48 Hours in Cold Lake, a Weekend Getaway in Alberta’s Lakeland

Posted on: October 27, 2022

Cold Lake, a hip and vibrant place with the largest inland marina in western Canada, lies in northeastern Alberta. A small city of festivals, local art, trails and, yes – sailors—Cold Lake is backdropped by what has been called “the best lake in Alberta.” This combo, along with eating in unique restaurants and staying in gorgeous b&bs makes for a great 48 hour weekend getaway for families, couples or friends.

Cold Lake became a city once it was amalgamated with Grand Centre and Medley, better known as 4-Wing Cold Lake, and Canada’s largest air force base.

And that whole small town turned city thing works. Today, it’s a destination with a friendly heart. Unlike the lake, the residents aren’t cold at all. Join the hilarity during something like the cardboard boat races at Aqua Days in the summer, laughing elbow to elbow with Cold Lakers, and you might be looking to move there.

Whatever the season, take a couple of days to take in an event, see a few places, eat out, and stay overnight, and you have the makings of a fast but fun outing.

Eat Here

General Store

Marina Vibes, Coffee Lakeside, and Sweet Treat

Clark’s General Store and Eatery, right across the street from the marina is a throwback to the pioneer days of Alberta. It was an actual general store from the 1930s to its reconstruction as a restaurant. You can still see the distinctive tin-ceilinged interior, original furniture and unique memorabilia inside.

People line up for traditional fare such as burgers and sandwiches but go for the golden fish and chips with in house tartar sauce followed by Lakeland style cheesecake, light and fluffy.

Picante Café along the lakefront has fantastic views over the lake. It’s a small but mighty place with dine in and take out so call for reservations. The menu runs the gamut from Pork Debris to Spaghetti and Meatballs, along with fresh baked bread and amazing desserts with THE best coffee. Gourmet products and gifts are sold. 

Beantrees Café – If you like great coffee and an ambient locale, head here. View the work of local artists and artisans while you sip your FroCo (frozen hot chocolate, of course) and grilled panini. Save room for an excellent dessert. Check out their Facebook page for events as there is often music or something going on here. 

Do This

Cold Lake Air Show

Get Festive, Art Out, or Try the Trails

Cold Lake hosts several festivals.

The Cold Lake Air Show in July is THE thing, drawing crowds from far and near, to what has been ranked one of the Top 7 Must-See airshows in North America. 

Eat pancakes, build sandcastles, see fireworks, and more family fun stuff, such as the aforementioned cardboard boat race, at Aqua Days in August.

Snow Fun is a festival designed to warm everyone up during Cold Lake’s cold season. 

Alex Janvier Gallery 

Inspired by the land and the sky, world-renowned artist Alex Janvier, 87 and still painting every day, displays his original works in the Janvier Gallery on Cold Lake First Nations 149B. The gallery was designed by globally recognized architect Douglas Cardinal. Inside, Janvier’s vibrantly coloured paintings tell the stories of his Indigenous culture. Viewings are by appointment only by calling 780.639.4545

Cold Lake Mountain Bike Park

Cold Lake Mountain Bike Park

Trails abound here. If you’re the active type, bike or walk along the 11 km Millennium Trail through the city or stroll along the lakeshore on the Heritage Trail. Check out the bike trails at Cold Lake Mountain Bike Park on the slopes of a former Cold War radar station.  

Bring your fat bike for winter biking. Also in winter, hit the ice at one of three outdoor ice surfaces. Access to Cold Lake Provincial Park trails and Alberta’s 300km Iron Horse Trail are nearby. 

In spring, more than 200 species of birds flock to the lakes, wetlands and boreal forest. Watch for turkey vultures, a great blue heron or a flock of American white pelicans flying in formation (very apropos for 4-Wing Cold Lake. 

Stay Here

Waterfront Harbour Bed & Breakfast 

Waterfront Harbour Bed & Breakfast

Awaking to breakfast on deck with a panoramic view of the lake or marina sure sounds good. Waterfront Harbour B&B is right in Cold Lake on the water.  

This over 3000 square foot home has seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, so while it’s great for couples booking their own room, it’s perfect for groups celebrating an event or having a meeting. 

After you’ve taken in Cold Lake’s places and events, relax in the living room area with large gas fireplace, in the sunroom, in the library with skylight and desk, or best of all, on the big waterfront deck. Local original artwork is on display and guests are often treated to fresh baked snacks in the evening. One look through its gallery of food pics will have you drooling. Why just look when you can go? 

Hamilton House Inn 

Hamilton House Inn

With six acres of open lawns, cultured flower gardens and boreal forest, Hamilton House is a serene woodland oasis near Cold Lake with options for RVing or staying in a bed and breakfast run by hosts Brian and Debbie Hamilton. 

Four full-service RV sites with picnic table, and group or individual firepits are on site. RVers have access to outdoor B&B amenities such as canoeing, trails, lawn games and hot tub.  

Five rooms themed from romance to wilderness in the inn feature rustic pine plank and tile floors, and private ensuites. The Cottage Room is in a private cabin and sleeps up to five. The Island Cabin is canoe or ski in only.  

If you’re up for a fishing excursion, Brian Hamilton knows Cold Lake’s secret fishing spots. He charters half to full day trips from late May to September. Complete with fishing gear, snacks, drinks or lunch supplied, you will travel on an 18-ft., soft top Glastron May and June only for Pike and Walleye or a 24-ft. Bayliner with full cabin May to September for Lake Trout and Pike.  

Hamilton House is 10 minutes southeast of Cold Lake. 

If your idea of a fabulous weekend includes taking in fun things to do, eating in unique restaurants, and staying in gorgeous b&bs, 48 Hours in Cold Lake, Alberta, delivers.  

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