Planning a Vacation in the Okanagan
The Okanagan is a great place to visit any time of the year. The beautiful beaches attract many people in the hot summer months. There are ski resorts here too for those who like winter activities.
The valley begins in the town of Osoyoos and extends north to the town of Armstrong. Kelowna is the largest city, with a population of over 100,000. The total distance is about 125 miles, or 200 kilometers.
The area has experienced rapid population growth in the last two decades, due to its favorable climate and good quality of living. Victoria may be the retirement capital of Canada, but Kelowna is also popular with retirees.
This area is noted for many lakes, with the largest one being Lake Okanagan. It is about 85 miles long, or 135 kilometers. There also are many orchards and wineries throughout the area. In recent years, there has been a big increase in wine production, which has been a great benefit to the local economy. Many people really prize Okanagan wine, and consider it to be of very good quality.
Summers are hot and dry in the Okanagan, making it a great location for outdoor activities such as swimming and boating. In the winter months the ski resorts are busy and attract a lot of people. The winters are mild by Canadian standards, and spring usually arrives here earlier than a lot of other places in Canada.
This article will discuss places to visit while in the Okanagan. It's a great place to go for a holiday almost any time of the year.
Osoyoos, the Area With Canada's Only Desert
Osoyoos is located right at the USA/Canada boundary. It is noted for its desert landscape, and often has the hottest temperatures in Canada in the summer time.
There is a Desert Center nearby that offers interesting information about this area. Lizards, scorpions, and other creatures and plants can be found in the southern Okanagan. This area is part of the Sonoran Desert, which extends all the way to Mexico.
Osoyoos has a population of about 5,000. During the summer time the beaches are very crowded and accommodation can be hard to find if you don't have a reservation. The town is located at Osoyoos lake, which is very popular for swimming and boating activities. Most of the motels and hotels are located at the beach or within walking distance.
It is not unusual to have temperatures of over 90 degrees fahrenheit, or 33 celcius, for weeks at a time. However, the humidity is very low which makes the heat more tolerable.
There are many fruit and vegetable markets here and a number of nice restaurants. Campgrounds are available and also very busy in the spring and summer.
Location of Osoyoos
The Scenic Drive to Penticton
Heading north on Highway 97, you will pass many wineries and orchards along the way to Pentiction. It is only about 40 miles or 70 km. However, I suggest allowing plenty of time so you can stop along the way.
This is one of the prime fruit growing regions in Canada. Fruit grows here due to irrigation and hot, sunny summers. Cherries, peaches, pears, apricots, and apples all grow well in the Okanagan. There are many fruit stands all along the highway, and prices are good. Many of the markets also sell homemade jams, baking, and other items.
There are about 45,000 people living in Penticton. The city is situated between two lakes, Skaha and Okanagan. There are several festivals held in the summer months, including a wine festival and one for kids.
This is also the main wine growing region in the area. There are over 80 wineries close by, and many of them are available for wine tasting and tours.
North of Penticton is the scenic town of Naramata. In the last few years, the wine industry has increased dramatically in the town. The views along the drive are outstanding, and the town itself is tiny but very quaint. It's just a short drive and well worth the extra time.
South Okanagan Lake
The Kelowna Area
Heading north again on Highway 97, you will pass the towns of Summerland and Peachland. The drive is very scenic and there are plenty of places to stop and admire the view.
Summerland is noted for having many fruit stands and markets right off the main highway. There is a lot of camping available here too.
The downtown area of Peachland is just off the highway. The beachfront area extends for quite a distance and is great for swimming. There also are large playground areas for kids. It's one of my favorite places to stop when visiting the region.
Westbank and the Kelowna area are just a short drive away. There are two major ski resorts here. You will arrive in downtown Kelowna after crossing the Lake Okanagan bridge.
Kelowna is the most popular destination for tourists. It has a vibrant downtown featuring art galleries, boutiques and other shops. There are plenty of hotels at or near the beach. The main park is located at the waterfront. It is just steps from downtown.
There also are two large resorts here, the Delta Grand and Lake Okanagan. Both of these are located at the waterfront.
In August the city hosts an annual professtional boat racing event, which is also the largest of its kind in Canada. It has been held each summer for many years, and has remained very popular. Thousands of people attend it each year.
Vernon and Armstrong
It only takes about an hour to drive from Kelowna to the town of Armstrong. Lake Kalamalka is a few miles south of Vernon and is beautiful to see. The lake colors change with the season, and are often a bluish green. The lake can be seen from the highway.
Vernon has a population of 60,000. There is a Sunshine Festival in June, and a music one in August. The downtown civic center hosts free summer concerts every Thursday.
One of the main attractions downtown are the many murals, which depict the early history of the area. They are very interesting and worth seeing.
The Okanagan Valley ends at the town of Armstrong. This is a small community with about 5000 people. It is well noted for growing fruit and for Armstrong cheese.
Each summer Armstrong hosts a stampede and exhibition with chuckwagon races, a rodeo, and lots of rides and fun for the family. There also is a country fair and entertainment in the evening. The stampede has a long tradition going back over 100 years.
There is a lot to see and do in the Okanagan Valley all year. The summer is the busiest season, and reservations are a good idea.