Welcome to the hub of the Northwest Territories – the transport centre, fishing port and playground of the South Slave region. Really, you could relax on the shores of Great Slave for weeks, but if time is tight, here’s a two-day plan for having a heckuva visit in Hay River.
First, drop by the Visitor Centre at the entrance to town. Friendly staff will load you up with maps, brochures, helpful advice and strong coffee.
Then wrap your head around the history and culture of Hay River by visiting the Hay River Heritage Centre on Vale Island and the Dene Cultural Institute (above) in the nearby K'atl'odeeche First Nation.
Next, join a fishing charter. Experienced guides will take you angling for walleye, pike, inconnu, lake trout and more on legendary Great Slave Lake.
Hooked on fish? For lunch, head to the Fisherman’s Wharf on Vale Island, where you’ll find the catch of the day and other locally harvested foods, plus Northern gifts and crafts.
Fore! Make your way to the grassy, aspen-shrouded Hay River Golf Club, considered the top course in the territory, for nine holes of the northernmost golf you may ever play.
Of, if you’d rather swing a paddle, rent a canoe for a relaxing float down the Hay River, 10 kilometres from the golf course to the Hay River beach.
Finally, spend the evening beachside, at the Hay River Territorial Park campground, kicking back on the sand beneath the midnight sun as the Great Slave waves roll in.
After breakfast in town, pack a picnic lunch and point your vehicle south.
Along the way, check out attractions along the river, such as Paradise Gardens, 24 kilometres south of town. Here you’ll find the Northwest Territories’ leading agricultural area, with pick-your-own berries and other goodies ripening in late summer.
Drop into the small hamlet of Enterprise, the crossroads of the North, where craftshops feature fine Dene artwork (above).
Pitch your tent at the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park campground, then prepare for an afternoon of fun.
You can also do some hiking or biking. The eight-kilometre Twin Falls Gorge Trail follows a canyon rim through lush boreal woodlands, offering dramatic vistas and informative signage. You can traverse it yourself, or sign up for an interpretive walk with a local Dene storyteller and tour guide.
Finally, settle in around a campfire. If you stay up late, be sure to scan the sky. It starts to get dark again and that means one thing: the Aurora Borealis may be dancing overhead.