When my wife and I moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba for the summer of 2015, I was told that we were entering cottage country. There’s plenty of jokes about Winnipeg, ranging from that flat landscape to the harsh winters but when it comes to lakes and cottage life, there’s no better place to be.
Experiencing some of the lakes was on my must-do list and when my parents came to visit for a weekend, I did some research and found Clear Lake, which is nestled inside Riding Mountain National Park. This is the one of only two national parks in Manitoba and although the mountains are nothing compared to the Rockies, the wildlife and serenity is unmatched.
We had only two nights but we set out to make the most of it. I booked us a cabin at Aspen Ridge Resort, which is a 10-minute walk from the beach. It felt so great to be surrounded by the forest, listening to the wind wisp around the leaves and the birds sing their songs. After unpacking the vehicles, we went to the Ominick Marsh for a nature walk. I wasn’t sure what to expect but was surprised by the beautiful floating walkway that literally enables you to walk through the marsh without getting wet. Combined with the blue sky and scattered clouds, this made for some great photos.
After working up an appetite, we went back into town and down to the dock to hop aboard the Martese for their popular evening dinner cruise. This 65-foot boat takes visitors for a two-hour tour of the lake complete with a delicious dinner. I had the lemon dill salmon while my wife went for the cordon bleu. As for the lake, it was nice and smooth for the journey and the breeze was just what we needed after a week exploring the best things to do in Winnipeg. When the cruise ended, we walked along the waters edge until a marvellous sunset lit the sky with pink and orange hues. It was so captivating that we ended up standing on the pier for more than two hours.
After a much needed sleep without city ambulances waking us up, we decided to rent a pontoon boat from the Clear Lake Marina, the same company that organizes the dinner cruise. We thought about getting the speed boat instead but the comfort of the pontoon won us over. With the wind picking up, we took the boat around the corner to Deep Bay where we could enjoy some shelter and relax for a couple of hours. Despite the freezing cold water, I couldn’t resist the temptation to jump in. I also couldn’t resist the temptation to get back onto the boat as fast as possible. It was early June and the water felt like it had come from a glacier.
After a great afternoon navigating ourselves around the lake, we jumped in the van and drove to the old East Gate, one of the oldest park gates in Canada. Whether driving over the dirt road to get to the gate is worth it or not, the wildlife we witnessed was priceless. Our first wildlife encounter was a swampy area where a female moose was dipping her head into the water to eat the wet grass. She was a little distant but it’s always a wonderful experience to see a moose in the wild. We then continued down the road and found three little black bears (actually, one of them was blonde) eating dandelions. When we first slowed the vehicle, they made a run for the trees but once we stopped and turned off the engine, they came back to the side of the road for their tasty wild salad. We must have stopped for a good half-hour, watching these amazing creatures and wondering where their mom was. It’s not everyday you see bears so close. All we could hear was the sounds of dandelions being pulled from the ground.
With our last day winding down, we went back to the dock and rented the speed boat. With the sun making its decent once again, we jumped in the boat and slowly made our way into the open lake. I’m not sure if a wildfire was nearby but the sun was glowing red. Shining bright, it lit up a fiery highway on the lake and without any other boats enjoying the water, I opened it up and drove into the sunset.
As we gleamed across the water with the wind tossing back our hair, I looked up at the sun and was thankful to experience something so wonderful with my family. I slowed the engine down for a last moment of serenity, watching the loons dive under the water, and began to realize what cottage life is really about – Fun, family,and nature.
I could get used to this.
If you’re visiting Manitoba, Clear Lake is a must-do.
There are plenty of things to do in the area including nature walks, wildlife viewing, beach volleyball, swimming, fishing, biking, boating and good old-fashioned relaxing.
If you’re interested in boat rentals or a fabulous dinner cruise around the lake, visit ClearLakeMarina.com.
There are plenty of options for accommodation and the cabins we rented from Aspen Ridge Resort were perfect. We slept like babies.
For more jaw-dropping pictures, follow me on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/MatthewGBailey