Manitoba fall road trips: Under the prairie sun

Posted September 14, 2021

From pretty valley views and cool prehistoric finds to contemporary gardens and modern eateries, this road trip through the Pembina Valley and gateway communities showcases all sorts of fun waiting to be explored.

We're featuring an amazing collection of road trips that will help you explore every corner of Manitoba even in the fall. The Under the Prairie Sun road trip takes you through the colourful rolling prairies near the US border southwest of Winnipeg, located on Treaty 1 territory. Take one part of the itinerary for a day trip, or combine them for a multi-day trip.

Part one

BC Robyn

Welcome to Pembina Valley Provincial Park

Creek bottom footbridge

Liz Tran

Views at Pembina Valley Provincial Park

Pembina Valley views

Start with a morning hike at Pembina Valley Provincial Park, a tiny 440-acre park tucked near the US border, approximately 50 kms south the cities of Morden and Winkler. This park protects the Pembina/Tiger Hills region of Manitoba and offers seven hiking trails, all of varying lengths and difficulty, through deciduous forest, grasslands and glacial river spillways. The 6.5 km Pembina Rim trail is a picturesque option that circumnavigates the park, offering multiple vistas of the Pembina River and a lookout tower. Hiking in the park is growing in popularity, but if you time your visit right, you can still feel like you have the trail to yourself.

BC Robyn

Flying over Pembina Valley

Liz Tran

Beautiful view of Pembina Valley

Ziplining with Hy Wire

Add a jolt of adrenaline to the day with an action-pack adventure to Hy Wire Zipline Adventures located 30 kms west of Pembina Valley Provincial Park. Hywire offers five or eight-line tours that have guests soaring 200 ft high above the Pembina valley for distances as far as 1500 ft. The adventure is ideal for all ages young and old (minimum age is two). It's guaranteed to produce hollers of excitement, and gorgeous changing-of-the-leaves views of Manitoba that make you forget you're in the prairies. Extend your stay with a meal on-site at the bar & grill and a game of mini golf.

Detour: Nellie McClung Heritage Site

Before returning to Morden after ziplining, consider taking a short detour west on Hwy 3 to the town of Manitou to visit Nellie's Homes. Walk in the footsteps of the brilliant 20th-century speaker, novelist and champion of women’s and human rights at a heritage site in the town she called home for nearly 20 years. Go on a self-guided walking tour of Nellie's former homes that are on display, as well as other significant buildings in town such as the Manitou Opera House.

Explore what it's famous for

Chances are you've visited Morden for the Corn and Apple Festival, Manitoba's largest street festival that happens each August. You've likely heard of the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, too, another cornerstone attraction.

As a community, Morden has an undeniable entrepreneurial spirit and cultural flare. Be sure to make time to stroll the quaint business district and patronize some independent businesses. Sip on a pint of local brew at Rendezvous Brewery and Taproom; shop at organic cosmetic brand Pure Anada at their flagship store; browse local art at the gift shop at the Pembina Hills Art Council, located in the historic Dominion Post Office; or have a meal fit for royalty at Bella's Castle B&B, which welcomes guests even if you're not overnighting.

Unwind at Lake Minnewasta

Head to Lake Minnewasta Recreation Area, just 1.5 km west of Morden, for fresh air and nature. Here you can book a tee time at Minnewasta Golf & Country Club. Colert Beach and boardwalk is at the heart of the park, and fall water activities like fishing, kayayking and canoeing are an option. In all seasons, a 16-km single-track trail encircles Lake Minnewasta and is an attraction for avid bikers and hikers.

Take a selfie with Bruce

A Manitoba Star Attraction, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre houses the largest collection of marine reptile fossils in Canada. It is open year-round, so when in Morden take your opportunity to see some of the most amazing and ferocious toothed beasts to ever exist in the seas, including Guinness Record holding ‘Bruce’ the mosasaur. Expect to spend over an hour in the museum, learning Manitoba's unique ancient history that was at one time entirely under water. There are also many hands-on learning and photo opps for kids.

Looking through the jaws of Bruce the Mosaur at the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre

Part two

Eat and explore in Winkler

Only a 10-minute drive apart, Morden and Winkler are essentially twin cities. When you visit one, you should really go explore the other. After a you spend some time exploring Morden, continue east on the highway to Winkler, an industrious community rooted in agriculture and Mennonite heritage.

Hungry in Winkler?

Charley B's Classic Grill is a seasonal drive-in to hit up before the snow flies for creative burgers and fast-food specialties that tout using local, farm-fresh ingredients. Flavours of Mexico offers authentic Mexican tacos and street food that locals rave about, while Ralph's German Restaurant is the place to go for a variety of traditional schnitzel. If you're seeking traditional Mennonite fare like kielkje and perogies smothered in cream gravy, a visit to Del Rios with it's Mexican-Mennonite menu will satisfy.

Over a dozen hamburgers lined up on a tray
Charley B's

Breathe in the outdoors

Bethel Heritage Park is at the heart of Winkler. With its well-manicured lawns and angelic water fountain, it's a peaceful stop for a stroll along the walkways (with a cup of java and fresh baking from Whitecap Cafe in hand). For more natural surroundings, the Discover Nature Sanctuary is the spot for bird and wildlife watching along the preserve's easy walking trails. Next to the Winkler Art Gallery, the butterfly garden attracts the winged insects, but also those wanting to take a photo with the giant monarch butterfly on display.

Part three

When in the region, visitors can also travel beyond the twin cities of Morden-Winkler to learn more about the Russian Mennonites who settled the area and whose culture remains celebrated in nearby towns of Neubergthal and Altona.

Neubergthal

A National Historic Site of Canada, Neubergthal is the best preserved, single-street Mennonite village in North America. Do a self-guided walk through the village to admire the distinct yard layouts and architecture, mostly notable the housebarn, a building that allowed the farming families to live close quarters with their livestock (a sensible arrangement during the early 1900s and prairie winters).

Neubergthal Heritage Foundation

Gallery in the Park

The town of Altona is home to rural Manitoba's top sculpture garden: Gallery in the Park. This beloved attraction, which is open in October, is located at the restored Schwartz heritage home near Centennial Park. The real draw is strolling the grounds for up-close connection with the cute and curious bronze sculptures.

Gallery in the Park
Historic home in a park in Altona called Schwartz House
Gallery in the Park
Sandy Friesen
Photo Op!
Van Gogh "Sunflowers" roadside attraction in Altona.
Jim Kibiuk
Sunflower Capital of Manitoba

When in Altona, go see Van Gogh. The landmark replica of the famous Sunflowers painting stands (very) tall against the blue sky. It's a symbol of the town's appreciation for the arts, as well as a nod to the fertile soil of the region that grow the crop.

Where to stay

Hotels: Best Western Plus (Morden & Winkler), Quality Inn & Suites (Winkler)
Unique stays:
The Herdsman House (Neubergthal), Bella's Castle B&B (Morden)