Manitoba road trips: Vive les prairies!

Posted April 30, 2021

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

This summer, 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

In summer, many travellers head north on Highway 59 for the beaches along the east shore of Lake Winnipeg. This out-of-the-ordinary drive takes explorers 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 a morning learning the town's French Canadian history 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 well-manicured town park is the perfect pit stop when travelling with kids. It features a frog-themed spray pad, skate park, play structure (including a mile-high climbing net), and even outdoor fitness equipment for adults. 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. St-Pierre Jolys also holds its annual summer festival Frog Follies (complete with frog jumping contests) in Carillon Park.

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 Provincial Park

A 15-minute drive south of St-Pierre Jolys is St. Malo Provincial Park, a popular weekend getaway for cabin owners, campers and day beachgoers. 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. The main beach features many picnic areas, along with play structures, mini golf, concession, canoe and paddle boat rentals and nearby walking trails. Sunset Shore beach is located across the lake, near the bustling group campground area. St. Malo has one of the largest campgrounds in a Manitoba provincial park.

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 wildflowers

Native wildflowers can be found along many ditches, train tracks and hiking trails in this region of Manitoba, known as the sunrise corner. However, the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in the RM of Stuartburn is a hidden gem for soaking in the vibrancy of this endangered ecosystem. DYK: less than 0.5% of tall grass prairie exists in North America? 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 colourful wildflowers pop up to greet you.

Wood lily

Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Reserve

Native wildflower

Part four

Mennonite Heritage Village

After hiking under the hot prairie sun, 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. Hands-on heritage activities are often scheduled - particularly during the annual Pioneer Days celebration in August - such as wagon rides and bread baking.

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, as well as an outdoor pool with splash pad. 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 (inside the Mennonite Heritage Village) or MJ's Kafe on Main Street.

A tent lit from inside, glowing against a dark sky.

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),
Campgrounds:
St. Malo Provincial Park, Debonair Campground (St. Malo)