How can you make your summer in Manitoba even more glorious? With a trip to Grand Marais, of course! This small beach town is situated next to Grand Beach Provincial Park, a haven of fine white sand that extends as far as the eye can see.
If we haven’t yet convinced you to take a day trip to this stretch of Lake Winnipeg, read on for our full itinerary!
What you can do there
• Coffee break at Spirit Rock Inn — Can’t start your morning without a specialty coffee? A stop into the Spirit Rock Inn is in order! This quaint motel serves as the area’s cafe, and makes a mean latté. Warm (or cold) beverages can be enjoyed alongside baked goods inside or on the small patio, while a little shopping can be done in the eclectic boutique that sells everything from dreamcatchers to purses and housewares.
• Central Market — The Grand Marais Central Market usually sets up every Friday and Saturday until September 1 at the Grand Marais Community Central Grounds. While the market is still fairly small, you’re sure to find a hidden gem — from custom walking sticks to gorgeous pieces of woodworking to freshly baked goods. I stopped by a vintage jewelry stand and picked up an adorable beetle brooch. Don’t forget to head into the building for more vendors!
In between browsing vendors, take a break in the Grand Marais Community Central Heritage Wing, a small but impressive display that showcases the history of the region. We’ve all heard (or told) stories about the legendary Moonlight Express — the train that, for 50 cents return fare, brought people of all ages to Grand Beach for dances and days spent in the sand. The Heritage Wing remembers these good ol’ days with an interactive town replica and an operating model train.
• Grab a bite to eat — The day’s activities are bound to have you working up an appetite, and there are several options on the beach and in town that will satiate your hunger. In town, Lanky’s is an institution of Grand Marais and is famous for its 24” hotdogs — a culinary challenge worthy of a bucket list.
While hotdogs in the summertime are certainly ideal, we were on the beach when lunch hit and instead opted for Gray’s Boxcar, a staple of the Grand Beach boardwalk. This food stand has a unique menu, going beyond the usual burgers and fries to offer up several healthy bowls (with vegetarian options) and salads. We tried a spread of mozza sticks, the chicken caesar box and the buddha box (noodles, chick peas, lentils, and tons of veggies) and gave the entire meal top points! Gray’s Boxcar also serves breakfast, in case you want a hearty start to your beach day.
• Soak up the sun on the beach — What trip to Grand Beach would be complete without a little sunbathing and swimming? Feel the fine white sand between your toes and pick a spot on the long stretch of beach — or get a group together for a volleyball game on one of the sand courts.
Last August we were lucky enough to watch an impressive sand sculpture being constructed during their annual Sandcastle contest.
There are also several shops to peruse along the boardwalk, well equipped with all the beach necessities from clothing to floaties to towels and sunglasses (and some really cute mini surfboards).
• Hike the Ancient Beach Trail — The Ancient Beach Trailhead is a 10 minute drive from the main beach at Grand Beach, but is well worth the short detour.
While walking along this fairytale-like trail, you’ll be surprised to learn that you are actually crossing the beach of glacial Lake Agassiz, which disappeared about 8,000 years ago. But the evidence is there — just inches below the pine needles and soil, you’ll find sand that was deposited by glacial activity 14,000 years ago! You’ll also find many large boulders and what’s left of a small erosional escarpment between two beach levels. The return distance is just over 2 kilometres, with the full loop taking 45 minutes to an hour for the average hiker.
Grand Marais is located 1 hour 15 minutes north of Winnipeg via a scenic drive along highways 59 and 12.
As is standard now during the pandemic, please visit grandbeachtourism.com or grandmaraiscommunitycentral.ca for info on local business hours and event postponements/cancellations, or contact the businesses and services directly. And wherever you travel throughout the province this summer, please remember to continue to practise physical distancing and be COVID careful.
— For more Manitoba travel ideas please visit www.travelmanitoba.com