By: Karen Ung
Roam to Wainwright this summer and stay a while!
Peals of laughter ring through the splash park as my kids play. They have the run of the place because we’re the only ones here on this warm, sunny day. Whether the locals are at the lake, golfing, climbing at the Peace Memorial Multiplex, or swimming at the Communiplex, it’s a treat to cool off without crowds – and a perk of visiting small towns.
With a population of 6,300 (plus 1,000 at CFB Wainwright), Wainwright has everything you need from boutiques and big box stores, to paths and parks. There are also a few great eateries. After getting a gift for my nephew at Toys & Treasures, and some candy and local honey at Dobbin’s, we discover a trendy Mexican food truck at the corner of Main and 4th Avenue.
Wainwright is definitely family-friendly. Paved paths lead to parks and playgrounds, the rec centre is state of the art, and there’s even a fishing pond in town (at Wallace Park)! And don’t forget Rotary Splash Park!
After exploring historic Main Street, we pop in to the Wainwright and District Museum and Information Centre. Here, we learn about the town’s history and get some trip advice.
Originally called Denwood, the village was relocated a few kilometres west and named Wainwright after General William Wainwright, the second vice-president of the railway when the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway was built. The village quickly grew to become a town in 1910.
Around the same time that the train trestle was being constructed (1907-1908), Buffalo National Park was created south of town to preserve endangered bison. Starting with 700 buffalo from Montana, the herd grew to 40,000 over 30 years. While overcrowding led to annual round-ups where some animals were culled and others shipped away, bison herds all over Canada, including those at Elk Island National Park, have their roots in Wainwright, the Buffalo Capital of Canada.
After the bison were all removed in 1939, the park was handed over to the Department of National Defence, and Camp Wainwright was established. In 1980, however, Elk Island National Park gifted four young bison to Wainwright in recognition of their role in saving the plains bison. If you’re lucky, you’ll see them and their offspring at the Bud Cotton Buffalo Paddock, just outside CFB Wainwright.
In 1921, oil and gas was discovered in the district. A century later, the energy industry remains important to Wainwright (though agriculture is the main industry). Visit Petroleum Park to see one of Alberta’s oldest pump jacks.
Things to See & Do in Wainwright
Historic Downtown Wainwright boasts beautiful heritage buildings including the train station, post office, and Wainwright Hotel; unique gift and décor shops; an amazing candy store (Dobbin’s); and great restaurants. Start at the train station, home to the Wainwright and District Museum and Information Centre; snap a photo of the Memorial Clock Tower which chimes on the hour; find one of a kind décor and apparel at Daines & Daubney or Voila; then get a bite to eat. Main Street & 1st-5th Avenue.
The Battle River Trestle Bridge, completed in 1908, overlooks the beautiful Battle River Valley and is the second longest train trestle (846 metres / 2775 feet long) in Canada. Definitely worth a visit on your way to/from town. 15 kilometres from Wainwright.
Bud Cotton Bison Paddock has 20 bison and is named for Canada’s first buffalo warden. There’s a walking trail beside the paddock along 1st Street if you can’t spot bison from the parking lot. 1st Street & 4th Avenue, near CFB Wainwright.
Rotary Splash Park is the place to go on a hot day! With 19 water features and a playground, your kids won’t wanna leave. Open 9 am to 8:30 pm during the summer; change rooms and washrooms onsite. 1504-8 Avenue.
Bevan’s Park and Nature Area, just down the road from the splash park, has forested trails and a large playground. 1800-8 Avenue (street parking)
Wallace Park has a playground, fishing pond, picnic shelter, and path. 1300-10A Street.
Peace Memorial Multiplex is a state of the art facility with a walking track, climbing wall, and twin arenas. The adjacent Communiplex has a pool, weight training facilities, dance studio, theatre, meeting rooms and halls. 650-2 Avenue.
Peace Memorial Park & Rotary Skatepark is an outdoor recreation area featuring a skatepark, playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, and ball diamonds. 733 5th Avenue.
Wainwright Golf Course has a scenic 18-hole, 6,400 yard golf course that is suitable for all levels. The Clubhouse serves lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays. There’s a Stay & Play package if you’d like to stay onsite (RV camping available) too. 1505 – 2 Street.
Things to Do in the Area
Riverdale Mini-Park has 38 full-serviced campsites, 15 power and water, 57 power, and unserviced sites; affordable golf course with clubhouse, cafe, and cart rentals (regular 9-hole course plus Par 3 9-hole course); mini golf; horseshoe pits; playground; picnic areas; and a riverside beach. 19 km north of Wainwright on Highway 41.
Arm Lake Recreation Area has serviced and power-only campsites near the lake, a golf course, clubhouse & cafe, playground, and small sandy beach. The shallow, warm water is suitable for swimming and paddling. 30 kilometres from Wainwright.
Clear Lake is a popular boating and scuba diving spot near Wainwright. Contact Alberta Adventure Divers for Scuba classes. 26 kilometres from Wainwright.
Morales Mexican Grill is a lively lunch spot. Mexican music plays while people wait in line or dine on the colorful patio under strings of lights. David and Shirley Morales, who hail from Mexico, started the business in May 2021. Rave reviews have been pouring in as fast as tacos go out the window. When I ask David what he likes most about living here, he says, “We love Wainwright because of the people… [it’s a] small town with lots to offer. And we think it’s a great place to raise our baby.” Get it to go or dine al fresco on their pretty patio. 933 – 4 Avenue.
Fireside Grill is known for its wild game burgers, ice cream cake, and local craft brews. 1070, 974-2 Avenue.
The Honeypot Eatery & Pub cooks up homemade goodness with local ingredients. They have a kids’ menu with generous-sized portions too. 823 – 2 Avenue.
Jack’s Place is your place for fresh soup and sandwiches, smoothies, and ice cream. 218 – 10 Street.
Where to Stay
The Ramada Hotel offers spacious rooms and awesome amenities including an indoor pool, fitness centre, mini convenience store, and free hot breakfast. Staff are super helpful and accommodating regarding dietary restrictions.
Dr. Middlemass Park is a small campground in town with 30 fully-serviced sites with fire pits. 805-15 Street (beside the Rotary Splash Park and playground).
There are several B&Bs, hotels, and campgrounds to choose from.
For More Information
For more information, visit the Town of Wainwright.
Wainwright is located at the crossroads of Highway 41 and Highway 14, 208 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.
Discover more cool towns en route when you play the Go East of Edmonton Roadtrip Adventure Game and enter to win some great prizes!