British Columbia’s beautiful Okanagan Valley is known for its exceptional wineries, picturesque lakes, and luscious fruits. Here are some of the top 5 places to sip, stay, and play in The Okanagan.
Sharing a story about the Okanagan, British Columbia, is an emotional endeavor. In August 2023, we were uncertain if we would be required to evacuate our vacation home in West Kelowna. An out-of-control wildfire tore a burning path of destruction just minutes away, displacing thousands of people and destroying over 100 structures. But fortune was on our side, and we remained unscathed. The experience left a deeper gratitude for this beautiful place we can call home, where visitors are warmly welcomed.
When to Visit the Okanagan
The Okanagan is a large area extending from Osoyoos on the border of Washington state at the south to Vernon, BC, at the north end. It totals about 125 miles (200 km) in length and 12.5 miles (20 km) in width. It also includes the towns of Oliver, Okanagan Falls, Naramata, Penticton, Summerland, Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Winfield, Oyama, and Lake Country. Less than a half million people call it home, but the population swells during peak tourist season, especially during July and August. The shoulder seasons are comfortable with slightly cooler temperatures and smaller crowds. Autumn harvest is my favorite time of the year.
Where to Stay in the Okanagan
Osoyoos is the warmest spot in Canada, almost desert-like in landscape and climate. During COVID, when international borders were closed, it was the go-to spot for Canadian snowbirds. Snow here is rare, but as you head further north, cooler temperatures prevail, the landscape is greener, and winter sports become an option. Choosing where to stay depends on activity preferences. I recommend planning a short stay in multiple spots along the route for variety.
My top five personal suggestions for accommodation all have convenient access despite some being just off the beaten path.
Walnut Beach Resort, Osoyoos
On the shore of Osoyoos Lake, Walnut Beach Resort offers fully equipped studio, one- and two-bedroom suites. Choose to play in the lake or swim in the year-round open pool. Food delivery from the onsite restaurant is an option.
Guesthouse at Burrowing Owl Winery, Oliver
Guesthouse at Burrowing Owl Winery in Oliver offers a quiet retreat in the vineyard. The guesthouse features ten rooms with fireplaces and private decks looking out over the 140-acre vineyard. Your room is just steps away from the tasting room. You can also enjoy the outdoor pool, sun deck, all-season hot tub, and Cellar Lounge adjacent to the poolside terrace. Enjoy a wine country breakfast each morning as part of your vineyard stay.
Naramata Inn, Naramata
Naramata Inn is one of the few historical places in the area. This 100-year-old inn in the heart of the village has luxurious refurbished rooms and a renowned restaurant serving local cuisine. The inn features 12 Mission-style rooms and one two-bedroom suite. Your stay in this period inn features every luxury you could want and a continental breakfast created by Chef Jacob, served only to overnight guests.
The Cove Lakeside Resort, West Kelowna
The Cove Lakeside Resort in West Kelowna features one- to three-bedroom suites on a quiet part of Okanagan Lake with easy access to the water, local hiking trails, and numerous wineries. Here, you’ll discover resort-style amenities like a spa, private balconies or patios, a large outdoor pool and waterslide, tennis courts, a fitness center, golf, and more.
Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort, Kelowna
Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort is in the heart of Kelowna on the shores of Okanagan Lake. Rooms here offer easy access to the waterfront park, restaurants, breweries, and hockey arena. The urban resort features indoor and outdoor pools and a full-service spa. You can enjoy the hotel restaurant or sip a glass of wine on the hotel’s lakefront patio.
Wine Industry in the Okanagan
The Okanagan has been called the Napa of Canada. Big reds, including cabernet sauvignon and syrah, dominate the south. Cool-climate wines such as riesling and pinot noir are better grown further north. Many wineries own vineyards in multiple regions, allowing them to produce a broader range of wine. Pinot gris and merlot may be the most predominant, but expect to find more than 80 total varietals. With 186 wineries spread throughout the Okanagan Valley, narrowing my recommendations is difficult. These wineries produce great wine plus offer memorable tasting experiences.
Mission Hill Family Estate, West Kelowna
I am slightly partial to Mission Hill Family Estate as it is less than a 10-minute walk from our house. The building is impressive. The grounds are grand and immaculate. Various tasting experiences are available, including lunch or dinner on the Terrace or even an outdoor concert in the summer months.
With the same owner (Anthony von Mandl) and architect (Olson Kundig) as Mission Hill, the lofty goal of CheckMate is to compete on the world stage, and they are succeeding. Try a high-scoring chardonnay or merlot with a matching price tag!
Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery, West Kelowna
Transformed at both the vineyard and facility level after a change of ownership occurred in 2016, wines at Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery continue to improve as the newly planted vines mature. Enjoy a glass of wine with a sense of place alongside a meal in the on-site restaurant, Modest Butcher.
Poplar Grove Winery, Naramata
Poplar Grove Winery features a modern, open-concept tasting room located on the Naramata Bench. Enjoy a wine tasting alongside a meal at Poplar Grove’s delicious onsite restaurant or outdoors at a table bordering the vineyard.
Arrowleaf Cellars, Lake Country
I love packing picnics, and Arrowleaf Cellars provides wine glasses and a table with a view high above Lake Okanagan when you purchase a bottle in the tasting room.
Things to Do in the Okanagan
Wine tourism is a big draw to the Okanagan, but there are a lot of other activities to do as well. Seasonally, skiing and snowshoeing are possible in the winter, with multiple ski resorts in the region. But the peak of tourism is during the summer, and since lakes and hills are abundant, water sports, hiking, and biking are all options for active people. Every time I visit, I do at least one of these activities.
Explore Myra Canyon
Part of the larger Kettle Valley Railway, the 7.5-mile (12 km) stretch of Myra Canyon in Kelowna contains 18 trestles high above the canyon. Many of the original trestles burned in a massive fire in 2003, but volunteers rebuilt them by 2008 for cyclists and walkers to enjoy.
Check out Mount Boucherie in West Kelowna
Sixty million years ago, this was a 6,500-foot volcano. Although now just 2,500 feet high, the elevation of this 3.7-mile (6 km) return hike is a good workout with a 360-degree view reward. In the winter, make it a snowshoe challenge.
Swim in a Lake
Okanagan Lake, geographically a fjord, is the largest at almost 84 miles (135 km) long! The valley contains over 100 lakes, from Osoyoos Lake in the south to Kalamalka Lake in the north. Family-friendly beaches with water parks, dog-friendly and even clothing-optional beaches allow everyone to find a vibe that jives.
Enjoy Water Sports
From speed boats to jet skis, hydrofoils to flyboards, kayaks to stand-up paddle boards, try something new! If you don’t own a toy, you can find a place to rent one in every town.
Go Pick Some Fruit
In addition to grapes, the valley is home to orchards growing many types of fruit. U-Pick is a fun way to immerse yourself in the orchard. Sneaking a sample or two while filling up a basket of cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, or apples is perfectly acceptable.
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Visiting the Okanagan
The Okanagan offers much more to discover than I could include in one go, or you can explore in one trip. Plan a road trip and discover Beautiful British Columbia for yourself! If you have a specific question, reach out in the comments or to me directly through social media channels. Cheers!