Spring Activities & Camping Abound in British Columbia’s Okanagan
In the mountains there is still plenty of white stuff, but in the valleys, once the snow melts, the trees start to bloom and the leaves turn green.
There are a variety of activities available in early spring, especially because the temperate climate of the Okanagan is so warm early in the season. Consider indulging in some of the following if you’re looking to get camping this spring:
If you’re a fan of wines and brews, consider taking one of the area’s many wine tours. In Kelowna, you can take the Lakeshore Wine Route, starting at Sperling Vineyards to CedarCreek Estate Winery. Home of the award-winning restaurant, Home Block, CedarCreek is a popular way to enjoy the valley and the views of Okanagan Lake. As your day winds down, you can head back to Apple Valley Orchard and RV Park for a good night’s rest. The next day, you’ll be geared up to head down to Penticton to explore one of the province’s mighty Ale Trail destinations. In fact, Penticton was recently named Canada’s Craft Beer Capital!
You’re wise to spend several days using Kelowna as your home base, especially in spring. The flowers are out and the birds are singing, so it’s a great time to visit. Plan to spend a day visiting the Kettle Valley Railway in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, where you can enjoy biking, hiking and walking across the 18 trestles that still exist from the decommissioned railway line.
Of course, spring skiing is still an option if you’re so inclined, with Big White Resort, located just 60 kilometres east of Kelowna, a short day trip away. Another great accommodation in the Kelowna area is Holiday Park RV & Condo Resort.
It’s a great time of year to visit the South Okanagan, as the fruit trees are in bloom in early April. Their heady scent permeates the air. In Penticton, you can enjoy time at a variety of different campgrounds and resorts, including Oxbow RV Resort, South Beach Gardens Campground or Barefoot Beach Resort. While in Penticton, you can enjoy all kinds of different activities and events. In fact, Visit Penticton has a great events calendar you can enjoy year round. Some favourite activities around the Penticton area include a day trip on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway in Summerland (and don’t forget to swing by Summerland Sweets while you’re in town, or to indulge the adults’ sweet tooth, consider a visit to Bottleneck Drive. You’ll have a chance to enjoy breweries, wineries, distilleries and cideries, all in close proximity to each other).
As you wind your way south, golf, swimming, boating and hiking are top activities to enjoy. Outside the busy summer season, there are many places to see and things to do that are just waiting to enjoy. Book a spot at Gallagher Lake, where you’ll enjoy amazing views among the ponderosa pines any time of year. If you plan on staying in sleepy Oliver, consider booking at Lakeside Resort, a full-service year-round resort that’s budget friendly. It’s also near Nk’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course, if you’re looking to practice your swing. Also in Oliver is Fairview Mountain golf course, which is known to be open (weather permitting, of course) 11 months of the year! While you’re in town, swing by the Oliver Visitor’s Centre, as there are events going on all year round in Canada’s Wine Capital.
Closer to the border is Osoyoos, known as Canada’s Warmest Welcome, where – if you’re not careful – you could drift across the American border, which bisects Osoyoos Lake. In town, you have a variety of options for accommodations, including Brookvale Holiday Resort.
Stationed in Osoyoos also allows you to head east into Boundary Country or west to the Similkameen on day trips. Each are wonderful (consider visiting the Rock Creek Fall Fair, and don’t forget Keremeos is known as Canada’s Fruit Stand Capital) and are close enough to stay in Osoyoos, the only true desert in Canada, while exploring all the Okanagan has to offer.
For campgrounds in the Okanagan and elsewhere in British Columbia go to the Camping Map.
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Osoyoos & Oliver, in the Okanagan, British Columbia – Offers Plenty To Do in the Summer
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.
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.
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.
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.
For places to camp in the South Okanagan and elsewhere in British Columbia go to Camping & RVing BC Camping Map.
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Wintering in BC’s Okanagan? Check Out Things To Do Oliver to Osoyoos
The towns of Oliver and Osoyoos, located on the southern end of British Columbia’s Highway 97, are popular with outdoor enthusiasts year-round and attract thousands of snowbirds and RVers in the winter months.
With its rich agricultural industry, Oliver currently produces half of the wine grapes for British Columbia and, with over 40 wineries, is known as Canada’s wine capital.
Local bistros and winter wine tasting are a must-do as are the distilleries, cideries and breweries for tours and sampling. Firehall Brewery, with the fun tagline of the ‘Beer of Wine Country’, is located in an old firehall that dates to 1948. In and around town try out the food trucks and year-round fruit markets such as family owned and operated Nature’s Basket and visit Big Al’s Baker and Deli, a local favourite.
Shop the boutiques featuring local artists around Main Street and take in a show or play at the Venables Theatre, or a movie at the classic one-room Oliver Theatre. For some history, there’s the Oliver and District Heritage Society, which offers educational programs, heritage walks and more. The museum has exhibits and artifacts, while the archives (at a separate location) houses a research library. Indoor and outdoor activities and lessons, including overall wellness, arts and culture and sports and leisure, can be booked with the Oliver Parks and Recreation Society.
Hikers and walkers enjoy the view from the (7.7 km; moderate) Golden Mile Trail, which starts at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. Closer to town, explore Rotary Beach at Tuc-el-Nuit Lake or visit Lion’s Park where you can access the Oliver hiking and biking trail at the east boundary. There is an off-leash dog park here. Other great hiking spots are Burwell Lake Recreation Site, northwest of Oliver, and Inkaneep Provincial Park and Ny-lin-tn (previously called McIntyre Bluff), both north of the town.
Winter sports enthusiasts love Baldy Mountain Resort, 40 minutes east of Oliver, which has a fantastic snowshoe rental and events program, including a moon candle-lit outing. The McKinney Nordic Ski Club, around 30 km southeast of Oliver, has 14 km of cross-country trails with a variety of difficulty and 5 kms of snowshoe trails. There is no lodge, but an outhouse is on-site.
For something unique visit Sunkeya Farm Alpacas, located northwest of Oliver. Its farm store sells yarn and alpaca fibre socks, hats, scarves, blankets and more. Be sure to call before you visit. There’s also the Oliver Indoor Flea Market on Station Street where you can be sure to find a few bargains and hidden gems to enhance your RV living.
Located on Osoyoos Lake, amongst grasslands and highlands, Osoyoos has a dry winter climate, generally with mild temperatures from October through April and a low average annual snowfall of only 5.4 cm. The US border is a mere 5 km from town.
Osoyoos is home to one of Canada’s few true desert environments. The region caters to its many snowbirds, is very pet friendly and has a multitude of boutiques to explore and fitness and art courses to try.
Its restaurateurs and chefs are passionate about promoting local, fresh food that’s been sustainably raised. Choose from casual cafés (such as Lake Village Bakery, known for its traditional artisan sourdough and fresh pastries), wine bistros and upscale dining experiences. During winter the Osoyoos Farmers Market heads indoors. The Oliver and Osoyoos Winery Association puts together a December event with special promotions called Winter With Country.
A memorable experience is a visit to the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre (pronounced in-ka-meep). At this 1,600-acre desert conservation area you can learn about the Osoyoos Indian Band and take in local food and wine tastings, dinner evenings and special events.
More culture can be had at Osoyoos Performing Arts and the Art Gallery Osoyoos; the gallery offers works by local and non-local art and artisans. For winter festivals and events visit the Destination Osoyoos event calendar for performances at the South Okanagan Events Centre, Junior B hockey games (Osoyoos Coyotes at the Sunbowl Arena) and more.
Skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing aren’t far with Baldy Mountain Resort only 40 minutes northeast of Osoyoos.
Walks include the 1.5 km boardwalk at the Osoyoos Desert Centre, a 67-acre nature interpretive facility, where you can explore and learn about one of the world’s rarest ecosystems (the semi-arid, antelope-brush); Pioneer Walkway, a paved path on the strip of land that separates the north and south ends of Osoyoos Lake; Legion Beach Park, a 10-minute walk from Main Street; and Osoyoos Oxbows Trailhead, located at the north end of Osoyoos Lake, a protected wetland popular with bird watchers. For dog walking areas and off-leash park info visit the city of Osoyoos webpage on dogs in parks.
Golfing in the winter and early spring is possible in Osoyoos. Contact Osoyoos Golf Club and Sonora Dunes Golf Course direct as season opening and tee times are dependent on the weather. Popular indoor activities are five-pin bowling at Kobau Lanes, curling at Osoyoos Curling Club and pickleball at the Sonora Community Centre.
Pamper yourself at Solterra Desert Spa at Spirit Ridge Resort or Levia Wellness Spa, a farm-to-table spa experience. Another ‘getaway’ option is booking a hotel or motel. Several Osoyoos accommodations offer special weekly winter rates for snowbirds looking for a little break from their campgrounds. Check with Destination Osoyoos for updated information and deals.
For information when in the area:
Oliver Visitor Centre: 6431 Station Street
Osoyoos Visitor Centre: 9912 BC Highway 3
Want to read more on Winter Activities check out https://www.campingrvbc.com/category/activities/winter-activities/
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For places to camp in BC in the winter go to https://www.campingrvbc.com/winter/
RV Snowbirding at Oliver in BC’s Okanagan
Oliver, BC is well known as the “Wine Capital of Canada” and home to more than 40 wineries! However, it is not just a place to go wine tasting in the summer; it is extremely popular for snowbirds and those wanting a little winter adventure.
Not long ago we checked out winter camping in Osoyoos; this time we headed a little further north to see what Oliver has to offer. We visited three parks full of RVs all looking very cozy and well set up for the cooler weather. Since our visit others have opened up to cater to snowbirds such as The Lakeside Resort in Oliver.
Yes, Oliver gets cold and has some snow but overall it is pretty mild with most days in January and February around 0 degrees Celsius and snow that usually only sticks around for a few days. Its population is 4,800 with a median age of 56; this means there are many services for seniors including a hospital, recreation centre, ski hill, two golf courses, and theatre.
On this trip, we checked out three local campsites all open year-round and welcoming snowbirds. First stop were two RV parks on Tuc-el-nuit Lake, located in the town of Oliver, but we can now add The Lakeside Resort who have recently renovated their RV sites to accommodate winter stays.
Right on the shores of Tuc-el-nuit Lake, Apple Beach RV Park has large sites under beautiful willow trees and a lovely grassed beach area. It is family operated, pet friendly, and welcomes “big rigs”. Also on the lake is Desert Lake RV Resort with 40 sites in total including 11 right next to the water. This resort offers daily, monthly, and annual rates. The Lakeside Resort also boasts a lakefront location, is the closest to the town center and offers 50 amp services.
A little further north (about 10-15 minutes) of Oliver is Gallagher Lake Camping & RV Resort. We just love the beach at Gallagher, lots of families and activities during the summer months and so peaceful in the winter. Some sites are pet friendly, there are WiFi hotspots, and nightly, weekend, and weekly rates for all seasons. If you are not a camper, check out their cute little camping cabins nestled amongst the big trees. The cabin rates are slightly more expensive.
While we were in the area, we decided to explore some winter activities. We headed to Vaseux Lake which is located north of Oliver before you reach Okanagan Falls. The word “vaseux” is French for muddy or murky which describes the silty water. If you make it here during the warmer months, watch for lots of bass fishermen, the big horn sheep and mountain goats, as well as a large variety of birds in the area known as the Vaseux-Bighorn National Wildlife Area. If you are bird watcher, you may want to visit the trails that allow access to the Vaseux Lake Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
Since the lake was well-frozen, we decided to clear off a patch of ice and spend some time skating. Sometimes the lake is clear of snow and you can skate forever, ice fish, or maybe catch a glimpse of sail boats on skates! And If you are looking for good hiking in the area with stunning views in the cool or warm weather, check out nearby McIntyre Bluff which overlooks the lake. It is accessible through the neighbouring Covert Farms tourist trail.
When it was time to get warmed up, we headed to Big Al’s Bakery & Deli on Main Street in Oliver. Check out their yummy baked goods; you won’t be leaving empty-handed!
To sum up, Oliver caters to all ages, and in winter they have a special welcome to snowbirds. It has a beautiful, natural charm which appeals to locals and visitors year-round.
For winter camping opportunities in British Columbia as well as year-round camping go to Camping & RV in British Columbia.
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Getting back to Nature Any Time of Year
Winter camping in the Thompson Okanagan brings family and friends together.
Camping can be enjoyed any time of year; all the smartest people know that. And, thanks to the increase in popularity over the last few years in year-round RV travel, winter camping is more popular than ever before.
The Thompson Okanagan has a variety of camping locations that are available year-round, offering amenities and services for short and long-term camping; your choices abound!
Marrying the popular skiing site of Silver Star Resort outside of Vernon is the Cedar Falls Campground. With about 30 sites available, it’s a great destination for families on a budget and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Steps from BX Falls Trail and about 30 minutes from the ski hill, Cedar Falls offers 18 fully equipped sites and 14 sites that offer power but not water. Information is available at Cedar Falls Campground.
“We have seen a real increase in our winter camping visitors,” says winter site manager Gail Sweeney. She and her husband are on site over the winter to assure that the roads are plowed, the on-site coin laundry facilities are fully stocked and the washrooms and shower facilities are sparkling.
Also in Vernon is Swan Lake RV Park and Campground. Located right on the shores of Swan Lake, nature is never far away. This quiet and family-friendly campground features coin showers and a small laundromat. There is a 20 per cent discount on daily rates for long-term campers and owners Orville and Audrey recommend reserving early for a winter spot. More information can be found at Swan Lake RV and Campground.
Heading south and located on the banks of Coldwater River just south of Merritt is Moon Shadows RV Park and Campground, where there are 25 fully serviced RV spots, 25 non-serviced RV spots and 19 tenting spots, all available year round. The fully serviced campsites have electric and Wi-Fi capabilities, as well as sewer and water hookups. There are also wheelchair accessible washrooms and bathing facilities at the administration building. Learn more at Moon Shadows RV Park & Campground.
In the South Okanagan, where it feels like winter barely kisses the land, are the communities of Penticton, Oliver and Osoyoos. Snowbirds flock to the area, as temperatures are mild and snow is rare. In fact, golfing is available almost year-round at the local golf courses.
Penticton has several year-round campgrounds, including Wright’s Beach Camp. Located on the shores of Skaha Lake, this large campground has more than 200 sites, most of which are fully serviced and offer a lake view. In the winter, there are 44 sites that offer either 30 or 50 amp service. For more information, click on Wright’s Beach Campground. In Oliver, Apple Beach RV Park is a family-owned RV park open year-round. Its sites are fully powered and large, while pets and kids are welcome. Hosts Gary and Marilyn Johnson are friendly and welcoming, and the lakeside campground is known for being quiet and tidy. More information is available at Apple Beach RV Park.
Known as Canada’s Warmest Welcome, Osoyoos changes from its bustling tourist destination in the summer to a more sedate welcome in the winter. On the shores of Osoyoos Lake is Nk’mip RV Park, which is open year-round and has fully powered sites, laundry facilities and an indoor swimming pool. There are weekly and monthly rates available. Learn more at Nk’mip RV Park.
Further west along Hwy 3 is Manning Park Resort and Skyview RV Campground. Open year-round the campground features 60 large pull-through and back-in sites in winter and all have full services with 50-amp power, water, and sewer. There is also a large modern washhouse.
For winter and year-round camping opportunities in the Thompson Okanagan and all of British Columbia go to the Camping Page.
Share your BC camping photos using hashtag #CampinBC.
Exploring Four of the Best RV Parks in the South Okanagan, British Columbia
On a crisp, sunny morning last spring, I headed to the Okanagan from Coquitlam to attend the Interior RV Consumer Show in Penticton. I make this trip annually to distribute camping directories for British Columbia but this year decided to take my time and explore some RV Parks in the southern region of the Okanagan Valley.
My destination on the first day was Osoyoos. I headed through the Fraser Valley on Hwy 1 to Hope then took the Crowsnest Hwy (Hwy 3) which is a gorgeous scenic drive over mountain passes and along rivers into the lush agricultural lands of the Okanagan with an abundance of orchards, vineyards and more.
Along the way it’s worth taking a break at Manning Park. In the picnic area you’ll see marmots scurrying in and out of underground burrows and bold whiskey jacks looking to share any snacks you are eating. Further on is Princeton which has several family style cafes, pubs and bistros to suit everyone’s taste. I recommend a stop here if you are wanting refreshments.
On your way to Osoyoos you will pass through the quaint mining town of Hedley and the self-described “fruit capital of Canada” Keremeos. April is a little early to buy local fruit but the many fruit stands are open and worth a visit. Leaving Keremeos you head southwest to Osoyoos passing through Oliver. Check out the blog Take a Break Along the Crowsnest Hwy for more things to see and do along this route.
I arrived at my first overnight stop of Nk’Mip Resort in Osoyoos. This is a popular RV park with some 350 sites including 120 lakefront sites on the beach, 30/50 amp service, tent sites, convenience store, marina with equipment rentals, boat launch and more.
This resort is a wonderful spot to stay as it has so much to offer. In addition, the Restaurant at Spirit Ridge serves fabulous food, then there is the Solstice Spa, Desert Cultural Centre, Nk’Mip Cellars, Vineyard & Winery, Sonora Dunes Golf Course. And it’s only a short 2 km walk or drive to the main street in Osoyoos.
After a good night’s sleep, I left Nk’Mip to head back to Penticton. Before leaving Osoyoos I decided to try the local neighbourhood café, JoJo’s, which is situated on the main street. What a great find. They make everything from scratch and if you are craving a muffin, cookie or eggs benny this is the place to go.
After enjoying a tasty breakfast I headed to Gallagher Lake Resort in Oliver. They have several lovely camping cabins near the beach and over 140 campsites. There are many amenities available including RV hookups, a convenience store, laundry, plus for the energetic – tennis, pickleball, volleyball court, and for the less strenuous – horseshoe pits. The campground is right on Gallagher Lake with their own private sandy beach.
Whilst in Oliver I also dropped in on The Orchard at Oliver, an RV park & motel. The campsites are set in a beautiful orchard and is a great place to relax and take in the laid-back atmosphere that is the Okanagan. You can also try something different and rent one of their rustic cabanas.
After leaving Oliver, I stopped for a quick snack in Okanagan Falls at Tickleberry’s. I had never visited before, so it was a special treat. This is a family-run business known for its delicious homemade ice cream of over 50 flavours, homemade fudge, chocolates, kettle korn, and a wide range of gifts and local crafts to purchase. This is a fun experience and well worth the stop.
The last campground I visited on this trip was Barefoot Beach Resort in Penticton. This is a fairly new resort opposite Skaha Lake offering Yurts and tenting sites. Each yurt comes with a deck, two chairs and BBQ and lovely landscaped grounds. You can also enjoy the Barefoot Beach House Restaurant and Beverage House, relax on the roof top patio and enjoy fresh, Spanish-inspired cuisine, with a frosty margarita in one hand and some fantastic food in the other. They also offer a juice bar, second scoop ice cream and a rental hut and beachwear for all your needs.
From Barefoot Beach Resort I headed to the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre for the Interior RV Show. It was a whirlwind visit to the South Okanagan and next time I shall visit longer and take a few side trips to local wineries.
Published: March 15th, 2018
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