Southeastern Manitoba offers several tempting day-trips from Winnipeg, with a mix of cultural, historic and natural attractions. Highlights include Steinbach’s interesting Mennonite Heritage Village to the south, and the Whiteshell and Nopiming provincial parks to the east. Accessible gateway communities in both serve to open up a sparsely inhabited region of lakes, rivers and forests on the granite Canadian Shield landscapes. Particularly noteworthy is the superb network of canoe routes between backcountry campsites.
North of Winnipeg, dreary suburbs fade into the seamless prairie landscape and the only major interruption is the Red River as it pushes its way towards Lake Winnipeg, the vast 400km-long finger of water which feeds the Nelson River and the Hudson Bay.
The main sight along the Red River corridor is Lower Fort Garry, a well-preserved former trading post. From here, birdwatchers should make a beeline to the marshlands of the Oak Hammock Marsh Wildlife Area, while most recreational traffic heads to beaches around the lake itself at Grand Beach Provincial Park, where waves lap onto sand dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see. The beaches of the lake’s west shore have less of a seaside atmosphere; its fishing and farming villages are of little interest, except for Gimli, which has its own windblown charm and an intriguing Icelandic history. Visiting the nearby Narcisse Wildlife Management Area is a must in April and May, when thousands of red-sided garter snakes gather to mate. Otherwise, head north along the lake’s western coast and you’ll encounter the scattered islands, unspoilt marshes and forests of the Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park.
Relying on public transport to explore this region is awkward but just about workable, since most key places have at least one or two bus services per day.