Hugging the shimmering freshwater sea of Great Slave Lake, Hay River is the crossroads of the Northwest Territories – a fishing, tourism and transportation mecca surrounded by wilderness but an easy day's drive (or quick flight) from the big cities of Western Canada. This bustling town, population 3,600, has lots to boast about.
Enjoy the best fishing in Canada: Great Slave, North America's deepest lake, is swarming with monster Lake Trout, feisty Pike and succulent Whitefish, just waiting for you to wet your line. Several premier fishing lodges are found nearby, and local fishing guides can take you on half-day or day-long outings on the lake or to the nearby headwaters of the Mackenzie River.
As befits a lakefront community, Hay River enjoys the best beach in the North – miles of dunes stretching out along Great Slave, ideal for camping and strolling. Other hiking options abound in the area, including treks through nearby Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, with stellar views of two waterfalls and the Hay River Canyon.
This is the hub of First Nations culture. Tours are available of the Dene Cultural Institute, on the nearby K'atl'odeeche Reserve, and a beautiful array of Aboriginal arts and crafts are for sale in local shops.
The nearby river – the namesake of the town – is a leading attraction, with its deep canyons, stunning waterfalls and top-notch fishing. You can rent a canoe and paddle down from Paradise Gardens – or, for a speedier adventure, take a jetboat tour upriver to stunning Louise Falls.
What else will you find here? The best golf course in the North, with lush rolling greens bathed by the midnight sun. The headquarters of Buffalo Airways, the star of the popular TV reality-show Ice Pilots NWT, which flies a fleet of classic aircraft beloved by aviation aficionados. And of course, amazing wilderness and comfortable campgrounds. And Hay River is just hours from Wood Buffalo National Park, the biggest in Canada.