You might think you can conquer the Okanagan in 48 hours, but unless you want to drive straight through it, you can’t. Before you visit this beautiful region, be sure to pick an area to focus on. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to come thirsty and bring comfortable shoes so you can truly enjoy everything the Okanagan has to offer.
As far as cities go, Kelowna is anything but metropolitan. Its “urban sprawl” includes suburbs of farmlands and tree-lined mountains that shelter the green orchards and vineyards below.
See and do
Visit Myra Canyon, a section of the now decommissioned Kettle Valley Railway. Built to ship silver and fruit in the early 1900s, you can cycle or walk the 12 km path over wooden train trestles looking out onto Okanagan Mountain Park. Black charcoaled pines line the surrounding mountains and canyons, reminders of a massive wildfire that took place in 2003.
For a somewhat challenging hike, try Knox Mountain. Overlooking the downtown core with panoramic views of Okanagan Lake and West Kelowna, the trail also leads to a small beach, called Paul’s Tomb, that’s popular with the locals.
Beach bums looking for a little more action can enjoy Gyro Beach and Kelowna Waterfront Park. Both are packed with golden bodies all summer long, and kayak and SUP rentals are easily accessible from the beaches.
Wine lovers with little time should head to Lakeshore Road where they can choose between three world class wineries. Plus, it’s a beautiful drive. The road meanders alongside Okanagan Lake, beneath the charcoaled ponderosa pine trees scarred by wildfires, and the rows of vibrant green vineyards of world-class wines.
Sip and eat
Start your mornings off right by carb-loading at the Jammery. This local favourite, located near the airport, has an amazing brunch menu with meals that are accompanied by fresh local jams made on-site. Also worth visiting is the cozy El Dorado Hotel’s large patio positioned on Okanagan Lake, which serves traditional breakfast favourites.
Plan your snack stops by stocking up at The Kelowna Farmers Market. Depending on the season, you can pick up cherries, peaches, pears or apples fresh from the farmers themselves.
Reserve the wineries for your lunches and dinners. Perfectly paired meals are served on patios that overlook acres of green vineyards, often accompanied by lake views. Quail’s Gate in West Kelowna and Summerhill Winery in Kelowna have some of the best views and menu choices. Then grab an after-dinner coffee at Streaming Cafe. On weekends, talented musicians serenade you and your latte with live music.
When spring hits this region, pink and white fruit blossoms bloom on the sprawling cherry and apple orchards before turning into endless rows of green. Yellow and purple wildflowers grow in the tall grass of the valley floors. One of the quieter towns in the Okanagan, Lake Country has yet to feel the tourism boom, making it an appealing day trip for those wanting to escape the crowds.
See and do
Stretch your legs with a moderate climb up Spion Kopje, a dormant volcano with easy-to-follow trail markings, to overlook the valley. Don’t forget your camera—the view of the orchards and three lakes below is breathtaking.
With three crystal clear lakes it’s hard to decide which beach is best for an afternoon swim, but the green-blue waters at the lesser-known beach in Kaloya Park will make you feel like you’ve travelled to Hawaii.
Sip and eat
Dining options in Lake Country are minimal, but a meal at Grey Monk is sure to be memorable. This restaurant’s large patio rests high on the vineyard slopes that overlook Okanagan Lake and the massive orchards that stretch out from the winery.
For something a little more low key, stop in at Gatzke Orchards, a family run farmers market positioned slightly above Wood and Kalamalka Lakes.
Oliver and Osoyoos
Since they’re less than a 10-minute drive apart, you can combine these two towns into one visit. With more orchards than people, the South Okanagan is for foodies and those who really want to experience a wine tour without the crowds. Everything you see and do here will be intertwined with eating and drinking.
See and do, sip and eat
Indulge in a few too many while biking on backroads such as the Black Sage Road in Oliver. Traffic is more likely to be held up by a tractor than a car and you’ll find more places to stop before you can even break a sweat. Enjoy the Riesling at Burrowing Owl, indulge in wine without the service at Church and State, and stock up on fresh homemade goodness at the delicious samosa stands. Peach and apple stands also dot almost every roadway so make sure you bring a backpack to stock up.
In the evening, head to Tinhorn Creek. Besides a restaurant that has sweeping views of orchards and vineyards, the property also has a natural amphitheater that hosts a concert series throughout the summer while serving bottles of wine for your picnic.
But if you’re just looking for a relaxing day on the beach, then look no further than the stretch of golden sand near the Watermark Hotel in Osoyoos. Luckily, the beach isn’t far from wineries or orchard stands, so you won’t go hungry.