Osoyoos is best known as a summer destination. And it’s no wonder – the hot, dry climate and the namesake lake are the perfect combination for a traditional beach vacation.
But Osoyoos has a lot more to offer, particularly in fall. When the rest of Canada is starting to get out jackets and put on the heating, Osoyoos is still bathing in warmth and sunshine.
Average daytime temperatures during early fall (late September to late October) are 14-19c. During our recent visit in early October, it actually hit 23c!
The heat, however, is not the only reason to visit Osoyoos in fall. Read on and discover all of the best things to do in Osoyoos in fall, as tried and tested by us.
We visited Osoyoos in early October 2021 in partnership with Destination Osoyoos. As Okanagan Valley locals, the town has long been one of our favourite fall destinations.
A little introduction to Osoyoos
Just in case you’re not familiar with Osoyoos, let me give you a quick intiation.
Osoyoos is a small town (pop. 5000) located in British Columbia’s southern Okanagan region. It’s just a few kilometres from the US border. Osoyoos Lake, which the town is centered around, is shared by the two nations.
The Syilx peoples
The name of the town comes from the Syilx (nsyilxcən) word sẁiẁs, meaning “narrowing of the waters.” It was pronounced ‘soo-yoos,’ with the town of Osoyoos now being spoken as ‘O-sue-use.’
nsyilxcən is the traditional language of the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Syilx peoples (also known as the Okanagan Nation). The traditional territory of the Syilx once comprised tens of thousands of kilometers of land across what is ow present day BC and Washington.
Canada’s warmest welcome
Osoyoos is located in the heart of one of Canada’s most extraordinary and rare landscapes. It also experiences some of the country’s driest, sunniest and hottest weather.
The semi-arid antelope brush ecosystem surrounding the town is an extension of the Sonoran Desert that stretches all the way to Mexico.
Not only is this ‘pocket desert’ remarkable to view, it is also home to dozens of rare and at-risk species in Canada.
Osoyoos’ dry climate has proved to be exceptionally productive for fruit, vegetables and wine grapes. Today, vineyards are a major feature of the beautifully rugged landscape.
Things to do in Osoyoos in Fall
Wondering what to do in Osoyoos in fall? No problem!
Here are our top ten best things to do in Osoyoos in fall – you can skip to your desired suggestion or just keep scrolling down to read them all.
I’ve also included a link to a custom Google Map which features the location of each activity and place mentioned in this post.
- Visit the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre
- Go wine tasting
- Sip and savour local beer at North Basin Brewing Co
- Stroll the boardwalk at the Osoyoos Desert Centre
- Enjoy local events
- Go hiking
- Paddle Osoyoos Lake
- Explore downtown Osoyoos
- Shop the fruit stands
- View Ktlil’x” (Spotted Lake)
Visit the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre
Discover the rich, living culture of the Osoyoos Indian Band at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre at Spirit Ridge. As mentioned above, the Osoyoos Indian Band is part of the larger Okanagan Nation.
The indoor exhibit primarily tells the story of the Osoyoos Indian Band, with specific reference to the Inkameep Day School in the 1930’s. Unusual for the time, the attending children were encouraged to express themselves with paintings, drawings and the nsyilxcən language.
Outside, you’ll find displays depicting the connection of the Indigenous community with the desert landscape as well the unique animals and fauna that live here.
A 1.5km loop trail traverses through the natural environment via a traditional village with pit house, teepees and sweat lodge.
I’d highly recommend visiting the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre on your first day in Osoyoos, as it offers an excellent insight into the living history of this land. The experience really helped put the rest of our trip in perspective.
Go wine tasting
Geography and climate combine to make Osoyoos one of the best places in Canada to grow wine grapes.
There are more than 40 wineries within 20-25 minutes drive of downtown Osoyoos. Many are boutique in size, offering unique character and atmosphere alongside high quality wine.
As Canada’s hottest spot, Osoyoos is best known for rich and intense red wines. Bordeaux varietals (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot et al) are common, as well as Syrah. On the white side, think Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.
For the ultimate in wine tasting experiences, I’d highly recommend joining a wine tour or booking a private shuttle. This allows everyone to enjoy the tasting to the fullest while leaving all of the semantics of organisation and navigation to the experts.
Wine Tours Gone South is a locally owned wine touring company with over 10 years of experience in the Osoyoos area.
Owner Natasha picked us up in one of her smaller vehicles and guided us to four wineries. Since we had visited some of the local wineries before, we had a custom itinerary.
One of Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country’s grandest tasting experiences can be found at CheckMate Artisanal Winery.
Chardonnay and Merlot are king here, with 40+ year old vines being nurtured to produce more than 200 wine ratings of 90+. CheckMate’s Little Pawn has actually been awarded the perfect 100 score twice (for the 2015 and 2016 vintages).
Tastings are seated, last up to an hour and include four Chardonnays and four Merlots. The glasses used are hand blown, with the result of each being individually unique.
In early October, the warm weather allowed us to sit on the impressive covered patio, which offered spectacular views across to the Black Sage Bench.
Blink and you may well just miss VinAmité Cellars….but then you’d miss one of Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country’s true gems. The smallest winery we visited on our recent tour, VinAmité is also our new favourite.
Family owned and operated, this boutique enterprise is located right on Highway 97. The compact tasting room opens out onto a relaxing patio above a vineyard, where you won’t hear even a hint of the traffic flying by on the other side.
The name of the winery is an old French word for welcoming place or inviting environment. Guests are encouraged to stay a while, a refreshing take on the modern wine touring experience.
Not only content to serve beautifully delicate yet complex wines (we loved the Hidden Corner, a Cab Sauv heavy blend), VinAmité also offers small bouchés, or appetisers, showcasing Canadian cheese and locally sourced pantry items.
Covert Farms Family Estate
Founded in 1959, Covert Farms is one of the best known properties in the southern Okanagan. Four generations have toiled in the fields of this large 650 acre property, with vines being grown alongside fruit and vegetables from the start.
Farming has changed over the years, but the Covert family remains one step ahead of others. Organic production started in the mid 2000’s, with the winery also being established at this time.
These days, it’s all about regenerative farming to increase the sustainability of the land for generations to come. Dry farming is the ultimate aim, which means to cultivate without irrigation.
All of this and more is covered on Covert Farms’ signature farm tours, which also include a generous wine tasting experience and charcuterie board on the rustic patio.
We tried seven wines alongside artisanal cheeses, farm fresh veggies and locally sourced honey, crackers and pickles. The highlight was a Sparkling Zinfandel, which challenged all of my preconceptions of this much maligned grape!
This laid back winery sits on the Black Sage Bench, just a short detour from the highway. The small wine shop looks out onto a gorgeous patio, which is surrounded by vines and partially shaded from the sun.
All tastings were held outside this fall, with the choice of a quick standing tasting at the bar or seated experience. The latter includes a cheese or chocolate pairing, which has had rave reviews from customers.
The wine list is pretty extensive, starting with an aromatic Gewurztraminer and ending with a full bodied Grenache Syrah Mourvedre (GSM).
Side note – the winery really is named after two brothers, Don and Michael Bartier. Though both raised in the Okanagan Valley, it was Michael who ventured into winemaking first.
Please note that the Bartier Brothers tasting room closed for the 2021 season after the Thanksgiving weekend, so keep this one in mind for an early fall visit.
While not part of our wine touring experience, I couldn’t not mention Nk’Mip Cellars when talking about Osoyoos wineries.
Nk’Mip is North America’s first Indigenous owned winery and utilises grapes from a 40+ year old vineyard.
The word Nk’Mip translates to ‘Bottomland’, with the vineyard being located at the southern end of the Osoyoos Indian Band reservation.
We tried four different wines while having lunch at the Patio Restaurant, with the Qwam Qwmt (premium range) Cabernet Sauvignon being the highlight. All four wines, however, were some of the best I’ve had in the region.
Explore more of Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country
Other wineries we have enjoyed visiting in previous fall seasons include:
- Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery – Our top pick for easy drinking, people pleasing varietals that are kind on the wallet too. We usually come out with a case, with our favourite being the Summer Night red blend (a steal at $13.50)
- Platinum Bench Estate Winery – Also home to an artisan bakery, Platinum Bench offers paired wine and sourdough tastings. Reservations are not required but I’d recommend going early as the bread sells out early (and trust me, you will want to take some home)
- Nostalgia Wines – This fun winery has some of the best fall decorations on the Black Sage Bench. Female owned and managed, Nostalgia recently celebrated its 15th anniversary with a name change – it was previously known as Oliver Twist
Wine tasting tips
A couple of things to keep in mind when wine tasting in Osoyoos in fall:
- Wear clothing suitable and comfortable for outdoor tasting
- As per current BC restrictions (October 2021), a vaccine passport is required for seated tastings
- Though not required or necessary at many wineries, reservations are still appreciated (especially for larger groups)
- Be aware that some wineries reduce their opening hours after the Thanksgiving weekend
- Harvest season (usually early October) is a busy time for wineries. Expect to see industrial machines and grape crushing right on site!
- Some wines may already be sold out. All of the wineries we visited still had plenty of varietals to try however
Sip and savour local beer at North Basin Brewing Co
As craft beer fans (living in one of BC’s best brewery towns!), we’re very pleased to share the news that Osoyoos now has its very own craft brewery.
And it’s a good one too, with North Basin Brewing offering a range of flavour profiles to please most palates.
On our early October visit, we were able to try as many as ten different craft beers (two flights plus a couple of extra 7oz glasses).
I personally loved the Fuzzy Princess, a dry, tart peach saison named after the Nintendo character. The Big Shiny Porter was more to JR’s taste – creamy yet not too filling, with notes of coffee and molasses.
North Basin Brewing Company is centrally situated in the Watermark Beach Resort building, just a stone’s throw from Main St and Osoyoos’ busiest stretch of sand. Although North Basin doesn’t serve food at this time, there are a myriad of options nearby.
Stroll the boardwalk at the Osoyoos Desert Centre
One of the easiest ways to learn more about the unique landscape around Osoyoos is to visit the Osoyoos Desert Centre and walk the 1.5km interpretive boardwalk.
Spot animal tracks, nesting birds, fluttering butterflies, rare snakes, unique plants, prickly pear cacti and vibrant flowers while taking in the scenic views of the desert-like landscape. The Centre also has hands-on exhibits and a native plant demonstration garden.
A brand new boardwalk is being built this winter (2021/22), which will allow the Centre to continue providing safe access for all for years to come.
One important note here – the Osoyoos Desert Centre usually closes on Thanksgiving weekend. I say ‘usually’ with emphasis, as it is possible that the season may be extended in 2022. Watch this space!
Enjoy local events
The events calendar in other towns of British Columbia start to empty out in late September. Not true in Osoyoos!
In the southern Okanagan, the early part of fall is actually one of the busiest times of the year for events. The reason is simple – it’s grape harvest time!
Events programming isn’t quite back to normal here yet, but I have strong hopes for 2022.
In a regular year, Festival of the Grape is the highlight of the season. Held in nearby Oliver, this family-friendly daytime event usually features live music, wine tasting, grape stomping and food trucks.
Individual wineries also hold their own harvest events. Crush parties, featuring live music, food trucks and wine tastings are popular. Additional activities can also include costume competitions, face painting and circus-style entertainment!
New for 2021 was the Craft & Classics Car Show, an innovation of North Basin Brewing. Hosted at the brewery, guests were treated to street food, wine tasting and a collector car cruise.
Fall’s cooler temperatures make it the ideal season to go hiking in Osoyoos. Here are some of our favourite hikes in the Osoyoos area:
- Golden Mile/Stamp Mill Trail – Located behind Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, this hike features beautiful views across the Golden Mile as well as a side trail to the ruins of the old Stamp Mill
- International Hike and Bike Trail – This wide and flat path follows the Okanagan River Channel. The full length is 18km but you can easily just choose a shorter section to enjoy
- The Oxbows – The Oxbows is a wetlands area just north of Osoyoos Lake. If you like bird watching, this trail is a must.
- Mount Kobau – There are two hiking trails on Mount Kobau (1871m), which is accessible via a bumpy unpaved road northwest of Osoyoos. It’s worth the drive, however, with spectacular panoramas of the area waiting at the top. Snow-free in early fall only.
- McIntyre Bluff (nʕaylintn). The main trailhead for this scenic 10km return hike is at Covert Farms and is currently closed. Alternative access is possible via the small community of Willowbrook (fee applies)
Despite the sun being less fierce at this time of year, I’d still suggest bringing a sun hat, sunscreen and water on your Osoyoos hike. Let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to be back.
Looking for more local hiking trails? Read this next: 16 Fast and Fun Hikes in Penticton
Paddle Osoyoos Lake
The best water activity in Osoyoos in fall? Definitely paddling! This is especially true as the trees and foliage start changing colour.
Osoyoos Lake is also wonderfully quiet at this time of year, with very few power boats out on the water.
There are plenty of places to launch a kayak, canoe or SUP, but it’s even more convenient if you stay at a lakeside hotel or motel like we did.
We headed out at sunrise (around 7.45am in early October) to witness the the first beams of sunlight reaching the vineyards. The trees in sẁiẁs Provincial Park (Haynes Point) were just beginning to turn yellow.
Explore downtown Osoyoos
Osoyoos is home to a year round population of around 5000 people, but this number swells considerably in summer. Consequently, the downtown is larger than you may expect for a town of this size!
It’s definitely worth the time to have a wander of Osoyoos’ downtown area and browse some of the locally owned retail stores.
A favourite with visitors is, believe it or not, the Home Hardware store. It’s a real old style shopping experience, with a little bit of everything and very friendly customer service.
For some gorgeous views, follow Main Street to the Pioneer Walkway, a paved path along part of the Osoyoos Lake causeway.
Shop the fruit stands
Grape growing is only half of the agricultural story in the Osoyoos area. Fruit and vegetables also grow plentifully here. Autumn is the best time to pick up locally grown apples, tomatoes, garlic, chili peppers, squash and pumpkins.
It’s such a simple pleasure, but browsing for edible and decorative squash is one of my favourite things to do in Osoyoos in fall. It’s cheap too, usually $1/lb – we always bring a big box back home!
Take a drive along Highway 97 and you’ll soon notice the myriad of fruit stands and markets, bursting with huge bins of squash and pumpkins in every shape and size.
Like most locals, we have our favourite fruit markets….I’ll let you have fun finding your own!
View Ktlil’x” (Spotted Lake)
One of Osoyoos’ most unique features is Spotted Lake, or Ktlil’x”. This saline alkali lake features hundreds of small, colourful mineral rich pools created as a result of evaporation.
Depending on the time of the year and recent weather, Spotted Lake’s appearance can vary. Summer is the best time, with the hot weather producing the effect. Rain does the opposite so be sure to visit during the earlier period of fall.
A protected cultural heritage site, Spotted Lake is located on Osoyoos Indian Band land. There is a small viewpoint on Highway 3, with space for 2-3 vehicles.
Where to eat in Osoyoos
Great food goes hand-in-hand with great wine. Be sure to check out these awesome eateries when visiting Osoyoos in fall.
Situated right on Main, Jojo’s has you covered for all of your caffeine cravings, as well as breakfast snacks, sandwiches, soups, salads and sweet treats.
This welcoming place is family owned and tries to support as many local businesses as possible. While only take-out is available right now (order and pick-up at the counter), it’s still possible to take advantage of inside and outside seating.
The Lake Village Bakery
Another community focused local business is the Lake Village Bakery, which specialises in traditional artisan sourdough. While we heard great things, the timing didn’t work out for a visit on this trip. We will update you after our next Osoyoos adventure!
15 Park Bistro
15 Park Bistro offers a refined, yet still comfortably casual, dining experience in downtown Osoyoos. Choose to enjoy seasonal dishes in the bright, modern dining room or the heated outdoor space.
JR and I both opted for fish dishes, with delectable Lobster Ravioli for me and a healthy and fresh Tuna Poke Bowl for him. The Vegan Bowl (with fried tofu and sprouted grains) looked like it offered a solid choice for plant-based guests.
The wine menu, as you may guess, is suitably extensive and is almost entirely local. The house sommelier commended us on our choices and also gave us the chance to sample a limited edition rosé.
The Bear, the Fish, the Root & The Berry
For a truly exceptional Osoyoos dining experience, head to The Bear, the Fish, the Root & The Berry. This destination restaurant excels on every level, featuring an innovative menu, unique flavour combinations, attentive service and exquisite plating. Even the view from the dining room and patio is spectacular!
Part of the Spirit Ridge complex, this restaurant is inspired by the creation stories of the Syilx people of the Okanagan Nation.
The four food chiefs (the Black Bear, Chinook Salmon, Bitterroot, and Saskatoon Berry) agreed to come together to feed the ‘People-to-Be’ and now represent the key elements of Indigenous cuisine.
Our three course meal included a salmon sharing plate with cured, smoked and candied varieties, bannock and spreads, halibut, beef ribs and two of the most beautiful desserts I have ever seen (one apricot themed, the other chocolate).
A visit to Osoyoos just wouldn’t be complete without a meal or two at one of the local wineries.
Some wineries have full service restaurants, serving lunch and/or dinner. Others serve light bites or charcuterie plates during tasting room hours.
Some other examples of Osoyoos winery restaurants include:
- Terrafina at Hester Creek Winery
- The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
- Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards
- Masala Bistro at Kismet Estate Winery
Where to stay in Osoyoos
Fall visitors to Osoyoos will find an array of accommodation options, from lakeside hotels and motels to intimate B&Bs and full service campgrounds. At this time of year, there is a lot more flexibility with availability and prices are easier on the wallet too!
We stayed at Safari Beach Resort, which sits right on the shore of Osoyoos Lake. Situated just to the south west of downtown, the location is quiet but is still convenient for quick access to Osoyoos’ restaurants, wineries and other attractions.
Every room has a lakeview and patio or deck, with the beach level ‘walkout’ rooms also enjoying direct access to the private sandy beach. Full kitchens are included as standard, offering the option to eat at ‘home’ as well as out.
Being so close to the lake made it easy for us to launch our kayaks for an early morning paddle. We reached sẁiẁs Provincial Park (Haynes Point) only 20 minutes after leaving the Resort!
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