Welcome, traveller, to the sleepy town of Hecla. Located in Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park, this Manitoban isle will take you away from it all. Be lulled by the soft sounds of rustling reeds, gently crashing waves and birds singing their summer melodies. It's a quiet settlement with a vibrant Icelandic history - and it's waiting for you.
Sorry if that all sounded a bit dramatic, but it is truly the impression I got on my weekend visit to Hecla. Here's how you can have a getaway just like mine...
Rent a cozy cabin
Did you know that you can rent a cabin through the Manitoba Parks Reservation System? While it's a little late in the season now to book (Manitobans take their park reservations very seriously), you should consider renting one of these rustic and cute cottages for next summer. It really is one of the best alternatives to those who aren't savvy campers or for families who just want an easy weekend getaway. Each cabin comes equipped with a kitchenette with a 2-burner stovetop and a small fridge, a futon, a table and a bunk bed with a double and twin bed configuration. We adored the screened in porch, perfect for bug-free game nights and for rainier days where you still want to feel the fresh air on your skin.
Meet with locals
I don't have much of an eye for spotting wildlife, but that's not required on a visit to Hecla. We saw at least a dozen eagles soaring overhead. We encountered several deer and a skunk on the road. We were entertained for an hour by a large flock of pelicans, and sung to sleep by the cooing of a loon. While the island is known for birding opportunities, I still wasn't fully prepared for the diversity of wildlife.
Be charmed by Hecla Village
There is a certain type of traveller who won't be satisfied with just lounging on the beach - they have a need to go deeper into a destination, to find what makes it unique. If you have one of these types in your friend group or family, maybe Hecla is the destination for you. Between wildlife viewing and water activities, there's an ample amount of culture and history here. Start your journey to the past with the self-guided Hecla Village Trail, which will take you to the scenic shorefront properties of Lake Winnipeg. Between cute homes and cottages, you'll find historic buildings and monuments from the community's Icelandic past. Each landmark has a plaque explaining its significance.
Along this main drag, you will also find Hecla Island General Store, where you can pick up liquor, firewood, fishing licenses and more.
Photograph the quarry
The quarry is an easy spot to find along the road to the campground on the east side of the island, marked with a sign and a small parking lot. This abandoned limestone quarry is a beautiful photo spot and also has several picnic tables for enjoying a lunch on the shore. If the weather had been more cooperative, I would have also loved to take a dip here!
Hike to the lighthouse
A visit to Hecla just wouldn't be complete without seeing the iconic lighthouse. This short hike (~30 minute round trip) will take you through a forested area until you come out onto the lighthouse peninsula. Built in 1898, the heritage lighthouse was once vital to those navigating the narrows of Lake Winnipeg. Today, it is an integral piece of the region's history and a beloved photography subject for those who trek out onto its shores. And don't forget to snap a few shots of the peninsula's second, taller lighthouse, built in 1926.
Enjoy food with a view at Lighthouse Restaurant & Lounge
The newly renovated Lighthouse Inn Restaurant & Angry Pelican Lounge fit in perfectly with the nautical vibes of Hecla Island, with a patio unlike anything I've seen in Manitoba. It doesn't matter if you sit inside or outside: you will have a lovely view of Lake Winnipeg's waters. If you'd like to try something with local flavours, I highly recommend ordering the Pickerel Fish and Chips with Torque Brewing batter.
Listen to the sounds of the marsh
Watching dragonflies soaring overhead, listening the sound of chirping frogs and tiny splashes of water...is there anything more peaceful? A slow walk through the Grassy Narrows Marsh was the ideal way to start wrapping up a relaxing weekend in this special part of the province. There are several trails to follow, although the short walks along the boardwalk were the most appealing to us.
Watch a sunset on the beach
Watching a sunset on the beach is the quintessential Manitoban way to end a summer day. Sunset Beach seemed like the natural choice for watching the sun dip below the horizon, yet there were only a few other people on this long stretch of sand. Sit on a picnic table or pick your favourite boulder and enjoy the view.
We crammed in as much as we could into our weekend (yet still came away feeling relaxed) - but there's still plenty to do on Hecla Island. Next time, we'd like to rent a kayak to explore the lake, hike one of the other trails on the island and spend time on the Grindstone side of the park.