First off, lets start with the oft abused term "Resort". Webster's simply defines a Resort as a place that is frequented often by (summer) vacationers - a place that provides recreation and entertainment. In the most basic terms, Sunbanks Resort fits this bill. In my mind though "resort" is something much much nicer...a place for relaxation, a sparkling clean oasis in which to soak up sunshine and perhaps even get a soothing massage at the fancy shmancy and over-priced spa. If your definition of Resort is similar to mine - Sunbanks Resort should be your last resort - forget about relaxing, there's nothing clean about this place and there sure as heck ain't no highfalutin spa. This is a review of our Fri-Sun stay here with friends in the tenting/RV area as well as a couple of the lakeside cabins.
Let's start with the good: 1) The people who work at Sunbanks are very friendly. In fact without their friendly attitude and helpful nature I would have dropped my rating from 2 stars to 1 star. They are constantly patrolling the resort in golf carts and do their best to help people, offer a friendly wave and reign in the chaos that this place generates. The main purpose of this place is for a base camp for Banks Lake. If you don't have a way to get out on the lake (and Banks lake is a beautiful and awesome lake to explore) there is absolutely no reason for you to stay here in my opinion.
The Bad: Prepare yourself for a sea of humanity. I have never "camped" at a place so packed full of people. The owners (actually leasers of DNR land) have made it so there is not a square inch of property that is not used in some form or fashion to squeeze more people in. Prepare yourself to make this comment: "This is really our campsite? Really? REALLY?". The tent and RV spots are just barely large enough to park your RV or vehicle on and/or set up a tent on. In an area that would comfortably fit a single RV or a couple of tents - Sunbanks will squeeze in 4 or 5. Figuring out where your designated spot perimeter begins or ends is up to interpretation and often is defined by people setting up defensive barriers of lawn chairs, pop-up canopies or any other camping paraphernalia people can use to establish territory. Even with these barriers set up, be prepared to have the enemy (other campers) milling through your campsite at all times of day and night (and due to the layout of the place and sheer volume of people, this often cannot be helped). The sites themselves are generally awful, providing very little in the way of level ground and are about as private as a Walmart parking lot. You are at the mercy of your neighbors here...if you happen to get stuck next to (or anywhere in the vicinity of) a sketchy crowd of 24/7 beer swillin' country music for breakfast F-bomb spewing yahoos (and trust me, you can't throw Styrofoam cooler full of Bub Light without hitting one) be sure you bring ear plugs or you won't get much sleep. Oh and everyone, it seems, has a dog. I love dogs. What I don't like are barking dogs and the debris dogs leave behind. Dogs will be dogs though and anytime they see one of their brethren they will say hello or attempt to defend their masters 10' x 20' camping spot. Can't blame them for barking...I wanted to bark at some of the people there too.
The Lakeside cabins (don't expect to actually have access to the lake by the way) we stayed in had one advantage over the tent/RV sites - hard sided walls. While that didn't really block out the noise of trucks or people heading to the boat launch at 6:00am, it did give a psychological sense of getting away from the masses (and probably a false sense of security from the rodents seen scurrying under the cabin at night). They are lined up within 10 feet of the adjacent cabin so be prepared to get friendly with the neighbors and once again vie for territory. The floors where filthy (a tip for Sunbanks - how about providing a frigg'n broom?) and the beds had thin vinyl covered foam mattresses. We had to bring in the nasty resin table from the porch to use inside the cabin as the only place to set anything down was on top of the dust and grease topped microwave (which was on top of the mini-fridge) or on the dirt covered floor. We quickly discovered that in order to use the supplied microwave and coffee pot that we had to either put them on the floor or on the nasty resin table in order to plug them in because the cords would not reach the socket (which also required unplugging the fridge).
The Ugly: Pit toilets. Okay so pit toilets are often the only option in a lot of campgrounds, it's just a reality of camping. Here's the problem though, when you have a place packed with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people it's gonna get nasty. I give the workers at Sunbanks credit, they try to keep the place clean. You see them constantly dumping garbage cans and (I can only assume) cleaning the bathrooms. But they are nasty just the same. They do have a bathroom with actual plumbing at the "lodge" but there are only two stalls in the Men's room and three in the Women's and it gets ugly fast. These are not places you want to linger for long and they make you want to slather your whole body in the hand sanitizer they provide. I should also note that most (if not all) of the small cabins they rent have no bathrooms or running water. First thing I did when I returned home from our stay there was take a long hot shower in an attempt to wash off any lasting memories of (and anything else from) Sunbanks resort. Oh and when walking around the property you'll get a variety of nose filling nastiness. My "favorite" was the RV dump that was right next to those pretty looking Villa's you see on their website (they ain't so pretty in person). I'd just like to say to the person who decided that would be a great spot for a RV dump..."Brilliant!!".
Overcrowding: There will be disputes among campers. It's simple fact of life. Cage too many animals in a small pen and eventually they will start turning on each other, especially if the animals have been drinking all day and night. Could be a minor dispute about too loud of music or loud partying in the wee hours of the night, or the before mentioned issues over territory. Again, most people are nice but this place attracts a large cross section of society and a big chunk of the people at Sunbanks look like the People of Walmart...just say'n.
Bugs: Bugs are another reality of camping...but they are particularly bad here. Bug spray is a MUST. I'm sure the sanitation issues don't help any.
I'm sure some people will read this review and say "He's just a camping snob" or "What a whiny anti-social wimp!"...and they possibly might be correct. I will say that while I hated the over-crowdedness of the place most people (campers and employees) where very friendly and hanging out with a group of friends drinking beer and enjoying a lake is always fun...but I can think of MUCH better places to do that. Also, for the same cost that we paid for a cabin (roughly the size of tool shed) I have stayed at much (much much!) better places...with actual beds, indoor plumbing, with no dirt on the floor and way better amenities. Sunbanks resort is a place to come if you have a large group that can literally take over a section of the campground and make it your own and as was the case with most people there, spending the entire day on the lake and simply using Sunbanks as a place to crash at night (assuming you can sleep). They have a band playing classic rock / country music on a stage in the middle of the campground and that is kinda fun (though I'm glad our spots were not near the stage or it would be hard to hold a conversation). They have a store with basic the necessities and a cafe, but we never ate there so I can't say what it was like.
Judging by the other reviews it's clear that some people love this place and others, like me, hated it. "Hate" is probably too strong of a word though, we did have some fun (because we were with friends), it simply is not what I look for in a summer time resort. In fact it's not what I look for anytime or anywhere or for any reason.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Sunbanks Lake Resort is the most unique lake resort destination in Eastern Washington. Located on beautiful Banks Lake near Grand Coulee, Sunbanks has 27 miles of natural scenic beauty ideal for camping, watersports, fishing, or any type of outdoor activity. Need a place to stay? Experience the new lake view villas, the waterfront cabins, or camp in the beautiful tent sites or RV hookups. Whether it’s weekend entertainment on our waterfront stage, a day on the boat, or a quiet night in luxury, Sunbanks Lake Resort has everything you and your family needs to enjoy a perfect vacation getaway. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Sunbanks Lake Hotel Electric City