This fall I headed up to northern Alberta to Explore Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo!
Mike has done a fair bit of work up in Fort McMurray and we also have relatives who call this beautiful region home, so I was thrilled to partner with Explore FMWB to experience the region and share some ideas for you to check out when you plan your visit to Northern Alberta.
Fort McMurray is located about 4 and a half hours north of Edmonton, Alberta (approximately 439 km drive), in Treaty 8 Territory, the traditional lands of the Cree and Dene people, and the unceded territory of the Métis people. Fort McMurray is the largest community in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and north of the region you’ll find Wood Buffalo National Park—home to the world’s largest herd of free-roaming wood bison.
Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo is surrounded by vast boreal forest, which makes outdoor adventure an easy one around here. There’s also 130 km of trails in the city. If you’re lucky, you might also catch the Northern Lights—this is one of the best locations in Canada to catch natures light show!
In September (2022), my friend Diane and I spent about 48 hours exploring Fort McMurray and I’ve shared some of what we got up to for inspiration to help plan your visit. I can tell you—48 hours is of course not enough to really experience all the area has to offer and I can’t wait to return!
Note: I partnered with Explore FMWB for this trip. Experiences were hosted. This does not impact opinions or views stated in this post—I love exploring Alberta, including experiences in FMWB!
Explore Alberta: 48 Hours in Fort McMurray (Things To Do + Food To Eat)
Where to stay in Fort McMurray, Alberta
During our visit to Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo, we stayed at the super cute Chez Dube Country Inn, a bed and breakfast located next to Borealis Park and just a short walk from the Clearwater River! This is considered the only ‘boutique hotel’ in the area, and is super quiet and peaceful.
There’s more than a dozen rooms at Chez Dube, and your stay includes breakfast and access to the Inn’s front parlour, spacious, sunny dining room, or front patio. They also have a space for weddings! Chez Dube’s manager / caretaker lives on site, and also cooks your breakfast.
The Inn has a beautiful exterior. The inside decor sort of gives chic meets grandma’s house vibes lol. It’s very clean and well-kept, there’s cute little touches like themed salt and pepper shakers on each table of the dining room, and book-shaped light stands.
We loved Chez Dube’s location—it felt very walkable, next to the park, the traisl along the river, not far from arguably the most popular cafe in Fort McMurray (Mitchell’s) and popular fancy restaurant (Surekha’s on the Snye), and downtown Fort McMurray too.
Cafes to visit in Fort McMurray, Alberta
When I mentioned I was headed up to Fort McMurray, I got a ton of recommendations from locals who said we needed to visit Mitchell’s Cafe!
This is the most popular cafe in the region—and they’re best known for what they call their ‘sunshine bread’—yellow bread that makes up their famous sandwiches.
I have actually been to Fort McMurray once before (to visit my in-laws) and Mitchell’s was on our whirlwind stop then, as it was now—it’s just a must when in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo!
Mitchell’s started in 1996 in the same location they’re at today, This is a family-owned cafe. Their meats are roasted locally at “The Meat Shoppe” in Thickwood or in house. They have lots of daily soup, salad and pastry options. If their outdoor tables are taken (or it’s wintertime), our bed and breakfast location is also awesome because we could bring our food back to the B&B dining room and eat there!
On our visit, we decided to do a little Fort McMurray Cafe Crawl! So along with Mitchell’s, we stopped at four other cafe / coffee shops! Replicate our coffee crawl!
Five Cafes To Visit in Fort McMurray
- Avenue Eatery & Cafe – 8102 Fraser Ave Bay 5 – Avenue Eatery & Cafe is a popular Fort McMurray cafe that has a great food menu in addition to drinks. This cafe also has board games you can play, and a beautiful Instagrammable Wall!
- Eagle Ridge Eatery & Cafe – 165 Eagle Ridge Blvd. Unit #1 – Eagle Ridge Eatery & Cafe is a popular all-day breakfast restaurant and cafe in Fort McMurray. They also serve Wood Buffalo Coffee Co. coffee!
- Higher Ground Coffee & Tea House – 289 Powder Dr. #5 – This little spot is a grab and go coffee shop and tea house that serves bubble tea in addition to their Rosso coffee! You can also find a lot of packaged food and snacks and pantry items here.
- Mitchell’s Cafe – 4808 50 Ave. – As I mentioned, Mitchell’s Cafe is a Fort McMurray favourite! You’ve got to try the homemade soup and sandwich.
- Wood Buffalo Coffee Company – 135 MacMillan Rd. Bay 2 – The Wood Buffalo Coffee Co. started in 2019. 100% of their coffee is purchased at above and beyond “Fair Trade” terms from highly functional, small-farmer cooperatives. They also participate in the Climate, Carbon and Coffee initiative that invests in improving compost production, field renovation and technical training in Organic Practise for coffee farming
There’s a few bubble tea options in Fort McMurray—along with Higher Ground Coffee & Tea House, the region has a Macao Imperial Tea, Sharetea, and you can find bubble tea at a few Asian eateries in town.
Restaurants we tried in Fort McMurray, Alberta
In addition to our Fort McMurray Cafe Crawl, we had two great dinners at these local Fort McMurray eateries:
- Surekha’s on the Snye – 2 Clearwater Dr. – This restaurant is known as ‘Fort McMurray’s Special Place’ because if you’ve got a special occasion, or something special to celebrate, Surekha’s on the Snye is often the location to be. This is considered your fancy date night, occasion restaurant in Fort McMurray. It’s super well located, right by the river (offering a view of the Clearwater River), with a great patio. Surekha’s is popular for weddings too (it’s really such a pretty location and a great space inside and out). They have a pretty wide menu—with brunch, lunch, and dinner options, along with a ton of dessert options too (including locally-made butter tarts and mini pies). The portion sizes are massive here! We really enjoyed our Tomato Basil Soup and Mushroom Ravioli in Herb Cream Sauce. We also wanted to try some of their ‘only at Surekha’s items’, like their take on a Caesar Salad—”The Marc Antony” which comes with spicy pan-fried cod and a Surekha housemade Meat Bun. Surekha’s is a lovely night out (at a higher price point).
- Tandoor House – 30 Riedel St. #4 – Tandoor House offers an authentic taste of Pakistani cuisine in Fort McMurray! It’s a locally-owned, family restaurant. It’s quite a large space, perfect for bigger groups and parties—and they have a lot of decor and photo op spots meant to ‘bring a little piece of home (Pakistan)’ to Fort McMurray. They have really cute truck-shaped napkin holders and table markers on each table, an Instagrammable sign that says “You can’t make everyone happy, you’re not biryani”—and a range of dishes like, of course, biryani, which we ordered (the chicken one), along with Golgappa Chaat (crispy fried puff balls filled with seasoned potatoes, onions, and. chickpeas topped with tamarind and mint—love these bites!), Saag (spinach cooked with spiced garlic, ginger and topped with butter) and Bhindi (sliced okra sauteed with onions, tomatoes and spices), and a Beef Seekh Kebab (ground beef marinated with herbs, spices, coriander, garlic, and ginger, cooked in a clay oven—a Tandoor House specialty!) This was an awesome dinner. Portion sizes are also big here (maybe it’s a Fort McMurray thing lol) and we ended up taking leftovers home to keep the delicious eats going next days.
Adventures and Experiences in Fort McMurray, Alberta
Explore parks and hiking trails
A lot of people find outdoor activities to experience when in Fort McMurray—from jet boating to snowmobiling, to fishing (including ice fishing), ATV-ing, and water activities, you can do it all in FMWB region.
Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo has over 400 hectares of parks that draw hikers, mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts. As I mentioned, our hotel Chez Dube is located right next to Borealis Park, which in the summer is home to a beautiful lake with fountains—and in the winter is home to a skating pond! The Birchwood Trails are particularly popular for local hiking in the area. This is 135 kilometres of maintained trail spanning two of Fort McMurray’s largest neighbourhoods. Walking along the Clearwater river is also a nice thing to do.
Go on a water adventure
During our visit, we rented a canoe from Beyond Adventures, a local adventure rental equipment and guided trip company, and hit the Clearwater River. I love water activities! I’ve floated down the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton, the Bow River in Calgary, the South Saskatchewan River in Medicine Hat, and so many lakes—along with guided whitewater rafting of a few other rivers around the province too. So I was excited for this trip and it was super fun but I will take this opportunity to provide a water safety reminder—that you should never do ANY water adventure without your lifejacket! And you should always be prepared for something to go wrong on the water. Our canoe did flip over during this trip and it was scary but we are okay. Canoes do flip. That happens! I still recommend water activity / equipment rentals for fun things to do wherever you travel, including Fort McMurray, but just always be sure to wear a lifejacket (most rental companies won’t let you out without a lifejacket anyway, for good reason lol) and make sure you’re prepared for something to go wrong (even though you hope that nothing will go wrong!)
Experience Indigenous Arts and Culture
Our early September 2022 visit to Fort McMurray coincided with the area’s annual Athabasca Tribal Council Cultural Festival—a showcase and celebration of Northern Alberta’s diverse and distinctive Indigenous arts and culture. The festival is located right by the river, features live performances by Indigenous artists, a Cultural Village with educational talks, a lot of hands-on demonstrations, and more! I got to check out Metis Fest at Metis Crossing earlier in the summer, and long-time readers will know that I make a point of finding, supporting and sharing about Indigenous makers, artists, and experiences, so I was excited we got to check this out!
There are six First Nation, five Métis local councils, and one Métis community association located in the Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Region of Treaty 8, but the Treaty area itself is massive—it is one of the largest Treaty areas in Canada with dozens of First Nations across Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, and Northwest Territories.
Snap photos at Instagrammable Walls
During my previous visit to Fort McMurray in 2018, I found a few different Instagrammable Walls in the region and put together this Guide to Instagrammable Walls of Fort McMurray. I’ve updated the Guide with a few new murals added to the region since then—and I encourage you to check them out! A lot of the beautiful murals in Fort McMurray depict wildlife—which makes sense, with how forested and far north the region is—there’s a lot of wildlife!
The four walls I’ve included in this post can be found at:
- Field at Ecole McTavish Public High School (352 Parsons Creek Dr.) – Artists Lacey & Layla
- Lions Park (3 Tolen Dr.) – Artists Daniel J. Kirk & Ivan Ostapenk
- Parking lot at Holy Trinity Catholic High School (230 Powder Dr.) – Artist Unknown
- Side of Our Lady of the Rivers Catholic School (8553 Franklin Ave.) – Artist Uber5000.
Visit Macdonald Island Park
Although we didn’t get to visit this time around, I am hoping on my next visit to check out Macdonald Island Park, a popular destination in Fort McMurray, home to an indoor pool, an Aboriginal Interpretive Trail, a rock climbing wall, Miskanaw Golf Club and more!
Check out the Northern Lights
As I mentioned, Fort McMurray is an ultimate viewing location for the Northern Lights. Wood Buffalo National Park north of Fort McMurray is home to the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve (meaning it’s so dark you often get a front-row seat to the stars and dancing lights). There’s a few different spots in town that are considered good locations for Northern Lights viewing—but of course there is no guarantee you’ll see it on your visit it just really depends on the weather conditions.
So those are really just a few things you can do and food you can eat when you visit Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo region in Northern Alberta. We only scratched the surface! I love exploring Alberta and I love experiencing what makes different places in the province so special.
Everyone we met in Fort McMurray were so nice—and as I mentioned, I have relatives who live here (and love calling the region home) so it was nice to get a glimpse of what they love about it. I also got a lot of messages from locals who were so excited and proud that I had visited! There’s lots more I’d love to do in this region so I can’t wait to visit again. If you have other recommendations for things to do in the area, leave a comment below so others who check out this guide to plan their visits can factor in your suggestions too.
Thanks to Explore FMWB for partnering with me to experience and share about the region!
Note: my visit to Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo was sponsored. Experiences were hosted by Explore FMWB. This does not impact opinions or views stated in this post—I love exploring Alberta, including experiences in northern Alberta!
- Follow @lindork on Twitter
- Follow @lindork on Instagram
- Like Lindork – Linda Hoang on Facebook
- Follow @lindork on TikTok
- Subscribe to my YouTube Channel
If you live or work in the Edmonton, Alberta area, or care about Edmonton content, sign up for my hyperlocal newsletter to get weekly recommendations on things to do, eat, and know this week (in the Edmonton area), plus more exclusive content. You can sign up for a free or paid subscription.
(You’ll get the option to select free or paid after you enter your email).