Central Okanagan is an amazingly diverse land that visitors from all over flock to year after year. Here, the unparalleled climate and landscape combine to offer a relaxing and fulfilling lifestyle cherished by the residents and tourists alike. With parks, lakes, orchards, and wineries around every corner, this area of BC is open year-round for recreation and fun. It is no surprise that visitors return year after year to bask in the marvelous sunshine of the Central Okanagan.
Lake Country is situated between the communities of Kelowna and Vernon on Hwy 97 and within easy reach of the Kelowna International Airport. It is made up of four different communities: Winfield, Okanagan Centre, Carrs Landing and Oyama, the "Jewel of the Okanagan". This is a fertile landscape marked by farmland, vineyards and orchards. Oyama is located at one of the loveliest vantage points in the valley - the isthmus between Wood Lake and Kalamalka Lake. Seventy-five years ago, it was an important hub in the central Okanagan by both rail and water. It is here that local farmers grew award-winning fruit and produce. For a better understanding of Lake Country's history, visit the Lake Country Museum located in what was once a two-room schoolhouse. Often called the "fruit capital of Canada", the Okanagan is renowned for its bountiful orchards. Throughout Lake Country, one can see the industry is alive and well with miles of orchards growing apples, cherries, apricots, pears and peaches.
Kelowna - a city for all seasons. It's a place where the climate is mild and sunshine abounds. It's the largest city in the region, blessed with spectacular mountain scenery, large pristine lakes, sandy beaches and orchard and vineyard laden hillsides. This is a true haven for the serious vacationer offering golfing, skiing, boating, fishing, water sports, winery, orchard and garden tours, hiking, mountain biking, shopping, dining, arts and cultural activities and everything in between.
Situated on the shores of 131 km (82 mi) long Lake Okanagan, Kelowna is the BC interior's largest community. An average of only 33 cm (13 in) of precipitation per year solidifies its reputation as a vacationer's paradise. Here you can enjoy one of the longest golf seasons in Canada running from March to November. Home to several world-class courses, Kelowna is a premier golf destination for some of the best golfers. An additional, 12 first-class golf courses can also be found throughout the city.
Some of the best skiing in Canada can be found just a short drive from Kelowna at Big White Ski Resort. Boasting an impressive resume, Big White is the second largest ski resort in BC and Canada's largest totally ski in/ski out resort village with a bed base of 13,200 ft. and Champagne powder covering 112 trails accessed by 13 lifts.
The mountains surrounding Kelowna also beckon hiking or biking through Knox Mountain Park for a view of the city. Mission Creek Park is the perfect choice for a long, easy stroll or a more challenging experience as the trail actually hooks up with the Okanagan High Rim Trail that runs all the way through to Vernon.
If a stroll is more to your liking, wander through the serene garden in an orchard setting at Elysium Garden & Nursery. Kasugai Gardens is a wonderful Japanese Garden Setting symbolizing Kelowna's cultural connection with Kasugai, Japan. Watch kokanee Salmon swim up the spawning channel in the fall at Mission Creek Park or visit the Environmental Education Centre featuring demonstration gardens, nature trails and ponds.
With a history dating back to the mid-1800s when settlers first started planting fruit trees, Kelowna certainly has a few stories to tell about its growth and development over the years. Start off with a visit to the BC Orchard Museum to learn of Kelowna's transformation from open cattle range to one of North America's top fruit producing regions. A wide array of displays, historic artifacts and old pictures help tell the story. Close by is the Kelowna Museum focused on the region's natural history and human settlement.
Family fun can be found throughout the city within the miles of beautiful parklands - many located on sandy beaches with grassy picnic areas and playgrounds. City Park in downtown Kelowna, is a popular summertime hot spot with a great sandy beach and whimsical water park for the kids. A skateboard park, sports field and an amphitheatre for the many musical events held throughout the summer are also resident to City Park. Along the lake, vacationers can rent powerboats, seadoos, and even houseboats for more fun in the sun and on the water.
Kelowna's burgeoning wine industry has helped put the city on the world stage. Internationally acclaimed wines come from this lush and fertile land. Throughout the hillsides are miles of vineyards with vistas to be enjoyed by all. The wineries all welcome visitors to taste their award-winning wines and tour their facilities. The Spring, Summer and Fall Okanagan Wine Festivals - held throughout the region - consistently draw visitors from around the world.
With all the amenities of a major city, Kelowna boasts fine dining, and a vibrant cultural life. View paintings and sculptures at the many galleries including the Kelowna Art Gallery. One of Canada's finest collections for bronze sculptures can be viewed at Geert Maas Sculpture Gardens. Several talented theatre groups, a symphony orchestra, live entertainment and multicultural events add to the richness of the city's art scene.
Westbank, just south of Kelowna on Hwy 97, is like Kelowna's quieter and more relaxed sibling. With a population of 26,000 people, it is approximately one quarter the size of Kelowna; but this doesn't mean it has any less to offer. Westbank is surrounded by mountains and is situated on Okanagan Lake's busy shores offering a host of amenities for travelers including wineries, golfing and art galleries. For those who enjoy playing in the water, there's sailing, canoeing, houseboating and windsurfing, and in the winter there's downhill and cross-country skiing.
Less than 20 minutes south is the historic community of Peachland. With a population of just over 5,000 people, this town specializes in orchards and vineyards. Peachland is a tranquil and charming town, with its doorstep on the banks of the great Okanagan Lake. The best time of year to visit Peachland is in the spring and summer when the fruit trees are in full bloom and laden with fresh fruit.
The entire Okanagan Valley is home to nearly three dozen wineries, many of them being small but excellent farmgate wineries. Just follow the wine route signs.
Above Okanagan Lake's banks, is a wilderness park, which dominates the eastern side of the shore. With 11,000 hectares of rugged landscape, Okanagan Mountain Park abounds with mountain lakes, grasslands, and dense forest. The park is only accessible by foot, bicycle, or horseback, so come prepared with plenty of water to quench your thirst during long, hot and arid days. Hikers will thoroughly enjoy the wonderfully scenic trek to the top of Okanagan Mountain, where beautiful lakes and the Monashee Mountains appear their finest.
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Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia