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Osoyoos Oxbows

Osoyoos & Oliver, in the Okanagan, British Columbia – Offers Plenty To Do in the Summer

Osoyoos Oxbows

Osoyoos Oxbows

For a unique British Columbia experience, head to Canada’s only true desert destination: Osoyoos. Located at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley, Osoyoos averages over 2,039 hours of sunshine every year and temperatures regularly hit the upper 30s in July and August. Fruit and wine abound, making Osoyoos an ideal summertime vacation destination.

To maximize your time in Osoyoos, it is important to take the temperatures into consideration. Start your day early at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre to learn about the unique ecosystem that makes up the traditional territory of the Osoyoos Indian Band. After taking in the indoor exhibits, head outside (bring water and sunscreen!) and wander through over two kilometres of maintained trails complete with interpretive displays featuring everything from local flora and fauna to a reconstruction of a traditional village. Take the time to complete the upper portion of the loop through the hillside of wild sage and antelope brush – the views are spectacular.

If the heat during your walk at the Cultural Centre gets too much for you to bear, head to Osoyoos Lake which is known for being the warmest freshwater lake in Canada. Sẁiẁs (Haynes Point) Provincial Park is the perfect place to unroll your beach towel for a swim or simply to nap in the sunshine. If walking is more your speed, the park is also home to a lush wetland habitat and an interpretive trail through the marsh will delight birdwatchers of all ages.

Haynes Point Wetland

Haynes Point Wetland

Once you have soaked up the sunshine at the beach, head for town and stop for some of the Okanagan’s best gelato at Roberto’s Gelato. Recommended flavours include Okanagan Apricot, Kulfi (Pistachio & Cardamom), Mango, and Chocolate Hazelnut.

In the afternoon, visit the Rattlesnake Canyon, a mining town themed amusement park complete with mini golf, go-karts, a rock-climbing wall, bumper boat, and the Tornado swing chair, which provides a great elevated view of Osoyoos.

If you are still seeking activity as the day goes on, consider heading to the Osoyoos Oxbows – a unique wetland ecosystem formed in the 1950s when the Okanagan River was straightened. Read about the Oxbows at the outdoor kiosk, and then meander along the trail listening for sounds of diverse migratory and resident birds. If you are really ambitious, bring your bicycle and cycle the 18-kilometre International Bike and Hike Trail heading north which runs parallel to the Okanagan River channel.

Oliver Winery

Oliver Winery

A 20 minute drive north is the town of Oliver. Described as the “Wine Capital of Canada” thanks to the more than 35 wineries that surround the town, Oliver is known for it’s abundant orchards, spectacular vineyards, and arid climate.

It is hard to speak about Oliver without speaking about wine. I am always particularly taken with wineries with unique attributes, and a few of my favourites are definitely in Oliver. Platinum Bench Estate Winery & Artisan Bread Co. forever has a place in my heart thanks to their pairing of great wine with amazing artisan bread baked on site. For me it is a toss up between their Gorgonzola & Fig and Double Cream Brie & Pear varieties. Delicious.

Kismet Winery, Oliver

Kismet Winery, Oliver

If a laid back lunch is what you are after, without a doubt you need to visit the Masala Bistro at the Kismet Estate Winery. The location is convenient and the patio, from which you can sample very, very good Indian food, offers gorgeous views over the vineyards. I have to admit, when I was at Kismet there was a long line at the tasting bar so I skipped that part entirely and headed straight for the most perfect samosas I have ever tasted. The wine will have to wait for my next visit, I suppose!

If you have some time to spend in Oliver and you love the outdoors, a hike up McIntyre Bluff does not go amiss. Leaving from Covert Farms – a 650-acre organic farm and vineyard on a plateau north of Oliver – the McIntyre Bluff trail departs right from the wine shop. Parking is well marked and there is a trail log you can sign before you leave. The route heads through the Covert Farms property before starting uphill. The trail has a mostly gradual elevation gain over the next 2.5 kilometres, at which point you arrive at Rattlesnake Lake.

After Rattlesnake Lake, the trail first descends and then ascends more rapidly over the next few kilometres. Eventually the trail levels out and there is a short ridge walk before the view opens up and you are left breathless not from the climb but from the scenery. From the summit, views stretch south over Covert Farms, Oliver, and beyond. To the east, the cliff edge plummets over 850 feet to the valley bottom below. To the north, Vaseux Lake gleams. The entire trip took us about 3.5 hours and is perfectly rounded out with a stop at Covert Farms for wine tasting, a charcuterie board featuring farm-fresh products, and a wander around the property. With a little planning, and plenty of water and sunscreen as the trail is mostly exposed, McIntyre Bluff makes the perfect adventurous addition to any Oliver vacation.

Osoyoos and Oliver are the perfect places to kick back and relax in the sunshine for a couple of days while still offering a variety of activities that will be sure to keep the whole family entertained.

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For places to camp in the South Okanagan and elsewhere in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.

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Roadtrekking in British Columbia’s Southern Interior

Our Roadtrek at the Rest Stop Outside Hedley
Our Roadtrek at the Rest Stop Outside Hedley

Recently we took our Roadtrek van on a camping trip “Roadtrekking” through some of the not so well-known but delightful smaller towns in the Okanagan area of the southern interior of British Columbia. The first day, we left the Vancouver area and headed up Highway 1 and the Crowsnest Hwy 3 to Princeton.  We spent the first night in the Princeton municipal park campground which has full hook-ups with free Wifi and is located right beside the Similkameen River on Highway 3. It is a great place to stop overnight. Another camping option is the Princeton golf club across the road with free Wifi and firewood for campers.

Hedley Trading Post
Hedley Trading Post

The next morning, continuing on Crowsnest Hwy 3, we headed to Keremeos, locally known as ‘the fruit capital of Canada’, and along the way visited the small, historic town of Hedley. This is well worth the stop as you can take a tour of the old Mascot Gold Mine and discover the life of a gold miner through modern technology of light and sound. You can also visit the Discovery Centre and explore the museum and gift shops. Once in Keremeos we stayed at the Eagle RV Park located on Hwy 3.

Red Bridge at Keremeos
Red Bridge at Keremeos

Much in need of some exercise after our drive, we walked the hiking/biking trail to the historic Red Bridge, the sole survivor of five covered railroad bridges that serviced the gold mining industry around the Hedley-Princeton area in the early 1900s. If you head east on the trail, it takes you to the town centre past many of the fruit stands. During the season, make sure you pick up some of the local fruit and veg to eat on your trip or to take home. Also worth a visit in Keremeos is The Grist Mill and Gardens, a BC Heritage Site.

The Artisan Shop in Oliver
The Artisan Shop in Oliver

On day 3 we headed east to the resort town of Osoyoos, a favourite destination for campers seeking beaches, swimming and boating in scenic Osoyoos Lake. We then drove north on Hwy 97 to Oliver where we stopped for lunch. On the main street we discovered a small bakery called the “Artisan Shop” run by a lovely lady from Montreal. The delicious lunch was a spinach and feta quiche, a mushroom filled bun and for desert, a pear filled danish and raspberry tart.   Oliver also has a beautiful hiking/biking trail on an abandoned railway bed which is part of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail that will take you to Osoyoos. It is about a 50 km round trip that makes a great day outing.

The Salmon Chief at Okanagan Falls
The Salmon Chief at Okanagan Falls

Continuing north through Okanagan Falls (you must stop for an icecream at Tickleberry’s) our day concluded in Peachland with an overnight stay at Todd’s RV Park located on the main road in downtown Peachland. This is a great family friendly place that has been in business for 60 years, has full hook-ups and is right across from the beach. We spent the evening strolling along the beach, investigating the shops and enjoying the beautiful view across Okanagan Lake. The next morning, we visited the Art Gallery and Tourist Information Centre located in the old school house on Beach Avenue. They have a live video feed of the bat colony that roosts in the attic every summer. There is a great selection of bat themed t-shirts, hats and they even have bat guano for sale to fertilize your garden. The next time we are in the Peachland area, we will be checking out the Stave Pipe and Trepanier hiking trails and Parrot Island sanctuary.

Sunset at Peachland opposite Todd's RV Campground
Sunset at Peachland opposite Todd’s RV Campground

After a great few days of camping, we headed home via the Hwy 97c connector that runs from Peachland to Merritt and then down the Coquihalla Hwy 5 to Hope. With so many unique towns in British Columbia we will soon be off to do more exploring in beautiful British Columbia.

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Vedder River Campground and Summer Fun, British Columbia

Vedder River is fun for the kids

Vedder River is fun for the kids

For the third year in a row, my family and I have been camping at the Vedder River Campground, located in Chilliwack, BC.  Just under an hour’s drive from downtown Vancouver, it is the perfect long weekend getaway, close yet not too close. Situated along the Vedder River, it offers an array of various activities for the whole family.  The campsite does get busy during the summer months, especially around the long weekends, therefore we make sure to book ahead of time.  There are a few families that we know that come to this campsite, and it is the perfect place for us to forget about our daily routines in the city and sit back and relax by the fire.

During the hot summer days, just steps away from the campsite is the river, a perfect cooling spot in the clean but fast flowing waters.  After breakfast my family and I would go down the river with the floaties and inflatable boats.  My kids love to go down the lazy river, although we always keep an eye on them as most of the river keeps a steady flow, but some parts of the river move more rapidly and vigorously.

Views from top of Elk Mountain, on a cloudy day we were above the clouds.

Views from top of Elk Mountain, on a cloudy day we were above the clouds.

After a full day by the water we would head back to the campsite and start preparing dinner.  Often times it would be something prepared on the Barbeque with lots of fresh salads and veggies on the side.  The kids play at the Vedder River playground, keeping busy making new friends and bike riding within the enclosed campsite area.  For a leisurely walk after dinner, or an easy bike-ride, we would take the bikes onto the Vedder South or North Dyke Trail that extend 7km, starting from the Vedder River Campground.  Surrounded by local mountains such as Mount Cheam and Elk Mountain, Chilliwack offers picturesque views and beautiful sceneries that include wild flowers, turquoise lakes and valley views.  Kids oftentimes like to visit the nearby farms to see horses and cattle feasting on hay, and pick blackberries along the way.

Going to a popular spot in Chilliwack for ice-cream at the Mighty Moose. The ice-cream is from the Birchwood Dairy Farms.

A popular spot in Chilliwack for ice-cream is the Mighty Moose made with ice-cream from Birchwood Dairy Farm

Local blueberry and strawberry farms offer berries for sale, and conveniently there is a stand located walking distance from the campsite.  We would get some freshly picked berries and make a refreshing summer berry milkshake with vanilla ice-cream as a treat. Before we head back to the city, we would buy a few flats of delicious sweet berries and make pies at home or freeze them for smoothies.

Whenever we go somewhere I encourage my family to explore local hidden spots and go for hikes to see lakes, views and waterfalls.  It is a way for us to connect without the internet

Stunning views at Lindeman Lake

Stunning views at Lindeman Lake

connection that we seem to depend on in our everyday lives.  And when we need a little more than just a hike, we would endeavour on longer adventures to see the Bridal Veil Falls, which are only a 15min drive from here.  I have yet to take my family to see the beautiful Lindeman Lake with turquoise blue waters which is about a 40 min drive from here.  A less than 3-hour hike that the whole family can do, and once there, have a picnic by the breathtaking waters surrounded by mountains.  Some parts of the trail are rockier, therefore being prepared with proper footwear and lots of water and snacks will make for a more comfortable experience.

During the early fall months, fishing becomes a popular activity along the river, as fishermen gather to catch Coho, chum, pink and sockeye salmon.  My daughter loves fishing along the river, and the expression on her face once she catches a fish is priceless.

With many activities to choose from, Chilliwack and surrounding areas offer many activities and attractions for the whole family to enjoy.  During the summer months it is a great place for making memories, having fun and enjoying the outdoors.

Published: August 11th, 2016

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