Header photo by Gage Fletcher
Thinking about a once-in-a-lifetime vacation that takes you off the beaten path? Point your compass north to explore some of Manitoba’s greatest northern destinations.
A flight with Calm Air means you can spend less time travelling and more time exploring these gems. Your northern itinerary can include a dip into The Pas’s famous Clearwater Lake, or a fishing trip to Bakers Narrows Provincial Park. The more adventurous will be drawn to explore the hard-to-reach York Factory and Manitoba’s largest waterfalls, while others will meet some of Canada’s most fascinating wildlife in Churchill, Manitoba. We’ve put together single-day itineraries for The Pas, Flin Flon, Gillam, Thompson and Churchill to get you started.
With stunning untouched landscape and endless outdoor activities, The Pas is rightly known as “The Gateway to the North.” The Pas actually encompasses three distinct communities: the Town of the Pas, The Opaskwayak Cree Nation and the rural municipality of Kelsey. On a flight with Calm Air, travelling up to this northern gem takes over only an hour.
Rise early to go to Donuts & Deli (located in North Otineka Mall) for a morning coffee and something sweet to start the day with. And what better way to spend the morning than at the beach? Head to Clearwater Lake Provincial Park (located about 30 minutes from The Pas) to experience a slice of Manitoba lake life. Renowned for water quality and clarity, Clearwater Lake is a spring-fed, circular lake that sees a ton of activity in the summer months. Day-use areas include Sunset Beach, Campers Cove and Pioneer Bay, all of which include beach volleyball courts, change rooms and picnic spots.
Nearby, the Caves self-guiding trail is a must-see on the south shore of Clearwater Lake. Give yourself about an hour to explore these deep crevices – and don’t be surprised if you find ice, even on a hot summer’s day. Maps are available at the Campers Cove campground office.
It wouldn’t be a trip to The Pas without a stop into the Dutch Drive-In for lunch. This retro drive-in delivers food the old fashioned way, brought straight to your car by carhops and suspended on your rolled-down window. Once you’ve had your fill of burgers, fries and shakes, head to the Sam Waller Museum, to find out why it’s known as “The Biggest Little Museum of the World”. Take some time to wander through this “clutter-torium” – a nickname given to the space by the founder himself, to see a unique collection of oddities from the past. Keep an eye out for the two headed calf, the albino alligator and of course, the famous dressed fleas.
A hearty meal can be found at a town favourite, the Good Thymes Restaurant & Bar, known for its friendly service and creative menu. It’s open late too, making it the ideal spot to enjoy a beer and watch the game. And if you stay up late enough, keep your eyes peeled for the greatest show of the north: the Aurora Borealis. Although it’s more commonly seen in the summer months, the northern lights can make an appearance in summer too!
With 30 years of history under its belt, the Opaskwayak Indian Days (hosted by the Opaskwayak Cree Nation) are held annual in August. It also happens to be northern Manitoba’s biggest Indian Days festival, celebrating Cree traditions and cultures in events such as moose and goose calling, canoe racing, jigging and the Miss Opaskwayak Indian Days Pageant.
Within the town of The Pas, consider options like the Andersen Inn & Suites, Wescana Inn, Watchi Bay Bed & Breakfast and the KiKiWak Hotel and Conference Centre. Outside of town, find Evergreen Resort, Carpenter’s Clearwater Lodge and Lockhart’s Landing.
Named after science fiction character Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, Flin Flon has been a mining center since 1927 with the launch of the Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Company. Today, it is an outdoorsman’s dream and home to a bustling community. A flight with Calm Air takes about 2 hours from Winnipeg.
Settle into one of the couches in local cafe, The Orange Toad and indulge in some light reading with your morning coffee and danish. The day ahead starts with a trip to Bakers Narrows Provincial Park, located about 20 minutes away from the town of Flin Flon. The park is situated on 145 hectares of Precambrian boreal forest (in other words, it’s gorgeous) on the Canadian Shield and is known for its ideal fishing on Lake Athapapuskow, which is Cree for rocks all around. To get a better look at the lake, take 30 minutes to hike to the Viewing Tower. Once there, you can savour the view or learn about the area’s history on five interpretive signs.
Who doesn’t like a good deli sandwich for lunch? After a morning of outdoor adventure, head back into Flin Flon to Mugsy’s Deli for a bite to eat before taking a closer look at this historic mining town. First thing’s first, grab a photo with the famous Flintabbatey statue. Next, take a walk into the past along the town’s sidewalks, which are made up of above-ground wooden sewer boxes, made so because tunneling underground was made impossible by the impenetrable rock below. Wander onto Flinty’s Boardwalk on the shores of Ross Lake and take a short detour off Channing Drive to see the second statue of the Flintabbatey Flonatin depicted on the submarine from the book it derives from, The Sunless City.
As if there weren’t already enough unique structures in Flin Flon already, the town is also home to the tallest free-standing structure in Western Canada, the Flin Flon smoke stack, as well as the Hundred Stairs/Bomb shelter, a 140-meter tunnel that was built to get pedestrians between Third Avenue and Main Street instead of walking up the Hundred Stairs. The tunnel was never built to completion, instead stalling and shrinking until it was used as a storm sewer outlet and was considered as a plausible bomb shelter.
If you have children in tow (or are an animal lover yourself), end the afternoon with a trip to the Joe Brain Petting Zoo and wading pool.
A scrumptious steak dinner awaits at The Royal Rib & Steak House, and so does a movie at the Big Island Drive-In, one of the few movie drive-ins left in Manitoba. Keep an eye on their Facebook Page for a schedule of upcoming flicks.
The Flin Flon Trout Festival happens each year at the end of June and includes all the fixings of a small town festival, including a fairground, a meat draw, fireworks, pancake breakfast, BBQs and a golf tournament. The town will celebrate Canada 150 in style with the Flin Flon Homecoming. Flintabbatey will have his moment in the sun later in the summer for his 55th birthday on August 14, where the entire town comes together to celebrate.
A full list of accommodations, including lodges and campground options can be found here.
Established as a mining community in 1957, Thompson is now known for something completely different: wolves. And as the Wolf Capital of the World, images of wolves are only a hike away in this city of 13,000, while the howls can be heard through the night. Thompson is about 2 hours away by air from Winnipeg.
You’re going to want plenty of times to explore what must be one of Manitoba’s 8 natural wonders, Pisew Falls, so grab something quick for breakfast before heading out on the road. The falls are located about 45 minutes south from Thompson and if you don’t have your own transportation, Thompson Lodge offers tours to the area. Once you arrive, follow the 0.5 kilometer trail to a viewing platform that’s ideal for taking photos of the falls. If you’re up for a challenge, trek a 22 kilometer hiking trail over the Rotary bridge to Kwasitchewan Falls, Manitoba’s highest. Many opt for camping along the way as it is quite a long and challenging trek, but rest assure it is also very worth it.
If you’ve opted for just seeing Pisew Falls, by midday you will on your way back to Thompson, hungry stomachs in tow. Stop into Popeyes, home to delicious handmade burgers and fries. You can’t go wrong with this seasonally-open burger shop! After eating, it’s time to soak up some of the region’s history at the Heritage North Museum. Walk through this small museum to learn how Thompson’s heritage is strongly rooted in Indigenous tradition. You will also learn how mining shaped the community and environment that makes Thompson unique.
Your next activity begins conveniently right outside the Heritage North Museum. Take the trek to the Thompson Spirit Way, a 2.5 kilometer walking and biking trail that will begins at the museum and ends at the Miles Hart Bridge. This award-winning trail is a Manitoba Star Attraction and features 16 points of interest, offering a historical and education glance at the region. Along the way you will see wolf statues and the world’s largest lighted mural of a Robert Bateman painting.
Pub 55 is the place to spend your evenings in Thompson, with a great selection of cocktails and an even better menu to choose from.
When it comes to celebrating culture on National Aboriginal Day (June 21), Thompson is the place to be. Join in a fun day of barbecue, Grand Entry and powwow, live music, jigging, and square dancing in a large community dance. The next gathering of community fun comes only a day later at the Thompson Nickel Days, June 22-25, 2017. Activities include a midway, softball tournament and the National King Miner Contest. June is evidently jam-packed with events, as it is also the month of Pride North of 55, northern Manitoba’s LGBTQ* event.
Within the city of Thompson, consider options like BEST WESTERN Thompson Hotel & Suites, Lakeview Inns & Suites, Days Inn & Suites, Quality Inn & Suites and the Interior Inn & Executive Suites. Outside the city, consider Riverlodge Place, Sasagiu Rapids Lodge, Paint Lake Lodge or Thompson Lodge & Eco Tourism Centre.
The town of Gillam may be small in size, but not in once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Here, you have the rare opportunity to travel down rivers untouched to see one of Manitoba’s greatest historical sites: York Factory.
With a 240 mile excursion stretching out in front of you, grab a quick breakfast at the Kettle River Inn Cafe before meeting at at the boat launch at MB Hydro’s Limestone Hydro Dam. Here, Nelson River Adventures will take you on a wild journey into Manitoba’s past. This 10-12 hour excursion brings you down the Nelson River and its tributaries; the final stretch of inland water that connects the Gulf of Mexico with Hudson’s Bay. Along the way, get a glimpse of history while taking in the stunning scenery and surrounding wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for seals, polar bears, black bears, moose, caribou, eagles and wolves.
A BBQ lunch is provided half way through the tour by guide Clint, but it is recommended you bring some snacks for eating throughout the day.
The trip comes to a head as you arrive at York Factory; where only a handful of buildings remain from the fur trade. There is no admission and no staff, so take your time and respect the buildings filled to the brim with artifacts from days past.
On your way home, ask Clint to call ahead for pizzas from the inn. It’s the perfect way to end the day!
The Aurora Gardens Motel & Suites comes recommended from Clint, owner of Nelson River Adventures.
If you’re going to go north, why not go all the way to the Polar Bear Capital of the World? Birds, beluga whales and bears are just three reasons why you might choose to go to this town on the edge of Hudson Bay. This thriving community constantly surprises guests with its warm hospitality and its surprising number of tourist offerings.
Rise and shine and do as the locals do: grab breakfast from the incredible Gypsy’s Bakery. This family-owned business is a Churchill staple, with a large and varied menu and a selection of freshly baked goods. You won’t be disappointed. If the skies are clear and the tide is just right, it’s time for your close up experience with beluga whales.
Each summer, thousands of beluga whales spend their summer vacation in the Churchill River estuary where they raise their young and feast. How you interact with the whales is up to you, with options to snorkel, stand-up paddle board, kayak or watch from a zodiac boat. Keep your eyes peeled for polar bears!
After working up an appetite on the water, head back into town to Lazy Bear Café for a wow-worthy lunch in a log-cabin style lodge. It’s now time to explore the town and surrounding attractions. There are many options here, depending on how much you want to squeeze into an afternoon. Go on a summer dog carting adventure or get up close to the abandoned ship, the MV Ithaca. The Miss Piggy plane wreck also draws in visitors for photo ops, as does the surrounding fields of fireweed. For those who like a little bit of education involved in their vacation, the Eskimo Museum / Itsanitaq Museum has one of the finest and oldest collections of Inuit carvings and artifacts in the world, dating from Pre-Dorset (1700 B.C.) through to Dorset, Thule and modern Inuit times.
Settle into the Tundra Inn for dinner and drinks. You’ll want to stick around the weekly live entertainment and karaoke. It’s a great place to mingle with the locals and other visitors! And as in many destinations in northern Manitoba, you might want to consider staying up late into the night with your eyes peeled to the sky, when the brilliant ribbons of the Aurora Borealis most commonly make their appearance.
Dare to dip into the chilly Hudson Bay at the annual Canada Day Bay Dip, an exciting relay race that often coincides with ice. On the third Saturday of July, take part in Parks Day with a free boat ride to the Prince of Wales Fort National Historic Site to get a glimpse into our rich history.
A full list of accommodations, including lodges can be found here.
If one of the above destinations sparks your interest, be sure to book a flight with Calm Air by May 30 to save 10%. See details below!
Book online using the promo code TMB2017 by May 30, 2017 and save 10% off select base fares for travel between June 1 and September 30, 2017.
Terms & Conditions:
Book by 11:59 p.m. CT on May 30, 2017
Limited time offer, limited seats available
Only applicable to flights within Manitoba
Discount only applicable to base fare
Cannot be combined with any other offer
Payment required upon booking
Bookings are non-refundable
Change fees and upgrades apply