In 35 minutes, you could be at the beach. That’s right. From the northern edge of Winnipeg, it takes just over half an hour before you’re dipping your toes in the refreshing waters of the vast Lake Winnipeg. In case you haven’t heard, Lake Winnipeg is BIG as in 24,514-square-kilometres. It’s the largest lake within in the borders of southern Canada (because many of the Great Lakes share water with the United States). Still, it’s Canada’s sixth largest freshwater lake. It’s the eleventh largest freshwater lake on the planet. In our four-part series, take your pick from these sandy shores along the way.

Milne Beach, Matlock, in the Village of Dunnottar

The most southern public beach on Lake Winnipeg’s western shore welcomes you with a hand-made wooden pier, perched high above the water, stretching out into this vast inland sea. In fact, these piers are the signature landmarks of the village. Every spring the village’s maintenance crew painstakingly pounds saplings into the sandy bottom of the lake to build these piers. And every fall, they take them down again, well before four feet of ice forms on the lake.

The point of the piers is to carry swimmers out to deeper water, over the few rocks that sometimes dot the shallows. The end of the piers offer a place to sit, contemplate jumping into the um, er, refreshing water, dry off or simply contemplate life while gazing over the lake. More than that, they look absolutely stunning in sunset photos, especially when the moon is on the rise.

Insider Tip: At day’s end, make your way to the Whytewold Emporium for wood-fired pizza in the breezy dining room.