Extending from the upper border of North Dakota in the United States to the shores of Hudson Bay, the Canadian province of Manitoba is a rugged region of plains, lakes and tundra. The southern plains are well-settled farmland. In the north, the country stretches out in national parks, nature reserves and old frontier towns. Visit the northern town of Churchill, which feels like the end of the earth.
Manitoba’s capital, Winnipeg, is a historic city at the intersection of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. It served as a trading center for centuries before growing to city size. Explore The Forks, a park, market and museum complex on the old riverfront trading grounds. Tour the Royal Canadian Mint, where 1 billion Canadian coins are manufactured each year, to appreciate Winnipeg’s special significance to the Canadian economy.
Fly to Churchill in Manitoba’s northern reaches. This Hudson Bay port town is Manitoba’s Canadian Arctic gateway. Board a boat, rent a kayak or snorkel in chilly waters from June through August to observe thousands of beluga whales migrating from the bay into the Churchill River. Take a bus, helicopter or dogsledding tour between October and November to see polar bears on the tundra. Nestle down in the warm observation area of the Churchill Northern Studies Centre to watch the aurora borealis, which is visible from Churchill more than 300 nights a year.
Drive through Manitoba’s central lakes region. Heritage towns established by Icelandic and Ukrainian immigrants are scattered throughout the area, including Gimli on the southern shores of Lake Winnipeg. Visit the town of Narcisse to see an eerie natural wonder. Possibly the world’s largest population of garter snakes congregate in September before hibernating in winter dens. In April and May, tens of thousands of red-sided snakes emerge for mating rituals before dispersing for the summer.
Reach Winnipeg by air from most major Canadian and U.S. cities. Then rent a car to navigate the province’s extensive untamed wilderness.