Paddling Clearwater Lake north of The Pas (photo: Radius Images/Alamy)

Northern Highlights in The Pas, Manitoba

By Karen Burshtein

About 600 kilometres from Winnipeg, “the Gateway to the North” boasts stunning forests, wetlands, lakes and rivers. The Pas and Opaskwayak Cree Nation are also home to some of Manitoba’s most creative makers.

Eat: Vintage trapper photos and tinfoil moose hang from the ceiling to provide the backdrop for homestyle comfort food at Miss The Pas diner. Hearty all-day breakfasts and classic burgers are popular picks. 158 Edwards Ave.

Drink: Good Thymes Restaurant & Bar is the go-to spot for after-work drinks or date nights. The lively bar offers daily drink specials, classic Caesars and innovative pours like black cherry limeade and sunset floats. 1607 Gordon Ave.

See: Cree for “northern lights,” Wawatay Studio showcases the work of local artists Tyler Tobacco and Andre Brandt. The creators draw inspiration from landscapes, wildlife and the spiritual side of First Nations culture. 223 Second St. W.

Shop: Local son Rob Nabess designs and produces First Nations fashions at Whitefeather Cree-ations. The wearable art includes intricately beaded moccasins, custom mukluks and other fine leatherwork. 246 Fischer Ave.

the pas manitoba funky threadz jerome conaty
Funky Threadz owner Jerome Conaty (photo: Andre Brant)

Clothier, coach and man-about-town Jerome Conaty stands in awe of The Pas. The owner of stylish boutique Funky Threadz tells us why he’s down with this northern town.

What makes The Pas so special?
Its amazing array of cultures all jam-packed into this eclectic area. We have a town, a progressive First Nation and the beautiful Rural Municipality of Kelsey. We’re also blessed with natural wonders like Rocky Lake and Clearwater Lake—the clearest lake in Canada, and second clearest in the world. People here rise to the challenges of living in the sticks. That frontier spirit keeps everyone going.

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Tell us about local makers.
Being on the fringe of civilization—surrounded by nature—people here find inspiration in the environment. We have artists making paintings, traditional beaded goods, jewellery, sculptures and even driftwood art.

Got any insider tips?
My favourite building in town is the historic Lido Theatre, which first opened in 1929 and still plays current movies. Outdoors, don’t miss Pebble Beach, Clearwater Provincial Park’s waterfalls and the purple sand beach. [The grape-coloured hue is a result of high levels of manganese.]

the pas manitoba trappers festival sam waller museum
The Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival (left) and Sam Waller Museum

In The Pas, there’s something surprising around every corner.

1 Since 1991, The Pas’ heritage courthouse has housed the delightful Sam Waller Museum. It’s packed with fantastical artifacts from educator Sam Waller’s collection and others in the area. The surreal exhibits include a family of Mexican fleas in fancy dress, taxidermy squirrels and a two-headed calf.

Nostalgic days and nights in Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park

2 Outside of town, Clearwater Lake is one of the world’s few “true blue” lakes: You can see to the bottom at 11-metre depths. The crystal-clear northern lake is also home to trout, northern pike and walleye. Fish, canoe or do the stunning hike of the caves along the lakeshore.

3 Since 1916, the annual Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival has celebrated the joys—and hardships—of life in harsh northern winters. Curious competitions include tea boiling (which requires chopping wood to boil the water), trap setting, beard growing and flour packing. (Feb. 12–16, 2020)