The Great Southeastern Saskatchewan Summer Road Trip

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:

  1. Jackfish Lake (Saskatchewan)
  2. The Crooked Bush
  3. Manitou Springs Resort and Mineral Spa
  4. Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan
  5. Kenosee Superslides
  6. KFC Weyburn (One of the only All-You-Can-Eat Buffets in Canada)
  7. Moose Jaw Mineral Spa
  8. Tunnels of Moose Jaw
Southeastern Saskatchewan Road Trip
The Google Maps route we followed on our Southeastern Saskatchewan road trip.

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.

Jackfish Lake

Pros:
Giant Jenga
Canada 150
Cochin Lighthouse

Cons:
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”.

DIY Kerplunk game
A DIY Kerplunk lawn game at Meota’s community Canada Day celebration.

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

Pros:
It’s cool to see and hard to understand up close.

Cons:
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.

Manitou Beach

Pros:
Horse-hair dancefloor and live music at Danceland
Floating at Manitou Springs Resort
A 1950s vibe including drive-in theatre

Cons:
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.

Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan

Pros:
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

Cons:
Ticks galore!
Limited dining options
Probably haunted

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.

Amy Rederburg in the sun
The squishy face a writer makes when you put them out in the sun, as demonstrated by Amy.

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.)

An incredible church dropped in the middle of Lebret.

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.

Kenosee Superslides

Pros:
Who doesn’t have fun at a waterslide park?
The eats are cheap n’ greasy

Cons:
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.

Weyburn

Pros:
Ramada Hotel is on point
All-You-Can-Eat KFC
Family Reunion

Cons:
All-You-Can-Eat KFC

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.

Family dinner at KFC Weyburn
A family reunion at KFC in Weyburn with Mary Lynn, Ian, Ada, Larry, Sharon, Brian, and Amy.

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.)

Midale graveyard Swen and Mary Rederburg
Midale is home to Amy’s great-great-great grandfather and grandmother, Swen and Mary Rederburg.

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.

Corner Gas Dog River Elevator
The Dog River grain elevator made famous by “Corner Gas”.

 

Moose Jaw

Pros:
Temple Gardens Hotel & Spa
Tunnels of Moose Jaw
Great Gatsby vibe

Cons:
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”.

Tunnels of Moose Jaw Chicago Connection.
Chester looks at home as a brewmaster in the Tunnels of Moose Jaw.

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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Pick 10: Spring Day Trippin’ from Saskatoon

Good trips from Saskatoon
Here are ten good road trips from Saskatoon. All of these picks are within an hour or so of the city.

Now that the snow has more or less melted I’ve got the itch to do some spring travelling on the open road.  Finding good road trips from Saskatoon can be a cost-effective way to satisfy your wanderlust to more exotic destinations. And these places definitely won’t break the bank.

If you’re planning to get out of town for the weekend, here are ten of the best spots to check out within an hour of Saskatoon’s city limits. Each of these destinations will take you to an unexpected locale that’s far enough away while remaining close enough that you won’t need to get a room for the night.

Got the spring travelers’ itch? Scratch it off at one of these destinations. This is your pick ten for good road trips from Saskatoon.

Kick up your heels at Danceland on Manitou Beach.

If you’re like me you love to dance in the moonlight. But it can really wear you out if you’re on your feet all night at a regular bar or club. That’s when it’s time to take a special trip to Danceland, or “the world famous dancefloor built on horsehair”. Your tootsies will love you for it!

When I was around 16 years old my Aunt Alison planned a family trip to Danceland to celebrate with my grandma and her brother (my great uncle). I can’t remember what the celebration was for, but I do remember everyone having a really great time all night on the dance floor (including the grand kids all the way up to the grandparents).

Manitou Beach is also home to Canada’s largest indoor mineral spa, so make sure to plan accordingly for a truly memorable day trip.

Spook yourself silly at the Crooked Bush near Hafford.

Scientists have yet to explain why the Aspen trees are growing every which way but up. (Especially considering there is another set of Aspens right next to the crooked ones that are perfectly normal.) So locals have taken it upon themselves to develop many different explanations ranging from UFOs to lightening strikes.

While everyone is busy trying to explain the unexplained, I’ll be busy packing for a picnic lunch with the paranormal*.

*This natural phenomenon is considered a national treasure and one of Canada’s 54 Wonders. Please be respectful, so that it remains intact.

Go day drinking at Wolf Willow Winery in Outlook.

WolfWIllowWinery-2-647x292
Photo via Wolf Willow Winery.

Saskatchewan has a new winery?! Why yes, it does! Wolf Willow is a seasonal winery that uses locally grown fruit to make their Cherry and Haskap vino. Plus, they have light fare to keep you grounded during an afternoon of non-stop sipping*.

Make sure you check out old Outlook standbys the SkyTrail**, Orange Bridge** and Gardiner Dam on your way home.

*Buy your designated driver a bottle to sip when they get home.
**Pedestrian access is restricted on both bridges until enough funds can be raised to repair them. 

FYI: If you remember swimming in the Regional Park as a kid, you’ll be happy to hear that they’re breaking ground on a new public swimming pool set to open in summer 2018.

Visit Zealandia, a town so small it doesn’t even have a website.

My mom took my brother and I to a Medieval Festival around Zealandia when we were kids. I remember that we spent an entire day jousting and shooting arrows. I couldn’t find relevant details on that event for this post, but Zealandia is still worth checking out if only for the northern light show on a quiet spring night.

If you can confirm the Medieval Festival is still a thing – get in touch with me!

SUP in the sun at Pike Lake.

SUP stands for Standup Paddleboarding. Supping is an offshoot of surfing that originated in Hawaii, only you use a paddle to propel yourself instead of the waves.

Good thing you don’t need ocean waves to SUP because Saskatchewan is renowned for our lakes. And Pike Lake is only about 20 minutes away from Saskatoon! It’s the perfect day trip where you can get comfortable on the board and relax in the sun before you head to a larger lake in the summer.

Pike Lake offers canoe, paddleboat, aquabike, surfbike, and kayak rentals from their boat shack. The season opens on May Long Weekend.

Note: due to the short distance to Pike Lake from Saskatoon, it can be insanely busy during the summer months.  So take advantage of the cooler weather before it gets nuts.

Learn about Canada’s bloody past at Batoche and Fort Carlton near Duck Lake.

Both locations straddle Duck Lake, a town that steeped in history as told from three perspectives: Cree, French and English. It’s also famous for being the home of prolific Canadian artist Glen Scrimshaw.

If you’re a history buff, this is the perfect spot to check out. Batoche tells the authentic story of Louis Reil and Gabriel Dumont with thousands of artifacts, including bullet holes in the church and a real cemetery just a few steps away. Fort Carlton tells the other side of the story from the perspective of the RCMP and the Hudson Bay Company.

Duck Lake is a must-see for tourists, but you can make it your own by hiking, canoeing, and geocaching through the landscape.

Adventure at Blue Mountain Park near North Battleford.

Blue Moutain_MSC3272
Photo via Blue Mountain Adventure Park.

If testing your limits is one of your favourite pastimes, Blue Mountain is the perfect spot for you. Get a group together for paintball, zip-lines, high ropes, trail rides and more. Plus, funding supports the Lighthouse Supported Living. It’s a win-win day trip you can feel really good about.

Slip away for a quiet afternoon tea at the Station Arts Centre in Rosthern.

Is there anything more quintessentially Saskatchewan than a slice of fresh-made Saskatoon Berry crumble? That’s a rhetorical question.

Head to Rosthern to enjoy a slice for yourself. You may like it so much that you’ll want to stay a little longer for one of their many arts events (check their calendar beforehand).

Go surfing at Lake Diefenbaker.

If you’re willing to get really creative with your time off it’s possible to catch a wave on the flatlands. Surf Anywhere, a Calgary-based collective, thought that Lake Diefenbaker would make a great spot to ride a wave. According to this article from CBC, Lake Diefenbaker Tourism supports the idea. Safety is still a concern that they’re working on getting permission from SaskPower who controls the Dam. In the meantime, there are plenty of other things to do at Lake Diefenbaker.

Hike up and down Blackstrap Mountain then relax with your fishing pole by the water.

Located just 40 minutes south of the city, it’s good day trip from Saskatoon that you’ll find super relaxing.  The trail up to the top of mountain and back is only about 5 km loop, so you can spend the rest of the day with your fishing rod at the beach*.

When I was a kid, after we were done swimming at Blackstrap Lake we came out caked in algae. Wiping away all the gooey-gunk was honestly part of the fun, but I’m not totally sure if things have changed much since then (please correct me if they have).

*If you decide to catch your dinner ensure you purchase a valid fishing license.

BONUS TRIPS that are slightly more than an hour away, but worth checking out this spring.

Tuck and roll down the sand dunes at Douglas Provincial Park.

This is one of many sand dunes in Saskatchewan, it just happens to be a bit closer to Saskatoon than most.

Although I have never been my friend Diane highly recommends it. She says, “When you arrive a park staff will give you directions to two beaches. One is the main resort and the other is further down the highway. The latter is harder to reach, but there’s a private beach with clear water that goes for miles.
It’s a one lane road and it doesn’t have bathrooms, but it’s worth the effort for those with a sense of adventure. You’ll also spot cacti on your way to the dunes. Saskatchewan has cacti!”

Slither onto a Springtime Snake Orgy at Fort Livingstone.

I had you at snake orgy, didn’t I?

Full disclosure: this place is NOT within an hour of Saskatoon, but it’s so odd that I had to add it to the list.

Whether or not you can appreciate a tangled mass of writhing Discovery Channel sex or not, you must be intrigued about the history of the Fort Livingstone Snake Pit.

In the middle of winter back in the late 1800’s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police set up a permanent camp on the banks of Swan River. Little did they know it was a thriving snake den. According to many journals when spring came around they learned of their mistake and spent most of their days catching (relatively) harmless serpents.

Although the Mounties and the Fort are long gone the snakes make a big appearance every spring for the first few weeks in May.

Do you like these ten Spring picks for good day trips from saskatoon, or did I miss your favourite? Join the Do Sask Facebook group to have your say in the discussion.
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