Bend Pacific Northwest Travel

23 Things to Do in Sunriver, Oregon: Best Year-Round Activities!

August 16, 2023

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Sunriver, Oregon is a charming vacation town in Central Oregon. And while the Sunriver area may not seem like much more than a resort community, there’s a lot to see and do when you’re basing your Central Oregon explorations from here. In any season – from summer to winter, here’s a list of fun things to do in Sunriver, Oregon.

Sunriver is just a twenty minute drive south from Bend, Oregon. Which puts it at about a 3.5 hour drive from Portland, or a 2.5 hour drive from Eugene. Only a thousand people live in Sunriver year-round, so the bulk of Sunriver is a resort community. And if you feel like you’re not a resort kind of person, you may write off Sunriver. But there are plenty of things to do in Sunriver that isn’t just sitting at the resort pool. (But seriously, do sit at the resort pool at least once!).

Best Things to Do in Sunriver, Oregon

Sunriver is a great getaway destination for couples, girls getaway trips, and families! Here’s what to do in Sunriver, Oregon from swimming to shopping, dining, and outdoor adventures.

1. Swim at The Cove or SHARC

The Cove is Sunriver Resort’s pool – for resort guests. And the SHARC pool is just north of Sunriver Village and for vacation rentals / Sunriver home owners. The Cove was re-designed in 2021 and was well-planned to have both indoor and outdoor features for summer and winter! Outside, you’ll find a pool, a small plunge waterslide, and a rocky fountain area for kids to play in. Inside, you’ll find another pool which connects to the lazy river, one large twisty waterslide, and a hot tub. Fun for the whole family! The indoor area has large roll up doors so in the summertime this whole area feels very connected and open. But in winter time, there are still great pool options for indoor use! Smart thinking The Cove!

The Cove indoor pool, lazy river, and hot tub
The lazy river at The Cove Sunriver (indoors!)

A day at the pools is one of the most popular things to do in Sunriver with kids.

2. Enjoy The Cove’s Outdoor Pools & Bar Service

If you’re in Sunriver during the warmer months, you’ll also get to enjoy the outdoor areas of The Cove – the outdoor pool, “Paulina Plunge” waterslide, and outdoor hot tub (the hot tub was closed when we visited in August 2022). And with pool-side service from The Spotted Frog bar cafe, you’ll be sipping an aperol spritz and eating curly fries between your dips in the pool.

3. Take the Paulina Plunge Slide

This one is aptly named after the ice cold Paulina Creek’s natural water slides. I love the simplicity of this waterslide. It seems pretty tame, but it really picks up speed and spits you out into the chilly pool on a hot day. Kids will want to do this one over and over again!

Sunriver Resort Pool The Cove

4. Bike or walk 34 miles of paved trails

Sunriver has 34 miles of paved pathways for biking, walking, and running. It’s a great way to get around Sunriver, and with separated pathways, it’s also a safe way for kids to explore by bike! You can bike around Sunriver Resort, the air strip, all the way to the stables, marina, and even connect to the paths out to Benham Falls east trailhead! Here is more info about biking in Sunriver and maps. There are plenty of options for renting bikes in Sunriver. If you are an avid biker, you probably want to bring your own bike (and your kids bikes). Many vacation rentals also come with some bikes to use, so check before you rent.

And if non-paved trails – aka mountain biking – is more your speed, you’ll also find plenty of close MTB trails along the Deschutes River. Bend Trails is the best resource for MTB Trails in Central Oregon. Or Cogwild for mountain bike tours.

34 miles of trails in Sunriver – biking to The Village for dinner

The only area we found a little sketchy by bike was in the Sunriver Village and markets roundabouts area. It’s best to just park your bike when you get to the Village. But hopefully in the future, they make it easier to get around the Village shops and restaurants by bike too!

5. Float the Deschutes River & Sunriver Marina

The Deschutes River is like a lazy river through much of the Sunriver area from Harper Bridge to the Sunriver Canoe Takeout upriver from Benham Falls. If you have your own gear, you can put in wherever and float. Or in the summer season, you can head to the Sunriver Resort Marina for kayak or canoe rental to float this 6 mile section of river. They will meet you to pick you up at the river takeout and shuttle you back to the Marina. A very convenient option! And while six miles feels like a long paddle, since you’re going with the current of the river, it goes quicker than you would imagine! But reminder, to bring snacks, water, sun protection etc. Once you’re out there, you’re in it for the long haul, with no shops or spots to grab supplies.

You’ll also find a riverfront Hola! Sunriver out by the Marina. Hola! is a popular Central Oregon Mexican restaurant, known for their Mexican-Peruvian food and margaritas!

Floating the Deschutes in Sunriver

6. Golf One of the Four Golf Courses

Sunriver golf courses. Photo by Sunriver Resort
Photo courtesy of Sunriver Resort

If you’re a golfer, places like Sunriver are a dream destination. Golf right out your door! For the rest of us, we’re thinking “hope I don’t get hit by a golf ball on my bike ride!” :) Sunriver is known for golf – and has four golf courses – 2 private (guests only), and 2 public (non-guests welcome)!

7. Ride Horses

You can also go horseback riding at the Sunriver Resort at the Sunriver Stables. We did not do this while in Sunriver, but I did stop and say hi as they grazed the fields near one of the bike paths. Ages seven and up can take horseback riding tours ($66+), and ages 2+ (up to 60 pounds) can do pony rides ($15+). You do not have to be a guest at the resort, to visit the Stables, but you do get a 10% discount if you are staying at the Sunriver Resort.

Horses in Sunriver

8. Get a massage at the Sage Springs Club Spa

The Sage Springs Club Spa at the Sunriver Resort is across from the Great Hall. And for some guests this might be your pool area of choice. There are spa options and services from Swedish massage to deep tissue and CBD massage, salon services, facials, soaking tub and sauna, and a Relaxation room with spa food and drinks available. There’s also a lap pool and hot tub area. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Sage Springs Spa on my visit, since it was a family adventure. But if I went for a girls getaway weekend, I imagine we would spend some quality time here!

This is also where you’ll find the fitness center, tennis and pickelball.

9. Beer Tasting or Dinner at Sunriver Brewing

Sunriver Brewing outdoor patio. Photo by Sunriver Brewing

Sunriver Brewing is a Central Oregon brewery mainstay since 2012. With three brew pubs in Central Oregon (Sunriver, Bend Galveston, and Bend Eastside), they’re known for their great pub food and solid award-winning beers. So stop in to “The Village” for a taster tray or a full meal!

10. Eat at the Sunriver Village

The Village at Sunriver is where you’ll find all the shops and restaurants that aren’t part of the Sunriver Resort. The Resort also offers several restaurants (the Lodge Kitchen, and Owl’s Nest, and various golf and pool cafes). So whether you’re staying at a vacation rental or “The Resort”, you’ll find yourself in “The Village” quite a bit. There are tons of options for meals – sit-down restaurants, takeout, groceries, and many shops. Think of it as a more upscale mountain-y strip mall.

You’ll find plenty of restaurants in The Village, including a Bend brunch favorite – Cafe Sintra. Brewed Awakening Coffee and even a Starbucks for your coffee needs. Another Central Oregon favorite – Goody’s – for ice cream and treats. Plus several other restaurants and a couple pizza options!

Fueling up for a day of biking and pool time with brunch at Cafe Sintra in The Village

11. Visit the Shops in The Village

Beyond restaurant options, The Village has quite a few small shops – gift shops, a toy store, several sports and tour agencies like Sun Country Tours, spa, and an artists gallery. In addition to an IGA market – the Sunriver Country Store. (Their other location Sunriver Marketplace is 2 miles north).

12. See the Stars at the Oregon Observatory and Nature Center

Photo by Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory
Oregon Observatory and Planetarium Shows. Photo by Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory

Tucked away just north of the Sunriver Resort, you’ll find the Sunriver Nature Center and Observatory. The Nature Center is a good spot to take kids in Sunriver or to just learn more about local wildlife and habitats. But the real star of the show is the Observatory, where you can attend a Night Sky Viewing. This one is on my list for my next visit, as we had smoky skies and high AQI from wildfire smoke during half of our visit to Sunriver, so we didn’t get to attend!

13. Hike Benham Falls

Benham Falls is one of Bend’s most beautiful waterfalls on the Deschutes River. You can drive or bike out to the Benham Falls East Trailhead. And from there, it’s about a two mile roundtrip hike to the Benham Falls Overlook and Benham Falls West Trailhead. This is a great easy and short hike that gets you into gorgeous nature! Note: both Benham and Dillon Falls on the Deschutes are powerful rapids of the river. If you’re hoping for a plunging waterfall, like Tumalo Falls, check out my list of best waterfall hikes near Bend, Oregon.

Benham Falls Hike
Benham Falls on the Deschutes River

By bike, it’s about six miles to the trailhead (12 miles roundtrip) on paved separated from car traffic bike paths. By car, it’s about 20 minutes away. The day use fee is $5/car or accepts the NW Forest Pass.

benham falls east side bridge
Footbridge across the Deschutes from the East Trailhead over to the Benham Falls hike

14. Visit Lava Lands & The Trail of Molten Land

Trail of Molten Land Lava Rocks

Lava Lands Visitor Center is a great resource to learn more about the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. Inside, you’ll find info about volcanic activity, geologic and cultural history, films, exhibits, and a gift shop. The visitor center operates from May to October. However, the parking lot is available year-round.

Explore the paved 1 mile loop – Trail of Molten Land, or the .5 mile Trail of Whispering Pines. Along the way through the lava rocks you’ll learn about the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, lava, and the history of volcanic activity in Central Oregon! You can also take the Sun-Lava paved path (or the Blackrock Trail) from the visitor center to Benham Falls East Trailhead.

The Trail of Molten Lands views

15. Go to the top of Lava Butte

Lava Butte is a cindercone that is 500 feet above the Lava Lands Visitor Center area. Once at the top of Lava Butte, you’ll have incredible views of the mountains, and can walk the half mile loop around the cinder cone.

In summer, you can take a shuttle, walk, or bike up. In a brief shoulder season, you can drive up. And after Lava Lands Visitor Center closes for the season, Lava Butte is just accessible by foot and bike again. So check before you go.

16. Explore the Lava Caves

The Lava River Cave is a one mile long lava tube. It’s one of the longest lava tubes in Oregon! You can hike the two miles out and back or just go as far as you want. Remember that even in summer time you’ll want warmer clothes for the caves, closed-toe shoes, and a headlamp or flashlight. If you haven’t been caving before, you might not know this. But please don’t try to rely on your phone flashlight – it will not be strong enough to comfortably see!

This is another Central Oregon hike that gets super busy by mid-day, in the height of summer. So go early and avoid weekends if possible. The Lava Cave is a short 1.5 mile drive from the Visitor Center.

17. Day trip to Paulina Lake, Paulina Peak, and Paulina Falls

Paulina Lake and East Paulina Lake are also part of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument area, but are a 30 minute drive from Sunriver. This makes a great day trip if you’ll be in Sunriver for more than a couple days and want to get out and explore. There a quite a few options to choose from in this area. You can check out Paulina Falls (an overlook and easy hike), drive or hike up Paulina Peak to look down at the lakes and crater, kayak or boat on the lakes, visit the Paulina Lake “resort”*, or even cross the lake to the hot springs.

paulina falls hike
Paulina Falls

*Note: if the word “resort” and “lake” are together in Central Oregon – it usually is referring to a rustic restaurant/cafe where you can find food, snacks, and hopefully ice cream. And often they will rent rustic or fancier cabins as well. They are not using the term “Resort” in the way you would think about the Sunriver Resort or Black Butte Ranch.

18. Drive the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway (summer)

Mountain views on Sparks Lake

You can’t go wrong with a drive on the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway through the Deschutes National Forest in summer (this road is closed at Mt Bachelor in winter!). Sparks Lake, Devil’s Lake, Todd Lake, Elk Lake, Hosmer, Lava Lake, Little Lava Lake, Cultus Lake… there’s no shortage of lakes on the Cascade LAKES Scenic Byway. Stop at a lake or two, have a picnic, hike, SUP, kayak, swim, play at the beach, ice cream or lunch at Elk Lake Resort.

19. Ski at Mt Bachelor

Skiiing at Mt Bachelor
Mt Bachelor in Winter

In winter, you’ll find Oregon’s best skiing and snowboarding at Mt Bachelor. There’s also a nordic center for cross-country skiers. Mt Bachelor is North America’s 6th largest ski resort. With 4300 acres of lift-accessible terrain, 101 runs, 12 lifts, and multiple lodges to take a break, get food, and relax in. And if you’re staying in Sunriver, you can leave the driving to the pros and ride the shuttle to Mt Bachelor’s West Village.

Beyond winter activities, you can still enjoy Mt Bachelor in summer – for hiking, mountain biking, or simply take the chair lift up for dinner on the mountain.

20. Sunriver Winter Activities – Tubing, Ice Skating, Snowshoeing, and winter tours

At first glance, Sunriver is a bit more of a summer paradise, than in winter. However, while many things do shut down for the winter months, there’s still tons to do. In the colder months, you’ll find some winter activities. Like tubing at Sledder’s Hill. Ice skating at the Ice Rink. Taking a snowmobile tour or snow bike. Taking a snowshoe hike (or night tour). If I go back in winter time, I’ll bring my fat bike.

21. Explore the High Desert Museum

If you’re in Sunriver for awhile or simply need to get out and do something different, check out the High Desert Museum. This museum is a unique combination of wildlife, history, and art. The High Desert Museum is a favorite spot for kids. You can see otters, fox, porcupine, owls. There’s some great history and walk-through exhibits of the first people to live in Central Oregon, the Oregon Trail, mining towns, etc. You’ll also find rotating art and history exhibits.

The combination of indoor and outdoor options here are especially fun for active kids who like to keep moving. Tip: the museum cafe is a great spot to grab lunch or a snack. The High Desert Museum is about a 10 minute drive from Sunriver.

22. Learn about the History of Sunriver

The first humans to live in the area of Central Oregon southward toward the California border were the Paleo Indians who lived near Fort Rock, Oregon. Eventually splitting into several groups including the Klamath people, Siletz, and Grand Ronde and Warm Springs.

Sunriver, as a resort town, has a very short history. The first development in this area was as an US Army camp and training base in the early 1940s. The Sunriver Resorts Great Hall building was originally the Army Officers’ Club. Condos and Sunriver Resort development happened in the late 60s. And it’s been a resort community ever since.

23. Visit Bend

If you’re using Sunriver as your base for exploring Central Oregon, at some point you’ll find yourself in Bend. There are endless amounts of things to do in Bend – from outdoor activities, to restaurants, breweries and more.

Soaking pool
Soaking pool at McMenamin’s Old St Francis School in Bend

Hikes near Sunriver, Oregon:

There are plenty of great hiking options near Sunriver.

  • Benham Falls from East Trailhead – 2 miles roundtrip (trailhead 9 mile drive Sunriver, or 5 mile bike ride)
  • Trail of Molten Land at Lava Lands – miles roundtrip (trailhead 19 miles from Sunriver)
  • Tumalo Mountain – 4 miles roundtrip (trailhead 19 miles from Sunriver)
  • Paulina Falls – .5 miles roundtrip (trailhead 23 miles from Sunriver)
  • Fall River Loop / LaPine State Park – 4.4 mile loop (trailhead 12 miles from Sunriver)

Places to Stay in Sunriver

Your two main lodging options for Sunriver are: Sunriver Resort or a vacation house in Sunriver. Staying at the Sunriver Resort will grant you access to The Cove pool and various other amenities. Staying at a vacation rental/Airbnb/VRBO etc may or may not grant you access to the SHARC pool (Sunriver Homeowners Association Rec Center). So double check with your host, before booking. You can of course use the bike trails, and go to the restaurants within the Sunriver Resort without staying there. Both options are popular for family trips, but with a bigger group, a larger vacation rental will give you more space!

For pet-friendly hotels, The Sunriver Resort has a number of units in the Lodge Village and private rentals. They also offer boarding services. More info.

The Best Time to Visit Sunriver

The summer months are the busiest time to visit Sunriver. And it’s popular for a reason – all those warm weather activities! However, late summer can also be chancy air-quality wise, with wild fire smoke in Central Oregon. If you are not a “resort” kind of person, I would highly suggest a mid-week visit to avoid the crowds and still enjoy all the activities on offer. Or a weekend after Oregon schools go back in session and before they get out for summer (Sept through May). Midweek and shoulder season travel will also be more affordable.

And if you live in Central Oregon, Sunriver makes a great staycation option! The Sunriver Resort used to offer a local Deschutes County resident discount on lodging, but appears to only offer discounts now for activities like golf, Marina rentals and more.

I hope you enjoy Sunriver! If you want to explore beyond the Sunriver area, you can day trip to any other Central Oregon activities or hikes – north to Bend or Sisters, or south to La Pine or even the Crater Lake area.

And please remember to pack it in/pack it out, respect nature and local residents of central Oregon. To borrow Bend’s motto – Be nice! You’re in Bend! (or Sunriver!)

Note: This is not a sponsored post. All lodging and activities were paid for by myself, for an August 2022 and January 2023 stay.

Things to do in Sunriver Oregon