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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Camping in British Columbia: Tips for First Timers
For some people, planning a two week camping trip is second nature. Simply pull neatly organized camping supplies out of the garage, reserve some campgrounds and load up the family in the RV. Then there are those that have never gone camping before. The thought of figuring out how to sleep, cook and survive at a campground in the great outdoors is equivalent to summiting Mt. Everest.
Relax. With a little advance planning, anyone can have at least a “semi-successful” camping experience guaranteed to provide great memories. How can you forget dad tipping over in his canoe while reaching for a stray paddle? You’ll always remember the look of delight as your preschooler pokes a stick through her hot dog and roasts it over a campfire.
Camping, whether in a borrowed tent from your neighbour, or in a $100,000 RV, boils down to spending time with family and friends. A time to get away from work, school and Netflix. Even kids glued to their electronics will gain an appreciation for nature as they wade in icy streams, or paddle a kayak for the first time.
The following are a few simple tips to help ease the stress of planning a camping trip. Even if you just pick five tips to try, you’ll be way ahead of other first-time campers!
- Start small. This is not the time to plan a trip to Glacier National Park if you live outside British Columbia. Start small and drive to a campground within an hour of home.
- Don’t have a tent or RV? No problem. See if you can borrow a tent from a friend or rent an RV. This lets you experience a few aspects of camping without making a big financial commitment.
- Make sure to make reservations at your campground. Many times, off-season reservations aren’t necessary, but why take the risk?
- Decide ahead of time what type of campground you want. Looking for a deluxe campground offering an Olympic sized swimming pool and organized kid’s programs? Or would you prefer something more laid-back with hiking trails and a chance to relax by a lake?
- Arrive early at your campsite, especially if you are unfamiliar with your RV or even how to set up the tent. You’ll be more comfortable getting your campsite ready if you don’t have “neighbours” sitting in their lawn chairs watching you muddle your way through leveling your RV. Speaking of RV’s…make life easy and ask for a “Pull Thru” site where you simply pull the RV through a site. No awkward backing into place!
- Bring a variety of card and board games in case the weather turns on you. Be brave and ban all electronic devices during the camping trip. That goes for adults as well!
- The Dollar Store is a camper’s best friend. Purchase a variety of plastic storage buckets to use for easy organization. Fill one with basic First Aid supplies. Don’t forget bug spray! Other tubs can hold condiments, plastic dishes, and glow-sticks for late night fun.
- While at the Dollar Store, pick up some flip flops for every family member to use in the campground washrooms and shower.
- Bring a tablecloth. Most campground picnic tables are a bit rough and rugged. A plastic tablecloth adds elegance to your dining!
- It wouldn’t be camping without a campfire! Before you leave home, have kids make simple fire starters. Cut cardboard toilet paper rolls in half. Stuff each half with dryer lint, then wrap each piece in wax paper. Twist the two ends, which serve as your wick when placed on the firewood.
- A play pen or pack and play keep crawling babies safe. It’s easy to get distracted while setting up a campsite, so play it safe and have your little one watch you from a safe, contained place.
- When you register, ask if any kid’s programs are available. It’s nice to break up the day with an organized event geared to kids.
- When it comes to food on your first-time camping trip, forget the fancy recipes. Try a version of the ever popular “Walking Tacos”. Simply give everyone their individual bag of Fritos. Heat up a can of your favorite chili and plop a few spoonful’s in the bag. Top with cut up tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa. Dinner with no dishes!
- Camping should be a time for all family members to relax, instead of one person “stuck” with cooking and cleaning up. There’s nothing wrong with cereal for breakfast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. Bring some prepared hamburger meat from home to barbeque for dinner. Add a packaged salad mix and some purchased potato salad and you have a meal. After you have a few camping trips under your belt, try cooking in a Dutch oven or making breakfast burritos over the campfire. Just Google, “Easy Camping Recipes” and you’ll have ideas galore!
Camping trips are a chance for family members to connect in a different setting than in front of the TV. Even if you are hesitant about sleeping in the great outdoors, challenge your family to give camping a try. You may find fresh air, hikes and good old S’mores make for a wonderful weekend!
For campgrounds & RV parks in BC go to the BC Camping Map.
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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.
Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc
Osoyoos, BC: Desert Camping in the Winter
Osoyoos is well known as a destination for summer camping, but what about in the winter?
“Canada’s desert” is located near the Washington State border in the South Okanagan. It is a beautiful desert area wrapped around Osoyoos Lake with more wineries and orchards than you can imagine. Hot, dry summers, fresh fruit and a warm swimming lake make this a popular place for tourists in the summer.
We decided to check out Osoyoos a little more closely in the winter since it is such a popular destination in the summer. It is known for often having short, dry winters and is an attractive destination for snowbirds.
The day we arrived the temperature was hovering around zero degrees Celsius with some snow on the ground. We checked in with some locals to get ideas on what to do in the winter. One recommendation was to head up to Mount Baldy Resort, a ski hill just 45 minutes from Osoyoos. It has a great tobogganing hill for kids but is also popular for their cross-country ski trails, snowshoeing and downhill skiing. If you plan it right, we were told you can ski and golf on the same day. For golfing, there is the championship-level Osoyoos Golf Club plus a number of executive nine-hole courses.
For winter camping we were very impressed with the large Nk’Mip Campground and RV Park located on the east side of Osoyoos Lake. We have camped there many times in the early spring and summer both in our tent and trailer, but it is also popular in the winter, with RVs set up for the colder weather. It has over 350 sites, wireless internet, clubhouse, indoor pool and hot tub which is open in the winter months.
Just above the campground is the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre and Nk’Mip Cellars with their patio restaurant open April to October. We had a chance to enjoy their beautiful view overlooking the vineyards with the campground and lake in the distance. We learned that the winery was the first Indigenous-owned and-operated winery in North America. With an impressive selection of award winning wines, we enjoyed some wine tasting and wandered around the gift shop.
After a visit to the cellar we headed back into town to the newly renovated Sage Pub. It was a busy place, with clientele of all ages, views of the lake and lots of big screens for the sports enthusiasts. One of the recommendations we had received earlier in the day was to try their Shepherds Pie which did not disappoint my husband. Even though our waitress said they are well-known for steak and pizza, I opted for their staff favourite and delicious Mexi Skins!
We rounded out our Osoyoos trip with a visit to my favourite Home Hardware on Main Street (check out the reviews online; it is way more than a hardware store).
So put Osoyoos on your list for your next winter getaway. It is more than Canada’s hotspot in summer; it features plenty of cold season indoor and outdoor activities that cater to all levels of RVers and campers.
For campgrounds & RV Parks in Osoyoos and other communities in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.
Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc.
Published: February 26th, 2019
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