The middle of Canada is spelled with a big “M.” Manitoba is a province of wildlands and some wild weather swings. This nice place is where residents of the world have decided to live and to visit. Scratching its recent Covid-19 troubles, this province is a fascinating one with some interesting features. Read on to see nine reasons why the Keystone Province can be considered unique. But first, some geography and stuff.
MANITOBA: Quick Geography (& Stuff)
Canada’s most centrally-located province is found in the middle interior of the country. One of the so-called Prairie provinces, it is the only one that isn’t landlocked and the one with the most humid climate. Its coastline comes in the northeast on Hudson Bay and it borders the United States to the south.
Read more: Canada on the Map; more Earth’s Face places
Back to the climate, Manitoba is mostly continental in the south and subarctic in the north. Major habitats include scattered highland regions, especially east around the Canadian Shield. Most of Manitoba, though, has flat or open landscapes, including prairies and boreal forests that turn into taiga and tundra in the north.
There are also many wetlands like the Hudson Plains and too many lakes to mention. The biggest are Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, and Lake Winnipeg, among the largest lakes in the world. The vast majority of Manitobans live in the south which is where the capital, Winnipeg, is located.
Otherwise, the name comes from Cree and Ojibwe languages meaning “straits of Manitou” or the Great Spirit, referring to a place on Lake Winnipeg. The name could also be influenced by Assiniboine for “lake of the prairie.”
So why is Manitoba so special? …
1. Because of Winnipeg
The entryway into all that makes Manitoba stand out has to be in its capital and biggest city. The ground zero of what makes Winnipeg unique is at the Forks, the general meeting point of two rivers where big markets, nice parks, a riverwalk, and boating can be experienced.
Also around Downtown are cultural centers like the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Canadian Museum of Human Rights. That last one mixes some incredibly fun architecture with a breakdown of human rights movements from throughout history. Cruising happily down the urban rivers and parks can take visitors to FortWhyte Alive, an environmental and recreational center with all kinds of interactive outdoor activities.
Another great natural space is Assiniboine Park which covers everything from forest to a beautiful pavilion to a great zoo with tons of polar bears. Important events occur throughout the year too like Folklorama (folk festival) and the Festival du Voyageur (heritage/winter celebration).
2. Because of Churchill (& Polar Bears!)
If you’ve ever watched Animal Planet and seen that Canadian town where polar bears roam the streets, Churchill was probably the place. The city occasionally gets wild polar bears waltzing through it, but there are other attractions to be found. Kayaking on the river and beluga whale outings are especially popular.
There’s the major Prince of Wales Fort to be explored and the town is near to Wapusk National Park. Wapusk is a part of the tundra where visitors can spot wildlife, especially around Polar Bear Alley. There are also wrecked boats and the amazing Northern Lights that add an awesome appeal over the white winter landscape.
Try out: Wildlife tours in Churchill
3. Because of Historic Sites
Like in other parts of Canada, Manitoba’s history is well preserved. This shows in Lower Fort Garry, an old fur trading post by the Hudson’s Bay Company that allows visitors to get a taste of frontier life.
Near to that is the Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre. Here, birdwatching and environmental immersion meet in a cool-looking center out on the marshes. Out in the town of Steinbach is a Mennonite Heritage Village dedicated to preserving and teaching about the lifestyle of these rustic settlers.
4. Because of its Random Attractions
Being in North America’s Midwest, Manitoba is bound to have some random attractions. Random doesn’t have to mean bad though, since one of these is the International Peace Garden. This wonderful garden is shared with North Dakota in the U.S. and is a really cool gesture of friendship between the two nations.
There’s also the big Centre of Canada sign which signals to the longitudinal center of the whole country. Who else can claim that? Portage La Prairie is a curious little town that boasts the World’s Biggest Coca-Cola Can, plus a neat waterpark on an island called Splash Island. Random.
5. Because of Lake Winnipeg
I don’t want to dump on the other lakes, but Lake Winnipeg seems to be the most popular. Besides all the other great stuff one can do on a massive lake (e.g. fishing, boating, you name it), there are also some popular beaches to see. Most noteworthy are Albert Beach and the famous Grand Beach which hosts a fun Sand Castle Tournament.
Castles made of sand can lead you to Hecla Island, a full-blown island in the lake with beaches and a relaxing coastal resort. There’s also Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park with its lovely coast and lighthouse to explore.
6. Because of the Icelandic Communities
So Canada is home to all sorts of ethnic communities, and adding to that unique list would be the Icelandic ones. Going back to Hecla, the town is home to a big Icelandic community.
A large area around Lake Winnipeg was actually known as New Iceland to settlers. They established the largest Icelandic community outside of Iceland in Manitoba! That’s why there are several heritage festivals like Íslendingadagurinn (try that one fast) to commemorate. The town of Gimli is also a major center with a Heritage Museum, plus some beaches of its own.
Read more: What makes Iceland unique
7. Because of Whiteshell & Pinawa Dam
Whiteshell Provincial Park is one of several unique nature parks in Manitoba. With sweeping rivers and woods, the park is special for having several strangely shaped lakes, especially at West Hawk Lake. This one was created by a meteor impact and has some very interesting views around it.
Not far is the Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage Centre, centered around the Pinawa Dam. Imagine that. It’s an old dam with a really distinct design that has basically turned into these eerie ruins. Still, it’s a popular place for people to hike, hang out at the parks, or cruise under its watery arches.
8. Because of Parks like Riding Mountain
Riding Mountain just sounds fun, doesn’t it? Like the Matterhorn. Well, this national park has lots of nature to take in and enjoy, including a chance to witness the park’s bison and other wildlife. Scenic views and vast wetlands are also a feature at Spruce Woods Provincial Park, but with a twist. This park is home to a series of large sand dunes to climb in the midst of wild prairies.
From the southern plains to the eastern highlands, the Canadian Shield boasts impressive parks like Atikaki and Nopiming. These places mix rocky forests with beautiful lake shores, great for watching sunsets and Auroras under the wild sky.
9. Because of its Culture
Reading above, you could see how Manitoba’s settlers have shaped the face of the province. This of course stems from its First Nations and later Métis people (mostly of mixed Indigenous and French background) that played a big role in distinguishing it as a province.
From Icelanders to Mennonites to French and British fur traders, the rustic outdoors heritage of the settlers still shines in its modern lifestyle. Nature shapes a big part of Manitoba’s identity with wildlife being a core part of many attractions. Winters are brutal but people don’t shy away from a bit of lakeshore fun on those beaches.
Conserving nature and history is a big deal here in a place where it’s hard to say that polar bears don’t matter. I mean, they’re walking right there! But really, an attention to what makes all of human- and animal-kind special joined with a boldness to design and redesign itself all make Manitoba … well, it’s just a piece of what makes Manitoba a special place.
First off, thank you for coming. If you enjoyed this, please read about other unique places on Earth’s Face. Tell us what you like about Manitoba! Feel free to contact me with personal comments or for collaboration at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stop by again, and take care out there travelers!