Southern Manitoba: The ultimate road trip for Aussie travellers
Canada’s best-kept secret is being shouted from the roof-tops of social media as more and more Aussies discover Canada’s beating heart in its central province of Manitoba.
With its rolling prairieland in the south, sub-arctic tundra in the north and the rugged terrain of the pristine lakes region, Aussie road trippers are living the dream.
Read on for an unforgettable driving route through Southern Manitoba.
Take off from Winnipeg and cruise along the Yellowhead Scenic Highway (Hwy 16) into Manitoba’s heartland across spectacular prairielands that feel like they go on forever.
Take a break at the town of Neepawa, halfway between Winnipeg and Riding Mountain National Park, at the Farmery Estate Brewery, an iconic watering hole in Manitoba, where the barley and hops are homegrown right there on the prairie farm.
Enjoy the scenic 82-kilometre drive through the beautiful Parkland region to Riding Mountain National Park and choose your own adventure in the park’s townsite of Wasagaming, from fat biking around Clear Lake, to kayaking the crystal waters.
Riding Mountain National Park has to be seen to be believed. Perched atop the Manitoba Escarpment, this protected forested parkland contains three diverse ecosystems: grasslands, boreal forest and upland deciduous forest.
The best way to immerse yourself in this striking natural oasis is to get amongst it at one of the Park’s numerous camp sites. Stay in the comfortable oTENTiks, book a micro cube, yurt, or rent a cabin in Wasagaming.
Spend a few days exploring more than 400 kilometres of hiking and biking trails, including Gorge Creek Trail, a 12.8-kilometre return hike that takes you up the Manitoba Escarpment and into the gorge itself, through aspen, hazel and old oak forests.
Time seems to stand still as you stretch your legs among this ancient natural playground, teeming with wildlife from wolves, moose and elk, to black bears, bison and hundreds of bird species.
For the ultimate wildlife experience, take a self-driving tour to Lake Audy for an up-close encounter with more than 40 protected bison. Warning: bison are friendly beasts and likely to saunter right up to your vehicle!
On your way back to Winnipeg, wind your way 165 kilometres south to Spruce Woods Provincial Park, where the shifting landscape serves up another surprising vista: a sandy desert-like pocket in the midst of fertile, prairie farmland.
Known as Spirit Sands, the dunes provide delicious contrast to the blue-green sea of spruce trees in the Devil’s Punch Bowl, lush riverbank forests and grassy plains of this ecological wonder.
Make sure you stop off at the Park’s interpretive centre, that showcases the cultural history and unique fauna and flora, including live specimens of reptiles, fish and amphibians found in the Park.
Winnipeg to Riding Mountain National Park: 268 kilometres
Riding National Park to Spruce Woods Provincial Park: 165 kilometres
Spruce Woods Provincial Park to Winnipeg: 179 kilometres
Manitoba is Canada’s sixth-largest province, has more than 100,000 lakes and a population of 1.2 million. It is bordered on the north by Nunavut Territory, on the west by Saskatchewan, on the east by Ontario and on the south by North Dakota and Minnesota. While considered one of Canada’s Prairie provinces, Manitoba actually has three distinct geographical zones: the agricultural triangle in the south; the sub-arctic tundra in the far north; and the predominant Precambrian Shield with its rugged terrain and thousands of pristine lakes.
Air Canada has daily direct flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Vancouver, with connecting services to Winnipeg. Alternatively, VIA Rail, the national Canadian rail service runs from Vancouver to Winnipeg. The two-day journey spans British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan before reaching Manitoba, the heart of Canada.
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