It was a cool September morning when we set off to Lake of the Prairies, with the drive between Winnipeg and Bowerbird Stays shipping container cabin being almost entirely through farmland. Music played softly on the radio as my gaze wandered over the golden fields of wheat and barley, interspersed with tiny ponds and grain silos.
We had been looking forward to our getaway to Lake of the Prairies and the unique cabin waiting for us, so the 4-hour drive through picturesque farmland passed by quickly. Along the way we passed through a few small towns, clustered around intersections, which gave us a welcome break to stretch our legs and indulge in a warm drink and a quick bite to eat from quaint coffee shops.
As we got closer to Lake of the Prairies, the vast fields made way to rolling hills and then finally our unique cabin came into view: Designed by Winnipeg architect David Penner, the shipping container cabin is a unique architectural marvel, dominating the landscape, overlooking the lake.
If you’re looking for a unique getaway, Bowerbird Stays has a variety of cosy cabins to choose from, including a mid-century modern treehouse, Scandi-Chic hideaways and a beach camp by the lake. Read about our getaway to Lake of the Woods at Bowerbird Beach Camp. Or alternatively, take a look at their other cabins here.
The Container Design
The sleek linear lines of the containers stood in stark contrast to the soft lines of the surrounding hills. David Penner, who was never one to shy away from a design challenge, created this daring architectural project in 2009.
Using salvaged steel shipping containers, an ambitious structural strategy was developed that cantilevers out 36’ of the overall 40’ container length, thanks to balanced symmetry opposing each wing.
It’s a unique design that captures your eyes instantly. This was our home for the next two nights, and we couldn’t wait to explore the place.
We were greeted by a large welcoming space as soon as we entered. The main living area consisted of four containers welded together to create an 1100 sq. ft. escape by the lake. The generous kitchen and living room flowed together, opening up onto a covered patio with floor-to-ceiling views over Lake of the Prairies. Our mornings, afternoons and evenings were spent here, cooking breakfast, playing board games and enjoying a hot chocolate in the swivel chairs.
We loved that the essence of the containers was still visible. The wavy pattern of the walls and the welding of the containers were a constant reminder of the cabin’s origins. We expected the space to feel cold and industrial, however, the white paint, furnishings and design accents added a more feminine touch to an already bold design.
The three bedrooms and two bathrooms were located on the other side of the space, linked by a long hallway but far enough to create a quiet oasis from the potentially lively living area. In similar fashion to the front room, this side of the container was filled with light thanks to the bedroom’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Few vacation homes boast a viewing tower, let alone one built out of a container. We often stepped out of the primary space and headed up the wooden stairs to enjoy a drink while overlooking the lake. It became our quiet retreat where we were privy to a unique view of the happenings around the lake. Geese congregating on the edge of the beach, a lone fisher waiting patiently to catch a walleye and a couple quietly making their way along the shoreline.
Tucked under the main shipping containers is a small panoramic sauna with views over the beach and lake. We spent each evening here, in quiet solitude, watching the long grass swaying in the wind as the sun set.
The Lake of the Prairies
The cabin is located right by Lake of the Prairies, giving you unobstructed views as well as easy access to the water. In summer, grab a kayak, canoe or paddleboard and head out onto the quiet lake. In winter, it’s the perfect place to go ice skating or ice fishing.
The full-sized kitchen allowed us to work our magic for any meals, or enjoy a glass of wine around the long island. We had everything we needed to make a 7-course gourmet meal, or keep it simple and whip up something quickly in the microwave. There’s plenty of space for larger groups to eat; the dining table has seating for six people as well as four bar stools around the island.
The living room had everything we needed to relax after a full day of activities. There’s plenty to keep you entertained in the evenings, or during the day if the weather gods decide to dump rain all day. From a large TV with streaming services like Netflix and PS4 to a variety of board games for all ages. For a quiet night, you can kindle the fire and read a book on the comfortable sectional sofa.
Everything was provided for a peaceful night’s sleep. There are three bedrooms; the master bedroom features a queen bed while the other two feature a double bunk bed. You’ll find plush covers and pillows on all beds and long curtains to block out the light. There’s also plenty of room to hang up your clothes and shelving for placing any miscellaneous items.
Even though it was just the two of us, having two bathrooms made getting ready in the morning so much more convenient! Both bathrooms have a shower, toilet and basin as well as shelving and a large window to allow natural light in. Towels and toiletries are provided, so we didn’t have to bring anything with us.
Things to do around Lake of the Prairies
If you’re coming from Winnipeg, you’ll pass through Russell, a small town south of Lake of the Prairies. It’s the perfect place to stock up on groceries and grab a bottle of wine for your stay at the container cabin. There are two coffee shops worth a visit if you need a pick-me-up: Bin 22 Coffee Co. and TinHouse Designs & Coffee Co.
The most striking elements in Russell are the arches of Main Street. Around 2007, eight sets of wooden arches were salvaged from the demolished Dauphin Arena, however, the wooden installations were recently replaced with metal beams after one of the wooden beams crashed down in 2016.
Russell is also home to Manitoba’s Beef and Barley Festival, held in October, perfect for a fall getaway.
Asessippi Provincial Park
Located on the meeting place of two ancient river valleys is Asessippi Provincial Park. The park features Lake of the Prairies, a man-made lake surrounded by the valley walls of the Assiniboine and Shell Rivers.
It was formerly a bustling frontier town until the arrival of the railway moved the community to Roblin. Now you can experience a glimpse of the historic town at the park as well as discover the glacial features on the Ancient Valley self-guided loop. There’s a seasonal campground as well as a beach to enjoy on those long, sweltering summer days.
Asessippi Ski Resort
Manitoba might be known for its vast flat fields, but it does have a few ski hills around the province, including one at Asessippi. In winter, you can enjoy downhill skiing and snowboarding on 26 runs as well as tubing and snowshoeing. In summer, the hill opens for downhill mountain biking.
Inglis Grain Elevators
Once a prominent feature on the prairie landscape, wooden grain elevators are becoming a rare sight these days. The Inglis Grain Elevators National Historic Site preserves a row of five grain elevators built in the prairie town of Inglis between 1922 and 1941, Manitoba’s golden age of elevators. These are among the last remaining structures of their type. The site is open from May long weekend to September long weekend, between 10am and 5pm. Guided tours are available by reservation year-round.
The town of Roblin lies north of Lake of the Prairies and is a quiet community. If you’re short on supplies, Roblin is the closest town to the container cabin to stock up on groceries and grab a quick coffee from Timber-House Coffee.
Things to know before you go
- The water from the tap is safe to drink, however, you can bring your own blue jug to the container. There is a water cooler available in the kitchen.
- Shoulder season can be quiet around Lake of the Prairies. Summer/winter activities are over and Asessippi Provincial Park is closed. Don’t let that stop you from visiting in the autumn and spring months. We treated our late September getaway as a time to escape the busy city life and enjoy some quiet time.
- Like anywhere else near lakes in Manitoba during the summer, make sure to pack insect repellent!
We were hosted by Bowerbird Stays on our trip. As always, all opinions are our own and you will always read our genuine thoughts and experiences.