By David Janeson
Hecla Island isn’t Manitoba’s most popular tourist destination. That’s not for lack of merit, though. Were Hecla any less special, we wouldn’t call it home.
Hecla Island is protected by Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park, one of Manitoba’s largest. Unlike the province’s more remote wilderness parks, which feel largely untouched by human hands, Hecla / Grindstone merges rustic charm with modern comforts.
If you’re new to this neck of the woods, you’ll want to make the most of your first visit. These six family-friendly activities should be high on your list — and well within reach on a long summer weekend.
1. Walk Through Hecla Village
Or drive, if you’re not comfortable taking on the kilometre-long stroll.
Either way, Hecla Village is not to be missed. It’s a well-preserved (reconstituted, in some structures’ cases) Canadian-Icelandic village built back in the early 20th century, but don’t worry: unlike historic attractions closer to Winnipeg, the place rarely fills up. (One incredulous TripAdvisor reviewer asks, “Why is this place not jammed with people?”)
2. Visit Gull Harbour Marina
We’re partial, of course, but we think the new and improved Gull Harbour Marina is a great place to grab a bite by the lake — and rest your head for a night or two, if you’re not already staying elsewhere. If you’re bringing up your boat, check in at the marina for a quick fill-up.
3. Play All 18 Holes at Lakeview Hecla Resort
Not far from Gull Harbour Marina is one of Manitoba’s finest golf courses: the 18-hole spread at Lakeview Hecla Resort. The course’s open fairways and challenging water features seem ripped from a PGA highlight reel, but fellow players are far friendlier and the staff is solicitous as can be. You will want to check ahead for course conditions, particularly during the spring thaw.
4. Spend an Evening at Sunset Beach
There’s no better place to watch the sunset on Hecla Island — and perhaps all of Lake Winnipeg — than Sunset Beach, on the island’s northwestern shore.
“In late spring and early summer, the evening seems to stretch out for eternity, with usable light lingering well past 23:00.” — David Janeson
Reserve a campsite nearby, scrounge up a campfire, and — once the sun finally sets — point out your favorite constellations with the kids. Weather permitting, this is a fine place for a morning dip, too.
5. Paddle Out on the Open Water
Though shallow, Lake Winnipeg’s vast extent qualifies it as one of Canada’s largest lakes by surface area. There’s plenty of shoreline to explore around here, and you won’t come close to scratching the surface on a single afternoon of paddling. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t try. Rent a kayak from a local purveyor, or pile the family into a canoe, and find an inlet to call your own. Don’t forget your fishing pole.
6. Catch a Glimpse of the “Real” Locals
Hecla Island’s furry, feathered denizens far outnumber its human residents. That’s as it should be. The best routes to glimpse signature species are the West Quarry Trail, a 3.5-kilometre loop, and the Grassy Narrows Marsh trails, where geese flock by the hundreds and moose emerge near dawn and dusk.
What’s your favorite thing to do on Hecla Island? What’s the one activity you’d recommend for a first-time visitor?
David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba