The town of Gimli was founded by Icelandic settlers who arrived on the wilderness West shore of Lake Winnipeg in 1875, claiming land given to them by the Canadian government. The name Gimli means 'Paradise' or 'Place of Peace.' From the beginning, the Icelandic settlers recognized that they needed a safe harbour for their fishing boats and the freighters that carried goods and passengers up and down the lake.
In 1900, with the assistance of the federal government, Icelandic contractor J.J. Vopni, built the first permanent pier at a cost of $9,000. In the decades that followed, the Gimli Harbour became a destination and a safe haven for commercial vessels and pleasure craft, and an important processing centre for the fishers who work on the lake. The harbour has been improved and enlarged many times since then.
With the construction of airports and a reliable road system, the colourful freighting industry declined, but the Gimli Harbour remains an important home base for commercial fishers who mostly now travel to their nets in open yawls. In addition, the harbour has become a popular summer home for pleasure boaters. The lake offers excellent sailing conditions and the Gimli Yacht Club has hosted many national and international sailing races, including the 1967 and 1999 Pan Am Games, and the 2017 Canada Summer Games. Community events such as the Canada Day fireworks, and festivals such as the Icelandic Festival and Gimli Ice Festival, take place in and around the harbour.
Off the water, the Main Pier has become a popular tourist attraction for the thousands of visitors who are drawn to Gimli and the beauty of the lake, with its expansive vistas and recreational fishing opportunities.