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Feb 5, 2021

11 min. read

It cuts through the centre of the province, snaking between vast Lake Manitoba and the ocean-like Lake Winnipeg. Starting from Winnipeg’s northerly outskirts, Provincial Trunk Highway 6 moves from urban density to sprawling fields of canola, wheat and corn.

Eventually, the remarkable roadway meanders through the Interlake, where towering spruce and stony outcroppings dot the pastures of cattle country, before it terminates in the northern hub city of Thompson. Surrounded by Canada’s lush boreal forest with hidden waterfalls and watchful wildlife, it’s an ideal end point for one of the province’s great drives.

Highway 6 is the road less travelled when it comes to adventure in this province; her secrets remain largely unexplored… until now!

A small ice cream shop with a pelican statue on the side of the road.

Steep Rock

With a salty smell in the air, the shoreline around Steep Rock almost feels tropical. The water is tinged with turquoise, owing to the high concentration of minerals and limestone bed of shallow Lake Manitoba.

Take a hike along the top of the area’s limestone cliffs; with westward views, they make for a spectacular sunset perch. For a fish’s-eye perspective of the cliffs, rent a vessel from Steep Rock Kayak & Canoe. Explore the caves beneath the cliffs before paddling to the nearby island with its resident goats.

Back on dry land, chip your way through a makeshift links dubbed the “Hard Rock Golf Course” and visit the abandoned quarry with its impossibly blue pools and migrating waterfowl. Overnighters have several options: the Steep Rock Campground, a community clubhouse that sleeps 10 or one of Peter’s Farm Cottages, set on an acreage just outside of the village.

A man fishing on a dock.

Paint Lake Provincial Park

The majesty of the north is on full display at this sprawling park, which encircles 40-kilometre-long Paint Lake. Campers can choose from over 80 sites or book one of six yurts, clustered on a private peninsula. Hot showers, playgrounds, a volleyball court, beaches and trails mean there’s something for everyone. There are even two backcountry campsites for those who really want to get away from it all.

For a more luxurious stay, Paint Lake Lodge and Marina offers modern cabins for rent, a full-service restaurant (be sure to order the ribs), a convenience store, boat rentals and fishing guides. There’s also a spacious patio overlooking the lake, perfect for a physically distanced post-hike beverage.

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A aerial view of a beach with trees and water.

Little Limestone Lake

Images of Little Limestone Lake seem Photoshopped—almost too beautiful to be real. But step onto the shore and you’ll see Manitoba’s “blue lagoon” is very, very real. It’s the world’s largest and most dramatically colour-changing marl lake: Throughout the day, heat dissolves the lake’s calcite (a kind of limestone), turning the water from turquoise to a deep sea blue.

Fair warning: It’s not the easiest lake to visit. The drivable path from the highway to the shore is not for the faint of heart and may be impassable after a rain. There are no services in the area either and camping is only available with advance permission from the Mosakahiken Cree Nation.

A suspension bridge over a wooded area.

Pisew Falls

After taking a 13-metre plunge through a chute, the Grass River creates the mighty Pisew Falls, a not-to-be-missed destination just metres from Highway 6. The province’s second highest waterfall is fabulously photogenic any time of the year, but particularly in June when a chunk of river ice remains.

A boardwalk reveals several views of the cascading water. For flora lovers, the continuous moisture in the area fosters a microclimate supporting fungi, moss, lichen and ferns. Look down along the half-kilometre hike to the Rotary Bridge and you might spot the ultratiny and rare Calypso bulbosa, one of 37 species of orchids native to Manitoba.

For true adventure seekers, the 30-km roundtrip to Kwasitchewan Falls, Manitoba’s highest waterfall, is a must. Begin at Rotary Bridge and trek through bogs, over tree roots, fallen branches and steep climbs. The hike takes about 12 hours, so an overnighter at a designated camp spot right at the falls is highly recommended.

A statue of two people sitting on a stone bench.


A single highway sign points to the farmyard of the late Armand Lemiez. Born in Belgium, the artist first settled in Grahamdale in 1911. Though he became known for his immense concrete sculptures, this Renaissance man was also an athlete, homesteader, blacksmith, carpenter, philanthropist, painter and gardener.

Following that lone marker takes you down a gravel driveway leading to 21 striking concrete creations. You’ll find a dinosaur shaking hands with a human, a snapping alligator, an antlered gentleman and a contemplative ape, at once mysterious and melancholy. Decades after they were created, Lemiez’s whimsical works still stand, braving year after year of harsh prairie winters.

A large mural of a wolf in a forest.


It’s the wolves that will first catch your attention in Thompson, a city that got its start due to a late-1950s nickel boom. Thankfully, these beasts are in statue form, placed along the Spirit Way, a walking and biking trail.

The path also offers a perfect view of artist Robert Bateman’s iconic wolf mural, which graces the side of a 10-storey building. The final stop of the Spirit Way is near the Burntwood River, where a Norseman floatplane rests on permanent display as a tribute to the pilots and mechanics who remain essential to northern life.

At the Heritage North Museum, rustic log structures lend additional northern charm. Stocked with artifacts from the area’s fur trading days, the museum also houses a boreal forest diorama and a caribou hide tipi. The outdoor blacksmith shop harkens to a time when things were made by hand, with care and craftsmanship. Don’t miss the gift shop: It’s one of the best places in town to pick up souvenirs such as wild rice, fur products, Arctic Gold Honey and the work of local artists inspired by the aurora borealis and plentiful wildlife.

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