How can you make your summer in Manitoba even more glorious? With a trip to Grand Marais, of course. This small beach town is situated next to Grand Beach Provincial Park, a haven of fine white sand that extends as far as the eye can see. If we haven't yet convinced you to take a day trip to this stretch of Lake Winnipeg, read on for our full itinerary!
1. Coffee break at Spirit Rock Inn
Can't start your morning without a specialty coffee? A stop into the Spirit Rock Inn is in order! This quaint motel serves as the area's cafe, and makes a mean latte. Warm (or cold) beverages can be enjoyed alongside baked goods inside or on the small patio, while a little shopping can be done in the eclectic boutique that sells everything from dreamcatchers to purses and housewares.
2. Central Market
The Grand Marais Central Market sets up every Friday (3:00 pm to 7:00 pm) and Saturday (10:00 am to 2:00 pm) until September 1 at the Grand Marais Community Central Grounds. While the market is still fairly small, you're sure to find a hidden gem - from custom walking sticks to gorgeous pieces of woodworking to freshly baked goods. I stopped by a vintage jewelry stand and picked up this adorable beetle brooch. Don't forget to head into the building for more vendors!
In between browsing vendors, take a break in the Grand Marais Community Central Heritage Wing, a small but impressive display that showcases the history of the region. We've all heard (or told) stories about the legendary Moonlight Express - the train that, for 50 cents return fare, brought people of all ages to Grand Beach for dances and days spent in the sand. The Heritage Wing remembers these good ol' days with an interactive town replica and an operating model train.
3. SUP on Lake Winnipeg
Experience the lake from atop a stand up paddleboard with The Hardcore Surf & Paddleboard Company, located at the very end of Piping Plover Way. The surf shop offers SUP lessons and rentals that will get you feeling confident on the water (it's easier than it looks, trust me). The lake at Grand Beach is typically calm, but if winds pick up, worry not, there's also a lagoon that can be used for a variety of water sports.
4. Grab a bite to eat
The day's activities are bound to have you working up an appetite, and there are several options on the beach and in town that will satiate your hunger. In town, Lanky's is an institution of Grand Marais and is famous for its 24" hotdogs - a culinary challenge worthy of a bucket list. While hotdogs in the summertime are certainly ideal, we were on the beach when lunch hit and instead opted for Gray's Boxcar, a staple of the Grand Beach boardwalk. This food stand has a unique menu, going beyond the usual burgers and fries to offer up several healthy bowls (with vegetarian options) and salads. We tried a spread of mozza sticks, the chicken caesar box and the buddha box (noodles, chick peas, lentils, and tons of veggies) and gave the entire meal top points! Gray's Boxcar also serves breakfast, in case you want a hearty start to your beach day.
5. Soak up the sun on the beach
What trip to Grand Beach would be complete without a little sunbathing and swimming? Feel the fine white sand between your toes and pick a spot on the long stretch of beach - or get a group together for a volleyball game on one of the sand courts.
We were lucky enough to watch a impressive sand sculpture being constructed - but if you want to guarantee some sand art in your itinerary, head to Grand Beach on August 11, 2018 for the annual Sandcastle contest.
There are also several shops to peruse along the boardwalk, well equipped with all the beach necessities from clothing to floaties to towels and sunglasses (and some really cute mini surf boards).
6. Hike the Ancient Beach Trail
The Ancient Beach Trailhead is a 10 minute drive from the main beach at Grand Beach, but is well worth the short detour. While walking along this fairytale-like trail, you'll be surprised to learn that you are actually crossing the beach of glacial Lake Agassiz, which disappeared about 8000 years ago. But the evidence is there - just inches below the pine needles and soil, you'll find sand that was deposited by glacial activity 14,000 years ago. You'll also find many large boulders and what's left of a small erosional escarpment between two beach levels. The return distance is just over 2 kilometres, with the full loop taking 45 minutes to an hour for the average hiker.
Grand Marais is located 1 hour 15 minutes north of Winnipeg.