The Okanagan Valley is hard to beat for a lazy summer road trip. The views are epic, distances are short (it’s only 170km from Osoyoos to Vernon), the local produce plentiful, the weather wonderfully warm.
Plus, there’s a lake everywhere you look. There’s definitely no shortage of things to do in the Okanagan Valley in the summer.
With surroundings as beautiful as this, you can’t really go wrong whatever you do on an Okanagan Valley road trip. With this in mind, here are my favourite things to do in the Okanagan Valley as discovered while living in Penticton for two and a half years.
By the way, if you were to base your Okanagan Valley road trip itinerary entirely on the places mentioned in this post, you should allow at least one week.
Of course, there are plenty more things to do in the Okanagan Valley that you may want to add as side trips.
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The town of Osoyoos is the perfect introduction to the Okanagan Valley. Hot, dry and yet also wildly abundant with local produce, this is the Canada that overseas visitors never imagine.
Top things to do in Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley:
- Take a swim! The warm waters of Osoyoos Lake are enticing, no matter whether you like swimming, floating, sunbathing, paddling or boating.
- Spotted Lake is an unusual natural formation just off Highway 3A. Dozens of small mineral rich coloured pools remain after the lake water evaporates in summer.
- Anarchist Mountain is accessed via a steep, winding section of the highway but offers the best panoramas in town. If you want to get higher, check out nearby Mt Baldy for alpine hiking.
- The Desert Centre is a great place to start if you want to learn more about the unique ecology of the Osoyoos area. Walk the 1.5km elevated interpretive boardwalk for a better view.
- Haynes Point (sẁiẁs Provincial Park) is a peninsula jutting out into warm Osoyoos Lake. There is a boardwalk here, great swimming and a very popular campground.
Looking to book a stay in Osoyoos?
Watermark Beach Resort – Great location
Spirit Ridge – Highly rated on Booking.com
Lakeview Motel and Suites – Good value option
Oliver and Okanagan Falls
Fiercely hot in summer, the area between Osoyoos and Oliver produces the best red wines the Okanagan Valley (perhaps in all of Canada!) has to offer. Fruit is also plentiful here, be sure to stop at one of the many fruit stands along Highway 97.
Fun things to do in Oliver and Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley
- Meander between the many wineries found on this parallel drive but don’t miss Platinum Bench Estate Winery; wine tastings here are offered with samples of home made bread and cheese.
- Burrowing Owl Estate is worth a stop just for a peek at the beautiful winery grounds. The wine range is pretty great too!
- Those feeling more active should take a hike to McIntyre Bluff. The four-hour return trail to the summit provides awesome panoramic views of vineyards, orchards and arid lands.
- Vaseux Lake is a picturesque stop for a picnic, paddle or swim. There is a bird observatory, accessible via a short boardwalk, at the northern end of the lake.
- Take a tour of the Dominion Radio Observatory and learn a thing or two about the skies above the Okanagan Valley.
- Just above the community of Okanagan Falls, the Peach Cliff hike is short, interesting and rewarding. The epic views stretch from Penticton to Vaseux Lake.
Looking to book a stay in Oliver or Okanagan Falls?
Coast Oliver Hotel, Oliver – Well located
Elm Tree Farm B&B, Oliver – Highly rated on Booking.com
Holiday Beach Resort Motel, Okanagan Falls – Great value
I may be more than a little biased, but Penticton is the perfect place to base your Okanagan road trip. Yes, Kelowna is bigger, but Penticton has that small town charm and easy accessibility that Kelowna simply does not have.
Best things to do in Penticton
- Fruit, vegetables, coffee, street food, crafts and more – the Saturday morning Penticton Farmers’ Market is an essential summer stop when visiting the Okanagan Valley.
- Join the Kettle Valley Rail trail at Vancouver Hill and take in the beautiful panoramic views of Okanagan Lake and Penticton
- Go wine touring on the Naramata Bench, BC’s most spectacular wine region with 40+ boutique on one 20km stretch of road. The wineries are so close, you can even go for a walking wine tour.
- The perfect compliment to your new wine purchases (above), pick up some locally made cheese at Popular Grove Cheese or Upper Bench Winery, both located on the Naramata Bench.
- Floating the Channel is an absolute must do in Penticton in summer! It’s also a completely free activity if you have your own tube. Rentals are available if you don’t.
- Just south of town, Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park offers hundreds of world class climbing routes plus challenging hiking trails with awesome views.
- With five at last count (and more being built!), Penticton has the most craft breweries per capita in British Columbia. Tour one, tour them all.
- And of course, with Penticton being one of the few towns in the world located between two lakes, there are plenty of wonderful local beaches for swimming, chilling and paddling.
Looking to book a stay in Penticton?
Penticton Lakeside Resort – Awesome location
Slumber Lodge – Good value
Casa Grande Inn – Highly rated on Booking.com
Summerland and Peachland
Summerland and Peachland are two small communities located on the western edge of Okanagan Lake. There is a surprising amount to do in the local area and both towns offer a great base for vacations in the Okanagan Valley.
Fun things to do in Summerland and Peachland, Okanagan Valley
- Summerland should definitely be your top destination if you like cider. There are no less than three local craft cider companies with tasting rooms here. My top pick is Nomad Cider.
- Stretch your legs on Giant’s Head Mountain. Keep in mind that the hike is breathtaking in more ways than one (…it’s uphill all the way)!
- The Summerland Ornamental Gardens are educational and also a great picnic stop. Learn on how they use drought resilient plants to keep the garden green and luscious.
- Lying directly opposite from Peachland is tiny Rattlesnake Island, a place with quite a dramatic history. Paddle the short distance over to the island or check out the full history.
- Jump back in time and ride an authentic steam train along the last remaining working section of the Kettle Valley Railway.
Looking to book a stay in Peachland or Summerland?
Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa – Great location
Dogwood Bed & Breakfast, Summerland – Highly rated on Booking.com
Davis Cove Resort, Peachland – Well located
Kelowna and beyond
The city of Kelowna is a place of contrasts. The commercial side is undoubtedly busy and bustling as you would expect, yet farms, orchards and vineyards (and beautiful beaches too!) lie only a ten-minute drive away.
- Kelowna is another Okanagan hot spot for cider. Check out East Kelowna Cider Co, run by one of Kelowna’s oldest farming families.
- To the east of the city, Bertram Creek Regional Park is a great place to have a picnic, especially after a trip to nearby Carmeli’s Goat Cheese Shop just up the road.
- Also on this side of town are the most historic Myra Canyon trestles. These intricate wooden bridges provide a walking or biking experience like no other in the Okanagan Valley!
- Located immediately north of downtown, Knox Mountain Park offers great views and hiking opportunities. There is also a disc golf trail here.
- For something a little different, take a self guided tour of indoor and outdoor artworks at the Geert Maas Sculpture Gardens and Gallery on Reynolds Road.
Looking to book a stay in Kelowna?
Hotel Zed Kelowna – Great location
Oasis Inn – Good value
Myra Canyon Ranch – Highly rated on Booking.com
The whole of the Okanagan Valley is true lake country, but the small town of Vernon may be positioned on the most beautiful of them all. Vernon is home to a few other unique Okanagan attractions.
Top things to do in Vernon, Okanagan Valley
- The stunning Kalamalka Lake turns an emerald green colour every year due to limestone deposits left by glaciers. Be sure to check out the views from the Kal Lake Lookout before heading into the city.
- It almost goes without saying, but Kalamalka Lake is a fabulous place to go paddling, boating and swimming.
- Just to the west of downtown, Honeymoon Meadery breaks the local winery trend and produces hand crafted honey wine.
- Another one-of-a-kind attraction in the Vernon area is Starlight Drive In, one of British Columbia’s three last remaining drive in movie theatres. A double feature (two films) is offered as standard.
- If you love cheese, Triple Island Farm is definitely worth the detour from Vernon (about 45km). This family run farm specialises in Gouda and other European style cheeses, made with no hormones or antibiotics. Armstrong Cheese is another local cheese producer.
- Rising to just over 300 metres, the Enderby Cliffs are the perfect place for a scenic hike in the North Okanagan. The trail is 12.4km long is open from April to October.
- Located in Sicamous, a trip to Dutchmen Dairy for a locally made, hand made ice cream is the perfect way to finish any Okanagan Valley road trip.
Looking to book a stay in Vernon?
Schnell Motel – Good value
Predator Ridge Resort – Amazing location (great views!)
The Castle at Swan Lake – Highly rated on Booking.com
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