Considered a “prairie province,” Manitoba’s central Canadian location often relegates it to traveler’s afterthoughts. Open minded and enterprising travelers, however, will find in Manitoba fantastic wildlife, natural beauty and a surprisingly deep, if unheralded, culture.
In Manitoba’s far north, best accessed by train and not easily reached otherwise, sits Churchill, the self-proclaimed “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” Chances of seeing one of the iconic white bears, or an equally distinctive Beluga whale, are indeed as great in Churchill as any other populated area on earth. Maybe they have been enchanted by the Northern Lights that are so easily visible over northern Manitoba.
An eye toward the sky in Manitoba might also catch a great grey owl, the province’s official bird, at Whiteshell Provincial Park. Along with other fine provincial parks Manitoba is home to Riding Mountain and Wapusk National Parks -- the former a destination for hikers, the latter surrounding Churchill in the far north. Waterfowl watching at Oak Hammock Marsh is world class and is generally good throughout the province, hardly surprising in light of the over 110,000 lakes within the Manitoban borders. Of equally little surprise, considering the same, is the quality of fishing in Manitoba. Thirty different trophy species can be fished in Manitoban waters. As a result, Manitoba boasts the longest running Master Angler program in North America. Even Winnipeg, Manitoba’s largest city and home to half of the province’s population, is a fishing destination. The Channel Catfish in the Red River are some of the world’s largest.
Winnipeg is also bastion of the strong Manitoban Franco-phone culture. Manitobans celebrate the joie de vivre more than any other Canadian province outside Quebec and their passion is evident in such festivals as the large, wintertime “Festival du Voyager.” In southern Manitoba, beyond the limits of Winnipeg, proponents of agri-tourism will find a destination worthy of praise. A wealth of folklore, local history and practical knowledge wait for working hands to unearth on the farms and ranches sprinkled about the Canadian prairie land.
Driving around Manitoba is not recommended to unaccustomed travelers during those winters. During summers, a car is a perfectly reliable way to get around southern Manitoba. To get far north, the train from Winnipeg is probably the way to go. Trains are a reliable and beautiful way to get around and into Manitoba as Winnipeg is a Canadian railroad hub. Commercial air travel is fairly easy into Winnipeg but special arrangements may be necessary to fly around the rest of Manitoba.
The weather in Manitoba predictably varies from north to south. In the north, cold weather should be expected. Though the short summers can be comfortably warm to mild during the day, they quickly turn into bitter, biting winters. Temperatures throughout the province remain below freezing during the winter months, causing Winnipeg’s Red River to freeze annually, so snow can blanket the province from November to April or longer.