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Radisson Hecla Oasis Resort, Manitoba

Radisson Hecla Oasis Resort and grounds © Craig Fast

Thoughtfully placed at the tip of Hecla Island, Radisson Hecla Oasis Resort works in harmony with its rather remarkable surroundings to lull even its most workaholic guests into some tranquil time out.

Hecla, along with nearby Gimli, was settled by Icelandic migrants in the 19th century. The island’s Icelandic influence is still seen in place names, family names, flying flags and some locals continue to speak the Icelandic language. This local Icelandic flavour runs through Hecla Oasis Resort’s architecture, food and spa.

Radisson Hecla Island Resort lobby © Craig FastBuilt with its natural setting in mind, Hecla Oasis Resort combines contemporary design with traditional visuals. Wood carvings depicting Icelandic lore stand proud at the main entrance and water flows through the centre of the hotel, tinkling its way from lobby to restaurant. Wooden shingles line the roof whilst large glass windows draw your eye to vistas of the landscaped grounds and Lake Winnipeg.

Activities
Aside from golf (the hotel’s on-site course is one of Manitoba’s best) Hecla Island is popular for its wildlife and bird-watching opportunities. Doctor Heather Hinam is Hecla Oasis Resort’s resident naturalist. She is very knowledgeable about the island; she has been visiting Hecla since she was two years old and now lives nearby. Heather is a trained ornithologist and full of quirky stories about close encounters with moose, bears and falling squirrels. She is available for group hikes, eco tours of Hecla Island, art lessons, nature walks, geocaching and bird watching. Contact Heather to arrange a customised experience, or just to find out more about the island’s history and wildlife.

We joined Heather for an Evening Expedition, a walk along the West Quarry Trail. We watched the sun set to a raucous chorus of frog calls and birdsong, all expertly identified by Heather.

The hotel has bikes for hire – Hecla Island has over 75 km of biking and hiking trails – and a number of walks lead straight out of the hotel grounds. The white-sand beach in front of the hotel is perfect for swimming and pebble skipping, but bear in mind that the lake is under one metre of ice in winter. Seasonal recreational equipment is available for hire.

Among the hotel’s main draws is the array of pools on site. The family pool has fountains, a whirlpool and Manitoba’s largest indoor water slide. Adults can relax in a separate room with hydrotherapy and mineral pools (see Spa, below).

Radisson Hecla Island Resort standard room © Craig FastRooms
Rooms are Nordic inspired, which translates into sleek lines, frosted glass-enclosed bathrooms and elegant simplicity rather than IKEA. The 90 rooms include standard (king bed), superior (two queen beds) and suite (king bed, double futon in living area, extra storage and evening turn-down service). There are also 14 dedicated pet-friendly rooms (superior and suite) with pet treats, stainless steel treat bowl, disposable clean-up bags, pet registration card and plush pet beds provided.

All rooms come with the usual amenities plus high speed internet access (wifi is available in shared areas), 32” flat screen TV (or two), microwave and a knee-deep bathtub that begs you to indulge.

Spa
The Hecla Oasis Mineral Spa was closed when I visited (mid week, off peak) but I was given a brief tour. It boasts 10 pamp-tastic therapy rooms, including two couple rooms with hot tubs. Manicures, pedicures, massages, facials, body wraps and polishes, cellulite eliminators, anti-agers, slimmers, jet lag recovery and de-stressors make use of fruits, herbs and flowery essences to cosset and relax.

Water is under the spotlight at Hecla Oasis Resort and this is most evident in the therapy pools – one of the hotel’s top selling points. The 560 sq m pool building apparently takes inspiration from Iceland, but unfortunately looks a little like your local municipal swimming pool. Whatever, the pools soothe and relax as intended. The idea is to alternate turns in the aroma-infused steam room, kinetic energy pool, hydrotherapy pool and mineral pool with brave stints in the Nordic plunge. The waters contain magnesium, calcium, potassium, bromides and sodium, all of which help to alleviate skin diseases such as psoriasis and eczema, relieve arthritis and muscle tension, improve physical and aerobic condition and increase overall well being. The experience is certainly relaxing, and fun. The largest pool winds outside and part of the floor is covered in smooth gravel that gives a mean foot massage as you bob around absorbing the minerals.

L'Enoteca restaurant wine cellar © Craig FastFood and drink
Hecla Oasis Resort has two on-site restaurants: L’Enoteca is fine dining; Rok Restaurant and Lounge is a casual family restaurant. L’Enoteca has a beautiful arrangement, the central feature being a stunning circular wine cellar. A local artist provided the wood and glass sculptures. Rok is surprisingly affordable considering the near monopoly the hotel has locally. (There is a restaurant and bar at the Lighthouse Inn, Gull Harbour.) Rok serves traditional prairie dishes such as perogies, bison burgers and pickerel – a fishy Lake Winnipeg speciality – inside or on the patio for C$6 to $20. Room service is also available, and every room has a microwave. The quality of the food was much higher than I expected for the price; I wish I was able to sample L’Enoteca but it opens only on weekends.

The bar serves locally inspired cocktails, Manitoban, Canadian and imported beers and a full range of wines and spirits.

Facilities
The Radisson Hecla Oasis Resort specialises in conventions, events and team-building excursions. Eight conference and meeting rooms with wifi, linens and audiovisual equipment cater for groups of five to 300. Specialist Hecla Oasis Adventures including geocaching, obstacle courses, yoga and campfires, provide fun opportunities for colleagues to learn to work together. Conference and executive packages are available.

The fitness centre and 24 hour business centre are available for use by all guests.

Do I recommend Hecla Oasis Resort?
Absolutely. Although some staff members lacked professional polish, this was more than compensated for by their Manitoban friendliness. Check when the spa and fine dining restaurant will be open as they were closed when I visited and usually only open on weekends; make advance reservations to avoid disappointment. Whilst some parts of the hotel looked like short cuts were taken with the décor, where it mattered the most (rooms, spa, grounds, food and events facilities) the experience delivered everything that was promised.

The hotel’s location and the presence of an on-site naturalist raise the Hecla Oasis Resort a cut above the rest, giving weight and character to what could have been an average 4-star hotel.

We stayed at Radisson Hecla Oasis Resort courtesy of Travel Manitoba. Visit their website for other things to do in Manitoba. Also, visit the Radisson Hecla Oasis Resort website for reservations, special offers and great value packages.

See related features and images
Photostory: A Hecla Island holiday
Feature: A brief introduction to Hecla Island, Manitoba
Images: Manitoba’s quirky roadside statues

 


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Overland Traveller copyright © Emma Field 2010