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Aug 28, 2020

10 min. read

Manitoba day trips that prove you don't have to go far to have a good time.

Lucky are those Manitobans with backyards, especially while sheltering at home! As we venture back out into the world, Canadians have come to appreciate our yards, decks and balconies—but we're itching for more. Road trips are the perfect close-to-home option when you need a change of scenery, cultural enrichment and great food. Gas up for one of these provincial getaways: They'll get you back home before bedtime.



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Though Morden's annual Corn and Apple Festival has been cancelled this year, you might not miss it with all the other offerings in town. Well, no: You will miss drinking fresh cider and line dancing at the harvest celebration, so come back next year when the festival returns. But now is the time to check out some other diversions.

Make your first stop the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre. Hang out with Bruce, a Guinness World Record-holding mosasaur with three sets of terrifying teeth. Then say hi to a few of his buddies from the late Cretaceous period of earth’s prehistory. The museum also boasts the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in Canada. Local schoolkids often go on fossil-hunting field trips—outings so popular that the museum now offers them to regular visitors. You’re practically guaranteed to dig up a fossil!

For a slightly more modern experience, head to the Pembina Hills Arts Centre, located in a former post office with a centuryold mechanical clock. Try to “time” your trip for when the grand timepiece is being wound.

If history isn’t your thing, get outdoors with a sandy trail walk along Colert Beach, play a round of golf or take in beautiful views over lunch at the course’s clubhouse. And there’s only one place to properly end your day in Morden: the Stardust Drive-in. The nostalgic open-air movie meccas made a comeback during the pandemic, and the Stardust is one of only two still operating in Manitoba. Along with feature films and classics, the theatre is known for its retro treats and only-in-Manitoba snacks, like blueberry perogies.

A man is playing golf on a golf course near the ocean.

Buffalo Point.

A map showing the route from winnipeg to buffalo point.

In the very southwest corner of the province, Buffalo Point Resort belongs to the Buffalo Point First Nation, an Ojibway band government. With stunning Lake of the Woods Canadian Shield landscapes, it's the perfect place to recharge your batteries.

The cabins and campgrounds comprising the resort are popular for overnight stays overlooking a sandy bay. But the area provides ample activities to fill a day trip too. A tipi-shaped cultural centre is a meeting place for tours to explore the history of the Buffalo Point Ojibway people. Listen and learn as elders guide you through local art, architecture and artifacts that reveal Buffalo Point's historical significance.

For centuries, the area has been a place of healing for the Anishinaabe. Participate in a smudging ceremony with traditional purifying ingredients, including sweetgrass, sage and cedar. Relax on the huge stretch of public white-sand beach or spend time on the links at the Lake of the Sandhills Golf Course in Buffalo Point, with its scenic Muskeg Bay backdrop. Foodies can cast a line to catch their own dinner.

If you prefer dinner served rather than caught, grab a table at the resort's Fire and Water Bistro, winner of the 2019 ITAC Inspiring Indigenous Culinary Award. The restaurant earned top honours for its braised bison, served on a bed of Reed River wild rice. Harvested from the nearby Reed River, the rice has been a staple in Anishinaabe cooking since the 1700s. Nibble on a selection of wild berries and ice cream to cap off your evening.

A suspension bridge over a pond with ducks on it.

Virden & Eternal Springs.

A map of the route from brandon to vindern.

Less than an hour's drive from Brandon, Eternal Springs has been a well-kept secret of local outdoorsy types. Run by volunteers from the nearby Virden Area Wildlife Association, the nature centre is an oasis for relaxation—as well as yoga festivals and archery competitions. But the secret of the Springs is starting to spread.

The well-groomed, forest-lined hiking trails—the longest of which is a doable six kilometres—feel a world away. After a brisk hike, make a pit stop at one of two troutstocked ponds, fire pits or picnic areas. And no visit is complete without a walk across the 20-metre-long swinging bridge.

On the drive back to Brandon along Highway 1, stop at Oak Lake for some of Manitoba's best burgers and fries at the recently refurbished Joe Dandy's Drive-In. But save room for dessert: Virden's Ice Cream Island serves brain-freezing treats, as well as Nitro cold-brew coffee.

Before leaving Virden, make sure to check out the "Aud"—a.k.a. the Virden Municipal Building and Auditorium. It's one of the last remaining theatres that popped up in small Prairie towns at the turn of the century. In its heyday, the Aud was widely considered the best concert hall in Western Canada due to its exceptional acoustics. Built by noted Brandon architect William A. Elliott and opened in 1912, the provincial landmark has since been restored and is worthy of a tour. (Be sure to book in advance.)

On your way out of town, take note of the many oil pumps, enduring relics of a time gone by. In 1951, locals struck oil and the area became a bustling boomtown. Within a decade, Virden earned its moniker as the "Oil Capital of Manitoba." The rigs remain as an oddly cool and artistic marker of local oil lore.

Two people walking up a sand dune on a sunny day.

Spruce Woods Provincial Park

From brandon to spruce woods.

With prairie grass-covered hills, Spruce Woods Provincial Park is pure paradise for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. The park boasts two stellar trails—Spirit Sands and Devil's Punch Bowl—each with its own distinctive terrain and scenic vistas.

Though it's often called "Manitoba's desert," Spirits Sands isn't a desert per se, but the remnants of a sandy delta of the Assiniboine River. In fact, Spirit Sands gets almost twice the amount of rain of typical desert regions. The unique combination of moisture and sandy soil fosters a wondrous array of pretty wild flowers and cacti. The Spirit Sands trail itself is flat, making for an easy trek. Those up for a challenge can hike a portion that requires some invigorating sand-stair climbing. Along the way, look for indigenous short-limbed, snake-like skinks.

The other can't-miss hike is Devil's Punch Bowl. Adjacent to the Spirit Sands trail, it's accessed by an easy connector trail through fields that seamlessly blend two distinct landscapes. You'll transition from sandy dunes to bogs and eerie blue-green water in the blink of an eye. If you're not up for a rigorous hike, hop aboard a covered wagon pulled by Percheron horses (in operation seasonally).

On your way home from the park, stop at Glenboro, a quaint village and home of Sara the Camel. Crafted by Winnipeg sculptor George Berone in 1978, the fivemetre-tall ungulate has become a local legend and certainly adds an exotic touch to this “desert” landscape. A little farther down Highway 340 in Shilo, the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum makes for another interesting pit stop. With more than 65,000 artifacts and 150 pieces of artillery, the museum commemorates the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers. It's a true gem for history buffs, especially around Remembrance Day.

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