As a kid, Clear Lake was an annual vacation destination for much of our extended family. Several of my cousins and their families would rent cabins at Clear Lake and spend a week there each summer. Our family never rented a cottage, but we would sometimes drive up for the day and join in the fun. I have only been back a few times as an adult, but a few weeks back, the kids and I were invited to spend the weekend with my cousin at the cottage they’d rented for the summer. This coincided perfectly with my kid’s camp pick-up date and the cottage was less than 15 minutes from their camp. The best part was that we got to visit with Brenda and had a wonderful tour guide to shows all the best things to see and do. Unfortunately, it poured rain much of the weekend. When it wasn’t raining, it was really too cool for swimming in the lake, so we didn’t get to do as much as we wanted. Despite our limited personal experiences on our Manitoba Stay-Cation at Clear Lake, here are a few pointers if you plan to visit Riding Mountain National Park any time soon.
If you’ve never visited Clear Lake before, it can be a bit confusing. Here are a few tips that may help to prepare you for your trip. There is a fee when you enter Riding Mountain National Park and it is per person, not per vehicle as is the case in Provincial Parks. It cost us $7.80 per day for an adult and $3.90 per day for youth. So it cost us around $16/day just to enter/stay in the park. We were there 3 days, so that cost a whopping $48! There are annual individual and family passes that are much more economical if you are planning several visits. The Single Location Annual Pass for National Parks is just under $100 for a family. A Discovery Pass allows your family entry into any National Park across Canada and is well worth the $136 if you plan on visiting more than one park. Park passes are valid for 12 full months from date of purchase. Clear Lake is as the name would suggest, the name of one of the lakes inside the park. The park is huge and actually consists of several smaller lakes and campgrounds. Clear Lake is the largest and located closest to Wasagaming which is actually the main town-site in the park. Wasagaming is sometimes used synonymously with “Clear Lake“. Onanole, MB is a small village just South of Wasagaming and between the two is Sportman’s Park, which has a seasonal campground and offers various services and activities for those visiting the area. If you click this link, there is a map that will provide you with a better understanding of the park.
Things to Do:
There are so many things to do that I couldn’t possibly identify them all, but I assure you there is something for everyone. Here are just a few:
- Horse drawn carriage ride around the Wasagaming Town-Site
- Boat and Paddle Board Rentals
- Bike Rentals
- Miniature Golf
- 18 Hole Clear Lake Golf Course
- horse back riding
- and no doubt many more things I’ve failed to mention
The Park Theatre is the largest log cabin theatre in North America. It was built in 1937 and is definitely considered a Clear Lake hallmark. It still operates today and in 2012 converted to digital film in order to stay in business. I was disappointed we weren’t able to see a movie there during our stay. I know I would want to arrive early enough to check out the building as I know I’d appreciate its unique architecture.
Of course, I can’t speak based on first hand experience because we stayed in my cousin’s rented cottage, but I can tell you that there are various types of accommodations to choose from.
- oTENTik and Yurts (for those that are looking for something more rustic than a cottage, but a step up from tenting. I actually saw a sample oTENTik in the park and was very impressed. This would be a great option for anyone willing to rough it…..just a bit.)
- Cottage Rentals
My cousin made a few recommendations regarding places to stay. She said that Manigaming Resort always appeared to be very well maintained. She also told me that her family annually spends a few nights at one of the chalets at Elkhorn Resort during the winter and they love it. Aspen Ridge cottages were formerly known as Lee’s and have been well maintained over the years. Idylwiylde cottages are also nice. I’m sure there are other great places to stay, but these are the ones that she had either stayed at, visited or heard about.
The streets are lined with quaint little shops and boutiques offering beach wear, high end clothing, good quality footwear, jewellery and giftware. It has a very “old-fashioned resort town” feel and the streets are always busy with people wondering in and out of stores. I am generally not much of a shopper (other than for great deals), but there were many businesses that are sure to appeal to those that love to spend.
One place that really stood out for me was Poor Michael’s Emporium. This shop is packed with used books and an assortment of unique giftware and art. It is bubbling over with character and has an incredible cozy atmosphere. Inside there is also a cafe that offers a selection of home baking and light snacks. Poor Michael’s should be on the top of your list of “must do’s”. I wish I had more time, but I was on my way to pick the kids up when I stopped in. Next year when I go to camp drop-off/pick-up I’ll be sure to set aside some time to truly explore and enjoy Michael’s. It is located right on the roadside in Onanole MB, just a few miles from the park entrance.
If you regularly read my blog, you already know food is much more up my alley. We only tried out a few of the establishments, but of course, Brenda was able to advise us on the best “eats” in the area.
The Chocolate Fox is a quaint cottage style shop that offers an assortment of Manitoba products. Some of the products they sell include Manitobah Mukluks (love these!!) and Fixation Jewelry. They also serve some of the best gelati I’ve tasted. The gelati is made right in the store and is absolutely delicious. They sell other specialty treats like Morden’s fine chocolates and an assortment of fudge, as well as freshly made popcorn in a variety of flavours. The Chocolate Fox is a “must” if you are visiting Clear Lake.
The Martese is a local tour boat that can accommodate 95 passengers on its 3 decks. They offer a dinner cruise that received some good reviews on Trip Advisor. We weren’t able to do this because of the weather, but I think it would be a lovely experience and word is the food is good….especially the cheesecake. This short promotional video gives a bit of Clear Lake history and some video footage of the lake.
If you asked my kids, I’m sure that they would agree that The Sugar Shop is one of their favourites. This is a little shop that is filled with bulk candy bins and an assortment of wrapped candy. The best part is that all of the bulk candy is the same price, so the kids can fill there little bag up with all of their favourites without the fuss of bagging each selection separately. Brenda says the store is always busy!
We didn’t even enter T.R. McKoy’s during our short stay, but I was told that the patio is a lovely spot to enjoy a few appetizers and sangria late in the afternoon on warm day!
Whitehouse Restaurant & Bakery is clearly a popular spot. Every time we walked by there was a line-up that extended outside the doors. Obviously, the crowd is a testament to the great food and service. We didn’t get an opportunity to sample the goods, but I’m told the bakery is excellent. In fact, Manitoba sought out some of the best places for sweet treats across the province and has placed the Whitehouse in what is known as Cinnamon Bun Trail brochure! Who wouldn’t want to follow that trail?
Clear Lake Trading Post serves as the local grocery mart and is great for picking up anything you may have forgotten when packing for your trip.
Sportman’s Park is not only an RV park that offers seasonal sites, it also has a restaurant, small arcade, pool table, miniature golf course and a convenience store. The parking lot is host to a busy Farmer’s Market every Saturday. We stopped by and loaded up on fresh fruit and veggies, some baking and I even bought a funky watch to replace my broken one. We also stopped at Sportsman’s Park on the way home for a quick round of mini-golf and a bite to eat. The golf course seemed to be well maintained and the food was good. I had a burger and the kids both had pizza and everything tasted great. I was a bit disappointed that we had to leave, as the Sunday evening live entertainment on the patio was just starting and it looked like a good time.
Across the road from Sportman’s Park is The Foxtail Cafe. Although we didn’t eat there, Brenda says the food is very good and made special mention of their signature wood fired pizzas.
One of the places I went on more than one occasion was the Siesta Cafe. Although we didn’t eat, they served an awesome cup of coffee and had a wonderful little patio out front that you could sit on to enjoy your java. The cafe was very quaint and one of my favourite spots. The food also receives great reviews on Trip Advisor.
There is so much to see and do (and eat!) in Clear Lake. The whole experience seems to take you to a far off place. It feels like you are walking the boardwalk in a popular tourist destination, but instead of tacky knickknacks and souvenirs, there are good quality charming little spots to eat, drink, shop and explore. My biggest disappointment was the weather and lack of time we had.
Of course, all of these things cost money! It is difficult to explore the Wasagaming town-site without the kids begging for this and that along the way. I would suggest setting a budget or pre-planning the activities that you’d like to do during your stay. It could get very pricey between park fees, accommodations, activity costs, trips to the candy store, eating out and gelati runs!
Clear Lake is a beautiful place to visit and makes a wonderful vacation destination. I highly recommend it and would place it near the top of my Manitoba Stay-Cation list!