Make the Trek North
Have Fun Along The Way
I remember the first couple times we made the trip from Winnipeg to The Pas with our family – it seemed so long a drive. Thankfully, we planned ahead and travelled prepared. Aside from the obvious planning required for the seasonal driving, it’s a good idea to know where you can stop for food, gas and a good stretch. Over the past 10 years of travelling this route, we have certainly narrowed our stops down to a couple of favourites, which has changed in both location and frequency as our children got older.
One of the best ways to make the drive feel less long is to break it up (especially with young ones who need to move more). We like to stop at the landmarks, rest stops or points of interest along the route. Some we have enjoyed the most are the Lundar Goose next to the Esso, the Sharptail Grouse in Ashern and watching the pelicans at the bridge in Fairford. You could even pull out the fishing rods and see what you can catch, grab food at the Charley Biggs and just make a picnic of any of these stops.
We also play classic road trip games like I spy and sign or license plate bingo. We have made you some fun downloadable Road Trip Bingo cards that are very specific to the classic route. If your family is having none of this “old school” entertainment, we are big fans of podcasts and audio books to help pass the time. You may want to check out this one on iHeart Radio: The History of The Pas. Like so many other families, our lives have been so busy that using this time to catch up with each other really can be the best part of the drive.
Some Suggested Stops
The most common route to travel from Winnipeg to The Pas & OCN is to take Highway 6 to Highway 60 and then north again along Highway 10. Yes, this is a 6-7 hour drive depending on how many stops you make, but I promise it’s well worth the trip and could easily become one of your favourite places to visit (or like us, move to permanently). An alternate route could be to go across “The Narrows”, from Highway 6, take Highway 68 across to Highway 10. It’s longer, but a really scenic drive with lots of beautiful places to stop and explore (maybe another blog post to come).
When travelling with younger children (under 10), pregnant or with grandparents, those bathroom breaks are essential and knowing the best, cleanest bathrooms is really helpful. There are many gas stations along Highway 6 to accommodate your needs, but they do get fewer the more north you travel. More than once we've had to roadside stop and we're grateful for the many private off-road places available. Thes following are some of the stops we recommend, but this is by no means an exhaustive list and you can find what works best for you & your travellers.
It never fails, shortly after leaving the perimeter, someone needs to pee! When this happens, we have often stopped at the Esso in Eriksdale (Havakeen Lunch). Not only do they have a family bathroom with a change table, their restaurant has great pies, juicy “chicken on a stick” and often cheaper gas prices than Winnipeg (consider filling up here instead of in the city and help support a small community). If that’s not a stop you need, Ashern is a popular first stop once leaving the perimeter of Winnipeg. If you need gas, there are a few options to choose from and there’s a Tim Hortons located in a small pharmacy just off the highway if you need to caffeine up for the rest of the trip. They also have a camping area with restrooms, located next to the Esso, that can make for a good picnic spot.
Now that our children are older and the route is one we travel more often, we have narrowed our stops to two and in many cases down to one for those times we are looking to get back home fast. Since we can typically make the trip with one tank of gas, we fill up before we start the journey north (or in Eriksdale). If we can manage it, we drive right through to Pinaymootang First Nation, at Fairford. Pinaymootang has even become our one and only stop if we can pull it off. They are clean, well stocked, super friendly and gas prices are reasonable. If we are lucky, we can get bannock pops sold in the parking lot by a local cook. If you’ve never had a bannock pop, it’s basically a pizza pop made with bannock and filled with meat (usually hamburger), peas and potatoes.
We have a last stop option at Highway 6 & 60 (the Esso is the last gas station until The Pas). In the past, this has been an unreliable fuel stop, but since it’s new owners took over a few years ago (also owners of the Kelsey Trail Esso in The Pas) they have consistently had fuel and some classic, warm fast food (the restrooms are undergoing improvements). As I stated earlier, there are many stops along the way to suit your needs.
My sincere hope, more than anything else, is that more people will break the barriers of the perimeter and explore Northern Manitoba. The Pas, Opaskwayak Cree Nation and the massive area that is the RM of Kelsey is filled with a beauty most people never see. Rivers, lakes (so many lakes), large forested areas and deep dark skies that go on forever. See you at the lake soon I'm sure!
– Donna Dawe