Canada // The Prairie Provinces //

Southeastern Manitoba

Tempting day-trips from Winnipeg abound in southeastern Manitoba, with worthwhile cultural, historic and natural attractions all on offer. Highlights include the interesting Mennonite Heritage Village to the south, and the Whiteshell and Nopiming provincial parks to the east. These parks protect an inhospitable and sparsely inhabited region of lakes, rivers and forests on the granite landscapes of the Canadian Shield, with a 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 and the trading post of Lower Fort Garry. From here, birdwatchers should make a beeline to the marshlands of the Oak Hammock Marsh Wildlife Area, where thousands of migrating birds, particularly snow and Canada geese, drop in between April and September. Otherwise, the main highways parallel the northbound Red River as it empties into Lake Winnipeg, a 400km-long finger of water that feeds the Nelson River on its way to Hudson Bay. It’s a shallow lake and often has reasonable waves lapping at its shores, creating a real seaside atmosphere on its southeast shore in Grand Beach Provincial Park, where sand dunes stretch as far as the eye can see and Winnipeggers bathe in droves on summer weekends. The beaches of the lake’s west shore are poorer, and the old fishing and farming villages of little interest, except for Gimli, which has its own windblown charm and an intriguing Icelandic history museum. Visiting the nearby Narcisse Wildlife Management Area is a must in April and May, when thousands of red-sided garter snakes gather to mate. Heading north along the lake’s western coast you’ll encounter scattered islands harbouring the unspoilt marshes and forests of 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.