Winnipeg Beach has been a popular resort community since the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Sir William Whyte, founded it in 1900. The town's two kilometres of soft sandy beach attracted both the common labourer and the social elite. Today, the beachfront community still attracts vacationers from all walks of life who come to enjoy the beach and the cottage lined streets of the present community. Located on the south shore of Lake Winnipeg, the quiet town is only a 45 minute drive north of Winnipeg, the provincial capital.
In the early 1900's, ritzy hotels lined the main street of Winnipeg Beach. Piers, parks and picnic grounds were constructed to accommodate the weekend masses that would travel to Winnipeg Beach from the nearby capital city. By 1913, the summer retreat had become so popular that the C.P.R. had 13 trains running the line between the beach and the City of Winnipeg. The famous Moonlight Special returned to the city at midnight every Saturday for fifty years. The round trip fare was only fifty cents.
A boardwalk took strollers along the beach to the carnival concessions and cottages. A wooden roller coaster was one of the largest in the country at the time, and carried hundreds of passengers on a busy day. The Pavillion housed a 14,000 square foot dance floor, reputed to be the largest in Western Canada. Couples danced the night away to music by the top bands of the time. Sadly, in 1964 the dance hall was taken down, and the roller coaster was dismantled shortly thereafter, causing Winnipeg Beach to lose much of its splendour.
Today, the quaint lakeside community has regained much of its former glory. The train no longer runs, but Provincial Highways 7 and 8 bring travellers the 80-kilometres north from the big city. The concessions and pavilions have been replaced with many small shops and restaurants that offer an eclectic collection of crafts and specialty goods, with many restaurants and snack bars.
The Town of Winnipeg Beach still boasts the spacious white sand beaches and recreational activities. Much of the local economy is driven by the tourist dollar, with thousands of visitors arriving at the beach yearly. Lake Winnipeg also supports a large commercial fishery, and many local residents ply the lakes in search of walleye, whitefish and the famous Lake Winnipeg Goldeye. Areas to the south and west of the town are also rooted in agriculture production and many of the towns' businesses are aimed at agricultural support.
Lake Winnipeg and its world class beach provide Winnipeg Beach with unlimited recreation and leisure activities. Hours of boating and fishing, or swimming and lounging in the sand await the visitor to this friendly community. The bays along the southwest of Lake Winnipeg also offer some of the best windsurfing and sailing opportunities in Western Canada. Tennis courts, picnic grounds and the bandstand round out the summer activities. Winter fun activities abound in the area with ice fishing, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling just to name a few.
Festivals like "Boardwalk Days" in mid-July help to recapture the old "carnival" atmosphere of the beach. Visitors can enjoy carnival games and a midway, as well as, live entertainment all summer long. The Wonderful Winter Weekend, in February features a curling bonspiel, poker derby, and an ice fishing derby on the frozen lake.