The climate and ambience of the South Okanagan invites visitors to come and spend long days relaxing on the sandy beaches. Whether you're here to sail for a day, or camp for week, there's something accommodating for everyone. Wine is such a big part of life here that there's a wine festival every season. This is where people come to participate in numerous tasting banquets and special events.
Penticton, located on Hwy 97, is one of Canada's best-loved vacation spots. Cradled within three trimmed mountain slopes, dramatic clay cliffs and bordered by Okanagan and Skaha Lakes, Penticton & Wine Country has the natural beauty vacationers seek. The semi-arid desert climate creates long, hot, sunny summers and mild, pleasant winters.
Winter recreation is first-class at Apex Mountain, just a short drive from Penticton. The diverse terrain and intimate village keep guests coming back for more. Come summer, trade your skis for hiking boots, mountain bikes or climbing equipment. Hike through alpine meadows or mountain bike multi-level terrain from gentle trails to world-class single track. The ultimate scenic mountain biking trials are along the Kettle Valley Railway bed. Trails wind gently down the hillside into old growth Ponderosa Pine and lush orchards and vineyards. Skaha Bluffs, rated world class within the industry, is a rock climber's favorite. Situated on the southeast edge of Penticton, the naturally occurring escarpments offer 700 sport-climbing routes to explore with or without a guide.
The climate that makes vacationing in Penticton a dream is also what nurtures its superb agriculture and wine industry. More than 40 wineries welcome visitors to tour their vineyards and taste world-class vintages. Penticton is also proud to be the home of British Columbia's Wine Information Centre, featuring more than 300 varieties of VQA wine from around BC.
Some of the best skiing in North America can be found at Apex Mountain Resort. Unique for its dry Okanagan powder and its emphasis on personal attention, this mountain caters to those who want to find a winter haven. All 450 hectares and 67 runs of magnificent fall line skiing and boarding are accessible after a short 6-minute ride on the high-speed quad lift. Along with amazing skiing and snowboarding, you will also find sleigh rides, snowmobile tours, snowshoeing, an outdoor hockey rink, an illuminated skating loop through the trees and a tube park complete with its own tow.
Summerland is located in the heart of the Okanagan fruit belt just north of Penticton. It is a spectacular place offering visitors over 2,000 hours of sunshine annually, as well as an incredible landscape of rolling hills, sagebrush and pine, lush orchards and vineyards. Here you'll find some of the best beaches in the Okanagan. Peach Orchard Beach has a water park and boating facilities and there's Okanagan Provincial Park and Sun Oka Beach Provincial Park which has a white mile of sandy shoreline. The warm climate also allows for some great golfing on the two local courses.
A "must-do" when visiting Summerland is a trip to the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. The great Train Robbery theme is a hoot as the Garnett Valley Gang rides out of the hills to rob passengers for local charities. To view the Kettle Valley Railway Bridge, visit the Summerland Ornamental Gardens, a 6-hectare historical garden featuring xeriscape plantings plus the Agricultural Museum. Summerland is proud of its downtown - one of the most charming and certainly unique towns in the Okanagan. Old England comes alive with Tudor revival architecture, ornate iron lamp posts, colorful hanging baskets and street side banners. There's even a Town Crier complete with bell and traditional "oyez" who heralds the community's year-round festivals and events. With pottery studio tours, and an Art Gallery featuring local artists and a resident theatre group, Summerland is a thriving arts community too.
At the very southern end of the South Okanagan, near the US border, there's the bustling town of Osoyoos. Renowned for being situated in the middle of Canada's only true desert, it is considered to be the oasis of the desert landscape. It's also where you will find the warmest freshwater lake in all of Canada, Osoyoos Lake. In and around Osoyoos, low rainfall and sandy soil create a desert environment that is home to over 30% of BC's threatened and endangered wildlife, rare insects and plants. You can view this ecologically sensitive desert area at Cathedral Provincial Park. Vacationers flock here year after year making it one of the Okanagan's favorite summertime destinations. Spring comes early, fall stays late and the mild winters and friendly small town atmosphere make it the perfect place for "snowbirds" seeking respite from harsher weather elsewhere.
For those looking for a little more activity, the 27-hole championship golf course is open most of the year and comes complete with a million dollar view of the valley. In Osoyoos, you can rent bikes and ride the trials, or lace up your hiking boots and explore the hills. With the warm lake, water sports and boating are a natural fit. And there's plenty of fun and amusement for the whole family during summer. For those winter enthusiasts, Mt. Baldy Ski Resort and McKinney Cross-Country trails are a short drive away.
Located in the Okanagan's best wine growing area, Osoyoos is also home to North America's first aboriginal owned winery, Nk'Mip Cellars, where the view from the patio encourages you to linger over a glass of Chardonnay on a warm fall day.
Historic Greenwood, 90 km (56 mi) east of Osoyoos along Hwy 3, is the "smallest" town in Canada. Incorporated in 1879, Greenwood was once the hub of gold and copper mining in fabulous Boundary Country. Step back in time and visit some of the best-preserved Heritage buildings in British Columbia. Victorian-era structures and smelter ruins form part of Greenwood's culture. This historic setting was the location of Universal Studio's 1998 movie "Snow Falling on Cedars". Enjoy the early 1900's architecture while browsing the shops or taking refreshment at a sidewalk café. The city's mining and Japanese heritage can be viewed at the Greenwood Museum & Visitor Info-Centre. From here, biking enthusiasts can access the Trans Canada Trail that meanders through Greenwood.
Just 40 km (26 mi) to the east, Grand Forks invites you to experience the culture and pristine adventure of the beautiful valley. Exciting outdoor adventures, combined with a rich history, awaits you on the Trans Canada Trail. Journey along the rugged mountain trail of the Fisherman Station, view the spectacular North Fork Valley, and look above to the rock walls that rise to the sky. Cruise along the Grand Forks valley trail and view the rich, colorful, quilted farmland. Be lured along the Kettle River Trail by the Kettle River. Pass through the historic tunnels and cross the many trestles along the way. Grand Forks is a designated "hub" community on this incredible pathway.
Whether mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling or cross-country skiing, sampling authentic Russian cuisine or immersing yourself in history with a trip to the local museum, we promise you will love the wonderful world of Grand Forks!
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Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia