With endless wheat fields, miles of boreal forest, and secluded waterways aplenty, the province of Saskatchewan is one of the largest untouched sections of wilderness left on the planet and the ultimate place to enjoy some much-needed peace and tranquillity on your Western Canada holiday. To experience the vastness of this prairie flatland and its spectacular scenery at your own pace, self-drive tours are a great option.
As well as being able to visit multiple places in one trip, you’ll have the flexibility to pull up anywhere, stopping to take in the beautiful blue skies of Canada’s sunniest province or relax at one of its many beaches along the way. Of course, the fact that Saskatchewan is home to over 100,000 lakes and rivers also offers lots of options for a wide range of water sports, including canoeing, kayaking, sailing and fishing. But the outdoor adventures don’t stop there. From horseback riding over lush greenery to hiking through scenic valleys, in this post, we’ll explore some of the best spots across Saskatchewan to visit on a Canada self-drive tour.
Grasslands National Park
Located near the village of Val Marie, Grasslands National Park is one of two national parks in Saskatchewan and is a haven for wildlife spotting, with species such as wild plains bison, pronghorn antelope, black-tailed prairie dog, and burrowing owl frequenting the area. If you decide to explore Saskatchewan by car, there are many scenic drives you can take through the park, including in the West Block, where stunning landscapes and cultural history await, and Badlands Parkway in the park’s East Block.
The Grasslands National Park is also famous for its Dark Sky Preserve—one of the largest and darkest in Canada. Spend the night beneath a canopy of twinkling stars and enjoy the beauty of the night sky.
Prince Albert National Park
Named by National Geographic as one of Canada’s ‘50 Places of a Lifetime’, this million-acre park consists of large areas of woodland and boreal forest, interlaced with streams and backcountry hiking trails for all levels. Like Grasslands National Park, free-roaming plains bison populate Prince Albert National Park, as well as moose, timber wolves, caribou and bears. This park is also home to around 195 species of bird, including cormorants and white pelicans, so if you are hoping to see wildlife on your trip, this is a great spot to add to your itinerary for a fly-drive holiday in Saskatchewan.
When you’re not keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife, choose to take part in the park’s year-round and seasonal recreational opportunities, from canoeing between remote forest lakes and waterskiing and wakeboarding in summer to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter. You’ll also find the year-round, full-service resort town of Waskesiu within the park’s borders.
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Historic Reesor Ranch and La Reata Ranch
Ranching is an integral part of Saskatchewan’s history, and since 1904, the Historic Reesor Ranch has been preserving this legacy. Visit the ranch for a chance to experience riding on horseback, ranch-style meals, and even ‘cowboy poetry’. You can also choose to stay on the ranch itself, as well as taking part in historic walking tours and guided ATV tours.
Depending on how much of Saskatchewan you plan to drive through, you could also choose to visit the La Reata Ranch for the ultimate Canadian cowboy experience. Help the crew to look after a herd of two to 250 cows and newborn calves during your visit, in addition to other activities such as hiking, birdwatching, swimming and boating.
Flowing through northern Saskatchewan is the 1,600 kilometre-long Churchill River. Traditionally used by First Nations people as a fur-trading route, it’s now a popular place for canoe trips and whitewater rafting. Churchill River Canoe Outfitters, located in Missinipe, offers guided trips across this part of the province, in addition to canoe clinics and courses, equipment rentals, canoe route maps and more.
Those exploring the river may be lucky enough to see moose wading in the shallows, bald eagles, American pelicans and great blue herons flying overhead, and maybe even the odd black bear strolling along the shore. Given the region’s history, there are also numerous First Nations rock painting sites where incredibly, surviving pictographs still remain.
RCMP Heritage Centre
If you plan to visit Saskatchewan’s capital city, Regina, we recommend visiting the RCMP Heritage Centre, where you can see Mounties in training. Learn more about the history of Canada’s national police force through a number of exhibitions and interactive displays. Those visiting between July and mid-August can also attend a 45-minute Sunset-Retreat Ceremony, where you can watch RCMP cadets performing cavalry drills. The centre is open daily between 11am and 5pm.
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Coined the ‘Paris of the Prairies’ for its beautiful brass-coloured bridges, Saskatoon is one of Canada’s fastest-growing cities—and for good reason. New restaurants, breweries and bars have attracted the interest of tourists and locals alike, joining the city’s many quaint neighbourhoods and riverside paths offering scenic views of the skyline.
Saskatoon’s reputation for outdoor experiences is also growing. The city is divided into east and west sides by the South Saskatchewan River, making it a great place to take a river cruise or rent a kayak. Summer is a particularly popular time to visit Saskatoon as the city comes alive with various jazz, theatre and folk festivals.
We would also recommend visiting Wanuskewin, a National Historic Site where you’ll find traces of various cultural groups who existed on the Northern Plains—some dating as far back as 6,400 years. You’ll have the chance to experience authentic First Nations culture and traditions through dance performances, activities and exhibitions of Indigenous art. You can also choose to dine in a restaurant serving traditional First Nations cuisine with a contemporary twist.
Farm-to-table cuisine in Saskatoon
Home to almost 50 per cent of the country’s farmland, Saskatchewan is becoming increasingly popular for its farm-backed restaurants. The city of Saskatoon claims some of the most varied and fertile lands in the province and is considered to be one of Canada’s hottest culinary destinations. Some farm-to-table restaurants, such as The Hollows and Primal, even employ horticulturalists. Restaurants often use holistically-raised meat, as well as local and foraged produce to create contemporary dishes visitors will love.
Located approximately 60 miles south-east of Saskatoon, Little Manitou Lake—nicknamed Canada’s Dead Sea—is a unique attraction in the province of Saskatchewan and the only one of its kind in Canada. One of three lakes in the world that has a mineral density three-times saltier than the ocean, it offers therapeutic treatments to bathers. This magic lake also has a natural buoyancy, allowing you to float effortlessly on your back all day long without sinking. A must-visit on your Canada self-drive tour.