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Vines on the Naramata Bench
By Kimberly Walker
Penticton, the largest city in the South Okanagan, and it’s neighbour, Naramata, are the stuff of which vacation dreams are made. The abundance of sandy beaches from which to launch watersport expeditions is one of the main draws of the area. Another major regional attraction is the famous Naramata Bench – home to almost thirty wineries in the span of fourteen short kilometres of country road.
No vacation to Penticton is complete without a float trip on the 7-kilometre Okanagan River Channel that connects Okanagan Lake at the north end of the city with Skaha Lake to the south. The gentle current in the channel will propel you from lake to lake over the course of three to four hours. Upon completion of the trip, a shuttle bus will return you to your vehicle at the launch point for a small fee, or you can walk over to the main beach at Skaha Lake for even more relaxing in the sunshine.
For a watery adventure, consider spending some time at Penticton’s Wibit Waterpark. For those unfamiliar, a Wibit is essentially a gigantic floating bouncy castle. With floating walkways, trampolines, climbing areas, and several other obstacles to work your way around/through/over/under, the Penticton Wibit is the perfect way to transform your relaxing time at the beach into a full-on adrenaline adventure.
While in Penticton, a must visit destination is The Peach Ice Cream Shop (on the beach in an actual gigantic peach) for a crazy shake. If you time it right, spend some time wandering through the Penticton Farmers Market to check out hundreds of local vendors selling local produce, jewellery, food, and basically anything else you can imagine.
If you are looking for a break from the sun, consider exploring the largest remaining sternwheeler in British Columbia – the S.S. Sicamous – located on the beach in Penticton. The museum and heritage site gives traveller a unique opportunity to step back in time to the early 1900s when the ship, initially rated for up to 500 passengers, carried cargo and people between fourteen stops on Okanagan Lake. The S.S. Sicamous was the height of luxury in 1914 and today the carefully restored vessel is open daily (during the summer) for visitors to explore.
Wine is big business in the Okanagan, but not all of us can be sommeliers and without a little direction, the sheer volume of wineries can be a bit overwhelming. Enter the BC VQA (British Columbia Viners’ Quality Alliance) Wine Information Centre in Penticton. With a mandate to promote and sell BC wines, the Wine Information Centre is the perfect place to start any Okanagan Wine Tour. From private tastings booked in advance to last minute wine themed gifts, the helpful staff at the Wine Information Centre can help you with all your wine-themed questions.
After a stop at the BC VQA Wine Info Centre, head for the Naramata Bench by following the prolific “wine route” signs. These helpful guideposts provide some basic information about the names and locations of the nearly 30 wineries on the Naramata Bench, which allows you to take a leisurely pace and stop at as few or as many wineries as you find interesting. Some of my favourite wineries discovered by the “drop-in” approach include:
For a more guided experience, consider signing up for a formal wine tour. There are numerous tour operators who will, generally, pick you up at your accommodation, tour you around to a number of wineries, provide snacks and water throughout the day, and then drop you back at your accommodation at the end of the tour. Tours come in a wide range of options, from standard passenger vans, to open-top Jeeps, to combination cycling and wine tasting tours.
Great wine is not the only thing Naramata has to offer. It is also home to a beautiful section of the Kettle Valley Railway trail going out to the so-called “little tunnel.” This relatively short section of the KVR is a great option for both walking and cycling. Just make sure you bring lots of water, as it can get very hot on the exposed trail.
Penticton and Naramata offer plenty of options for travellers – whether your ideal vacation includes spending time at the beach, stepping back into history, or sampling some of the best local foods and wines BC has to offer.
For accommodation in the Okanagan or elsewhere in British Columbia check out Travel-British-Columbia.com
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Published: September 21, 2018
Last Updated: May 12, 2023
Kimberly is a Special Education, Elementary School teacher in Hope, BC. Previously having worked ten years at the Hope Visitor Centre & Museum promoting tourism in Hope and British Columbia, Kimberly worked on many local history projects in the museum as well as researching and writing articles for the local newspaper. Kimberly loves travelling with her husband Dale and their dog Alpine. In the fall of 2014, they spent the first 78 days of married life travelling and camping their way across Canada - just the two of them and the dog - travelling in a Hyundai Elantra! Kimberly loves various outdoor recreation types and exploring our beautiful province.