Summerland, Photo Kim Walker
By Kimberly Walker
The names give it all away when it comes to Summerland – this Okanagan community is a perfect warm weather destination. Nestled in the Okanagan Valley between the cities of Penticton and Kelowna, Summerland brings plenty of beaches, vineyards, orchards, and history to the table.
For a relatively small community, Summerland is home to a record number of places to access Okanagan Lake. Five public beaches – Sun Oka, Peach Orchard, Rotary, Kinsmen, and Powell – provide plenty of opportunity to wiggle your toes in the sand. Between the five, Summerland’s beaches offer volleyball courts, fire pits, waterparks, picnic areas, boat access, concession stands, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a miniature lighthouse. Plenty of things to keep your family entertained should they tire of the beach itself!
At 135 kilometres long and generally 4 or 5 kilometres wide, glacier carved Okanagan Lake is a dream for watersport enthusiasts. Summerland is the perfect place to launch your boat – or pick up a rental at the Summerland Waterfront Resort and Spa. If human powered adventures are more your speed, not to worry, the resort also rents kayaks, canoes, pedal boats, and stand-up paddle boards.
For an inland adventure consider a ride on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. The 500 kilometre long Kettle Valley Railway was built between 1910 and 1916 to forge a Coast-to-Kootenay connection and bring the rich mineral deposits of the Kootenays to market. The railway ended up being catastrophically expensive to maintain and run (it crossed THREE mountain ranges!), and by the mid-1960s this passenger service had ceased and before long the tracks were completely removed along most of the railway line. A notable exception to this is in the Okanagan Falls to Spences Bridge branch of the railway, which continued to run as a freight line until 1989. Today, a 16-kilometre section of the KVR in Summerland survives as one of the few places you can step back in history and take a ride on a genuine steam railway. The route stretches from Faulder, a railway stop just west of Summerland, to the spectacular 619 foot long and 238 foot high Trout Creek Trestle. Along the way, you will pass through valleys full of lush vineyards and orchards that will inspire you to eat and drink all that Summerland has to offer.
There is no better place to sip on some of Summerland’s own than along Bottleneck Drive – a collection of more than 20 wineries, cideries, and breweries. Ranging from a Quonset hut tasting bar at Dominion Cider to the sprawling patio at Dirty Laundry Vineyard, which serves up Lobster Lunches, Italian-style Pizza, perfect patio pairings, and craft beer on tap at the Bottoms Up Saloon (for those not wine-inclined!), Bottleneck Drive offers something for every taste. A stop at the Summerland Visitor Centre will provide you with a Bottleneck Drive map and stamp passport, and each location you visit brings you closer to entering the monthly prize draw for all sorts of boozy prizes.
For a fruit-filled experience, consider a stop at Summerland Sweets. This local gem is home to the most delicious syrups, jams, and candies. With a tasting bar, an ice cream shop, and a well-stocked gift shop, Summerland Sweets is a must-visit for any first time Summerland traveller. Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery, located inside the Summerland Sweets shop, is another excellent way to get your fruit fix. Serving up 13 table wines and 8 dessert wines, Sleeping Giant offers delectable flavours such as apricot, cherry, strawberry-rhubarb, cranberry, and pumpkin. Tastings are free and the location is hard to beat. From the shop, take your ice cream on a short stroll down to the aforementioned Trout Creek Trestle where you can walk right across the canyon.
Summerland Ornamental Gardens offers a place to wander and relax amid beautiful shade, cactus, Xeriscape gardens and meadows. The 100-year old botanical garden, located opposite Sun Oka Beach, is open year-round and entrance is by donation. Take a walk, bring a picnic and view the steam train as it rumbles over the KVR trestles.
One of the most spectacular views in Summerland comes from the top of Giant’s Head Mountain – the prominent extinct volcano that towers 500 metres above the community. For those looking for a good workout, a trail starts at the bottom of the mountain and climbs all the way to the summit. If you are looking for something a little more casual, a road climbs to within a 10-15 minute walk of the top.
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Summerland offers a little piece of paradise in the Okanagan Valley. While it is far from isolated, the community maintains a small town vibe that will be sure to charm you and make you wish your stay could be just a little bit longer.
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Published: September 6, 2018
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.