“Birtle, you sure are beautiful” was what we thought as we got our first glimpse. It is amazing how quickly the landscape changes in that area of Manitoba. This beautiful area appears surprisingly out of our flat prairie to expose a treed valley, ravines and the Birdtail River.
While we have made most of our trips during non-winter weather when it’s easier to get out and explore and see what each area has to offer, we know that there are many options for exploring the 204 even during our winter months. We really wanted a winter adventure weekend some place where we could rent a cabin and get out and snowshoe, go cross country skiing and have a relaxing weekend. “Birtle’s Riverside Cabin” came up on a search and it seemed like the perfect place, in the perfect location to enjoy and share on here!
Birtle is located approximately 3 1/2 hrs from downtown Winnipeg. Taking Hwy 16 there will be shorter by about 40km, and it will be a little more scenic, with a lower speed limit, several small towns en route (lower speed limits) and the possibility of being stuck behind slower moving vehicles while waiting for the next passing lane area. Taking Hwy 1 out to just West of Virden and then hwy 83 North to Birtle will increase the trip distance to about 350km from downtown Winnipeg, but will actually get you there faster so that you have more time to enjoy this charming, friendly little community.
Birtle is a mix of old buildings and newer homes with a respect for heritage that can be seen in the murals and decorative public art. The definite jewel of this community is Birtle Riverside Park. Even covered in snow the many recreational activities are evident including a golf course, campground, tennis courts, a fantastic looking playground and Birtle Beach which is a sand bottom and chlorinated water. We may have to put this location on our list for a summer visit but for this trip it was all about enjoying some winter fun!
The park has numerous well marked trails that we were able to enjoy for a day of snowshoeing. The trails surround a rustic warm up cabin stocked with a wood stove, dry wood, and some cooking utensils. We replenished our energy and continued our trek, enjoying the amazing views. The next day we tried out the freshly groomed cross country ski trails and enjoyed conversing with (very friendly!) locals at this hidden gem. They were very proud of this area, and rightly so – it’s gorgeous! All of these winter activity opportunities were right outside the door of the cabin that we rented, where we also enjoyed watching the deer walk through the yard. We couldn’t help but talk about how great these trails would be for hiking and biking at in the summer! There is also a strong community for sledders in this area, with snowmobile trails with links to Snowtraxx and Snowman routes.
One very unique offering in this community is the Whooo’s That costume barn. With over 3000 handmade costumes this place is amazing (the pictures on their website do not do it justice!). Elly is the owner/artist/designer/sewer/host who graciously provided a tour and shared some of her favorite costumes and memories from her many years in the business. Have your picture taken in period dress or just a silly costume, rent something special for your next event, or just get your pirate on!! This place is definitely worth a visit!
We made a quick visit in to the arena (spectator area has a great view of the ice area!), and went tobogganing down the hill at the elementary school (so much fun!). We enjoyed a bonfire and s’mores in the evening at the cabin, surrounded by snow (winter s’mores are awesome!). We noticed the old residential school at the top of the hill (it’s hard to miss, it’s enormous!) but did not get up there to take a closer look. Eleanor at the Community Development Corp was kind enough to provide some great suggestions on activities to do, and places to eat at and visit, including the nearby Foxwarren Kent Hotel, which is an iconic sports memorabilia bar. (I’d also like to give Eleanor a special thank and photo credit for the pictures on here of the mural and the horse fountain!)
We had so much fun during our short stay, and would love to visit here again in the summer for some kayaking, hiking and swimming!