Kelowna Mountain Overlooking Okanagan Lake, Photo Destination BC Andrew Strain
The international gateway to British Columbia’s sunny Okanagan Valley, Kelowna is an extraordinarily scenic destination surrounded by rolling, pine-covered mountains. It is characterized by award-winning wineries, a thriving agricultural and orchard community, and an array of leisure activities. A short drive from downtown Kelowna will take you from a chic gallery to orchards, vineyards and grassy hillsides, all accented by the sparkling backdrop of Okanagan Lake offering an abundance of water sports to suit everyone. This recreation enthusiast’s paradise is popular for its biking and hiking trails including the Kettle Valley Railway trail, plus, in the winter, alpine and Nordic skiing. Sun-drenched plateaux, fresh seasonal harvest, memorable wines, powder snow, lake views and astonishing golf are signatures of this valley.
Located in the Thompson Okanagan region Kelowna is the largest city in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Located approximately 400 kms (240 mi) from Vancouver and 150 km (90 miles) north of the United States border. It is also 50 km (31 mi) south of Vernon and 63 km (39 mi) north of Penticton.
Artifacts suggest that hunters lived in the Kelowna area as far back as 2,000 years ago. However, the first European settlement took place in 1859, when three Oblate missionaries, Father Pandosy, Father Richard and Brother Surel, set up a mission for the area’s natives, traders and new settlers.
In 1893, Lord Aberdeen, Canada’s Governor General, bought huge tracts of land in the valley in recognition of Okanagan’s fruit-growing potential and industry which flourished over the years and today provides an abundance of fruits and vegetables that are shipped all over the world.
Kelowna became a city in 1905 at a time when the population was 600. Its name comes from the story of August Gillard, an early settler who crawled from an underground shelter just as a group of Indians passed by. The Indians called out, “Kim-ach-touch”, meaning Brown Bear. Over time, this became Kelowna (meaning Grizzly Bear).
Today, the Kelowna area has a population close to 195,000 and boasts a rich history which can be seen at the various museums located in the region.