The absolute best road trips require a healthy dose of curiosity and at least one fun, easy-going travel buddy (or more!). No matter if the drive is long or short, I fully believe those are the only two elements required for a road trip to be crazy-good and forever-memorable.
A recent weekend trek to Morden confirmed all of this to me, yet again. On a gorgeous June morn, my friend and I hit the road (Hwy 3 to be exact) fully at the ready for one of Manitoba’s coolest towns to throw down the leisure gauntlet and charm us to the hilt. Boy, Morden, you know how to show a couple of gals a good time! Don’t you just love when a place completely surprises you? It’s what makes traveling the best thing ever. Here are a few ways to spend a crazy-good time in Morden…
Begin your day in a Friendly Manitoba way
Our first stop of the morn was Coffee Culture, where we tried the most delicious mochas and brekkied on their Asiago Breakfast Sandwiches, which were grilled to perfection. This lovely coffee shop is located in the heart of Morden’s historic and hip Stephen Street. Coffee Culture is one of those places Where Everybody Knows Your Name™ and you are welcomed by the friendliest of baristas. The fresh daisies on the tables were a sweet touch of southern Manitoba charm.
Appreciate local talent and handmade fare
I’m an art gallery nerd. There’s not a gallery around that doesn’t have a surprise or two lurking within it. And I was quite taken aback at how eclectic the art collection was in Pembina Hills Art Centre. Housed in the Morden Dominion Post Office, an historic red brick building with a lofty clock tower, this place features both a fine arts gallery and a gift shop full of paintings, curiosities and art supplies (as all good art shops should). When visiting the gallery, don’t forget to sign the guest book and take a lovely art card memento with you.
Journeying further down Stephen Street, we walked into a sweet little store full of beauty, bath and laundry goods called The Pure Boutique. The store stocks a multitude of natural and organic brands like Mama Pacha, Nova Scotia Fisherman (a personal fave), Nellie’s All-Natural and Pure Anada — a huge beauty line they produce in the back of the store (I took a peek, it’s super legit). My friend and I spent way too much time in this store — as we do. I left a happy shopper with a new Sea Salt & Caramel lip balm and a tin of Nellie’s laundry soda. Now I can’t wait to do laundry! (haha, ok, maybe not that much.)
Dine beside a stunner of a view
After touring town, we drove up to Minnewasta Golf & Country Club to have lunch at The Timbers. This golf course was a HUGE surprise to us. We had no clue it would be so beautiful — the landscape of rolling hills was surrounded by a lush forest backdrop. We sat on the patio, obviously. There’s no way you sit inside on a nice day with a view like that.
We grabbed a couple of sandwiches and some cold iced tea and chatted about how fun our morning had been. We were actually kinda late for lunch because we lost track of time. Shopping Stephen Street will do that to you.
Trek over rolling terrain
After having both a bagel for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch, we were stuffed! Time to walk it off, baby, just walk it off. Luckily, the golf course is adjacent to the beautiful Kinsmen Footpath and Minnewasta Trail. We journeyed up and down and up again along this scenic trail, which led us all the way to the beach at Lake Minnewasta.
The open, far-reaching panoramic views of the Manitoba Escarpment were lovely along this trail, as were the areas of forest canopy that beckoned us with some welcoming shade. Seriously, we needed that shade, the overcast sky cleared while we ate lunch and the day immediately became a scorcher. Once we made it to the lake, we looked at that water so fondly, but there was no time for a dip, we had a fossil dig to get to! Yes, a bonafide archaeological fossil dig. Yes, in the Pembina Valley. See, Morden’s surprises keep a-coming!
Wax nostalgic about summer’s fave pastime
On our way to meet our fossil tour guide at the Access Event Centre, we discovered that this arena also houses the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s a great little museum full of baseball paraphernalia and Manitoba’s storied baseball past. My favourite pieces were the items of the Manitoba players from “A League of Their Own” (GO women!) and the Salmon Pan Am Games jacket — because those jackets will never ever go out of style (GO 1999!!!).
Learn cool prehistoric-y things
Ok, I’ve been to the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre (CFDC) before, and I’ve had a great time writing about it in the past, but it’s even cooler to go through it again with a friend AND one of the most passionate tour guides you’ll ever meet! His name was Nolan and he greeted us with a big smile and a supreme wealth of prehistoric marine reptile knowledge. The guy was so keen to try and show us everything that I’m pretty sure he almost ran out of breath! By the time he showed us Suzy — the mosasaur — and Bruce – the largest mosasaur in the world on display — I felt like he had run a few laps around the museum.
As we journeyed through the museum, Nolan focused on sharing what the differences were between these 80,000,000 year old creatures (that’s a crazy number to write!). He was most keen to share how some vertebrae were more concave/convex (mosasaurs) and some were more flat (plesiosaur) and how it would have affected movement. Oh, did I mention Nolan is a student specializing in Kinesiology? So all this bone and movement information made sense! And now we know why a mosasaur moved much differently than a plesiosaur. Both would still eat you in a pinch, no matter their level of movement.
We also got to see where all the fossil magic happens! Nolan took us behind the scenes to explore some of the many thousands of artifacts the CFDC has sorted and filed away. He showed us a mammoth tusk, broken teeth and new discoveries, some of which we were sworn to secrecy to not reveal.
Dig, brush and be merry
After the tour, we were giddy as we got in the big Aquasaurus van and drove out to the Spencer’s Ditch dig site to try and unearth a fossil or two. The museum has been offering these authentic Fossil dig tours since 2008. As the hot sun beat down upon us, we carefully brushed and picked our way through the escarpment hoping to find a little prehistoric treasure or two. After a few minutes, lo and behold, my friend’s pick clicked on something harder than slate. Nolan brushed around the piece, as we furiously snapped a few pics. What a thrill! Just think, we were the first people to unearth this piece that’s been buried for over 80 million years! Wow, pretty darn cool when you put it like that.
Refresh with a brisk dip
A jump in the lake was just the ticket after digging up fossils under the sun’s hot rays. As soon as our fossil dig was done, we high-tailed it back to Lake Minnewasta to cool off with a quick swim! Even though we arrived way after 6:00 p.m the beach was still bustling. The water was hardly cold, but after such a steamy day it wouldn’t have mattered if it was. We went all in. Immediately! YISSS! 💦💦
Funny how those end-of-day swims refresh you body, mind and spirit! We left that lake in the highest of spirits after the greatest of days.
Always find the fun in everything
Obviously, this Esso station does. It’s not very often you get to spend a full day exploring with your best friend, especially as you get older and life’s responsibilities get in the way. When we set off for the day, we weren’t quite sure what to expect from Morden, but every place was full of surprises and left us impressed. We came, we saw, we dug, we ate, we shopped, we laughed, we conquered!
I would highly recommend heading out to Morden this summer. I bet it will surprise you as much as it did us. Just remember to bring your sunscreen, shades, a curious mind and a bestie or two. 😎