By Cheryl Rhodes
The town of Osoyoos has been a popular summer vacation spot as far back as I can remember. It’s about a 5 hour drive from the Vancouver area, and even as a kid I knew the route. Drive along Highway 1 until Hope. Turn off onto the Hope-Princeton Highway (Highway 3). Stay on it until you reach Osoyoos.
The highway between Hope and Osoyoos would be bumper to bumper with vacationers: trucks and camper units, cars pulling trailers or towing a boat, cars with canoes strapped to the roof, and a handful of those new-fangled Winnebagos. Perhaps not all destined for Osoyoos, but this was the main route to other camping hot spots throughout the Okanagan. The trip was broken down into several segments, each marker meant we were getting closer: the town of Hope, the Hope slide area, Manning Park, Princeton (and a stop at Frosty’s for a soft serve ice-cream cone rolled in candy sprinkles), Hedley (or more accurately the ramshackle abandoned mine barely clinging to the side of the mountain), Keremeos, and finally we’d crest a hill and see Osoyoos Lake.
There were several campsites around the lake in the 60’s and 70’s but most have long since closed and the land developed into other business ventures. The provincial campground at Haynes Point – a narrow strip of land cutting into the lake – still exists and is the crème de la crème for campers, if only they can get a coveted spot. Advance reservations are recommended because Haynes Point is usually fully booked months in advance. Shady Lagoon campsite, near the US border at Oroville, Washington was another popular campground with sites on the lake and in the orchard and families returning every year. The campground has closed, the orchard removed, grapes planted, and it now operates as a vineyard.
The town’s name comes from an Indian word meaning twin lakes and it’s known for being the warmest lake in Canada. Years ago vacationers came to Osoyoos mainly to enjoy swimming, water skiing, canoeing, or a lazy day floating on the lake on an inner tube. There used to be a horse racetrack and a drive-in movie theatre but there wasn’t too much else to do around this small town. Generally a vacation in Osoyoos meant visiting friends and relatives who were staying at a nearby campsite or hotel or in another community in the Okanagan. Vacationing in Osoyoos also meant going to a u-pick orchard to get peaches or apricots. For real excitement at night, someone in the group would drive across to the other side of the lake and up the hill to one of the scenic overlooks. The driver would flash their car lights on and off and their waiting family back at the lake would use a flashlight to signal them back.
Today vacationers still come to Osoyoos to enjoy the watersports, but the town has grown. New hotels, condominiums, shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions have sprung up and there is something for everyone.
Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad is a miniature town museum. Admission is $7.50 for adults and $4.50 for children. A bargain on a hot summer day just to get inside an air conditioned building! Visit their website for more information http://www.osoyoosrailroad.com/
Osoyoos Desert Society is set up on 67 acres to conserve the Okanagan desert habitats. This is a self-guided tour to learn more about the desert ecosystems. Admission is $7 for adults and $6 for children, or family rate of $16. To learn more, visit their website http://www.desert.org/
Check out Haynes Point. Walk or drive down the spit and envy the people who found camping spots.
There are golf courses and mini golf courses around Osoyoos, and several wineries in the region offer tours and wine tasting. Horse racing is even making a small comeback in Osoyoos. Desert Park has been closed for years due to lack of interest, but on August 31, 2013 there will be a field of eight races.
The Osoyoos visitor centre is at the junction of Highway 3 and Highway 97 (leading to other parts of the Okanagan), beside the Husky gas station/truck stop. They have maps, brochures, and can give advice on activities to do around Osoyoos.
For more information on Osoyoos, visit http://www.travel-british-columbia.com/thompson-okanagan/south-okanagan/osoyoos/
Published: July 25, 2013
Cheryl Rhodes writes from Surrey, British Columbia where she lives with two dogs and three horses. She’s the author of 5 novels and a cookbook, and enjoys traveling, photography, swimming, geocaching, reading, and writing mysteries. Visit her at www.cherylrhodes.com