In my humble opinion, Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park is one of the best places to visit in Manitoba. Located on Lake Winnipeg, the park is a beachy dream with sailing culture, lighthouses, marshlands, and epic spots to catch the sunset.
As a Manitoba local, I’ve visited Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park a couple of times now, and it’s a place I’ll keep returning to. Using my experience, I’ve put together this epic guide that will help you visit Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park the right way – from when to go to the best things to do and everything in between.
And don’t miss these awesome things to do in Gimli while you’re in the area. Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- How to Visit Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
- Things to Do in Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
- Where to Stay in Hecla Grindstone Provincial Park
- Tips for Visiting Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
- FAQs About Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
How to Visit Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
Reservations and Details About Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
📍 Address: Google Maps
🚗 Vehicle Permit: Annual $44.50, Casual $16.50 (valid for three consecutive days), Daily $9.50 (valid until midnight on the date of purchase). You can purchase your vehicle permit online at Manitoba Parks.
⛺ Camping: Pre-bookings for Manitoba campsites begin the first Monday in April, and then are divided into 5 separate booking days. Check the website for the precise day your preferred campsite becomes available for reservations. The campgrounds in Hecla are open for guests mid-May to mid-September.
How to Get to Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park is located in Manitoba’s Interlake region. It’s comprised of a series of islands on Lake Winnipeg, with most tourism drawn to Hecla Island.
To get to Hecla from Winnipeg, drive 169.5 km (102 miles) north along Manitoba Highway 8. If you’re visiting Winnipeg and don’t have a car, then I recommend using Discover Cars to find your perfect rental and reserve in advance. Check out my full list of Manitoba tips for more info on how to get around.
About Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park’s earliest inhabitants were the Anishinabe (Ojibwe) on Black Island. To this day, there are protected ceremonial sites to be seen, as well as other relics from this early settlement.
Later, the park was settled by Icelandic people and they named the island after the volcano Mount Hekla in Iceland. Much of Hecla Village retains this Icelandic Heritage, with original buildings still intact.
Things to Do in Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
Gull Harbour Lighthouse Trail
An easy out-and-back trail featuring two lighthouses
📍 Google Maps | Distance: 5 km out-and-back | Difficulty: Easy | Time: 1 hour
Starting at the Gull Harbour marina, this trail will take you through the woods and onto a peninsula. On the way, you’ll pass the Gull Harbour Beach, playground, and lagoon, before hitting the peninsula trail with Gull Harbour on one side and the Lake Winnipeg Narrows on the other. It continues this way until you reach the endpoint.
The piece-de-resistance of this trail are the two lighthouses that mark the endpoint. The original lighthouse was erected in the 1880s and is still there and standing, but a lighthouse was built in 1926 to take its place. You’ll also find interpretive signs that detail some of the history.
Grassy Narrows Marsh
A lush marshland with boardwalks and interpretive signs
The “narrows” refers to the channel between Hecla Island and the mainland, and this marsh is easily one of the best in Canada. In fact, Manitoba Conservation and Ducks Unlimited control this marsh and have set up a system of dykes to help achieve habitat conditions.
For visitors, there are a series of boardwalks at the marsh that you’ll have a blast wandering around.
👉 Note: When I visited the marsh in the summer of 2021, the boardwalks were 90% usable with only some sections falling into the water. However, when I visited again in September of 2022, much of the boardwalks were underwater due to flooding. Something to keep in mind if you visit during a high-precipitation year.
A restored traditional Icelandic village that’s the gateway to Hecla Island
If you’re looking to dive into Icelandic culture in all of its Manitoban glory, then look no further than Hecla Village. Here, you’ll be able to walk a 1km self-guided trail and learn all about the history of the Icelandic settlers in the area. Some of the buildings you’ll find here include a 1920s school, a church, a hall, a village store, a fish station, and even a home/museum.
To crank the experience up a notch, you can even take a guided walk courtesy of an interpreter. These walks happen a few times a week in the summer and are a great way to get a view into Hecla that you would have otherwise missed.
Gull Harbour Marina
The marina features a dock, a restaurant, boat rentals, and a small store
Gull Harbour Marina is where the action happens on Hecla Island. Here, you’ll find a boat docking station, recreational activities, a restaurant, a small store, and even gear rentals. I recommend visiting this area at least once on your trip to walk the dock and eat at the restaurant.
Black Wolf Trail
A moderately-challenging trail that’s awesome for wildlife viewing
📍 Google Maps | Distance: 29.5km out and back | Difficulty: Moderately Challenging | Time: 6 hours, 25 mins
If you’re looking for more of a hiking challenge while in Hecla / Grindstone, then don’t miss Black Wolf Trail. This trail starts from the Grassy Narrows Marsh and then heads through the marsh and to the shoreline.
This a great wildlife viewing opportunity and you’ll even find interpretive signs along the trail that detail the wolf pack that lives on the island. If you’re not up for such a long trek, then I’d recommend walking just to the shoreline and back for the best of the scenery.
A limestone quarry that’s awesome for photography or a picnic
Located near Hecla Village, East Quarry is a great stop when you’re either first entering or leaving the park. Though not a large area, the East Quarry is awesome for photography or for just sitting and having a picnic.
There are picnic tables and firepits if you plan on staying a while, or just hop up on a slab of rock and chill out for an hour.
West Quarry Trail
An easy trail that will take you through lush woods
📍 Google Maps | Distance: 3.5km | Difficulty: Easy | Time: 3 Hours
Great for wildlife viewing and calm time in the woods, the West Quarry trail begins from a trailhead along North Shore Road. If you want the shorter version of the trail then I definitely recommend this, however I biked right from Gull Harbour Campground for a bit of a longer excursion.
The trail is mostly flat with some interpretive signs along the way, and besides muddy spots is fairly easy to traverse. This is where you’ll find the “Wildlife Viewing Tower” and the abandoned west quarry site on the island. It should be noted though that both of these sites are in disrepair and aren’t recommended for use.
If you’re looking for pretty slabs of rock against the water, then you won’t find it on the West Quarry Trail (definitely head to East Quarry for that), but this is a great spot for experiencing nature.
Hecla Village Scenic Drive
A 7km drive that’ll give you awesome views of the island and lake
For awesome views of the island, check out the Hecla Village Scenic Drive. This 7-km drive starts just south of the village and heads along the shoreline. Here, you’ll get awesome views of Lake Winnipeg, Black Island, and the fishing boats dotting the lake.
Hecla Golf Course
And 18-hole golf course at Lakeview Hecla Resort
Looking to get into the golf groove on Hecla? Then you’re in luck! The site is home to a lovely 18-hole golf course.
Located right beside Lakeview Hecla Resort, this golf course is open to the public and is a very scenic place. While here, also check out the resort offerings – it includes a restaurant.
A west-facing dog-friendly beach
If you’re looking for a beach to bring Fido to on your trip, then check out Sunset Beach. This dog-friendly beach faces west and truly is a great place to watch the sunset. However, both times I visited I found it to be packed with dogs and humans.
If a chill sunset viewing experience is more your speed, then I’d find a beach further down the shoreline (that’s where I took the featured image of this post!)
Sunset Beach to North Point Trail
An easy hiking trail that leads you to a viewing tower
📍 Google Maps | Distance: 1.9km out-and-back | Difficulty: Easy/Moderate | Time: 30 mins
From Sunset Beach, I recommend continuing on to the Sunset Beach to North Point Trail. This a fairly easy and well-trafficked trail that has great vantage points to the water. The trail is very family-friendly, and there is an awesome lookout tower with a play structure at North Point that’s perfect for kids as well.
If hiking isn’t your jam then you can also drive to North Point. You’ll find washrooms and picnic areas here as well.
Bring a boat or rent one to truly adopt the Hecla lifestyle
Water sports are the name of the game in Hecla, and doing some boating is a great way to experience this. Either bring your own boat from elsewhere in Manitoba or go to the Gull Harbour Marina General Store for a rental.
Their rentals include kayaks and jetskis that you can rent by the hour or day.
Spend an afternoon recharging your batteries at this spa
Located in the Lakeview Hecla Resort, Salka Spa is a traditional Nordic Spa that’s perfect for an afternoon of rest and relaxation. The spa offers a Nordic Plunge, Hydro-Kinetic Pool, a Relaxation Pool, a sauna, and a hot tub.
They also have a menu of services to enjoy.
Winter or summer, get your rod ready for a round of fishing in Hecla
Fishing is a huge part of the culture on Hecla, and you’ll be able to take part in this activity whether it’s warm or cold. Head to the Gull Harbour Marina for information on fishing in the summer, and check out this angling guide.
If you feel like doing a round of ice fishing, then head to one of two public ice fishing shacks in the park maintained by Manitoba Parks. These are available at both Hecla Village and Gull Harbour.
Where to Stay in Hecla Grindstone Provincial Park
Gull Harbour Campground
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (204) 948-3333
Gull Harbour Campground is where I stayed on my most recent trip to Hecla, and I loved every minute of it. Though it’s definitely one of the more popular campgrounds I’ve been to in Manitoba and privacy from neighbors is almost non-existent, it’s the perfect vantage point for Hecla adventures.
The campground features modern bathrooms, fire pits, picnic tables, three levels of electricity service, a dump station, and a playground. The campground will be open for bookings from May 19, 2023 – September 17, 2023. You can make your booking reservation through Manitoba Parks.
Tips for Visiting Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
Visit in the Summer
Unless you’re a lover of all things winter activities, I do recommend visiting Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park in the summer.
From June through August in particular, all the amenities and campgrounds are open, and the island is bustling with activity. Check out my guide to the best time to visit Manitoba for more information.
Stock Up on Firewood at the Hecla Island General Store
If you plan on camping on Hecla Island, then I recommend stopping in at the General Store in Hecla Village. This is the best place to purchase firewood as the campgrounds don’t provide it. Just make sure you check the opening hours so you’re not stuck without wood.
The first time I visited Hecla Island was on a day trip, and I drove from spot to spot. But the second time I visited Hecla I stayed a few nights on a camping trip, and I would have missed a lot if my friend didn’t lend me her bicycle.
Hecla Island is big enough that you won’t be able to bike absolutely everywhere, but it’ll be a game changer in getting around the campgrounds or to the trailheads. If you don’t have a bicycle to bring, then you can rent one at the Gull Harbour Marina.
Pack For the Beach
Hecla Island is an excellent beachy getaway and you’re going to want to pack accordingly. I recommend using my Manitoba packing list for a guide, but then also don’t forget to bring a bathing suit, quick-drying towel, sun hat, sunscreen, a coverup, and flippers.
Make Pit Stops On the Way
One of the best things about road-tripping to Hecla is all the pit stops you can make on the way. In particular, I recommend checking out Gimli and Winnipeg beach before you get to the park.
Bring the Family
Hecla is perfect for a family vacation. There are kid-friendly trails, a play area, beaches, and lighthouses to explore. Plus, Hecla Village often has children’s programming such as crafts and events.
FAQs About Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park
Does Hecla have a beach?
Hecla Island has a few great beaches including Gull Harbour Beach and Sunset Beach.
Can you swim in Hecla?
There are designated swimming areas at Hecla, including at Gull Harbour Beach.
What is there to do in Gull Harbour?
In Gull Harbour, Manitoba you can rent a boat, visit the beach, go swimming, start a hike, visit the habadashery, or visit the Gull Harbour Marina & Lighthouse Inn.
That’s it for my guide to Hecla / Grindstone Provincial Park! For more great information on Manitoba parks, check out my guide to Nopiming Provincial Park.
Have fun at Hecla!