Hay River sits on the South Shore of Great Slave Lake, just north of the NWT-Alberta border. Known as the “Hub of the North” (since 1945), it’s connected by highway to Grimshaw Alberta and the main centre for the shipment of goods further north in the NWT. Here’s what you need to know when visiting Hay River.
With a population of almost 4,000 people, Hay River is one of the larger towns in the Northwest Territories. There are a number of options for hotels and B&Bs in the community. There is also the excellent Hay River Territorial Park campground, with plug-ins for RVs, walking trails, hot showers and, best of all, access to the beach.
Speaking of the beach, whether you’re staying at the campground or using the public access just up the road from Hay River Territorial Park, you must go to the beach. The sheer vastness of Great Slave Lake will astound you. Wade into the clear water of the ninth biggest lake in the world and enjoy the powdery, sandy beach along the shore.
Hay River is a fishing town and you’ll find the freshest fish you’ve ever tasted – unless you’ve caught your own dinner. The specialty here is Whitefish, which has white flesh and a delicate, sweet flavor. Head to Fishermans’ Wharf (open on Saturdays in the summer) and grab a plate from the fish and chips stand there, or if you’re in the mood for a more formal sit-down dinner, go to the Keys Dining room at the Ptarmigan Inn. You won’t be disappointed in the elegant fare. In addition to the tastiest Whitefish around, Hay River’s other local specialty comes from the spice developed for The Back Eddy Restaurant. You’ll want to shake some Back Eddy’s seasoning onto your fish, meat, potatoes or anything that could benefit from a savoury blend of salt and spices. We recommend trying the Back Eddy’s Caesar.
Hay River boasts one of the finest golf courses North of 60. The Hay River Golf Club is a nine-hole grass course tucked into Boreal forest with lush fairways lined with bright silver birch trees. It’s the perfect place to soak up the midnight sun.
Hay River boasts easy access to the thunderous Alexandra Falls. This 32-metre waterfall (about 105 feet) is located within Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park, where hiking trails lead you between the scenic Alexandra and Louise Falls. The park offers excellent camping, and the Alexandra Falls Day-Use Area just off the highway is a stellar place to enjoy a picnic.
A visit to Hay River in winter is all about snow and ice fun and must-see Canadian winter activities. Visit in March when the sun stays out 5 and a half minutes longer every day that passes and put together a team for Polar Pond Hockey. The Hay River is frozen solid at this time of year, and thanks to some hard-working volunteers and a zamboni, a stretch of the river by Fishermans’ Wharf turns into ten or more outdoor hockey rinks. Enjoy some great food and live bands in addition to some very Canadian outdoor hockey.
If you visit in March during the annual K’amba Carnival at K’atl’odeeche First Nation, you’ll find hand games, handmade crafts, thrilling dogsled races and more. No matter what time of year you visit, there’s always fun to be had in Hay River.
All year, Hay River is a vibrant and active place. No matter when you visit, you’ll find memorable experiences and the spectacular beauty of the NWT at your fingers tips in the “Hub of the North”.
The Northwest Territories is made spectacular by the thriving cultures, deep histories, and rich traditions of the people who call it home. Don’t miss your opportunity to experience the authentic art and culture of the NWT on your visit through the North.
If you’re searching for more adventure, look no further than these 15 strange and dangerous places across the NWT. From exhilarating to inspiring, you’ll find a deep appreciation for the North.