Lori Janeson: What’s the Big Deal About Hecla Island?


Unless you live in Manitoba, it’s very unlikely that you’re familiar with Hecla Island. That’s okay. You’re the one missing out.

Hecla Island is an irregularly shaped teardrop of land in the northwestern section of Lake Winnipeg’s southern lobe. Connected to the mainland by a single causeway, it’s completely given over to Hecla Grindstone Provincial Park — one of the province’s most popular weekend getaways.

Longtime resident Lori Janeson succinctly explains why Hecla Island is so great: “For a relatively small island, Hecla has everything: historical sites, endless outdoor recreation opportunities, surprisingly diverse ecosystems, upscale resorts, and a unique culture oriented around Lake Winnipeg.”

Lori, her husband, David Janeson, and her fellow Hecla residents aren’t rushing to let the whole world know about Hecla. They’re happy to maintain the island’s unhurried, uncrowded vibe — by and large, it’s what drew them there in the first place.

But they’re also happy to share what makes their little slice of heaven so memorable. If that means a few more tourists wander up their way, so be it.

Where Is Hecla Island?

Hecla Island isn’t at the end of the world. It’s roughly two hours north of Winnipeg by road, weather permitting. It’s basically a straight shot north on Manitoba Highway 8, across a narrow causeway. The road to Hecla passes popular Lake Winnipeg beach towns like Winnipeg Beach, Sandy Hook, and Gimli. If you have time for a picnic lunch, check out Camp Morton Provincial Park, a bit more than halfway there.

“I always tell visitors to enjoy the ride up,” says Lori Janeson. “There’s so much to see on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

First Nations, Vikings & Tourists: Hecla Island’s History

Hecla Island has a long, long history. Though the island wasn’t a major center of permanent habitation for the Anishinabe first peoples, it did occupy an important, even sacred place in the Anishinabe culture. Several ceremonial sites remain on the island, each a powerful reminder that those who live on the island today walk on the shoulders of giants.

The first Europeans to settle Hecla Island came in the 1870s, primarily from Iceland. For a time, Hecla was part of a semi-autonomous colony known as New Iceland. Today, more than one-third of all Canadians of Icelandic descent call Manitoba home; their ancestors’ way of life is memorialized at Hecla Village, one of the island’s most popular attractions.

The Icelanders’ subsistence economy has long since given way to tourism and recreation, but Hecla remains a special place for many who continue to make their home in the area.

Lori Janeson’s Guide to Outdoor Fun on Hecla Island

“Hecla Island is practically paradise for active tourists,” says Lori Janeson. Here’s just a small sampling of the outdoor activities she recommends:

  • Hiking Grassy Narrows Marsh: Grassy Narrows Marsh is the island’s best place to glimpse big game, including moose. Check out the wildlife viewing tower for best results.
  • Kayaking Around the Island: Lori Janeson, an avid kayaker, loves introducing newcomers to the sport. The placid waters between Hecla and the mainland are perfect for a lazy paddle.
  • Swimming in the Lake: In late summer, the lake is plenty warm enough for swimming. Just remember to bring a towel — the breeze off the water gets chilly once you’re out.
  • Biking Trails and Roads: Traffic rarely overwhelms on Hecla, even at the height of the summer tourist season. Careful bikers can get dozens of kilometers under their belt simply by circuiting the island’s roads. This is a great way to see more of the area’s surprisingly diverse ecology.
  • Golfing at Lakeview: Hecla Island has an 18-hole championship golf course at Hecla Lakeview Resort — an unexpected and welcome find in an otherwise rustic land.

Things to Do on the Mainland

Every good Hecla Island trip must come to an end. (That is, unless you love the place enough to start looking at real estate on Hecla. That’s a whole different story.)

Leave some wiggle room in your itinerary to see a few sights on the way out.

“Hecla Island isn’t a self-contained destination,” says Lori Janeson. “There’s a lot to see on the mainland, and on nearby minor islands in Lake Winnipeg. The broader Interlake region [between Lakes Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Winnipegosis] is absolutely rife with things to do and places to see.”

Here’s a sampling of sights to hit within an hour or two of Hecla Island:

  • Viking Park, Gimli: Gimli’s Viking Park is…well, let’s just say it’s worth a stop. The centerpiece is a gigantic Viking statue — an echo of the Paul Bunyan statues littering central North America.
  • Pine Dock: It’s remote, and it’s in the other direction from Winnipeg, but that’s kind of the point. Located on the narrows between the north and south lobes of Lake Winnipeg, Pine Dock is worth the drive.
  • Hnausa Beach Provincial Park: The small town of Hnausa has a tidy little beach that’s great for a quick stop or longer lounge.

Hecla in Any Season

Most outsiders think of Hecla Island as a summer destination. To be sure, it’s nice to visit when sitting on the porch doesn’t require five layers — and, at least in theory, when the water’s warm enough for a quick dip.

“We definitely see more tourist activity [on Hecla Island] in July and August,” says Lori Janeson. There’s a smaller spike in late September, she adds, during peak autumn color season.

But adventurous visitors shouldn’t be put off by chilly air or snow. With crisp blue skies, pure air, and zero crowds, winter in Hecla is an otherworldly experience. Shallow Lake Winnipeg freezes early and hard; by early December, it’s ready for heavy use. There’s nothing quite like racing a snowmobile across the glass-flat surface of Canada’s sixth-largest lake. Just be sure to avoid the fishing huts that sprout up near shore — hardy locals know that Lake Winnipeg’s fish are hungrier during the winter, when the heavens temporarily stop raining nutrients.

So, don’t bother counting the days until June. No matter when you arrive, locals will welcome you to Hecla Island with open arms.

4 Day Trips Near Hecla Island

By Lori Janeson

Nestled deep in the heart of Lake Winnipeg, Hecla Island has long been known as a tranquil holiday destination for couples and families alike. Peppered with nostalgia in the form of historic villages and almost untouched scenic trails, it’s not hard to while away entire days on Hecla Island.

However, if you really want to make the most of your holiday, you can’t head home without taking a day trip to one of Hecla Island’s neighbouring sightseeing spots.

1. Gimli

Gimli is a must see location for all the history fanatics out there. Boasting the second largest Icelandic population outside of Iceland, this lakeside village is still littered with traces of its Nordic heritage. Although there are plenty of sights to see all year round, the community really comes to life every August when it hosts the Icelandic Festival, a tradition in Gimli since 1932. This family orientated affair includes entertainment, food and a large helping of Viking culture.

2. Cement Cemetery

Another fascinating historical sight only hours away from Hecla Island is the Cement Cemetery. While not quite as mysterious as Stonehenge, no one seems entirely certain who constructed this cluster of cement spires. Rumour has it that they were placed in the by a company testing concrete. Locals, however, prefer to speculate that aliens may have placed the towering structures. Whatever their origin, the Cement Cemetery is worth a visit for both its puzzling past and its glorious scenery.

3. Little Limestone Lake

If you’re prepared to travel a little further afield, why not check out the world’s largest marl lake?  Due to calcium carbonate deposits in the water, the lake turns a stunning turquoise colour when temperatures are high. However, when the weather drops, these deposits dissolve, returning the water to perfect clear blue.


“Not only is the lake beautiful, but the area also boasts a huge variety of wildlife, including bears, moose and even lynx.” — Lori Janeson


Although the lake lacks a boat ramp, locals and tourists alike also enjoy kayaking and canoeing on the crystalline water.

4. Grassy Narrows Marsh

If you’d like to stay close to your accommodation but want to stretch your legs a little, pack your sunscreen and head out to Grassy Narrows Marsh. The marsh is sandwiched between Hecla Island and the mainland, and is a hub for wildlife, including nesting Canadian geese. Guides recommend visiting the marsh at dusk, as animals are most active then. If you’re a birdwatching enthusiastic, you’ll be pleased to know the marsh has a number of blinds. However, if you’d prefer to completely escape into nature, the marsh also includes tonnes of trails, from short walks to a huge 35km hike through the most untouched sections of Hecla Island.

Whether you chose to spend your holiday hiking, visiting historic landmarks or simply relaxing in your accommodation, the rich history and vibrant backdrops of Hecla Island will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.



Lori Janeson and her husband David are the owners of the Gull Harbour Marina on Hecla Island

3 Activities for Nature Lovers at Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park

By Lori Janeson

Located between the east and west shores of Lake Winnipeg, Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park has an almost overwhelming amount of activities to offer visitors, from bike rides to visits to historic townships.

For nature lovers, getaways are all about escaping the daily grind and enjoying everything nature has to offer. Boasting miles of almost untouched wilderness, this hidden gem is a place where you can do just that.

That’s why we’ve put together a list of three unmissable locations for nature lovers to check out at Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park.

1. Grassy Narrows Marsh

Located between Hecla Island and the mainland, the Grassy Narrows Marsh is a fiercely protected habitat for local wildlife, including nesting Canadian geese and other waterfowl.



“The marsh offers visitors a chance to observe the thriving wildlife unobtrusively, with blinds provided for birdwatching and a large network of trails to take you off the beaten track and let you experience nature at its purest.” — Lori Janeson


Hardy hikers can’t miss the approximately 16 km Black Wolf Trail, which guides walkers deep into the heart of the island, where they can expect to get a glimpse of wolves, deer, foxes and beavers, along with countless birds. It’s also a great work-out!

2. Wildlife Viewing Tower Trail

Nature enthusiasts who don’t fancy a strenuous hike can enjoy a tranquil and picturesque 30 minutes stroll along the edge of the Grassy Narrows Marsh to the Wildlife Viewing Tower at the southern end of Hecla Island. The viewing tower is the perfect spot to catch a glimpse of Hecla Island’s elusive moose population. For the greatest chance to see the wildlife in action, time your visit for dawn or dusk and don’t forget to bring a jacket and your camera!

3. Sunset Beach

Is it really a holiday if you don’t spend some time soaking up the sun? When you’ve had your fill of bird-watching and hiking, why not head to Sunset Beach to relax and wind down? The chances are good to watch a flock of ravens learning to fly, a few dozen pelicans out for lunch or to see sailboats gliding along the lake.  As the name suggests, visit the beach in the early evening to be treated to a truly spectacular sunset. While families will love the exciting trek along the limestone shores, sunset beach is a must-see for couples. For an unforgettable evening, pack a picnic and a blanket and watch the sun go down against this stunning, untouched backdrop.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of city life. Next time you need to escape and embrace the simpler things, make the trip to Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park and enjoy reconnecting with nature while you recharge your batteries.



Lori Janeson and her husband David are the owners of the Gull Harbour Marina on Hecla Island

Hecla Island: 3 Reasons It’s the Perfect Vacation for the Whole Family

By Lori Janeson

If you’re a parent, you know that taking a family vacation can be a precious time of bonding and making the memories of a lifetime. You also know that keeping children interested and engaged can be a challenge.

If you’re looking for a destination that hits all the right spots both for yourself and the children, you can’t do better than Hecla Island and the Interlake region. The children will be so busy they won’t have time to say “I’m bored.”

A Vacation at Hecla is Affordable

If you’re on a budget, and most families are, money matters. A vacation to Hecla Island and the Lake Winnipeg region is an affordable destination that packs a whole lot of attractions and activities that rival more expensive locations. Enjoy a variety of free and budget-friendly activities from walking the beaches to visiting historical sites without worrying about spending too much.

So Many Beaches, Too Little Time

It might seem like there’s not enough time to get everything in, but choosing one or two beaches to visit gives you much-needed relaxation time and children the fun they look for.


“Sunset Beach and Gull Harbour give families ample opportunities to swim after a day of hiking, kayaking, fishing or biking.” — Lori Janeson


Swimming is best left for late summer vacations, but even when the water’s cold, the beautiful surroundings provide plenty of fun.

Patricia Beach Provincial Park is another great family beach with picnic areas, scenic walks and swimming. Shifting sand dunes, deciduous forest and a marsh/lagoon area gives children a lot to explore.

Nature Galore!

There’s nothing like hiking one of the region’s enchanting parks or trails to tire the children out. Seriously though, getting back to nature after living, working and going to school in the city is vital for the well-being of the entire family. The Interlake region is full of parks, wilderness areas hiking trails and historical sites ideal for recharging the spirit.

Hecla Island is part of the Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park. Enjoy self-guided tours of Hecla Village, the restored early-20th century Icelandic fishing village, visit Grassy Narrows Marsh to see wildlife, maybe even a moose and experience the Lighthouse Trail near Gull Harbour.

A visit to FortWhyte Alive provides a unique and compelling connection to nature and sustainable living. The 640-acre protected green space is a haven to wildlife and is particularly dramatic in September because of fall bird migration.

What began as a war of the railroads in the 1880s is now a wildlife and environmental education area. Open year-round, FortWhyte Alive has more than seven kilometres of hiking trails where people can hike or snowshoe through breathtaking forests and meadows.

One of FortWhyte’s unique attractions is a 70-acre bison prairie where bison roam free. Bison viewing safaris are available throughout the summer months. Other family activities include nature walks, wildlife viewing, a family treehouse, canoeing and year-round fishing.

FortWhyte also has Manitoba’s largest indoor aquarium, a gift shop, museum and plenty of environmental and historical exhibits.

A family vacation to Hecla Island and the Interlake region is sure to provide more than just a getaway but also builds those precious memories you and your family will always remember.


Lori Janeson and her husband David are the owners of the Gull Harbour Marina on Hecla Island