How an Ontarian and a Sasky discovered the land of the living skies for a memorable and affordable Canada 150 summer vacation.
I am a professional copywriter by day, and match-making, craft-making, community-building gal by night. That doesn’t leave much room for anything but work! So after an intense spring glued to either my keyboard or client meetings my husband, Chris, somehow managed to pull me away from my laptop for an entire week.
We researched the National Parks in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary (particularly Quebec and Alberta), but decided to save some cash and get to know the province we now call home, Saskatchewan. I grew up here, but I didn’t do too much travelling as a kid. Chris is a native Bramptonian (Ontario) and he’s had very little experience in the great outdoors.
So while I was holed up at my desk writing, Chris took the lead on planning our Southeastern Saskatchewan Road Trip. I can’t take credit for planning this route. It was so nice not to have to worry about making a plan this time around. Most of these places I had never visited before, so it was truly a new experience for both of us!
*This post is a bit more personal than most. And I’m not the greatest photographer, but I hope you get inspired to explore your own backyard.
Great Southeastern Saskatchewan Summer Road Trip Itinerary
Chris added the following stops to our map:
- Jackfish Lake (Saskatchewan)
- The Crooked Bush
- Manitou Springs Resort and Mineral Spa
- Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan
- Kenosee Superslides
- KFC Weyburn (The only All-You-Can-Eat Buffet in Canada)
- Moose Jaw Mineral Spa
- Tunnels of Moose Jaw
If you’re counting, that’s a total of about 1,400 kilometers of prairie driving at the height of construction season. Read on to learn what we did at each stop.
Note: This Saskatchewan summer road trip could be done way cheaper if you love to camp. Chris doesn’t enjoy tenting as much as I do, so we spent a bit more to stay in hotels and resorts.
Dad’s moving away soon (you can buy his house if you want)
We started our holiday with a visit to my dad’s place in the village of Meota. It was likely one of the last times we’ll get to spend with him there since he’s moving away to Mexico in the fall. My step mom bought some fresh baked goods from the church bake sale that morning, so we were treated to “Raspberry Delight” with our dinner.
The town had invested over five thousand dollars in fireworks to celebrate Canada 150, so we were in for show on the night of July 1. Volunteers set up giant Jenga and Kerplunk lawn games to pass the time before the sky lit up (DIY lawn games!). We ordered ice cream from the shop, drank cheap beer from the can, and danced to Shania Twain and “Despasito”.
I’ve never seen the village busier than it was that night. We felt like proud Canadians at the start of our vacation.
The Crooked Bush
It’s cool to see and hard to understand up close.
There’s nothing else to do after you walk through the short path.
Take a virtual tour through the eerie aspen trees near Hafford, Saskatchewan.
Did you know that Saskatchewan is home to a natural phenomenon? The Crooked Bush is unexplained, but I think the twists and turns of the aspen trees have something to do with the Earth’s moving magnetic field. This spot is best enjoyed as a pit stop as part of a larger trip, so pack a picnic and hit up one of the lakes nearby (e.g. Jackfish Lake, Blaine Lake, Meeting Lake, Redberry Lake, etc.)
Also, don’t miss St. Mary’s Anglican Church on a gravel road nearby… it’s an abandoned sanctuary and graveyard that looks like everyone picked up and left it. Bibles, stained glass, and a trunk of… who knows what. Saskatchewan definitely has its fair share of creepy locales to visit on a summer road trip.
Horse-hair dancefloor and live music at Danceland
Floating at Manitou Springs Resort
A 1950s vibe including drive-in theatre
Everything is for sale
No change rooms at the beach
The mineral-rich water is a weird shade of brown. Like ocean water, it will burn every part of you… Every. Part.
We went to Danceland to experience one of Canada’s only remaining horse-hair dance floors for Toonie Tuesday.
Every Tuesday throughout the summer spend a toonie to listen to live music and perhaps take a whirl around the dance floor. This nostalgic dance hall will make you feel like you’re back in the 1950s for the night. They have a concession and bar if you need to wet your whistle at some point during the dance.
Note: Danceland would make a perfect wedding venue for a rustic, or vintage bride.
What else is there to do at Manitou Beach? While we were there we enjoyed floating in the healing waters of Lake Manitou, got pampered at Manitou Springs Resort, enjoyed a few beers on the patio, and had a wonderful buffet breakfast.
The village is also home to one of only 4 drive-in theatres left in the province and they have showings every Thursday through Sunday.
Most of the town is FOR SALE which may be due to a bad string of flooding that has happened in recent years.
It’s worth a day trip. If you really need to relax stay for two.
A gorgeous Catholic Church plunked in the middle of Lebret
Free splashing and sunning at Katepwa Beach
Fresh-made donuts at Valley Bake & Coffee Shop
Limited dining options
At the Fort Qu’Appelle museum, volunteer and long-time resident, Hummer, gave us a walking tour through all of the artifacts that history left behind. We loved his wit as he explained the history of the Sanatorium where TB patients were treated, the artists who called Qu’Appelle Valley home, and the wealthy families that used to fly private jets around the region. You won’t find this kind of appeal in a larger museum, so get down for a visit and hear the oral history from Hummer.
We asked Hummer for some tips on things to do in the area and he didn’t disappoint:
✔Dinner and drinks on the patio at Katepwa Hotel, overlooking the lake and valley.
Sun, sand, and a nice swimming beach – Katepwa Beach was an unexpected highlight of the trip! I finally put my giant inflatable flamingo to use. Chris got ice cream and I got a lemon-lime screamer after a hot day in the sun.
✔Devouring a fresh (and frugal) breakfast of ham and eggs on a bun from the Valley Bake & Coffee Shop. They have ginormous cinnamon buns that looked delicious, too.
At Echo Valley Provincial Park, we took the longest hike we could through the trees and plains. At one point, we heard a large rattling and thought it could be a snake, but after closer inspection we found it was just a pair of dragonflies going at it.
After the trek, Chris and I picked close to 20 ticks out of our shoes. Thank goodness we didn’t find them anywhere else. (That’s not exactly a highlight, but it should be noted.)
BONUS: The incredible Lebret Catholic church looks like it was dropped in the middle of nowhere at the end of main street in the small village. Nearby, there are several antique shops for window shopping. Plus, the view is amazing if you head toward Fort San.
Who doesn’t have fun at a waterslide park?
The eats are cheap n’ greasy
Dated bathrooms, pools, and pumps
Hungry, hungry horseflies
Our next destination was the Kenosee Superslides – the anticipated highlight of our Saskatchewan summer road trip. However once we arrived they took a bit of getting used to. The women’s bathroom was my first impression of the place. It was a bit off-putting when the doors on the stalls wouldn’t latch and floor was ultra-slippery. These are issues that could be improved with regular maintenance and a little TLC.
We started and ended our Superslides visit in the lazy river. The jets have a limited pushing power, so you’re moving at a snail’s pace. Although it’s a nice little break from the waterslides. Speaking of the slides there are seven in total, but only three are really fun to ride. We found that out through testing all of them (except the kids’ slides). Chris bounced so hard out of one that he knocked his head on the side. He’s fine, but we learned not to go down that one again. Stick to the middle three and you’ll have a great time. The rest are kind of scary and should be used at your own risk!
Adrenaline junkies or a kid with lots of energy will find the Kenosee Superslides worth the trip. If you prefer an easier time, then it’s probably best to stick to the lake.
Pro Tip: At the top of the hill while you’re waiting to slide horseflies will circle you and bite. Use your float tube to whack them away. Don’t have a tube? Move around and swing your arms.
BONUS: The food is incredibly cheap – they definitely don’t rob you on eats.
Ramada Hotel is on point
We spent the night with my grandma Mary-Lynn and distant relatives at the All-You-Can-Eat KFC that Premier Brad Wall prevented from closing. Since I hadn’t seen her in years she invited aunts and cousins that I had no idea existed.
It was interesting to learn about the history of my last name “Rederburg” and hear about the family quirks. That night we were shown the grave of my grandfather Cliff who passed away from a stroke in 2013. The next morning we stopped by to visit Mary-Lynn’s home. She is 91 years old, but keeps up her garden better than we do.
We also made a detour to see the gravesites of my great-great-great grandfather Swen and great-great-great grandmother Mary in Midale. (Our last name Rederburg was made up after a German general in the Swedish army in order to solve a problem with mail delivery when Swen Olson came over to the States in the 1800s. But that’s a story for another time.)
The Ramada Hotel in Weyburn was the best room we had on our entire trip, but one we spent the least amount of time at. It has super high ceilings and a luxurious feel.
BONUS: On the way to Moose Jaw from Weyburn, you’ll pass the town of Rouleau A.K.A. Dog River where they filmed “Corner Gas”. The gas station and diner was designed for the show and has since been removed, but you can tour around the rest of the town to see all of the filming locations.
Grain elevators and flat land are a quintessential part of a Saskatchewan summer road trip, but this was one of the few places we found one on our route.
Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa
Tunnels of Moose Jaw
Great Gatsby vibe
Not nearly as floaty as Manitou
We should have stayed for two nights
Between 1920s gangster folklore, relaxation at the spa, and an energetic street fair Moose Jaw was my favourite stop of the trip!
When we arrived in town we noticed that Main Street was closed for a street fair. So we checked into the Spa and made a bee-line to check out what was happening. For a city with a fairly small population, Moose Jaw is overflowing with energy. At the fair there was live music, free bounce castles for kids, and plenty of shops with unique gift items. At the end of the street we enjoyed sangrias on the patio at Original Joe’s before heading to the Tunnels of Moose Jaw’s “Chicago Connection”.
The Chicago Connection tells the story of Al Capone in the times of prohibition, when he allegedly made Moose Jaw one of his hideouts. During the tour both Chris and I were chosen to play roles. I was a gal named “Gidget” in charge of the hush money and Chris was one of two muscle on the road to bootlegging. I’m not sure if there’s any truth to the story itself, but it’s entertaining to think that a gangster would make Moose Jaw a main pipeline for hooch. The tunnels are definitely suspicious.
Speaking of hooch – the Moose Jaw liquor store is located inside a beautiful restored train station. It has to be one of the nicest liquor stores I’ve visited in Saskatchewan.
We had supper at Rosie’s on River Street, where they make a delicious Reuben. It’s a nice hole in the wall with lots of personality and plenty of local options on tap.
Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa is where we stayed for the night. It’s in better shape than Manitou, but you won’t float as easily due to less sodium in the water. (Chris said that he felt better after floating in Manitou.)
The spa has a steam room and extremely hot outdoor pool that connects directly to the indoor pool, so you can swim out to soak in summer or winter months. We spent a lot of time in the pool and wanted desperately to stay another night, but we knew the end was near.
Usually at the end of a trip I can’t wait to go home. This time I felt like I wanted to see more of this province before going back to reality. Chris did a great job planning this Saskatchewan summer road trip.
It isn’t the last of our summer road trips yet. Next month, we’re heading to Cypress Hills for a short weekend camping trip.
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