“This land may be profitable for those that are willing to adventure it,”
Henry Hudson scribbled those words upon setting foot in the wide expanse of Canada’s forests, tundras, and plains. He would also disappear in that same vast wilderness, cast off by his men into the frigid waters of Hudson Bay, never to be seen again.
And one of Canada’s most stunning provinces sits just to the south of Hudson Bay – Manitoba. Thankfully, for you, Manitoba is much more hospitable for travelers than in 1608.
A diverse land that transforms itself from frigid, rocky coasts of the Hudson Bay, to the verdant green forests and glistening lakes of the south. From the warm hearts of the folks in the small towns to the metropolitan nature of Winnipeg, nature and culture collide in Manitoba:
Should you find yourself in the Northeast of Manitoba, look down, and kick some of the soil around. Feel that hard rock?
That’s 3.96 billion years of history, in the form of pure Pre-Cambrian rock. You are standing on the “Canadian Shield” – a massive area that extends south into Manitoba, where the soil makes way for softer, more fertile lands blanketed by towering boreal forests and more than 100,000 lakes that extend out into the horizon. Lake Winnipeg is the centerpiece of these rich wetlands, playing host to an abundant variety of species.
Animals: 56 species of fish, Moose, Black Bear, Red-Sided Garter Snakes, and more.
Plants: Wild Columbine, Yellow Lady's Slipper, Bunchberry, Wild Rose, etc.
Just watch your step along the western shore in the winter. As many as 65,000 Red-Sided Garter snakes can be seen competing for crevices!
What does this all amount to? An enticing dish of wildlife viewing opportunities, while giving you access to hunting, fishing, and trapping adventures. And all of this rich biodiversity is encased in a history that is as rich as its trappings.
When the great glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago, human history in Manitoba started. When the soil opened up, a diverse collection of tribes of Inuit and First Nation peoples moved into the open door.
Blood and Fur: The Fur Trade Conflict
Soon rose the Metis people, French for “mixed”, who were descendants of indigenous women who mingled with European fur traders. Based in the fertile Red River valley, they would push back against British expansion.
In 1806, a boiling point was reached. A stone obelisk sits alone in West Winnipeg, showing the site of this event – The Seven Oaks Massacre, where a fierce battle broke out between the Metis and The Hudson Bay Company.
This "war" ravaged well into the 1880s as the settlement of Manitoba took off, ushering in an era of economic prosperity. But the bliss was short-lived.
Manitoba in the 1900s
Depression wracked the province in the first half of the 20th century, forcing politicians into crisis mode during WWII. In a bid to bring the province back into prosperity, the government diversified the economy by seizing control of natural resources and building up the sparse northern areas.
When the New Democratic Party stormed into power in the 1980s, infrastructure took off, building the province to what it is today:
A harmonious blend of nature and modernity, where adventure is just a ride away.
Getting Around Manitoba
Finding that “car” is a cinch! Whether you find yourself in the cities of Brandon, Thompson, or the Winnipeg Metro, you will be greeted with a wealth of options: from bus transits, rental car companies, and taxis, to trains for long-distance destinations.
Centrally located in the heart of Canada, Manitoba not only provides a host of natural beauties but easy access to the other splendors that neighboring provinces can offer.
To the south lies the lake rich, US state of Minnesota, and the wind-swept plains of North Dakota. It hugs the province of Saskatchewan to the west, and Ontario to the east. In the north, its wild and rugged lands are bordered by the vast Hudson Bay in the northeast, and the expansive Nunavut territory in the northwest.
If the streets of Winnipeg are too confusing, then public transit is both an affordable and convenient way to explore Manitoba’s cities. If you are dumbfounded about any schedules or routes, then venture onto any of the cities' websites so that you can plan out your trip accordingly.
Just be prepared for fewer buses on the streets during the weekends.
Is it Saturday, and you find yourself anxiously toe-tapping as you wait for a bus? Worried about getting from your world-class hotel to the colorful Winnipeg Art Gallery? Well, to cruise around picturesque Manitoba in a car all you need is your driver’s license, which is valid for your first 3 months in Manitoba. Any longer, you will need a Canadian Driver's License. If you need a short fix, then a host of rental car companies stand at your service:
Unfortunately, the taxi system is a little different in Manitoba. Unlike NYC’s chaotic taxi system, Manitoba requires you to call a cab company to book a ride. Rates are fixed, allowing you to avoid any sleazy drivers taking side routes for extra cash.
Looking to kick back and take in the scenery as it gently rolls by your window? VIA Rail Canada operates more than 480 trains every week, with more than 450 destinations. Head on over to their website to get a look at fares and destinations.
1. Riding Mountain National Park
Tucked away in the rich and fertile Manitoban Southlands is Riding Mountain National Park, a heavenly gateway for you to connect with mother nature in intimate ways. Dominated by boreal forests, an oddity amongst the vast plains that surround it, it plays host to a vast ecosystem that thrives in its temperate climate.
What Can You Do?
400 pristine trails snake around the park, gifting you perfect opportunities to trot along on a horse, breeze along on bicycles, or stroll amongst the shades of the towering trees. Winter adds a whole new dimension to this wild wonderland, transforming it into an oasis for country skiing or snowshoeing.
Trans Canada Trail
The gateway to this accessible trail lies just a few miles from the park and gives a perfect opportunity to enjoy the wildlife of the area. For bold adventurers, conquering the full length of this trail is no small feat – it travels a length of 22,000 kilometres!
The lush vegetation of this route is easy in difficulty, but transports you to hidden lakes and clearings.
If the hidden lakes of Arrowhead trail brought out that boating urge in you, then Clear Lake and Lake Audy sit ready to offer you the best boating experiences in the park. You can take out both motorized boats and feature boats. So get your nautical on!
Riding Mountain National Park Camping
For overnight experiences, the park hosts many peaceful camping sites. All come with a full complement of amenities so that your experience is both awe-inspiring, and comfortable.
Moon Lake: With 25 individual sites, Moon Lake is perfect for campers who love the gentle sound of the wave at night. It also provides easy access to boat ramps.
Lake Audy Campground: 19 separate sites dot this campground that also sits next to recreation facilities.
The soothing lapping of Moon Lake’s shores is not the only nighttime attraction. Look up, and your eyes will be met with the dancing colors of the Aurora Borealis. With flat land and not a city for miles, this park offers unobstructed views of this surreal phenomenon.
Plan your trip for between January and March, if you want the most vivid displays.
2. Whiteshell Provincial Park
2,729 glorious km of pure boreal forests, winding rivers, and shimmering lakes adorn this “Natural Park”. Explore the thousands of miles of trails, at the end of which you can bunker up in a secluded private cabin, or treat yourself to others brimming with amenities.
Tucked away in the southern gateway of the park is Falcon Beach Ranch, where horseback riding amongst the still trees satiates the most ardent explorers' urge for adventure. If your need to adventure goes upwards, then Lily Rock Pond awaits with exhilarating rock climbing.
Did we mention the thousands of kilometres of trails? Or the mysterious UFO site at Falcon Lake?
Did the summer heat beat you down? Not a problem, because from fishing amongst waterfalls, rock platforms to dive from, and sandy beaches, the Park features a fresh alternative to slogging it away in the brush.
Rising above Falcon Lake is Falcon Ridge, on which Falcon Ridge Ski Resort is perched. But 30 km of world-class ski trails aren’t all the resort blasts your way. An exhilarating tube runs and a cozy chalet awaits, featuring Trail’s End Cafe: a top-end restaurant with succulent burritos, juicy burgers, steaming fries, and a hot chocolate to relax with.
3. Assiniboine Park
A beautiful marriage of nature and urban life: that is Manitoba in a nutshell. And it characterizes this green slice of heaven perfectly; you would hardly know you were in Manitoba’s biggest city! But what activities can you partake in?
Do you like enjoying special moments with your young ones? Then The Nature Playground is where it’s at! It boasts a brilliant nature theme, from a towering crow’s nest, willow tree tunnels, to rubber “mountains”. If you are an art savant, then the Pavilion Art Gallery hosts a “Pooh Gallery”, showing the evolution of Winnie The Pooh.
The park comes out swinging with a host of activities for the whole family, from ice skating and ski trails in the winter to bike rentals in the summer to explore the vibrant colours of the abundant flora.
Assiniboine Park Zoo
But should you want to experience nature without encountering it face to face in the brush, then this gem of a zoo welcomes you with over 180 animals! Ever seen the grace of a wolf, the balance of a snow leopard, or the intensity of an Amur tiger? You have? Well, if that wasn’t enough then you can witness its most popular exhibit:
The majestic polar bears.
Rates are $21.75 for adults and $12.25 for children.
4. Manitoba Museum
Remember the Hudson’s Bay Company? Well, the company so vital to the history of Manitoba circled back and became the biggest donor in 1994 to this beautifully curated museum, which painstakingly details the natural, and human history of the province.
Step back into the windswept southern plains with the “Orientation Gallery, and witness the hunt of a Metis hunter. Become a spectator of 500 million years of change in the Earth History Gallery, or stand before the towering Nonsuch, a full-scale replica of the ship instrumental in the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company. You can even turn your gaze upward at the stunning Planetarium!
With so many activities, you will be hesitant to leave. Be sure to explore the Museum's Shop, so that you can take some history home with you.
Admission rates can be broken down by the gallery you want to see, or if you want to see the whole “buffet”!
Museum Galleries: $15 for adults, $9 for youth
Planetarium: $8 for adults, $6 for youth
Science Gallery: $8 for adults, $6 for youth
All attractions: $23 for adults, $15 for youth
5. Winnipeg Art Gallery
Nothing tracks the colourful development of the province better than how others interpret it. If you are looking to “connect” to Manitoba, then this leading visual art museum will do the trick.
Just $18 for adults (children get in free) will give you the key to a wide range of exhibitions showcasing many different art mediums. The “To Draw Water” exhibit, which translates to the Anishinaabemowin word, Naadohbii, elegantly illustrates the intimate connection that indigenous tribes share with water.
Experience the meaning of INUA – an Arctic spirit, or life force, shared by Inuit cultures. Hosted in the Quamajuq Art Centre, it’s a prime example of how the Museum showcases the true spirit of the indigenous cultures.
Be sure to check out the Outdoor Sculptures Exhibit, which both overwhelms and inspires with its scale. And with family art sessions, there’s a range of opportunities to share the beauty of art with your loved ones.
Inspired yet? Then walk into the gift shop to bring your passion home with you, featuring a wide selection of arts and crafts tools to get you started on your next project.
Pack Your Bags And Head to Manitoba Today!
Do you hear it? The gentle lapping of Falcon Lake’s waves, or the regal roar of Assiniboine Zoo’s Siberian Tigers? That is Manitoba calling you! You’d better start packing before you miss the dancing lights of the Aurora Borealis.
But accidents can happen, especially in the ruggedly gorgeous environs of Manitoba. Before heading out, contact Insurdinary to get travel insurance that you can trust, so that you can explore with confidence!
Now, you are ready. Go and be the next Henry Hudson.