Manitoba fall road trips: Vive les prairies!

Posted September 14, 2021

Travel through southeast Manitoba to discover communities, trails and attractions rich in cultural diversity including Métis, Francophone and Mennonite heritage.

This fall, we're featuring an amazing collection of road trips that will help you explore every corner of Manitoba. Vive les prairies! road trip primarily takes you south down Highway 59, deep into the tall grass prairie of southeastern Manitoba, 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

Maison Goulet at Musée St-Pierre Jolys Museum

Musée St-Pierre Jolys Museum

1900 teaching convent

St-Pierre Jolys

Take a drive south along Highway 59 deep into the prairies. Start your journey in St-Pierre Jolys, one of the largest and proudest francophone towns in Manitoba, with distinct French and Métis offerings.

History buffs should plan to spend some time learning the town's French Canadian history by touring the grounds at Musée St-Pierre Jolys, which is housed in a designated heritage site, a 1900 Roman Catholic teaching convent. Also on-site, learn about the distinct lifestyle of the local Métis at Maison Goulet, a Red River-style log house that was a resting place for freighters who transported merchandise along the Crow Wing Trail, a historic ox-cart route between Fort Garry (present day Winnipeg) and St. Paul, Minnesota. For hikers, the Crow Wing Trail passes through the museum's property and interpretive signage explains the historical significance of the trade route, which is now a portion of Canada's The Great Trail network.

Parc Carillon Park

Crow Wing Trail in Parc Carillon Park

A business along Hwy 59 in St-Pierre Jolys

A storefront in the business district

Parc Carillon Park

This town park is the perfect pit stop when travelling with kids. A walking path, which is part of the Crow Wing Trail, leads to frog ponds where visitors can learn about and get up close the town's most famous resident.

Fuel for the road

Start your journey with baking from Boulangerie St-Pierre, which is legendary in these neck of the woods for pillowy soft doughnuts and cinnamon buns. Dine on from-scratch French Canadian and Indigenous cuisine such as crêpes, tourtière and bannock pizza at J'Em Bistro located inside the historic Musée St-Pierre Jolys.

Part two

St. Malo

A 15-minute drive south of St-Pierre Jolys is St. Malo Provincial Park, a popular weekend getaway to experience the great outdoors. St. Malo features a man-made lake formed by a dam on the Rat River. Two sandy, family friendly beaches are a highlight of the park, but an extensive network of walking trails - some part of the Crow Wing Trail/Trans Canada Trail - are a great way to takes in the colours of the forests and grasslands on a crisp fall day. These trails also make for a great cross-country ski adventure in winter.

In the town of St. Malo, a popular attraction to visit in fall for its peaceful, relaxing setting is the famous grotto and shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes (Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes).

Senkiw Swinging Bridge

Just south of St. Malo, near the town of Roseau River, is one of the most scenic and photo-worthy portions of the historic Crow Wing Trail. Senkiw Swinging Bridge was originally built in 1946 as a crossing over Roseau River for children attending Senkiw School. It offers dramatic views of the steep Roseau River Valley.

Senkiw Bridge is best accessed via Roseau Rapids South Road where there are interpretive plaques about the Crow Wing Trail and area history, along with a sheltered rest pavilion. For those who have more time to hike, the north road access point with the distinctive iron archway allows you to take in the beauty of the surrounding prairie before reaching the bridge.

Part three

Tall grasses and birding

DYK: less than 0.5% of tall grass prairie exists in North America? The Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in the RM of Stuartburn is a hidden gem for soaking in the vibrancy of this endangered ecosystem. Head off Highway 59 to Provincial Road 201 to reach the preserve's Agassiz Interpretive Trail, a short 3 km walk through prairie and aspen forest, where many colours of fall and sounds of the prairie greet you.

Part four

Mennonite Heritage Village

After spending some time in the brisk prairie wind, head back north via Highway 12 to the city of Steinbach. Although a modern, thriving community, Steinbach is most renowned as a place to 'travel through time' and learn more about pioneer life on the prairies, particularly for Russian Mennonites who settled the area.

At this Manitoba Star Attraction, families can explore buildings of the turn-of-the-20th street village, which includes a classic Mennonite housebarn and a general store selling old-fashioned candy. While some of the outdoor heritage buildings are closed in the off-season, the Gerhard Ens Gallery inside the welcome centre showcases artefacts and exhibits year round. The centre also has a wonderful gift shop and book store. Read more about the significant buildings and structures in the heritage village.

Photo Op!

Mennonite Heritage Village windmill
A Dutch-style windmill

This striking on-site attraction represents the ingenuity and skill of Mennonites who built many in villages around southern Manitoba. This windmill is still operational and visitors can take home a 4-lb bag of freshly milled flour as a souvenir.

More family fun

Burn off that last bit of energy at one of Steinbach's noteworthy recreation attractions. Visitors come from around the region to play at Steinbach Aquatic Centre, which feature an indoor waterpark with two slides and a lazy river. Quarry Oaks offers 27-holes of great golf for players of all skill levels - just decide if you want to play the Oak, Desert or Quarry nine. A 1-km BMX and mountain bike track is located at A.D. Penner Park and features four 180 degree turns and double jumps.

Quarry Oaks Golf Course

Oba yo!

Do not leave Steinbach without feasting on traditional Mennonite fare such as vereneki, kielke, plautz, borscht and farmer sausage. The hearty, simple cuisine is found on the menu at Livery Barn Restaurant (open seasonally) or MJ's Kafe on Main Street.

Child sliding around a bend in the water slide at Days Inn Steinbach.

Where to stay

Hotels: Days Inn, Roadhouse 52 (Steinbach)
Unique stays: Country Relax'n B&B (Roseau River), Nestin' on Lakeview B&B (St. Malo), The House the Love Built (Ste-Pierre-Jolys)