What to do in Manitoba’s vacation hot spot.
Drive north from Winnipeg, Manitoba’s largest city, and you’ll soon find yourself in a land of broad shores, endless forests, and quaint villages where history remains very much alive.
The heart of this timeless region is Hecla Island, a unique expanse of forest, marsh and beach near the northwestern shore of Lake Winnipeg’s southern lobe. It’s entirely given over to Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park, a largely untrammeled expanse that protects more than 1,000 square kilometers of wildlands.
Hecla Island is a great place to live year-round, even through the region’s famously harsh winters. But if you have only a weekend to spare, you can still find plenty to do. Start with these can’t-miss activities.
Walk Through Hecla Village
Take a leisurely walk back in time at Hecla Village, a small Icelandic-Canadian village restored to its early 20th-century glory. The flat, well-maintained Hecla Village Self-Guided Walking Trail covers approximately one kilometer. Take your time and you’ll still cover it in less than an hour — plenty of time to get on to your next stop. Don’t miss the stunning church, the village’s most impressive building and arguably the crown jewel of its restoration campaign.
Grab Lunch at Newly Refurbished Gull Harbour Marina
Head out to the tip of Hecla Island and grab lunch at recently renovated Gull Harbour Marina’s full-service, 120-seat restaurant, Harbour Dock. New owners Lori and David Janeson have been hard at work to modernize and refurbish the property, which occupies a prime slice of beachfront real estate with stunning views of Lake Winnipeg. (If you’re tuckered out from the drive, consider staying the night at Gull Harbour’s Lighthouse Inn, which features 13 amenity-rich guest rooms.
Enjoy the Restored Wetlands (and Moose!) at Grassy Narrows Marsh
Bison don’t roam quite this far east, but moose abound on Hecla Island and surrounding mainland tracts. The best place to catch these majestic creatures in action is Grassy Narrows Marsh, near Hecla’s eastern extreme. Visit near dawn or dusk for best results.
Dip Your Toes in Lake Winnipeg
You haven’t truly experienced Hecla Island until you’ve dipped your toes into the sky-blue waters of Lake Winnipeg.
Yes, Lake Winnipeg is chilly. This is the Canadian northwoods, not the Caribbean basin. Most years, ice-out doesn’t come until mid-May, and the water is correspondingly refreshing through early summer.
By August, though, it’s warm enough for a leisurely dunk. On warm weekend afternoons, there’s nothing better than soaking up the bright sunshine on one of Hecla’s uncrowded beaches, then diving into the lake to cool off. Remember to consult your summer reading list before you arrive!
Come Back for Foliage Season
Many visitors get their first taste of Hecla Island during the short but vibrant northern summer. But most locals would tell you that the best time to visit Hecla is a few weeks after the warm-season crowds head home for good. That’s when the island’s countless aspens, so unassuming during the spring and summer months, burst into bright yellow- and orange-hued flame.
Hecla is a fantastic place to get a true taste of the boreal forest’s underrated autumn foliage display. If you can swing a repeat visit in mid to late September, you’re in for a treat that you won’t soon forget. Just be sure to check a reliable foliage tracker before you head up this way.