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Driving Discovery: The Interlake in Manitoba

 

Day 1-2

We’re headed for the land of cats and dogs. Cats, because the little town of Lockport, just 27 kilometres outside the big city of Winnipeg, boasts some of the best rip-your-arms-out-of-their-sockets catfishing in the world. Give Todd Longley of City Cats a call and spend the morning on the Red River, hauling in those not-so-pretty fish.

Dogs, well, because hot dogs are what made Lockport famous (although anglers may argue). There’s been a lifelong tug-of-war for customers between Skinner’s Restaurant(established 1929) and The Half Moon Drive In (established 1940). Both opened to offer a new item called the hot dog and, apparently, it’s been a hit ever since.

On any given summer day, the stream of vehicles on scenic River Road along the mighty Red River is unending. Drivers with hot dogs on the brain are contemplating a single dog (made in Manitoba, of course) with fried onions on a steamed bun. Or perhaps today is the day to go all out and order a footlong. Both restaurants boast vintage decor with shiny vinyl booths, jukeboxes and funky advertising signs. Both offer views of the river. Both serve the very best hot dogs. Now the choice is yours.

Once you hit Petersfield, you’re thick into the Prairies now, with alternating fields of periwinkle flax and sunshine-bright canola in bloom. There’s a good chance you’ll see John Russell, of his namesake honey company, tending to his hives on the backroads. While we can’t argue with the fact that the bees do most of the work, some credit has to go to John himself who puts the magic in the jar with offerings such as Wildflower Bloom Honey and the irresistible Creamed Strawberry Honey (there’s nothing better on homemade scones).

Don’t forget to make a stop at the giant mallard that arcs its way over Netley Creek. Take a photo with the winged one.

 

Day 3

The village of Dunnottar is a cottage community made up of three hamlets: Matlock, Whytewold and Ponemah. Stop at Milne Beach in Matlock. The most southern public beach on Lake Winnipeg’s western shore welcomes you with a hand-made wooden pier, perched high above the water, stretching out into this vast inland sea. In fact, these piers are the signature landmarks of the village. Every spring the village’s maintenance crew painstakingly pounds saplings into the sandy bottom of the lake to build these piers. And every fall, they take them down again, well before four feet of ice forms on the lake.

The point of the piers is to carry swimmers out to deeper water, over the few rocks that sometimes dot the shallows. The end of the piers offer a place to sit, contemplate jumping into the um, er, refreshing water or simply contemplate life while gazing over the lake. More than that, they look absolutely stunning in sunset photos, especially when the moon is on the rise.

Feeling a bit peckish? Head to the Whytewold Emporium for Drunken Whytewold Chicken wood-fired pizza or a handmade crêpe with fresh fruit and cream.

On summer weekends, pay a visit to the Dunnottar Station Museum in Ponemah and find out how a rail line put this village on the map.

 

Day 4

In Gimli, the fish known locally as pickerel is king. In 2000, Lucia and Savvas Makiaris decided to put this fish on the menu at their Beach Boy Restaurant, and now it outsells their burgers.

Stock comes from several anglers who make daily contributions during the fishing season. You better be hungry because for around $14, you get three filets, a mountain of Greek salad, lemon roasted potatoes and garlic toast.

And if pickerel is king, then vinarterta is queen. The more layers the better when it comes to this Icelandic torte. The secret is in the prune and cardamom filling, and, of course, the sweet icing. Get it at Amma’s Tearoom and Gift Shop or Reykjavik Bakery.

With full tummies, head for a stroll on the ultra-long pier, where anglers patiently wait for those pickerel to bite ad families finish off melting ice-cream cones. Visit the New Iceland Heritage Museum to find out about the Viking connection. Pop into Tergesen’s for a little retail therapy that might include a new Lug bag, a best-seller or a comfy pair of Blundstones. In the evening, settle into a seat at the vintage Gimli Theatre to watch a new release.

 

Day 5-6

Next up: Hecla. There’s a definite Maritime feel to the historic Hecla Island Village that boasts a restored church, school, community club and general store. Perhaps it’s the way it hugs the Lake Winnipeg shoreline, standing watch over its commercial fishers. For nearly a century they’ve fished these waters. Today, they’re joined by campers, hikers and swimmers who visit the island to soak up its boreal beauty.

You can pitch a tent or rent a cabin in the campground. For more luxe accommodations, check into the Lakeview Hecla Resort where swimming pools, restaurants and even a spa await your arrival.

For good eats, head over to Gull Harbour Marina and take a seat in the breezy porch at the Lighthouse Inn. For a little adventure, charter a boat and make your way to Rooster Bay on mysterious Black Island. It may be the prettiest beach you’ve ever seen.

 

 

Written by Shel Zolkewich

Freelance Journalist in Manitoba -I write about the outdoors, travel and food when I’m not playing outside, on the road or eating. My recent adventures have included a trip to the tundra to serve as cook at a caribou hunting camp and making a long overdue journey to Ukraine with my dad Merv. I’m an avid angler and hunter and write the hunting column in the Winnipeg Free Press

 
 

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