For an unforgettable experience, with one of the best views in Waterton, go for Afternoon Tea at the historic Prince of Wales Hotel. The only downside is that you you won’t want to leave (so you should plan to stay the night).
Disclosure: A huge thank you to Pursuit Glacier Park Collection | Prince of Wales Hotel for hosting us! As usual, all words and opinions are my own.
Perched on a bluff overlooking Waterton Lakes, the Prince of Wales Hotel is an iconic symbol of Waterton, and National Historic Site. As you drive in to the park, you can’t miss the grand Swiss chalet-styled lodge with its pitched roof and gables. And if you like tea, cakes, and stunning scenery, you shouldn’t miss Afternoon Tea at the Prince of Wales.
We’ve visited the hotel many times – just for the view – but this time, we’re here for tea, and the night. Brimming with excitement, my daughters literally skip all the way to the front door. Although the resident welcoming committee (bighorn sheep frequent the hotel lawns) appears to have taken the day off, inside, kilt-clad staff are happy to assist.
The Prince of Wales Hotel was one of several luxury hotels built by the Great Northern Railway in the 1920s. According to the bellman, it was eight to twelve dollars a night to stay here back then, and it was “top notch for its time.” While a “gentle facelift” was done in 2017 for the hotel’s 90th birthday, the look and feel remains vintage, and the bar menu boasts some tempting Prohibition-era cocktails… but those are for later.
First, we will have tea! From our window table in the Royal Stewart Dining Room, the panoramic scene before us looks like a painting. Dramatic clouds threaten rain, but blow over quickly thanks to high winds that are funneled through the valley. (We later see a rainbow as we walk along the lakeshore.)
With a large selection of gourmet whole leaf teas from Tea Forté that all sound delicious, it isn’t easy to choose the perfect tea. Eventually my youngest goes for juice (we’ll forgive her this time!), while my eldest and I opt for African Solstice, a fragrant rooibos blend. As we eagerly await our tea tray, we reminisce about past trips to Waterton… about all the animals we saw, the lake cruise, riding surrey bikes around town, and hiking.
Before we know it, our server has returned with a loaded three-tiered tea tray that brings huge smiles to my daughters’ faces. As our server proudly describes each offering – watercress sandwiches, smoked salmon sandwiches, mini quiches, cakes, pastries, and white chocolate scones – my daughters’ eyes get bigger and bigger. There are even gluten-free options for me (plated separately to avoid cross contamination)! Everything is as scrumptious as it looks, but I can’t help thinking the setting and scenery make it even better.
Afternoon Tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel is one of our new favorite things to do in Waterton and we can’t wait to go again! Plan to stay the night so you have time to explore the park. Besides being a premiere hiking destination, Waterton has a wonderful lake cruise, tons of wildlife, and fantastic night skies (it’s a Dark Sky Preserve).
Stay at the Prince of Wales Hotel
“A lot of times when I tell people this place is haunted I’m bound to get a look, ” the bellman says. I wonder if we should be listening to ghost stories right before bed, but can’t pull myself away. The bellman’s talk (given nightly) has been fascinating, covering the hotel’s history from when it almost blew away in hurricane-force winds during construction, to which celebrities and dignitaries have stayed here over the years. (Ironically, the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, for whom the hotel was named never visited it.) And now, ghost stories… but rather than getting the chills, as I look up at the hotel’s timber beams and huge chandelier, I feel nostalgia for days gone by.
Designated a National Historic Site in 1993, the Prince of Wales Hotel maintains a rustic but elegant charm. The hand-operated elevator is one of the oldest in Canada (a bellman can operate it for you), and the rooms are very much like they were almost a century ago, but some features (like the bathrooms) have been modernized. From our fourth floor windows, we look south on Upper Waterton Lake, and west at The Bear’s Hump to the west – a beautiful hike we will do after dinner since it’s short and close by. Spacious suites and rooms with balconies are also available, but all have wonderful views.
In the morning, get your Starbucks fix at the gift shop, or get breakfast at the Royal Stewart Dining Room. The bellmen are very knowledgeable on the hotel’s history and things to do in Waterton Lakes National Park, so don’t be shy when you’re riding the lift.
The Prince of Wales Hotel is located in Waterton Lakes National Park, about 2.5 hours south of Calgary, “where the mountains meet the prairies.”
For More Information
To book a room or Afternoon Tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton, please visit Pursuit | Prince of Wales Hotel. In 2021, the hotel is open from May 21 to September 20.