Canada’s Prairie provinces are those landlocked between British Columbia and Ontario, beginning technically where the Rocky Mountains end. Taking in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, this 2000-kilometre stretch of land is primarily made up of farming properties – cattle, wheat, barley – as well as mining leases (oil, gas, coal and minerals).
Although they’re often referred to as Canada’s “breadbasket”, there is more to the Prairies than its rural stereotype. The vibrant cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Regina offer travellers some of Canada’s best cultural, wildlife, and culinary experiences.
Take Saskatchewan’s 35 provincial parks and two national parks, for example. Grasslands National Park is arguably among the best in the country, and is one of 14 Dark Sky Preserves in Canada.
If you like glamping, reserve one of Parks Canada’s very cool oTENTik abodes at Frenchman Valley Campground, and spend your evenings stargazing and s’mores devouring around a campfire.
– Celebrating its ranching history, every July, Calgary throws a 10-day festival – the Calgary Stampede -where cowboy hats and flannelette shirts are de rigour, and everyone kicks up their heels to the best country music in the country.
– It’s a big call, but the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is among the best of its kind in the world and is something the Prairies should be proud of. You’ll find it in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and you’ll want to reserve a morning so you can explore every nook and cranny of this very moving (and important) exhibition space.
– Also in Manitoba is the wonderfully quirky frontier town of Churchill. It’s in the province’s north and is where hardy residents keep a very serious eye on the polar bears they share the community with. Sign up for one of many polar-bear tours, and you won’t want to miss kayaking or snorkelling with the Hudson Bay beluga whales either.
– You may be surprised to learn there are beaches in the Prairies, and we’re not talking a measly handful. Saskatchewan has almost 100,000 lakes and rivers, meaning water-craving Aussies can easily find a plot of sand to throw a towel down on. Check out pretty Prince Albert National Park if you’re planning a summer holiday.
You don’t have to be in Vancouver or Toronto to have a holiday fit for a self-proclaimed foodie. After all, we’re talking Canada’s agricultural heartland, so it makes sense holidaymakers will find a tonne of great eateries to dine in.
A few places worth checking out are Calgary’s stylish Model Milk, where you can enjoy a family Sunday Supper experience with a range of contemporary dishes.
Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan, has a great range of international cuisine. Little Grouse on the Prairie is the place to go for traditional Italian, and the owners have a strong focus on the farm-to-table philosophy.
Winnipeg’s Across the Board Café is a fun option with friends. Enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner while you and your mates crowd around a table playing one of 1200 board games.
Canada is a great road-trip country, and it’s easy to hire a car in Calgary and drive east. But if you don’t want the stress of driving on the right side of the road, hop aboard a cross-country VIA Rail journey. With a glass of wine in hand, sit in a glass-domed carriage as you watch the Prairies’ beautiful yellow canola fields, big blue skies and fading red barns roll past.
Words by Jennifer Ennion
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