📍 Treaty 3
All summer long, we've been asking Manitobans to explore more of their home province. While Whiteshell Provincial Park is a tried and true tradition for many - believe it or not - this was my first time spending time at the famous West Hawk Lake. Why famous, you ask? The not-so-sleepy summer town is known for its amazing trails, crystal-clear waters (formed by a meteor!) and its high energy, lake-life vibes.
Here are 5 ways to have an amazing time this summer in this beloved slice of the Whiteshell...
1. Sleep under the stars
While there are several motels and lodges to choose from in West Hawk, camping is a quintessential summer Manitoban experience that is cost-effective, fun and immersive. The West Hawk Campground is best suited for families and small groups, with many adjoining sites that lend well to social distancing while still visiting safely with your loved ones. Entering the campground, there is a real sense of community, as parents hang colourful towels to dry from lines and kids savour a bit of freedom, riding their bikes throughout the grounds.
Our site was right beside the smaller beach in the campground - Miller Beach - which was a real bonus for a swimmer like myself. This year, weekend campsites have filled up very quickly but you can always check the MB Parks reservation service for upcoming openings (and, there are plenty during the week - the perfect chance to indulge in some summer holidays).
2. Hike the trails
Hunt Lake Trail, one of Manitoba's most popular wilderness trails, launches off from West Hawk Lake - but the average hiker needs at least 5 hours to complete the full trail. Since this weekend was all about chilling out (and, I'm not the most experienced hiker), we decided to take it easy on the Dragon Fire Trail that's located in the campground. The end of the trail was actually right at our campsite, so we took the reverse route toward Crescent Beach.
This moderate trail started low in the trees, and felt very lush with many lookout-points where we could admire the clear waters below. Eventually, the trail went uphill (mildly challenging as you need to climb some rocks, but not too bad) to the top of the rock face, where we were treated to sweeping views of the lake. The trail is short and simple, and shouldn't take you more than an hour to complete - unless you stop for many photo ops, of course!
3. Go paddling on the lake
As we finished our hike at Crescent Beach, we saw that West Hawk Marina was getting ready to open for the day. West Hawk Marina offers a number of paddleboats, kayaks, SUPs and canoes for rent - but we opted for a canoe as my partner wanted to reminisce on canoe trips of his childhood while showing me the ropes. The Marina also provides lifejackets, which are absolutely essential for staying safe while on the water.
Even with expert tips, canoeing can be a bit more challenging compared to kayaking - but once you get the hang of it, you'll be soaring over the lake! We were advised to stay in the bay to avoid high winds, so we kept along the shorelines, admiring cabins and the scenic rock faces.
4. Sink your toes into the sand
The main beach in town is located directly off the boardwalk, with plenty of space to spread out. There are numerous signs explaining that the water has a steep drop-off: which makes perfect sense considering its origins. Nearly circular in shape, West Hawk Lake had a fiery birth when a meteor crashed into Earth somewhere around 100 million years ago. The meteorite in question is buried deep in the lake and is not exposed at the surface. There are only 24 structures identified in Canada that resulted from the impact of large interplanetary bodies with Earth, which makes West Hawk Lake quite unique in the country's geological history.
Today, the lake is 111 m deep (slightly deeper than an American football field), with crystal clear waters that are known to be a tad chilly at certain times of the year. Lucky for us, the water was pleasant during our early August visit, and perfect for a dip.
We decided to head back to Miller Beach, since it was conveniently close to our site! This area had less of a drop-off but featured the same clear, inviting waters.
We spent time here lounging and enjoying a variety of snacks and goodies picked up from the local Keystone Resort. Keystone is a great stop for souvenirs (check out the awesome hat we picked up) and anything that may have been left at home - like playing cards!
5. Grab a bite to eat
Here's something that most fellow campers will agree with: Camping is all about the food. But if you don't want to be sweating over the campfire or camp stove multiple times a day, it is convenient to have some great restaurants nearby.
Hi-Point Restaurant and Lounge is the only eatery in town that's open year-round, 7 days a week. We hadn't sat on a patio in quite some time, so we enjoyed being able to breathe in the fresh air while sipping crisp mojitos. The pizza here was divine - freshly made with many delicious options for toppings.
Another food option right off the beach is Meteor Mike's. This low-key stand serves up everything from burgers and onion rings to milkshakes and ice cream cones - with picnic tables out back that face the water.
Before saying adieu to this lake town, I had a serious craving for chocolate so we decided to stop at the Crescent Beach Cottages (also known as CBC) ice cream stand for a hot fudge sundae, which certainly hit the spot.
While we wanted to try it all, we didn't get the chance to eat at the Nite Hawk Cafe - another local haunt known for delicious burgers, sandwiches and more. Alas, sometimes it's good to keep one or two things to try on a return visit, as something to look forward to. Thanks for the fun times, West Hawk!
Travel Manitoba staff was hosted by Explore the Whiteshell, who did not review or approve this story.