South Okanagan Vineyard - Osoyoos, BC Photo Courtesy of Allen Jones
Just like Okanagan wines, The Valley Vineyards Circle Tour has caught the attention of wine connoisseurs worldwide. Tour and taste the offerings from British Columbia’s best renowned wineries as you travel and take advantage of the Okanagan Valley’s beautiful scenery and fruits. This tour covers 1,150 kilometres (690 miles) and can take between 5 and 7 days, depending on how many vineyards you choose to visit. Most wineries along the route are listed in this write-up. For tour information from any of your favourite wineries, just phone them with any questions you man have.
Start in Vancouver, the metropolis of British Columbia’s west coast, and travel east on the Trans-Canada Highway 1. As the road begins to wind into the mountains, watch for Bridal Veil Falls cascading down the rock face. Hidden away in the forest, a short walk off the road will take you to the base of these falls. You’ll pass dairy farms and other pastoral charms of the lush Fraser Valley before arriving in Hope – a small city, 153 kilometres (95 miles) outside of Vancouver and nestled against the Cascade Mountains. Hope is the gateway to the interior situated at the junction of four major highways: the Trans-Canada Highway 1, the Coquihalla Highway 5, Crowsnest Highway 3, and Lougheed Highway 7. Celebrating its connection with the forest and its wildlife, Hope has become known as the “Chainsaw Carving Capital”, with 20 giant wooden sculptures scattered around the town.
From Hope, take Crowsnest Highway 3 east 135 kilometres (84 miles) to Princeton. In places, this major highway winds it way around sheer mountains, passing through heart-stopping scenery and rugged Manning Provincial Park.
As Highway 3 descends into Princeton, the west coast climate changes into that of the warmer, drier interior. Surrounded by spectacular lakes and provincial parks, Princeton offers fishing and camping year-round. One of the major attractions is the Trans-Canada Trail, which provides hiking and biking in the summer and snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Driving 38 kilometres (24 miles) along the pine and sagebrush banks of the Similkameen River will bring you to Hedley, a former boomtown gone bust. Relics from times past have been collected at the Heritage Museum, and you can visit Mascot Mine. Here, visitors will experience a semi-arid climate that makes the town perfect for fishing, swimming, and hiking.
A short 67 kilometres (42 miles) away, Keremeos is called “the Fruit Stand Capital of Canada”. If you don’t stop for a cup of tea at the famous waterwheel-driven Grist Mill, then pick up some fresh Okanagan fruit for the trip ahead. When leaving Keremeos, stay on Highway 3 and head south into Osoyoos.
Osoyoos is one of British Columbia’s vacation hotspots. People flock here for the warm weather, the glistening lakes, and the town’s quaint Mediterranean facade. Upon seeing the rows upon rows of lush orchards, green vineyards and the town’s 27-hole golf course, it often comes as a surprise that Osoyoos is in the centre of Canada’s only desert. An Interpretive Centre highlights the pocket desert’s delicate ecology of unique plants and animals. Visitors flock here year after year, making it one of the Okanagan’s favorite summertime destinations. With long summers and mild winters, Osoyoos is the perfect place for snowbirds seeking respite from harsher weather elsewhere.
From Osoyoos, head north on Highway 97. This road winds through beautiful orchards and marks the beginning of the Okanagan’s award-winning vineyards. Oliver – just 20 minutes away and known as the “Wine Capital of Canada”. Take time to admire the history-rich face of McIntyre Bluff, known as Indian Head. Legends and pictographs fill the surrounding area. Today, Oliver is an agriculture-fueled community with vineyards and orchards in almost every direction.
Travel 42 kilometres (26 miles) north on Highway 97 to the town of Okanagan Falls, which boasts fine sandy beaches on the shore of deep blue Skaha Lake. Stop by at the famous Snowy Mountain Chocolate Factory or try Tickleberry’s Homemade Ice Cream and indulge yourself before continuing on Highway 97 around the west side of the Skaha Lake to Penticton.
Penticton, is one of Canada’s best-loved vacation spots. Cradled within three trimmed mountain slopes and bordered by the Okanagan and Skaha Lakes, Penticton has all the natural beauty vacationers seek. A semi-arid desert climate creates long, sunny summers and mild, pleasant winters. The climate that makes vacationing in Penticton a dream is also what nurtures its superb agriculture and wine industry. More than four-dozen wineries welcome visitors to tour their vineyards and taste world-class vintages. Penticton is also proud to be the home of British Columbia’s Wine Information Centre, featuring more than 300 varieties of VQA wine from around British Columbia. To explore more vineyards, take a trip up the east side of Okanagan Lake to the orchard community of Naramata. Each winery offers a unique tour that enables you to experience good food, fine wine, and alluring countryside.
From Penticton, Highway 97 follows the west bank of Okanagan Lake 68 kilometres (43 miles) north to Kelowna. Kelowna is a place where the climate is mild and sunshine abounds. Being the largest city in the region, Kelowna is blessed with spectacular mountain scenery, large pristine lakes, sandy beaches, and fruit laden hillsides. This is a true haven for the serious vacationer, offering golfing, skiing, boating, fishing, water sports, wineries, orchard and garden tours, hiking, mountain biking, shopping, fine dining, arts, cultural activities and everything in-between.
Those who want to unwind and relax are encouraged to take in a winery tour. The burgeoning wine industry has helped put Kelowna on the world stage. Throughout the hillsides are miles of vineyards with vistas to be enjoyed by all. The wineries all welcome visitors to taste their award-winning wines and tour their facilities.
On the way to Kelowna, you’ll encounter the charming communities of Summerland and Peachland. Summerland is located in the heart of the Okanagan fruit belt just north of Penticton. It is a spectacular place offering visitors over 2,000 hours of sunshine annually, as well as an incredible landscape of rolling hills, sagebrush, and pine, lush orchards and vineyards. Here you’ll find some of the best beaches in the Okanagan. Peach Orchard Beach has a water park and boating facilities. There’s also Okanagan Provincial Park and Sun Oka Beach Provincial Park, which has a white mile of sandy shoreline.
Less than 20 minutes north is the historic community of Peachland. This town specializes in orchards and vineyards. Peachland is a tranquil and charming town, with its doorstep on the banks of Okanagan Lake. The best time of year to visit Peachland is in the spring and summer, when the fruit trees are in full bloom and laden with fresh fruit.
The entire Okanagan Valley is home to many wineries, from the small but excellent farmgate wineries to internationally-renowned wineries. Just follow the wine route signs and you’re bound to find exactly what you’re looking for.
Continue up Highway 97, out of BC’s wine country and into Vernon‘s warm water recreation district. Surrounded on all sides by the warm water lakes of Okanagan, Kalamalka, and Swan, Vernon plays host to a wide variety of water sports. Roam through the fragrant orchards in the spring visiting by historic O’Keefe Ranch, where a country-cooked meal awaits. Vernon is the perfect place for a leisurely vacation.
After a few busy days of touring vineyards and tasting wines, you might be eager to relax by some of the region’s lakes. If so, read up on our Okanagan Lakes and Rivers. Otherwise, travel north on Highway 97 to Kamloops and then south on the Coquihalla Highway 5 to Merritt. Continue south and just before Hope, the Coquihalla Highway 5 will join the Trans-Canada Highway 1, which takes you west. Vancouver is only a few hours further along.