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Aug 27, 2021

8 min. read

Take a fresh look at the province’s Eastman region

It's early morning.

The Whitemouth River flows across a maze of boulders before falling over a low ridge. It makes the slightest trickling sound as I stand nearby, sipping a cup of local Trail’s End coffee. A thread of mist rises off the water, whisked away by the sun as it rises above the aspens.

Stretching from the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, north to Pine Falls and south toward the American border, the Eastman region winds through prairie landscapes, lakes, rivers and even the boreal forest of Whiteshell Provincial Park.

Though Steinbach is the area’s largest community (population 15,829), a smattering of quaint towns and villages contributes to the cozy, infinitely inviting ambience. Welcome to the eastern reaches of Manitoba.

A group of men sitting around a campfire.

Where to Stay

It was a small ad in a local newspaper that caught the attention of Jenny and Michel Dupas: Former factory for sale. After plenty of renovations, the one-time egg-grading station and stir stick factory on the Whitemouth River was reborn as the Moon Gate Guest House.

Each of the B&B’s five bedrooms is uniquely decorated, and guests can also lounge in extra-spacious common areas or the sweet-smelling cedar sauna. Come nightfall, gather around the outdoor wood-fired oven for Michel’s unforgettable tomato and basil thin-crust pizza. After dinner, you can pull up a hay bale to stargaze by the fire.

“We certainly achieved our goals—and then some. But there’s more to come,” says innkeeper Jenny. Drawing on her spiritual leanings and Michel’s Métis heritage, Moon Gate is poised to become a centre for learning and inner peace. “This summer, we opened our roundhouse teaching lodge with off-grid accommodations, right on the river’s edge.” Guests can partake in sweat lodge rituals, Indigenous teachings and ceremonies, or moon and star workshops.

Outdoorsy types will also enjoy Tallpine Lodges. Tucked into the boreal forest of West Hawk Lake, the couples-only destination includes cabins clustered around a spruce grove—a frequent haunt of resident white-tailed deer. Each toasty cabin includes a hot tub, fireplace and private sauna. There’s also a communal outdoor pool. Start your day with a vigorous hike on the Hunt Lake Trail. After trekking along steep paths through dark stretches of Canadian Shield forest, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of Hunt Lake.

At the other end of the spectrum is South Beach Casino, located on the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation Reserve near Scanterbury. For a truly luxurious stay, book a night in the property’s Grand Suite. The sprawling corner room features a lavish soaker tub, the perfect place to digest a prime rib dinner from Mango’s Restaurant. There’s also live music in the lounge, games of chance at the casino, and an Art Deco-inspired pool.

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A couple walking down a path in the woods.

Back to Nature

Strolling the Brokenhead Wetland Interpretive Trail not far from Scanterbury, keep your eyes to the ground to spot some of Manitoba’s most stunning wildflowers, including northern starflower, early blue violet and yellow marsh marigold. You’ll also encounter rare wild orchids, insecteating plants and funky mushrooms on the accessible boardwalk. Interpretive signs help visitors understand this complex ecosystem, which has been used by Indigenous people for over 300 years.

For more sky-high pursuits, the 54-metre-long Pinawa Heritage Suspension Bridge offers a bird’s-eye view of its namesake channel below. Built by volunteers, the swaying bridge leads hikers to the Heritage Walk (an offshoot of the Trans Canada Trail), where woodsy sights and sounds abound. Just a little up the road, the landscape is dotted with ruins of the Pinawa Dam, which was built over a century ago but abandoned in the 1950s. The surrounding park now includes an amphitheatre, walking bridge, picnic shelter and nature trails. Cast a line, go for a hike or nap under the swaying spruces.

On late-summer days, white sand, swirling dunes and shallow waters make the beaches along the Lake Winnipeg’s eastern shore feel positively tropical. Southernmost Patricia Beach is one of the smallest and quietest options. (It also includes a stretch that’s been an unofficial clothing-optional beach for five-plus decades.) Up the road, the massive expanse of Grand Beach boasts concessions, vendors, cottages and a campground.

A basket of fried fish and fries.

Food & Drink

At Blue Haze Barbecue, it’s perfectly acceptable—and even encouraged—to start with dessert: a thick slice of banana cream pie. But leave room for the Beausejour eatery’s Saturday night Pitmaster Platter, a hearty sampler of ribs, chicken, brisket and pulled pork.

“Beausejour is a great little hub on the way to the north and Eastman areas,” says Blue Haze chef/owner Jason Dornbush. “We’ve come to love our community and the people in it.”

Dornbush’s bright Fourth Street North eatery also serves creative sandwiches, like its Hot Russian and El Cubano, in addition to weekly specials. Come for chicken on Tuesday, wing Wednesday or tuck into savoury brisket every Thursday. There’s also a deli counter, so road-trippers can grab smoked meats plus signature sauces and rubs to go.

Over on Park Avenue, the motto of Colins’ House is “Be excellent to each other,” à la Bill and Ted. But the food is all Colin and Colin. Chef Colin Dick and CPGA golfer Colin Davey founded the restaurant five years ago—after a fateful meeting across a backyard beer pong table.

The worldly pair put their heads together to craft an eclectic menu, including a flavourful falafel salad, laksa (a red curry and coconut broth soup), five taco selections and lime pie with mango sauce. A plate of colourful beet chips is almost too pretty to eat—but you should: dipped in an accompanying cream sauce, they’re irresistible.

Farther east near Provincial Trunk Hwy 44, an afternoon in Whitemouth makes taste buds dance with delight. Visitors come from far and near to sample the goods at The Spicy Radish Café. You can’t go wrong with a plate of housemade fettuccini alfredo or the restaurant’s signature burger topped with zippy mayo, pickles and Bothwell jalapeno Monterey jack cheese. Run by co-owner Shannon Stebelko and manager Tabitha Cipuzak, the restaurant also offers plenty of vegetarian dishes and a gluten-free platter of chicken or shrimp, farmer’s sausage, mashed potatoes and salad.

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