Located in the Southeastern region of British Columbia’s Kootenay region, in a valley between the southern Rocky Mountains and the Purcell Mountains, there are lots of fun things to do in Cranbrook and St. Eugene Resort.
It’s also a perfect stop on a Kootenay BC Road Trip, as it’s only one hour west of Fernie and 30 minutes south of Kimberley.
Whether you’re looking to go biking, hiking, skiing, golfing, or admiring some of the oldest trains in the country, there’s something for everyone in Cranbrook and St.Eugene, British Columbia. In this guide, we’ll fill you in on all the best things to do so that you can plan your next trip!
Cranbrook History Centre
Those interested in trains and history will not want to miss the Cranbrook History Centre. Not only is it a decent place to learn about Cranbrook’s history and see some fossils and historical photos, but it’s especially wonderful for anyone interested in beautiful old trains.
There are permanent collections that preserve artifacts and records of the history of Cranbrook, the East Kootenay region, and Canadian railways. However, for us, the highlight was taking the Grand Tour, which includes a guided tour of the 17 railway cars. This is a rare chance to see and walk through some amazing rail cars, such as the 1929 “Trans-Canada Limited” (a classic “Jazz Era Art Deco” design), 2 cars of the 1907 “Soo-Spokane Train” (a deluxe example of “Edwardian Art Nouveau Elegance”), and the 1927 executive night car “Strathcona” which has housed many VIP guests during its time in service, including Queen Elizabeth II, John & Jackie Kennedy and Sir Winston Churchill.
With mountains and valleys, Cranbook is an excellent place to strap on your boots and go for a nature hike. Whether you’re looking for something easy and low-key or something more strenuous, there’s something for all hiking types. Some popular options include Cooper Lake (great for a simple flat walk), Fisher Peak (great for a full-day challenge), and Wycliffe Buttes (for a stunning view).
However, another popular place for both hiking and biking is the Cranbrook Community Forest, which is home to more than 2000 acres of crown forest land. In the winter, it’s also popular for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. It’s also super close to town, making it very accessible.
Learn more by visiting the best Cranbrook hikes from Cranbrook tourism.
Bike the North Star Rails to Trails
If you’re looking for an easy trail to ride, consider the 26-km long North Star Rails to Trails pathway, a paved trail that links Cranbrook to Kimberley via an old train track. Actually, you don’t have to bike it. You can also walk it or cross-country ski the trail in the winter. We rented e-bikes from North Star Bicycle Co, which made it a very easy and fun day out. Rather than do the whole trail, we went halfway, passing the scenic bridge that crosses the St. Mary River before going up a hill for views over Wycliffe. The e-bikes make it much easier to do the entire trail in less than an hour.
Cranbrook is a great place for golfing. For those wanting to keep it local, you’ll want to check out the Cranbrook Golf Club right in the city centre. It’s a 17-hole course that is surrounded by tall evergreen trees, making it a relaxing environment to hit some balls.
Another option is the Wildstone Golf Course, which is considered one of the most beautiful courses around. Every section of the course has sweeping views of the mountains and it’s much more challenging than the Cranbrook Gold Club.
If that’s still not enough for you, there’s also Shadow Mountain Golf Course, Mission Hills Golf Course, and another stunning golf course at St. Eugene Resort and Casino.
Play Mini Golf
If driving balls hundreds of yards isn’t your thing, how about a game of mini-golf? We love mini golf and one of the best courses we’ve ever seen is at Elizabeth Lake Lodge. Known as the most challenging mini-golf course in Western Canada, you’ll find all sorts of amazing obstacles, props, and buildings. Water features, bridges, loop-de-loops, and even a ball elevator are just some of the surprises you’ll find as you traverse the 18-hole course.
On another note, Elizabeth Lake Lodge is also a fabulous place to stay and right behind it is a bird sanctuary that’s perfect for a relaxing stroll.
Walk at Elizabeth Lake Bird Sanctuary
As mentioned above, right behind Elizabeth Lake Lodge is the Elizabeth Lake Bird Sanctuary, a wonderful place to go for a stroll and spot some local wildlife such as western painted turtles and migratory birds.
This sanctuary features more than 5.9 hectares of protected wetlands with multiple walking trails, picnic tables, and benches to enjoy. During the summer months, there are volunteers at the visitor centre that can tell you all about the animals and the wetlands.
Visit Fort Steele Heritage Village
Send yourself back in time to the days of the Kootenay Gold Rush at Fort Steele Heritage Village, a living history museum perfect for the whole family.
The origins of Fort Steele can be traced back to the small settlement of Galbraith Ferry born during the 1864 Kootenay Gold Rush. Today, there are 98 incredible structures that have been preserved, maintained or renovated to their original splendour, all for you to enjoy.
Open 363 days per year, with varying levels of programming and special events in effect from season to season, there are so many things to do at Fort Steele, including horse-drawn wagon tours, a steam train ride, live street theatre, live theatre shows, blacksmithing, interpretive demonstrations, a photography studio, and more. There’s also a variety of animals to see, including 15 beautiful Clydesdales, 2 friendly Donkeys and a variety of heritage breed chickens, ducks, turkeys and black pigs.
Plus, if you’re looking for a truly special experience, you can spend the night in the historic Windsor Hotel, which has been fully renovated back to its former glory. The Windsor stands to this day in its original location and is classified as an official heritage building. Be one of the first to stay in this historic hotel since it last closed its doors back in 1955.
Fort Steele is just 20 minutes from Cranbrook and welcomes visitors spring through to fall. Summer is the busiest tourism season, with the most activities and demonstrations to check out.
Drink Local Beer
Although there’s only one local brewery in town, it’s a good one!
The Heid Out Restaurant & Brewhouse, which is also one of the most popular restaurants in Cranbrook, is an award-winning brewery with a range of beers for all tastebuds. Beer options include a Wild Horse Belgian Ale, Prospector Pilsner, Blonde Ale, Kain Ginger, Soggy Otter Brown Ale, Dark and Stormy Porter, Elephant Run IPA, and Hell Roaring Scottish Ale, the latter of which recently won GOLD at both the 2018 Canadian Brewing Awards and the British Columbia Beer Awards.
But, as mentioned, aside from beer, they also offer a menu with food prepared by 6 Red Seal Chefs, including Curry Chicken Masala, Lemongrass Noodle Bowl and 10 oz Flame Grilled Ribeye.
With a variety of lakes nearby, Cranbrook is also a great place to go for a paddle. Whether you’re looking to go kayaking, paddleboarding, or canoeing, there’s a variety of options, such as Jimsmith Lake Provincial Park, Norbury Lakes, Moyie Lake, or even the Kootenay River if you know what you’re doing.
If you don’t have your own gear, there are places in Cranbrook to rent kayaks and paddle-boards
Cranbrook Farmers Market
Farmers’ markets are all the rage these days, so if that’s what you’re into, consider shopping at the Cranbrook Farmers Market. There are loads of options for food here, so don’t eat beforehand, but there are also more than 20+ local artisans selling all sorts of craft goods.
Generally open on Saturdays between 10 am and 1 pm, it’s a wonderful place to spend a weekend morning with lots of beautiful sights, smells, and sounds.
Enjoy Some Great Cranbrook Restaurants
Cranbrook has a number of delicious places to eat and one of the most famous is The Heid Out, which we mentioned earlier in the article as a great place for locally brewed beer as well. However, another very popular option is Fire Hall Kitchen and Tap, a top-rated Brew Pub that exclusively pours BC craft beers within a historic Firehall. Even the story of how they got started is quite inspiring. Despite the array of restaurants in Cranbrook, they always found themselves driving to Kimberley for a different type of dining experience that combined fun, quality, selection, and Kootenay culture. They then took that passion and opened their own version of their perfect dining experience in Cranbrook.
Other options include Allegra Restaurant, Family Thai Restaurant, Sakura Sushi & Grill, and many others.
Visit St. Eugene Resort & Casino
Have you ever dreamed of sleeping in a former residential school? We certainly did not, but after visiting St. Eugene’s Resort, I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Yes, the main building of this resort, which is known as the Red Brick Schoolhouse, is a former residential school that traumatized and abused thousands of Indigenous children that were forced away from their homes. However, the St. Mary’s Band of the local Ktunaxa Nation decided that rather than demolish it, they’d transform it into a source of pride, creating a fashionable resort and the only one of its kind in Canada.
Now, it is truly one of the most beautiful historic buildings we’ve seen in Canada and is also home to world-class golfing with tremendous views, the Silver Water Spa, the Casino of the Rockies, and some on-site restaurants. There’s also the Ktunaxa Interpretive Centre, which is a great place to learn about the local Indigenous culture and the history of the building.
This one-of-a-kind experience is just a 15-minute drive from Cranbrook.
Located only 30-minutes north of Cranbrook, Kimberley is another beautiful and popular mountain town known for its skiing, outdoor adventure, and unique underground railway mining tour. It can also easily be reached by bike, utilizing the 28-km Rails to Trails pathway we talked about earlier in the article. Even doing it as a day trip is a great experience, taking some time to explore the car-free downtown Platzl and the nearby Marysville Falls.
For those wanting to spend more time there, the summer is typically popular for rafting, fly fishing, and hiking, whereas the winter is popular for downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. If you want more serious downhill skiing, we highly recommend the one-hour drive to Fernie, BC!
Want More Things to Do in the Kootenays and Beyond?
As much as we love Cranbrook, there’s so much more to the Kootenay region and BC in general. There’s also Alberta right next door. For more ideas on what to do, check out these guides below.
Love that part of your trip involved the area I like in.