables and year-round recreational activities. While you’re there, grab lunch at the resort’s restaurant, Buffalo Bar, which offers up hearty, delicious eats, including six different styles of burger. Or, book a room at Lakehouse, a rustic-chic boutique hotel for outdoor lovers. Grab a specialty coffee from the on-site coffee shop before heading out on an outdoorsy adventure. Upon your return, have an indulgent dinner at the hotel’s restaurant; don’t miss the goldeye dip, satisfying burgers or truffle mac and cheese.  

When you head out to explore, consider renting canoes or kayaks at Clear Lake Marina. You can also book a sightseeing cruise on The Martese, a grand yacht that offers spectacular views of Clear Lake at both midday and sunset. Or, if you’d rather stay on land, rent fat bikes from Friends of Riding Mountain National Park. Follow that up with a little shopping in Wasagaming townsite, breakfast or lunch at local favourite Whitehouse Bakery (the cinnamon buns are a must) and dinner at TR McCoy’s for pasta or pizza. Finally, cap the night off with ice cream at the boardwalk back by Clear Lake, and reminisce about your wonderful week on the road.

Riding Mountain National Park is home to a herd of 40 bison.
There's no better place to take a sunset walk than the boardwalk at Clear Lake.

CREDITS: Illustration by LIZA ISAKOV

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio on behalf of Travel Manitoba. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.