The best accompaniment to outdoor adventure? Great food and drink! The city of Vernon delivers on both fronts, a reason why it’s one of our favourite weekend destinations in British Columbia.
As highlighted previously on this site, Vernon has an excellent network of multi-use trails. But here’s a new one of a different kind to add to the list – Vernon’s Tasting Trail.
Celebrating Vernon’s bountiful harvest and artisans, this collection of characterful local businesses acts like a cheat’s guide to the best places to eat and drink in Vernon.
In this post, I’ll show you around the Tasting Trail and also share our top picks for the best restaurants in Vernon. By the end, you’ll know exactly where to go for picnic supplies, post-hike drinks and celebratory meals.
Vernon is located on the traditional territory of the Syilx people of the Okanagan Nation. We visited Vernon in late October 2021 in partnership with Tourism Vernon.
Introducing Vernon’s Tasting Trail
Vernon’s Tasting Trail features a grand total of 33 local producers and businesses.
While we haven’t visited all of them quite yet, we’re made a good effort!
Find shortcuts to our favourite locations below, along with additional recommendations for places to eat in Vernon and a Google Map to help with navigation.
When planning a Tasting Trail adventure, check the opening hours of each business first. Some of the Tasting Trail destinations open seasonally or have reduced opening hours/days in winter.
- Foodie destinations
- Local libations
- Best restaurants in Vernon – our top three
Tasting Trail foodie destinations
Vernon’s Tasting Trail can be easily divided into food and drink destinations. Let’s make a start with food!
This fifth generation family farm includes a local produce market, café, bakery, playground, petting zoo, seasonal U-pick and artisan ice cream shop. Phew!
With free entry, it’s the perfect all-in-one destination for families. Even for adults, it’s an incredibly wholesome experience.
Foodies should make a beeline for the Farmhouse Café. Located in the original 1940’s farmhouse, most of the menu items are made from ingredients grown and prepared on the farm.
Planet Bee Honey Farm
With hives located right on-site, Planet Bee really takes the farm shop experience to new levels!
But it doesn’t stop there. As well as producing 100% raw honey, Planet Bee also curates the highest quality, cruelty free honey bee products from around Canada.
A true family owned and operated business, you’ll likely meet one of the Noweks in the Planet Bee shop. Founder and father, Ed, began his beekeeping career at 16 years old.
The Planet Bee Honey Farm also features an educational centre with an indoor glass observatory hive, Honeymoon Meadery (another Vernon Tasting Trail destination) and beautiful pollinator gardens.
Olive Us Olive Oil and Vinegar Tasting Room
Olive Us is on a mission to elevate the simple pairing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
The centerpiece of the store is the tasting bar, which offers the chance to taste, pair and compare ultra premium (single varietal) olive oils, traditional style condimento balsamic vinegars and 100% naturally flavoured infused olive oils.
I’ve noted our favourite combination below but we also loved the butter infused (vegan!) and wild mushroom olive oil varieties too.
Indulge a little at Sweet Hoopla! This delightful store is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Expect curated treats from Canada and beyond alongside in-house small batch kettle roasted almonds.
Sweet Hoopla is a great place to pick up a gift for anyone with dietary requirements. The Koko Monk Chocolates from Vancouver, for example, are made from raw origin beans, therefore both sugar free and vegan.
In summer, there is a separate gelato bar just around the corner on 31st Street.
Hot Bread Shoppe
Blink and you may miss the Hot Bread Shoppe, a small batch artisan bakery perched on 31st St. Once inside, however, you will be held captive by the heavenly smell of bread and cinnamon buns.
The Hot Bread Shoppe’s irresistible array of baked goods is made completely from scratch with organic flours from a local mill. No preservatives, dough enhancers or other synthetic additives are used.
Vegans rejoice, there are options for you here too!
Wedge Cheesery showcases high quality dairy delights from around the world as well as local varieties.
In addition to selling artisan cheeses by weight, Wedge Cheesery creates tasty custom charcuterie boards including specially selected cheeses, crackers, fruit, nuts and locally made condiments.
Planning to explore one of Vernon’s hiking trails? Packaged into a box as standard (you can rent or buy a board instead), these charcuterie platters are perfect for picnics.
More of the Vernon Tasting Trail
As mentioned, Vernon’s Tasting Trail includes more than 30 different producers and businesses. Other members located in or close to downtown Vernon are:
- Vernon Farmers’ Market – Held twice a week, all products are made, baked or grown locally. The outdoor season runs from mid April to the end of October.
- Ratio – Handcrafted pastries (with a different specialty highlighted each day) accompanied by quality coffee. Visit on Friday for some of the best doughnuts in the Okanagan Valley!
- Helmut’s Sausage Kitchen – Quality artisan meats sourced from local producers, sold with Central European flair. The on-site bistro serves hot deli sandwiches and borscht
- Pink Spotted Goat – Market showcasing handcrafted items made by 150+ local artisans. Sustainability is a focus, with a wide range of plastic free and eco products on offer
- Okanagan Bakehouse – European specialties abound here, with rye and sour dough breads, Black Forest cake and pretzels in addition to Canadian favourites
- Midtown Bistro – Funky downtown spot making fresh, innovative dishes with as many local ingredients as possible. Small but varied menu
They say that food is always better with wine…but what about craft mead, beer, cider and spirits as well? Vernon’s Tasting Trail has it all!
Scenic Sip Wineries
Vernon sits at the top of the Okanagan Valley, one of the best wine growing regions in Canada. Just a short drive south of downtown is the Scenic Sip, a collection of eight wineries in the Lake Country area.
Six of these wineries are clustered above Okanagan Lake, where the vineyards slope towards the sparkling water below. The long summer afternoons help the vines receive almost 2000 hours of sunlight per year.
Lake Country best known for white wines, particularly Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer and Riesling. Rosé and Pinot Noir rounds out the collection. Grapes for other varietals are sourced further south.
The best way to tour the Scenic Sip wineries is to join a wine tour. That way, everyone gets to fully enjoy the experience!
We visited five wineries with Wine Boss Tours, guided by owner Gerry. Our relaxed tour a long stop for lunch Gray Monk’s Lookout Restaurant (I’d recommend making this a priority!)
Gerry, a Vernon local, seemed to know every winemaker and wine server personally, which only enhanced our experience. Congenial and knowledgeable, Gerry loves this area (and wine!) and wants you to love it too.
- Intrigue Wines: This laid back winery is both budget friendly and fun, especially if you like bubbles
- O’Rouke’s Peak Cellars: Upscale, modern tasting room with long wine tasting list (all estate grown) and stunning views
- Gray Monk Estate Winery: First winery to plant Pinot Gris (also the origin of the winery’s name)
- Ex Nihilo Vineyards: Stylish yet down to earth, this passion project has an excellent story
- Arrowleaf Cellars: Family owned winery producing high quality terroir-driven wines with elegant style
One of the Tasting Trail’s most unique producers, Honeymoon Meadery specialises in hand crafted honey wine made with entirely natural ingredients. Served and styled like wine, mead can also be flavoured with spices, hops, grains or, most commonly, fruit.
Mead is actually one of the oldest alcoholic beverages, with remnants being found on 9000 year old pottery in China. Honeymoon Meadery’s name is a nod to this long heritage, referring to the old custom of consuming mead for one moon cycle after marriage to encourage vitality and fertility.
If you’ve never tried mead, Honeymoon Meadery is the ideal place to try. Complimentary tastings include up to eight different varieties, which range widely in both flavour and sweetness.
Marten Craft Brewery
Marten Brewing may be Vernon’s only craft brewery but it certainly isn’t complacent about it. The stylish two story brick building sits in the heart of downtown and features plenty of space beer for drinkers and diners.
There’s a little something for almost all tastes here, with the range usually including IPAs, sours, lagers and stouts. The full bodied beers are made without the use of preservatives and additives.
Not keen on beer? Try one of the four flavours of house-made kombucha (or the Kombucha Radler, featuring half lager, half kombucha).
The food menu is great too, featuring plenty of pub favourites alongside some house specialities (smoked meat, burgers and creatively topped pizzas).
The BX Press Cidery & Orchard
Cider has been through something of a transformation over the last few years, with producers like the BX Press leading the charge. This third generation farm grows more than two dozen varieties of apples and almost as many varieties of cider!
As well as the traditional drier styles, BX Press also crafts experimental fruit-infused blends and barrel aged ciders. The laid back tasting room and patio are set right next to the orchard, so you can sip on cider flights while surrounded by apple trees. It’s a gorgeous setting in summer!
Please note that the patio, tastings and food are limited to the warmer months only. The bottle shop remains open year round for cider and apple sales.
Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery
More than 30 different varieties and variations of gin, vodka, whiskey and other liquors are carefully crafted and perfected at the family owned and operated Okanagan Spirits Distillery. Better yet, it’s all made with 100% locally grown fruits and grains!
The Vernon location is Okanagan Spirits’ flagship facility and also plays host to North America’s tallest copper pot still. It can be seen from the modern tasting bar, which is framed by family photos.
Walk-in tastings are available as well as signature distillery experiences. These range from intimate private tours and tastings to guided whisky and gin sessions.
Best restaurants in Vernon
It’s definitely been hard to narrow the loooong list down, but here’s our top picks for breakfast/brunch, lunch and dinner in Vernon!
Best for breakfast/brunch: EATology
The epitome of the perfect brunch destination, EATology serves creative dishes made with local ingredients in a modern yet quirky setting.
And I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so highly of this place since EATology operates a waiting list at busy times (i.e. most days).
Take the time to explore the downtown area after providing your contact details to a server inside.
EATology also serves lunch and caters well for those with dietary requirements (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free).
Best for lunch: The Okanagan Eatery
In the mood for comfort food? Head to the Okanagan Eatery! This hip spot is one of the newest eateries on Vernon’s food scene. And in my mind, it’s the perfect addition.
Situated in a historic downtown building, the Okanagan Eatery serves simple, yet incredibly tasty, dishes with creative flair. Breakfast is served all day alongside classic lunch options (salads, appies, handhelds).
Ingredients and products are sourced from the Okanagan Valley, not only for fresh flavours but to support local businesses too.
Best for dinner: Intermezzo
Though it may be unassuming from the outside, Intermezzo’s elegant interior provides the perfect environment for any special occasion. Multiple private (or almost private) spaces enable a cosy, intimate ambience.
Intermezzo’s menu features many classic Mediterranean dishes, alongside their take on Canadian favourites such as Butter Chicken and Steak and Lobster. This is upscale dining with a comfort food twist.
All dishes are made in house, from scratch, with local ingredients where possible. The wine list is extensive, favouring wines from the Okanagan Valley.
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One half of the Canadian/British couple behind Off Track Travel, Gemma is happiest when hiking on the trail or planning the next big travel adventure. JR and Gemma are currently based in the beautiful Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada