Riding Mountain National Park of Canada
General Delivery WASAGAMING, MB R0J 2H0
Posted June 10, 2022 | Author Joey Traa
A trip to Clear Lake Country in Riding Mountain National Park is a lot like going to see Pearl Jam in concert.
Before you poke holes in my analogy (and I’m sure there will be holes), let me explain.
If you haven’t met a true Pearl Jam fan here’s a quick rundown: The legendary rock band has been producing critically acclaimed and culturally beloved albums for decades, even up until 2020. They’re known for many things, but perhaps most notably they are known for their extremely loyal fanbase. If you’re a Pearl Jam fan, you’ve likely been to dozens of their shows, own a closet full of merch, and have a playlist on your phone called “Yacht Rock”.
What’s somewhat unique about Pearl Jam, and the reason fans travel far and wide to see them live over and over again, is that the set lists are different at every single show. At a Pearl Jam concert, yes, they’re going to play the hits, but other than that, you really don’t know what you’re going to get. But with a band like Pearl Jam who produces captivating new music even thirty years after their inception, what you do know is that whatever setlist they come up with, it’s going to be a blast.
A trip to Clear Lake is a lot like that. I’ve been going to Clear Lake with my family for over thirty years, and although every time I go, I inevitably play some the hits, there’s always a new experience or new place to explore that makes each trip a little different, and a little special. So, in the spirit of Pearl Jam, here’s my attempt to create a perfectly unique set list for your next trip to Clear Lake Country.
Reel in the crowd with the classics.
Every great setlist starts with some hits to get the crowd going. For me, there’s no greater Clear Lake Country hit than the cinnamon buns at Whitehouse Bakery. Frankly, there is no food I’d rather eat at any given moment than a fresh, warm, maple cinnamon bun from Whitehouse. This bun is not just a food, it’s a feeling.
One of my earliest memories as a kid is waking up at the crack of dawn with my dad and walking down the back lane towards the bakery to pick up cinnamon buns for the family, with the smell of fresh baked goods wafting through the open vents as you got closer and closer to your first bun of the year. Every year when we booked our week at Clear Lake, my anticipation for the dates circled on our calendar started with the anticipation for that cinnamon bun. That feeling. That recurring memory. As much as Clear Lake offers new experiences and new traditions, every one of my set lists begin with Whitehouse.
For me, a trip to Clear Lake Country isn’t complete without a pizza from TR McKoys. When I was a kid, TR McKoys was the fanciest restaurant I’d ever seen, and today I can see it for what is really is: a classic family dining ambience in cabin country, where fancy meets informal, combined with Italian food that will knock your socks off. While I’m obsessed with their pizza, my wife routinely orders the sweet chilli curry penne in what has become an adopted tradition of her own. Pro tip: Split some calamari as an appetizer – it’s a gamechanger.
Rounding out the back-to-back-to-back classics is dinner at 1929. The degree to which this place is a Clear Lake staple is right in the name, as the building which hosts the dining room and lounge dates back to 1929. This time around we enjoyed a rack of ribs and a delightful bison sirloin wrap, but many come for their famous “Outrageous Nachos” which are best enjoyed with your favourite friends, lots of laughs, and a huge appetite.
While Lakehouse has been around for quite a few years already, in a place with as rich of a history as Clear Lake I suppose it’s all relative. In only a handful of summers, Lakehouse has established itself as a fan-favourite amongst the loyal tradition-filled Clear Lake faithful both for its food and its lodging. The Lakehouse menu is stacked with creative, modern cuisine that is best enjoyed in the sunshine on their patio. My go-to is the chicken wings, which I saw scattered amongst the many occupied tables both inside and outside the restaurant. Another crowd-pleaser is the Slow Burn Burger, which is topped with spicy peanut sauce, grilled pineapple, smoked cheddar cheese and bacon.
A friend of mine has a tradition where whenever she visits Clear Lake, she spends an afternoon walking into and spending time with every single store in town no matter how far it strays from her personal interests as a consumer. While I love that idea and endorse that tradition, this setlist has a time limit, so not everything is going to make the cut.
Established in 1992, Poor Michael’s Emporium in Onanole has been on people’s radars for a while, but this summer was the first time I spent some quality time there and it has immediately jumped into the rotation of my must-visits in Clear Lake Country.
I’m not sure how I didn’t get the memo, but from right when it opens at 10am the place is already bustling with patrons, coffee drinkers, and shoppers exploring everything it has to offer. There’s quite the community feel in Poor Michael’s, with friendly staff who get to know you, follow up with you, and seem to be genuinely delighted that you’re enjoying their shop.
While we came for the shopping (and took home this delightful little Chewbacca marionette), we stayed for breakfast and some of the best coffee I’ve had all year. When ordering the pecan tart, I was asked if I would like some ice cream on top. After responding that I felt it was too early for ice cream, the very wise owner reminded me that “it’s all milk anyway” which was really all I needed to hear. The ice cream, and the tart, truly hit the spot.
While you’re at Poor Michael’s, I would suggest making the trip next door to shop at Jewels of Siam, a beautiful little shop filled with really cool clothing for all ages, hilarious greeting cards, and a lovely display of plants, flowers, and pottery to add to your collection.
Mainly Manitoba is fairly new to downtown Wasagaming and is an excellent place to shop for Manitoba-made gifts, clothing, art, home furnishings and much more. Their focus on staying local is not only an excellent support for the community, but it has also resulted in a really cool and eclectic variety of items to choose from. It is a great choice for bringing home gifts and keepsakes from Clear Lake Country.
While I’ve stayed in many spots in Clear Lake Country over the years, this was the first time I stayed at Smokey Hollow, and my positive experience has moved this gem up into the setlist.
We stayed in the Garden Suite, which is separated from the rest of resort, offering a quiet, secluded spot to enjoy the beautiful landscaping and garden area in the resort’s pavilion. The resort is equipped with an outdoor pool and hot tub, a fire pit, meeting areas, and much more, all located just steps away from Poor Michael’s Emporium.
No Clear Lake setlist is complete without spending some time on the trails of Riding Mountain National Park. My personal favourite spot is the Brûlé Trial, which features a short loop of 2.4 km, and a longer loop of just over 4km. Pro tip: Order some baked goods to-go from Whitehouse and bring them along for a treat on the trial!
If you’re looking to stay in town, there’s plenty of shorter scenic hikes to choose from in Clear Lake Country as well. Head down to Ominik Marsh for my favourite view of the sunset, or venture over to Deep Bay to walk down the steps and see the beautiful clear water crashing against the rocks and sand on the shore.
In a region known for its golf courses, the Poplar Ridge Golf Course in Onanole stands out as one of the most enjoyable courses I’ve played at in a while. Poplar Ridge’s strength is in its variety, as every hole is different, featuring difficult dog legs and scenic hazards, while still being an accessible and beautiful course for players of all skill levels. The course is in great condition this season and I’d highly recommend checking it out or adding it to your Manitoba golf course bucket list.
In the spirit of trying something new, we rented eBikes from the Clear Lake Marina and it was truly a highlight of the weekend. This was our first time on eBikes, and it was the perfect blend of leisure and adrenaline that I needed to wake me up before driving home after a jam-packed Clear Lake weekend.
These things are incredible, not only making the steepest climbs up a hill feel effortless, but also proving to be capable of moving much faster than I ever expected throughout the many winding Riding Mountain bike trials. While the boost from the eBikes may have made the ride less of a workout, we spent about an hour straight of laughing at how much fun it was, so I count that as an ab workout at the very least.
I’m a big believer that every good day in Clear Lake Country should end with ice cream, which is why it’s the perfect encore for this “perfect” Clear Lake Country setlist. Grab yourself a cone at The Boardwalk, sit on the comically large Adirondack chair, and head down to the water to watch the sunset on another wonderful set/day in Clear Lake Country.
Travel Manitoba staff was hosted by Clear Lake Country, who did not review or approve this story.
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