Winnipeg to Ontario: a Weekend Road Trip

The Ontario border is a short 1.5-hour drive from Winnipeg. Enjoy the beauty of Northwest Ontario while stopping at some fun places along the way.

It's less than two hours to the Border

Everyone needs a getaway once in a while. When you don't have time to take a week-long vacation, you can always hop in the car and head out for a weekend road trip.

The following is a sample itinerary of things to do when you only have a short timeframe to travel into Northwest Ontario from Winnipeg. On this whirlwind trip you're going to take a cruise, wash your hair in a waterfall, visit the largest group of Aboriginal burial mounds in Canada, and eat a lot of great food – all in a weekend!

Day One - Friday

Leave Winnipeg right after work (or sneak out early if you can!). Drive two hours on the Trans-Canada Highway to Kenora and head to the Harbourfront. Hop aboard the MS Kenora for a dinner cruise on Lake of the Woods. The views are fantastic and you can learn a little history about Lake of the Woods. Friday evening cruises usually run 6:45-9 pm. Be prepared and check the schedule and buy tickets online.

Take a cruise aboard the MS Kenora on Lake of the Woods

After the cruise head to the Lake of the Woods Brewing Company for some local, craft beer. The six flagship beers are aptly named for beer brewed in Northwest Ontario: Sultana Gold, Tippy Canoe, Happy Camper, Big Timber, Forgotten Lake, and of course the Firehouse Ale which pays tribute to the fact the taproom is located in the old Kenora Firehouse. They are open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday with a late-night menu if you get hungry. The Tapanaki Wings are my favourite!

Enosillicaphobia means "fear of an empty glass" hence the "Panic Line". Photo: LOWBREWCO

Stay the night in Kenora at one of these hotels. 

Day Two - Saturday

Eat breakfast at the Lake-Vu Restaurant also has fantastic breakfasts that I have been enjoying almost weekly for about the last 10 years. The All-Dressed Hash Browns are to die for! Especially if you have had too many beers at the LOWBREWCO! For a light breakfast, you could also stop at HoJoe Coffee & Eatery right on Main Street.

Frozen drinks and iced coffee taste great any time of the day! Photo: Broken Paddle Coffee Roastery & Kitchen

After breakfast, drive about 45 minutes to Sioux Narrows. Take the Trans-Canada Highway about 20 minutes east until you get to the Highway 71 turnoff. Go south for another 25 minutes on Highway 71. Spend the rest of the morning at the Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre which is just off the highway right in Sioux Narrows. Walk around the Centre and see a replica of the famous single-span wooden bridge, as well as exhibits featuring antique fishing equipment generously donated by local residents. See a collection of vintage motors, an original Haas boat, an old Boston Whaler, and much more. If you're lucky, you may happen to be there on a day when they have a seminar.

The Haas Boat on display at the Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre

Grab a snack or lunch at Gill's Trading Post or Big John's Mineshaft Tavern. Take a few minutes to walk around Sioux Narrows and visit their shops. For a small community, they sure have a lot of neat stuff!

Be sure not to miss the waterfalls in Nestor Falls!

After lunch head south to Nestor Falls. Be sure to make a pit stop at the waterfalls. You won't see it from the car as you go right over them. Park at the parking lot to your right and take a very short walk down to the waterfalls and enjoy the view.

Next, drive south until you get to the end of Highway 71. Turn left (east) onto Highway 11 and travel about 35 minutes to Fort Frances. On the east side of town, you'll find Point Park. Take a stroll along the shores of Rainy Lake, or just sit and enjoy the view. If it's hot, you can take a dip in the lake to cool off. The Big Chair is a neat photo op!

Looking down at the LaVerendrye Parkway from the Lookout Tower

Right next door to the park is La Place Rendez-Vous Hotel & Convention Centre. Check in and have supper on their lakeside patio or in the dining room with a view of Rainy Lake. Later you could have some drinks in the Sandbar Lounge at the hotel, or if you still have some energy you could walk along LaVerendrye Parkway to the Sorting Gap Marina and check out the Hallet or climb the Lookout Tower or else take a short 7km drive east on Highway 11 to see the Noden Causeway. The causeway straddles several islands and is 6,017 feet long, with the highest span clearing the water by 40 feet. There are picnic waysides and historical plaques found on the islands. The view is amazing and the scenery is spectacular.  

The Noden Causeway 7 km east of Fort Frances

Day Three - Sunday

After breakfast, head west on Highway 11 for about an hour. You'll come to Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre. Driving along the highway which cuts through farmland, you'd never expect to come across this gem. Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung is an Aboriginal historic site with evidence of occupation spanning at least 5,000 years. It contains the largest group of burial mounds (17) and associated village sites (30) in Canada.

An exhibit at the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Interpretive Centre

The Interpretive Centre allows visitors to step back in time and to experience the history, traditions, and culture of aboriginal people through a “living" museum in a natural setting unchanged by time. Be sure to take a tour of the sacred burial mounds. You can also eat lunch at the restaurant right in the Centre. The wild rice soup is especially good. There are some pretty good Trip Advisor reviews for Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung

After finishing up touring the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Centre, you can start heading back home. You can go one of two ways. One, backtrack east for about 40 km and then head north on Highway 71 until you get to the Trans-Canada where you'll turn left and go west on Highway 17 towards Winnipeg. If you have your passport with you, you can take a different route that crosses through the United States but is about 45 minutes shorter than going through Ontario. This route is called "Mom's Way" and I believe is marked as such. Go west on Highway 11 until you reach Rainy River. You'll then cross the border into the States into Baudette, MN. Travel northwest to Warroad, where you'll go north on MN-313 and then enter Manitoba. Take Highway 12 towards Steinbach until you reach Highway 1 and then go west into Winnipeg. 

You'll arrive home satisfied that you could actually get away and have a mini-holiday with memories and tons of photos to prove it. 

About Erin Rody

I grew up on Black Sturgeon Lake in Northwestern Ontario. I am a staff writer for the Sunset Country Travel Association. Through my articles I hope to entice you to visit the wonderful region I call home. We are all about outdoor adventure; with 70,000 lakes and rivers and a whole lot of forests how can we not be? Whether you like to fish, hunt, canoe, kayak, boat or go camping, Sunset Country has something for you. Enjoy!

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