'North of 53' (the 53rd parallel), convenience takes a backseat to rugged beauty as lake-filled timberland dissolves into the treeless tundra of the far north. Here cell phones are useless and you're left to rely on your own wits for adventure and even survival. Churchill is justifiably the big draw and reason enough for a journey that leaves the life you know far behind.
The southern end of Canada's fifth-largest lake has been a resort destination since the 1920s. Sandy white beaches, constant sunshine and the oceanlike size of the lake made a visit like 'going to the coast' for all Winnipeggers. It's a tremendously popular summer destination; in winter, when snowy white beaches line the frozen lake, it's virtually deserted.
Around Riding Mountain National Park
Just north of the park, two summer fests around Dauphin are huge fun. Country Fest uses a gorgeous forested amphitheatre for four days of music, drinking, camping and a whole lotta yeehaw. Canada's National Ukrainian Festival features folk dancing, drinking, lacy costumes, cultural displays and the chance to munch pierogy, cabbage rolls and kielbasa.
Whiteshell Provincial Park
Foreshadowing the green forests, clear lakes and Canadian Shield of northern Ontario, pine-covered hills erupt from the plains immediately inside this park. The park is fairly commercialized; resorts and stores are found every few kilometers and larger centers have park offices.
Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park
On an island away from the tacky hustle of Lake Winnipeg's beaches sits a natural oasis featuring Manitoba the way it's meant to be seen. The islands, marshes and forests are full of deer, moose, beaver and bear. Stop at Grassy Narrows Marsh, which has trails close to the park's entrance leading to shelters and towers perfect for habitat viewing.
Heading east from Winnipeg, the flat expanse typical of the prairies blends with forests and lakes typical of the Great Lakes region. While most visitors speed through toward Kenora and beyond, the eastern region of Manitoba has the same rugged woodland terrain as neighboring Ontario.