Did you know that Penticton is one of the only towns in the world located between two lakes? The other is Interlaken in Switzerland. After learning this, I had a little think about what else makes the small town of Penticton a pretty unique place.
Floating the Channel
Drifting down a slow river on a plastic floating device (a ‘floatie’) is a pretty common part of any summer in British Columbia. Penticton, however, is home to what must be the laziest river of them all! Created in the 1950’s to control water flow between Okanagan and Skaha lakes, the River Channel hosts the province’s biggest floating party every summer. The slow, shallow river is the perfect place to relax, listen to music, drink, chat and sunbathe. There’s even an Elvis impersonator who pops up at the half-way point. Depending on the time of year, it takes about 2-3 hours to drift the full 7km length.
A walking wine tour
Located in the heart of the Okanagan wine country, Penticton has over 100 wineries within an hour’s drive. The highest concentration of wineries and vineyards is just a short cycle northeast from downtown on the Naramata Bench. The wineries here are generally small-scale, independent businesses, typically producing 2000-15,000 cases a year. The compact size of the vineyards means it is actually possible to visit a handful of wineries within just a few kilometres of walking or cycling! Having visited some more famous wine regions around the world (I’m looking at you Marlborough and Margaret River), I know this is definitely unusual!
Visit the Penticton sign
I don’t know about you, but the only other place I know with a giant sign stating the area’s name is Hollywood. Munson Mountain, above Okanagan Lake, is home to the highly visible Penticton sign. It was originally built with thousands of white pebbles by the Board of Trade in 1937. A few decades ago, the pebbles were replaced by concrete and silica. You can see the letters (up close and personal!) via a short walk from the Munson Mountain parking lot. I’m not sure that it’s so easy in Hollywood…
Five craft beer breweries
Not just a town for wine lovers, Penticton is something of a craft beer mecca. Metro Vancouver, reputedly the home of the BC craft beer movement, has around 64 breweries for a population of 2.3 million – about one brewery for every 36,000 people. Penticton, a relatively small town with a year-round population of 32,000, has a total of five breweries! To save you doing the maths, that’s one brewery for every 6,400 people. Beat that Vancouver!
World class climbing
The world-renowned climbing destination of Skaha Bluffs is hidden in the hills just south of Penticton. Three parallel canyons offer over a thousand climbing routes to visitors. The Bluffs may be every sport climber’s heaven, but some traditional climbing is possible here too. The consistently dry conditions in the Bluffs provide almost all-year-round climbing opportunities that other Western Canadian climbing destinations (Squamish, Bugaboos et al) simply cannot. Best of all, the Bluffs are easily accessible and completely free to visit.