By David Janeson
Some say Hecla Island is the crown jewel of Lake Winnipeg.
Of course, they’re careful about who they say this around. There’s a lot of competition for the title.
What’s not controversial: Hecla Island is one of the top tourist destinations on Lake Winnipeg. Thanks to the loving embrace of Hecla Grindstone Provincial Park, it’s also among the southern lobe’s most unspoiled stretches of wilderness. If you’re bringing the family up for a long weekend, you’ll want to make time for these six unforgettable activities.
1. A Walk Back in Time at Hecla Village
Did you know that Hecla Island was once the site of a thriving fishing village populated by hardy Icelandic-Canadians?
It’s true. And it wasn’t even that long ago: back in the first few decades of the 20th century.
Today, Hecla Village isn’t actually inhabited, but several buildings have been restored or rebuilt to historical specifications.
“Kids of all ages love the short interpretive walk through the village, and parents appreciate the eye to historical detail.” — David Janeson
Come at the right time and you’ll get to explore some of the buildings themselves on a guided tour.
2. A Wildlife Viewing Adventure at Grassy Narrows Marsh
The wildlife viewing tower at Grassy Narrows Marsh is arguably the best place on the island to spot moose, deer, birds of prey, and other exciting animals. Come early in the morning or later in the evening for best results. And don’t forget your camera!
3. A Day (or Evening) at Sunset Beach
True to its name, Sunset Beach is a great place to watch the sun descend over the lake. It’s also a fantastic place to hang out with a good book on warm, sunny summer afternoons. Bring a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
4. An Afternoon Out on the Water
Hecla Island is surrounded by water, you know. If you didn’t bring a boat up with you, no sweat: just rent a kayak or canoe from a local outfitter and spend the day paddling out on the lake. Or inquire at Gull Harbour Marina about dinner cruises. Nothing beats an al fresco meal on a glass-smooth lake.
5. A Hearty Meal at the Harbour Dock
Well, almost nothing beats an al fresco meal out on the lake. The Harbour Dock Restaurant, Gull Harbour Marina’s full-service dining facility, has stunning water views and an always-changing menu that’s heavy on local fare. Yes, that means walleye and whitefish so fresh you’ll swear their gills were still moving.
6. A Cycle Around the Island
In case you haven’t noticed, Hecla Island is pretty flat. That’s great news for visiting cyclists, who can tool around the island’s roads without laboring up hills or nearly careening out of control on downslopes. Strap your road bike on the back of your car or rent one closer to the action — your choice. Or, if you’re really up for an adventure, consider cycling all the way up from Winnipeg. It’s only about 180 kilometers.
What’s your favorite thing to do on Hecla Island?
David Janeson owns Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal lakeside resort on beautiful Hecla Island, Manitoba.