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Explore Manitoba: Naturally wild at heart in Canada

Destination Canada is opening up our horizons by rail, road and boat from coast to coast to coast for jaw-dropping views, meeting welcoming locals and experiencing awe-inspiring encounters around every corner of Canada. Next stop: Manitoba. Let’s go!

Destination Canada is opening up our horizons by rail, road and boat from coast to coast to coast for jaw-dropping views, meeting welcoming locals and experiencing awe-inspiring encounters around every corner of Canada. Next stop: Manitoba. Let’s go!

Manitoba is a magnet for wildlife spotters and wilderness lovers – a trip through untouched nature and a step back in time in historic neighbourhoods. It’s where you can see polar bears and beluga whales in their natural habitat and explore untouched landscapes close to civilisation on an epic road trip in the heart of Canada.

Fast and Fun Facts

  • How to get there: Air Canada flies direct from Australia to Vancouver, then onwards to Winnipeg. Travel to Churchill by train on VIA Rail or by plane on Calm Air.
  • When to go: Manitoba is a four-season destination, best enjoyed in the summer months between June and September or in winter. Insider tip, the best time to see polar bears is Oct-Nov and the Aurora Borealis Feb-Mar.
  • Where is it? Centrally located, Manitoba is considered to be the heart of Canada.
  • Did you know? The northern port of Churchill is one of the top three spots on the planet to witness the Aurora Borealis aka Northern Lights.
  • Winnie the Pooh fan? The beloved childhood icon was inspired by Winnie the black bear, named after the Manitoba capital, Winnipeg. There’s a Pooh Gallery at Pavilion Gallery Museum.
  • Yum fact: Winnipeg is the Slurpee capital of the world, boasting the highest consumption of the frosty bevvy.
  • Did you know? Hudson Bay is home to 25,000-plus beluga whales, 3,000 of which visit Churchill annually from mid-June to mid-August.

Speaking of which, Churchill is also known as the polar bear capital of the world where these momentous mammals congregate to wait for the ice to freeze in Hudson Bay. Karryon met Frontiers North Adventures’ Jessica Burtnick who shares an insider snapshot of the amazing environment, wildlife and natural wonders on offer in Churchill.

Advisors! Read on to find out how to snag one of two famil trips to Canada to get among it all firsthand.

Experience Manitoba’s cultural highlights and natural sights on an epic road trip

Winnipeg

DC Manitoba Qaumajuq credit JP Media Works
See one of the world’s largest displays of Inuit art at Qaumajuq. Image: JP Media Works

Bookend your trip in Manitoba’s capital Winnipeg (1), a treasure trove of unique cultural institutions, historic sites and quirky-cool neighbourhoods to explore.

Tick off history, art and culture with a visit to Qaumajuq at Winnipeg Art Gallery aka the modern WAG– Qaumajuq (4), which was only opened in 2021 and contains the largest public collection of Inuit art in the world. In contrast, Pavilion Gallery Museum, housed in a historic landmark, features the Pooh Gallery – a permanent collection of Winnie the Pooh artefacts and memorabilia.

Winnipeg is also home to a surprising selection of museums such as the must-visit Canadian Museum For Human Rights, which looks to the past for a better future. There’s also Assiniboine Park Conservancy (5) where you can explore multiple attractions, including The Leaf horticultural dome and botanic gardens and Pavilion Art Galleries.

You can also spy arctic wildlife at the Journey to Churchill exhibit and Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre at the onsite zoo.

Riding Mountain National Park (268km)

DC Manitoba Farmery Brewery Tour Credit Travel Manitoba
Hop to it! Stop at Farmery Estate Brewery for locally grown and brewed craft beers. Image: Travel Manitoba

From Winnipeg, head west on the Yellowhead Scenic Highway, stopping at Farmery Estate Brewery (6) in Neepawa. The microbrewery grows the hops and barley for the beers, which are also available at the Craft Brew Store on site and include a Beer Caesar drink!

Continue on the 82km scenic drive to the astonishingly diverse Riding Mountain National Park (7) where you can choose your own adventure from the convenient base of the Wasagaming township and campground (9) that contains OTENTiks A-frame sites (8) and tiny MicrOcube cabin accommodation.

DC Manitoba Riding Mountain National Park CreditTravel Manitoba
Fat biking around Clear Lake. Image: Travel Manitoba

From here, you can easily spend a few days exploring the protected forest and parklands. Try activities such as fat biking and kayaking around the pristine waters of Clear Lake Marina (8), hiking and cycling more than 400km of trails and spotting local wildlife such as wolves, bears, moose, elk, bison and birds.

One example is the Gorge Creek Trail – a 12.8km return hike through a deep gorge where you can traverse leafy forests, clear streams and steep slopes for a view of the tree canopy and a bird’s eye view of the great plains below.

DC Manitoba Riding Mountain Park Credit Enviro Foto
Gentle giants – bison in Riding Mountain National Park. Image: Enviro Foto

Get up close and personal with bison on a self-guided drive tour of Lake Audy (11) in the park’s centre. This wildlife and wilderness area offers encounters with around 40 protected and friendly bison that are just as curious about you and will come right up to your vehicle.

Spruce Woods Provincial Park (165km)

DC Manitoba Spruce Woods Provincial Park Credit Travel Manitoba
Hiking in Spruce Woods Provincial Park. Image: Travel Manitoba

On the way back to Winnipeg, swing into Spruce Woods Provincial Park (12) to check out another of Manitoba’s diverse landscapes. Head 165km south to discover a surprising pocket of sandy desert dunes amid the prairie farmland.

Known as Spirit Sands, the undulating dunes contain prickly cacti and snakes amid sweet grassy prairies as well as spruce trees and ponds in the Devils Punch Bowl, providing a contrasting and diverse environment to explore on a day trip or campground stay.

Visit the park’s interpretative centre to uncover the rich natural history and cultural significance of the area’s unique flora and fauna that include reptiles, fish and amphibians.

Winnipeg (179km)

DC Manitoba The Common at The Forks Credit Travel Manitoba
The Common at The Forks. Image: Travel Manitoba

Arriving back in Winnipeg, it’s time to explore the one-of-a-kind neighbourhoods in the largest city on the Canadian Prairies.

The Exchange District (2) is a turn-of-last-century charming neighbourhood, dotted with colourful murals and local attractions that reflect the city’s culture and heritage.

Dubbed the ‘Chicago of the North’ for its architecture, there are more than 150 perfectly preserved heritage buildings in 20 square blocks. It’s now a cultural precinct with hipster finds from donuts and coffee to independent fashion, art galleries and restaurants.

DC Manitoba The Exchange District Peasant Cookery CreditJPMediaWorks
Peasant Cookery – farm-to-table dining in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. Image: JP Media Works

More foodie finds await at The Forks Market with a fresh food emporium on the ground level and more than 300 local and Canadian artisan wares upstairs within the landmark building. It’s located in The Forks (3) – a meeting place for 6,000-plus years at the ‘fork’ of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in Winnipeg.

Side trip: Churchill

DC Manitoba Churchill Seawalls Credit Travel Manitoba
Tour SeaWalls CHURCHILL street artworks with local artist Kal Barteski. Image: Travel Manitoba

A standout highlight of any Manitoba holiday is a visit to the tiny northern town of Churchill aka the Polar Bear Capital of the World. It’s an arctic wildlife hub on Hudson Bay where you can see birds, bears and beluga whales in their natural environment and close to town.

It’s an easy 2.5-hour flight from Winnipeg to Churchill with Calm Air. Alternatively, you can travel VIA Rail from Winnipeg for a breathtaking two-day journey that covers 1,697km and allows you to spy the epic wildlife and pristine wilderness right from your train carriage.

DC Manitoba Beluga whales Credit CoPilot Collective
Up close with belugas. Image: CoPilot Collective

On a summer visit, there’s a range of wildlife tours available in Churchill. Hop aboard Lazy Bear Expeditions’ new catamaran and explore Hudson Bay’s west coast via Zodiacs, keeping a keen eye out for beluga whales, polar bears, bearded seals and other wildlife sightings.

Frontiers North Adventures also runs a Conservation Journey: Beluga Whales field education tour on the water, led by researcher and scientist Dr Valeria Vergara. For a closer look, jump on a Zodiac or try stand-up paddleboarding with Sea North Tours.

On land, Churchill Wild’s exclusive Birds, Bears & Belugas tour includes five nights at Seal River Lodge for an immersive experience featuring guided tundra treks and vehicle tours. During October and November, Frontiers North Adventures runs polar bear viewing tours on its Electric Vehicle Tundra Buggy®, providing a completely silent, non-intrusive touring experience through zero-emission vehicle technology.

DC Manitoba Ithaka shipwreck Credit Build Films
Explore the MV Ithaka freighter shipwreck. Image: Build Films

More adventure awaits on a Discover Churchill Ithaka Shipwreck Hike at low tide or the Parks Canada Sloop Cove hike and Zodiac tour of Hudson Bay’s history, wildflowers and wildlife at the Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site.

Discover Churchill itself on North Star Tours’ Town & Area Tour that includes the ‘Polar Bear Jail’ on the town’s fringe where errant bears can cool their heels before being relocated back into the wild. You can also check out the SeaWalls CHURCHILL street art tour and Itsanitaq Museum, one of the world’s top collections of Inuit art and artefacts.

Hey, travel advisors – sign up for the Canada Specialist Program and WIN!

DC Manitoba Northern Lights in Churchill credit Travel Manitoba
All of the lights! Witness the Aurora Borealis in Churchill. Image: Travel Manitoba

Travel advisors who are registered in the Canada Specialist Program will go in the draw for two upcoming Canada famils in September and October 2023.

Join the Canada Specialist Program to learn more about the diverse landscapes and experiences, gain access to exclusive content and valuable tools to help you promote and sell Canada plus network with other agents via the closed CSP Facebook group.

Click here to sign up by the end of July 2023 to be in the running to win a spot on a Canada famil.

Want more Manitoba? Head here for extra info and inspo.

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