Do you ever long for more than just a change of scenery? Away from a busy city or perhaps even off the grid entirely? Oh, how you long to venture into a natural haven, where there are trees instead of buildings, natural wildlife to befriend, and a perfect view of the stars sparkling brightly in a blank black sky.
At the same time, you don’t want to be completely cut off from civilization. A few friendly faces would be really nice, especially when it is better to share a meal or two with someone.
There is a place out there just waiting to be explored. With luck and a friendly recommendation, you find the small town of Sundre.
Nestled in central Alberta, Canada that is just an hour and a half drive out of Calgary. This small town provides the quiet adventure that we all need sometimes. From camping to canoeing, Sundre is a place where country comfort and modern conveniences merge without taking anything away from the simple joys in life. Nature is the name of the game here.
So let’s immerse ourselves into it.
Your first question is probably “What is there to do?” Here’s a good start.
What’s Going Down?
Sundre & District Museum
For an interactive historical experience, this is the place to go. When you go inside you are greeted with various antique furniture, clothes, and tools that were once used in past events that have changed the world as we know it.
If you love science fiction or time travel, be sure to explore “The Village.” Each little house shows you how we as a species once lived.
If that doesn’t pique your interest, take the wildlife exhibit tour.
You are sure to get inspiration from the tour guide who talks about a local hunter who went all over the world in his golden years to collect the animals that you see in there. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of hunting but when you hear his story you can’t help but find it rather remarkable.
So much can be learned here and it doesn’t feel like a forced chore that your school would put on.
Bergen Rocks International Sculpture Park
Are you an artist in any way, shape, or form? Then you have got to see this place. Sculptors from all over the world bring their work to this small outdoor gallery. You will see works from Paul Higgins (Ireland), Peerapong Duogkaew (Thailand), and many more.
Art is something personal, each piece means different things to different people. Some find them strange and confusing while others find them wonderous and beautiful.
But we can all agree that each work of art brings out an emotion in all of us. What does Korea’s Min Kyoung Uk’s “Connection” marble sculpture do for you?
Sundre is a community-spirited town. Everyone knows everyone and it is important for them to open their hearts out to each other. They hope to create awareness with different charities and local parties.
Events such as their Pro-Rodeo and Bluegrass Festival are meant to show what the spirit of Sundre is all about.
Which are smiling faces, a love of nature, and easy-going good times. So, if you are in the area during these times, check them out.
It’s always good to get involved with the local festivities. Especially when food trucks and beer gardens are present.
Wild Horses of Alberta Society
“All good things are wild and free.” That is a true statement, especially when it comes to the wildlife that’s been around for over 100 years. These folks have so many amazing stories about these horses that it puts any book or movie to shame. Not only do they provide sanctuary for the wild horses but they also provide veterinary services, education on the equine, and adoptions for horses in need.
To know that there are good people out there, looking out for our precious wild ones is something we all need to learn about. Just go there and see these beautiful horses. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
The Sundre Arts Centre
Do you like live theater and music? Why not pick a night to go witness some stellar shows? One of Alberta’s most successful community theater groups called, “Peak Theater Players” or “BS Productions Peak Theater” have been known to put on some good shows at this center.
The Sundre High School has recently put on the production of, “The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood” here. It’s guaranteed to give you some much-needed giggles as it is always a mood booster to have a laugh and see the teenagers have fun. When you are looking for something more intimate or romantic, you can listen to some live music that is meant to stir the soul. Every now and then, the center has a musical series that is just waiting to be listened to.
There are so many wonderful trails in this area that it would take days if not weeks to explore. However, if you really want to take on both an entertaining and educational twist on this, I recommend going on the “Mahikan Trails Medicine Walk.”
You will learn so much about what plants to use and avoid that it might come in handy someday. If you are a true-blue outdoors person in this great country of ours, living off the grid might be a lot easier to do after this informative hike.
But if you choose to pick a random trail, be sure to have comfortable shoes, water, and a sense of adventure.
Rafting, Kayaking, and Canoeing
Oh my! If you are a person who can’t get enough of the water, then why not get out on that river and give it a ride? If you have your own gear, go for it but if not there is a great place to go to that can help you out. They are called the “Mukwah Rafting Tours.”
White-water rafting, kayaking, or whatever your pleasure, you are sure to enjoy what this tour company has to offer which is an adventure that will live on in your memories. Prices range from $79.00-$169.00 CAD depending on what kind of rafting adventure you want which can last from half a day to two days.
So, you have done all of this but now you’re starving. Not to worry, there are some wonderful eateries, cafes, and pubs that will quench your thirst and sate your hunger.
Let’s Go Eat In
Boondox Family Restaurant
You’ve got to ask yourself, where is the best place to go that has a clean modern feel but still whimsical enough to put a candy machine next to a bucking horse statuette? Why it’s the Boondox Family Restaurant of course!
An atmosphere that is both homey and exotic (check out those wooden wall carvings). The people are sweet as pie and happy to see you like you are an old friend coming for a visit.
As for the food, my recommendation is to get their mushroom goat cheese toast. Think poached eggs, sauteed mushrooms, on crispy toast just slathered with hollandaise sauce served with a roasted tomato and hashbrowns.
It’s like a creamy warm hug for the taste buds that can’t be found in any old place.
Backwoods Bakery and Café
The coolest little café that you could ever spend a morning in. The most intricate mural of the local wildlife is painted on the wall next to some homemade goodies for sale that are made right in town.
Throw in some antiques (ie. A piano) for a little added interest and you got yourself one sweet spot. Speaking of which, you will want to get one of their cinnamon buns to go with your hot morning bevvie.
Warm cinnamon with a soft caramel drizzle all made fresh is just the way you want to start out the day. That and a necklace made from sea glass.
A friendly bunch of people greet you with a smile and make you feel right at home. Original T’s is a place where you can come after a long day of hiking, sit on the patio, relax, and have a cold drink.
The atmosphere is a natural setting with its wooden accents, plants on the deck, comfy seating, and clay pottery. Just the perfect place to be when you are a nature buff. If you happen to feel peckish, just know that they have some wonderful burgers here that can’t be beaten.
As I am a fan of the beyond meat burgers, that is my recommendation.
Kokum’s Cree-ations Ltd
Fast food has never been so good! With this native cuisine, you will be going back for seconds. There is a storefront but during the summer months, it is a food truck in the shape of a teepee. Sometimes the day just calls for some good old-fashioned take-out.
Kokum is just what you need. Ooey, gooey, and unique, it is a sure promise that there isn’t food like this anywhere else. It is run by a warm-hearted woman who knows what she is doing in the kitchen.
There are many options but for a real treat, go for the Indian Taco. This bannock, chili, mixed with tomato, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream mix should have an award for most deliciousness. Hurry and go get some of that food before they run out!
Piros Family Restaurant
For a little Italian and some major Greek delicacies, Piros is the place to go. After a day of nature trekking, a pizza might be just what you need or a nice dish of baked lasagna.
This down-to-earth restaurant with a calming atmosphere has plenty of seating available or you can get some take-out. It’s a good way to get all your classic Canadian favorites and bring them to your hotel suite.
Feel free to get your fill of melted cheese, delicious carbs, and tangy sauce. This place will not disappoint.
Wow! After all that good food and eventful tales to tell, it’s time to go somewhere, sleep it off, and go back for more. So now, where are some good places in Sundre to sleep?
Check me Inn
Schott’s Lake Conference and Resort
Considered one of their best places to stay, Schott’s Lake is a secluded little place ready for adventurers of all kinds. As Sundre is the camping capital of Alberta, it is only natural to mention this lovely area.
If you are a camper, it is a campground, if you are a hotel person, it is a motel, and for something extra special, they have cabins to enjoy as well.
Their on-site restaurant “The Kitchen” is just a few steps away for those who want a bite. Here you have every convenience that you would need.
Sun Plaza Motel
The perfect place for budget-friendly travelers at only $64 CAD a night. Known for its clean rooms and convenient location, the Sun Plaza makes staying in Sundre easy. However, it is known to be noisy but the pros outweigh that one con.
Everything is within walking distance from stores to restaurants and even nature trails. If you need anything, the approachable staff there are more than willing to give you directions.
So, when you need a warm bed at night and indoor plumbing after a full day out and about, this is the place for you.
The Mountain View Inn and Suites
and the Chinook Country Inn are other inns you can check as well.
Hidden Gem RV Park
For all those traveling in a trailer, the name of it says it all. You will have everything you need for your stay whether it is an indoor bathroom, electricity, all the way to a washer and dryer to clean your clothes.
The best part is that it is very close to town which is only a three-minute drive away or if you want to take your time, a nine-minute bike ride or a thirty-minute hike.
However, it is still a distance enough to catch a gander at the local wildlife surrounding the area. Who knows? You might make the acquaintance of a deer or two.
Described as a boutique bed-and-breakfast, this is a stay meant for those who want a warm bed at night, a pool to take a dip in, and a fresh, hot breakfast just waiting to be eaten. It doesn’t matter if you are a family of ten or a single person on business, this is the place to rest your weary head and get pampered the way you deserve.
The price to stay is $130 CAD a night but this includes all of the amenities and a meal. It’s a bargain.
Get your Shop on
Mystic Mountain Rock Shop
Something special for those of you who have a magical view on life. This small shop has all of your crystal and tarot card needs right inside. Have a chat with the owner whose name is Cathy.
She is very knowledgeable and can point you in the direction of finding the crystal to help you remember what a terrific vacation you had.
Part flower shop, part apothecary, all rainbows. When you need that special iced tea, some sweet-smelling bath salts, or some flowers for the one you love, this store is worth visiting.
It is clean but colorful, modern but natural, and the owner is eager to help you out. The perfect throw pillow might be in there so be sure to stop in.
An offbeat stop calls for this shop. The friendly owner gives you a learning experience when it comes to gin. He will explain how he makes it, where he gets his ingredients, and why he does what he does.
A small fascinating tour comes with samples too. How can you say no? So leave the kids at the hotel and step in for a “spill.”
My Sister’s Closet
Need new clothes? Or do you just want to wash the ones that you brought? This is the place to come. Sometimes we all have mishaps where we fall in the mud, get caught in the rain, or just want to find something new to wear.
My Sister’s Closet has got your back there. Drop in and say, “hi” because they are really nice and know what fashion is all about.
Elk & Owl Craft Coffee and Accessories
When caffeine is the only thing on your mind, it’s only natural that you would gravitate towards this little store. Best roasted grade coffee you can get or if you are a tea drinker, you can get Sarjesa Tea that comes straight from Calgary, Alberta.
The best part is you get a free biscotti to go with it. *Sips.* Ah! All is well with the world again.
We all need a vacation in the countryside every once in a while. If only to get some much-needed peace and quiet. It also helps to unplug to take a break away from social media and all the stress that comes with it. Even just a weekend away can do wonders for your mental health.
By slowing down, being one with nature, and breathing in some fresh air, whatever problems you have been facing in your life suddenly seem not as important or complicated as you had initially thought.
So when you want to just get away for a weekend camping expedition, go to Sundre, Alberta. Grab a bottle of wine or a cup of coffee and sit outside to enjoy the great outdoors.
Pictures: Town of Sundre
Words: Erika Ravnsborg, freelance writer and blogger at This Magical World