My first impression of Sundre, Alberta was: Wow! It’s so pretty here. A lush valley carved by the Red Deer River snakes its way through town, and with the backdrop of the Rockies, it’s oh-so picturesque and perfect for camping. My second impression was: Where is everyone? We visited on a summer weekend and there was loads of availability at Sundre hotels and campgrounds.
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Additionally, this unassuming town has so many outdoor activities, it’s a cinch to have an action packed, affordable family holiday here. Here’s a look at the town’s best hotels, campgrounds and restaurants.
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We all know how busy it gets in Banff, but Sundre is an ideal spot for camping without the crowds. Sundre’s hidden secret is that there’s 2,000 campsites located within 10 km of town!
If you’ve got an RV, consider pulling into Tall Timber RV Park. They have 60 overnight sites with water, power, a fire pit and a picnic table.
They also sport over 300 permanent sites should you want to lock down your summer. Best is their massive indoor pool and hot tub. The pool isn’t Olympic length, but it’s way bigger than most hotel pools and I’m guessing that hot tub fits 20-25 happy campers.
Tall Timber also offers coin laundry, 24-hour washrooms with complimentary hot water showers and a playground. A community center is available to rent and you can entertain the troops at the ball diamond or horseshoe pit on sunny days. You’d regret not bringing your bathing suit, though….
Another camping option lies outside of town at Sunset Guiding (where we went for our lovely trail ride).
Perched on the Panther River, options include trailer and tent sites, cabins that sleep anywhere from two to six, or a completely kitted out mobile home. All include a hot breakfast.
Flush toilets, hot water showers, BBQs and a general store stocked with sundries only elevate your camping experience. Don’t feel like cooking? The on-site cafe serves up three squares a day.
When you’re not riding or eating, you can sweat it out in the wood burning sauna or hang in the tipi.
Secret #2 about camping in the Sundre area is that Sunset can accommodate dry camping. Say you didn’t make a rezo and there’s no camping to be found in the area, this is a fantastic last resort option.
They can get up to 15 trailers in their pasture and you can use all the amenities. Some do rent out the pasture for group camping, so best to call if you need a spot in a hurry.
Mukwah Rafting Tours also sports a campground at their basecamp with five rustic cabins. There’s no power, nor running water, but you’ll have a mattress and a roof over your head. Crazily, they still have availably on summer weekends. BYOB – bedding!
Despite all the camping options in Sundre, I opted to stay in one of Sundre’s best hotels. (Call me a wimp, but I was worried about rain. And being with a teen without wifi.) We bed down at Mountain View Inn and Suites, which was ideal.
They had me at freshly baked cookies at reception, but I was also jazzed by the mini-fridge and microwave in each room. Being from a small town, I’m somewhat leery of small town hotels.
You know, will they be up to city standards? I didn’t need to be. Mountain View Inn is as good as a lot of fancy city hotels I’ve stayed at. For real.
A wide bank of windows looked out onto copses of spruce trees – delivering the same views of nature as the nearby campground. Not that I care too much about design, but our room was tastefully decorated.
This Sundre hotel was uber clean, had lovely rustic touches and was legit affordable. A hot breakfast buffet, indoor pool and hot tub was the icing on the cake.
Where to eat in Sundre
You now know where to stay. But where to fuel up? A choice spot for breakfast and lunch is Kodiak BBQ and Deli, where you can nab a fab breakfast sandwich and coffee for only $6. I went upscale with French toast, fruit, bacon and eggs (only $9).
Kodiak is a real deal, western cafe where bacon is cut direct from the slab and a wall of 70’s album covers reassures you your patronage isn’t wasted on flashy decor. Nope, their focus is on honest-to-goodness comfort food such as classic Alberta beef roasted in house, natch.
Tip: Bring a cooler to stock up on BBQ beef, glazed ham, frozen soups, cabbage rolls or periogies. Sadly, they’re closed on Sunday.
Even if you’re not a foodie, you’ll want to hit up the Bergen Farmers Market, less than a 10-minute drive from town. Open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., on summer Saturdays, wee ones can run around the playground located beside the market.
My favourite finds at the market were: bee pollen, mead (!), homemade pies, pickley things, quail eggs, gooey cinnamon buns, homemade breads and a local coffee roaster.
You can snack there, but I recommend packing up your provisions for a picnic at nearby Davidson Park, which you’ll spot en route.
For lunch, we hit the Sundre Golf Club, where chips, salsa and guacamole run only $5. I was particularly pleased to find several small plate options (half a quesadilla, a small pasta, etc.). Then I spied 6 oz wine for the bargain price $6.50. Giddy up!
I exercised restraint, however, and didn’t imbibe. Instead, I wolfed down shrimp tacos and the house-made burger Eve couldn’t finish. (OK, so maybe not so much restraint ….).
An even bigger deal is on Friday nights, when you can score nine holes, a cart, balls, plus a steak dinner and a drink for only $65!
For me, Sundre felt worlds (and decades) away from my city life. It reminded me of all the best parts of my small town upbringing. Everybody was super friendly. Prices felt like I was living in 1999 and despite the multitude of options for outdoorsy stuff, there were zero crowds.
I returned back to Calgary feeling well rested, not keyed up by traffic. If you’re looking for an affordable, low-key weekend in the great outdoors, consider the short trek to Sundre. It won’t be a secret for long.
Have you ever been to Sundre? Where would you overnight?
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