By Kimberly Walker
The Okanagan is home to sun and sand at the many beaches, spectacular orchards and vineyards, and ample opportunities for adventures. It is also the perfect location for a summer-time road trip. This itinerary is planned as a 3-day trip.
Start your travels in Osoyoos, Canada’s only natural desert, with a visit to the Nk’Mip area. This sprawling complex operated by the Osoyoos Indian Band boasts a campground and RV park, a vacation rental resort, a golf course, a very nice winery, and the excellent Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre. Your day can easily be absorbed by visiting the interpretive area at the Cultural Centre, strolling through the outside grounds to a replica of a traditional village, hiking through the desert hills to a beautiful viewpoint on the property, and then sampling wines at Nk’Mip Cellars – the first Aboriginal owned and operated winery in North America.
On your second day, pack up and head north to Penticton. On your way, stop at a few of the many roadside stands to purchase fresh fruit, or for the more adventurous, seek out a U-Pick location and spend a couple of hours wandering up and down orchard rows selecting your own fruit. When you get to Okanagan Falls, a stop at Tickleberry’s for a well-deserved (and Instagram worthy) ice cream, a huge selection of chocolate covered dried fruit, and fresh fudge.
Upon your arrival in Penticton, make immediate tracks for one of the plentiful beaches to soak up a little sun. Nestled between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake, Penticton has perfect sand beaches on both ends. The two lakes are connected by the 7-kilometre Penticton River Channel, and every summer thousands of people show up with their floaties to spend a few hours relaxing on the water. At the end of your float, simply catch the Coyote Cruises bus, which shuttles floaters back to their vehicles at the other end of the channel.
After your float, take a trip out to Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park. This world-class rock-climbing destination offers a variety of trails you can follow (no climbing required!) to see climbers in action on the sheer cliffs towering above you. Make sure to stay clear of the belaying area and don’t exceed your own limits, as some of the trails are rocky and uneven.
On day three, continue to head north and spend the day exploring Summerland. Aptly named, Summerland is home to a number of excellent beaches, but if you are in the mood for something a little different, consider taking a ride on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. The standard 90-minute trip takes you through rolling vineyards and orchards out to the Trout Creek Bridge, and then back. Check the website, because if your dates align, you might end up being a part of the Great Train Robbery – a special 2 hour train plus BBQ event featuring a visit from the notorious Garnet Valley Gang (bring some change!).
Summerland is home to more than 20 wineries, cideries, and breweries, so in the afternoon, plan to explore some of Summerland’s famous “Bottleneck Drive.” Pick up a map at either the Visitor Centre or your first winery.
The South Okanagan is a phenomenal place to escape from the daily grind. With ample opportunities for both relaxation and adventure, a three-day trip can easily be stretched to a week or more by taking time to explore back roads, soaking up the sun at the numerous beaches, and experiencing the many shops, wineries and restaurants in each community.
Note: During the summer of 2020 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic you may find some businesses closed or having reduced hours or services. Please check before you go and remember to follow BC’s health and safety recommendations while traveling and staying at accommodations in this province.
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For accommodation in the South Okanagan or elsewhere in British Columbia check out the Lodging, Camping and RVing links at Travel-British-Columbia.com
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Published: June 10, 2020
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.