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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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Wintering in BC’s Okanagan? Check out Things To Do from Kelowna to Penticton

Snowbirds and off-season RVers head to British Columbia’s mid-Okanagan, sometimes called the “Napa of the North”, for more than its sunny and mild winter days. There are plenty of activities and things to try, both out of doors and in.

Kelowna

The largest city in the Okanagan, Kelowna has a thing or two to boast about. It’s hip and urban yet outdoorsy, surrounded by water, mountains and agriculture, and has a fantastic food and wine scene based on local produce. Its winters are generally temperate with scenic snowshoe trails and powdery ski runs an easy drive away.

Award-winning Quails Gate Winery has been family farmed since 1956 | Tourism Kelowna/Meghan Reading

Looking for things to do in the winter? Browse some unique boutiques and shops (Bernard avenue and Pandosy Village, near the beach, are musts), sip a cider, gin or beer in a tasting room, or enjoy a farm-to-table meal. If you’re hankering for BC-caught oysters or a Friday fish fry head to Codfathers Seafood Market. It’s owned and operated by fishmongers who promote sustainable harvesting.

Wintertime in Kelowna means annual festivals and events and winter wine tours offer a variety of vineyards and trails to visit. Tourism Kelowna has a helpful webpage that lists what farms, markets and orchards are open. The snowy season is a great time to purchase jams, preserves, honey and cheese.

Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park | Tourism Kelowna/Seger Nelson & Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

Arts and entertainment ranges from galleries and museums to events and live shows. Kelowna Museums organizes workshops and operates the Okanagan Heritage Museum, the Okanagan Military Museum and the unique Laurel Packinghouse, which is part museum part venue area.

There are a number of winter hiking spots in and around Kelowna, including Johns Family Nature Conservancy Regional Park, Rose Valley Regional Park, Myra Bellevue Provincial Park and Bear Creek Provincial Park. Mission Creek Greenway has over 20 kilometres of trails, including an area where you can spot salmon spawning.

The downtown Kelowna Skating Rink has a fire pit for warming up | Tourism Kelowna/Matt Ferguson Photography

Just 20 minutes east of the city is the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club which has 75 km of groomed ski trails which meander through beautifully wooded forests and hills. Dogs are allowed on the snowshoe trails (all 70 kms) and about 1/3 of the ski trails. You can ice skate at Stuart Park, a free outdoor rink with a fire pit for warming up, hike at Knox Mountain Park, just north of downtown, and walk along the waterfront boardwalk; the trail connects to the Rotary Marsh Park, a fantastic spot for birding.

Horse & Sleigh at Big White Ski Resort | Tourism Kelowna/Jeff Bassett, Sproing Creative

Ski and snowboard options include Big White Ski Resort (to the east) and SilverStar Mountain Resort (to the northeast), both around an hour’s drive from Kelowna; shuttle service is available. These winter playgrounds also offer snowmobiling, snowshoeing and fat tire biking. For a real bird’s eye view in winter book a helicopter tour with OK Heli.

After such activity relax and get pampered at a local day spa or salon. It seems fitting while in Kelowna to try a Vinotherapy massage, where the residue (pips and pulps) of wine making are rubbed into the skin.

Summerland

The town of Summerland, a leader in the agri-tourism business, is on the lower end of Okanagan Lake with Peachland to the north and Penticton to the south. Nearby vineyard slopes and hills provide outstanding viewpoints of the valleys and lake.

Trans Canada Trail overlooking Summerland | Carol Stathers

There are many parks and trails to explore. A popular winter hike, snowshoe or cross-country outing is the Kettle Valley Railway Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail. The rail line was once used to transport silver ore to the BC coast. There’s also the 268-acre Mount Conkle Park and its ‘Bonk Loop’, and for a fantastic view of Summerland hike or snowshoe up the volcanic dome of Giant’s Head.

Indoor winter options include the rink at Summerland Arena or the Summerland Community Centre for bingo or a game of billiards or shuffleboard. Tour Summerland Art Gallery, the Summerland Museum and Archives Society and try specialty shops such as Summerland Sweets, which has manufactured fruit syrup, jam and candy since 1962. For some cool nostalgia check out Nixdorf Classic Cars, which boasts an inventory of 100 vehicles from 1936 to 1970, and even a muscle car section. If you’re craving craft beer, be sure to visit Detonate Brewing and Giant’s Head Brewing. Click here for a list of community events in Summerland.

Penticton

The hub of the South Okanagan for outdoor recreation, Penticton has over 80 wineries in the region, and over a dozen combined craft breweries, cideries and distilleries in and around downtown.

There are plenty of restaurants and ambiances to choose from, from pubs and casual spots to elegant bistros and even the rooftop patio at Slackwater Brewing, which hosts trivia nights. Be sure to check out the Penticton Ale Trail which highlight’s the town’s breweries and eateries. Many wineries remain open during the winter; contact the winery before setting out and do sample some ice wines. There are several wine tour companies you can book with should you prefer not to drive.

Rent a fat bike to explore a vineyard or cruise along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail | Travel Penticton

Try your hand at the Cascades Casino or watch a flick at the Landmark Cinemas. For an art fix visit the Penticton Art Gallery and shop or the Lloyd Gallery (representing over 40 Canadian artists) or give an improv workshop a go with the Penticton Arts Council.

Shows and lessons are held at the Leir House Cultural Centre and the local Elks Lodge has art workshops, as do some of the local wineries such as Noble Ridge Vineyard where you can make a silk scarf while enjoying a glass of wine. There’s also Pottery at Artables.

Take in a show at the Dream Café, the Cleland Community Theatre, or the South Okanagan Events Centre, where you can also watch the Junior A Penticton Vees hockey team. 

The Penticton Community Centre offers special programs and activities along with its pool and fitness area and the Penticton Curling Club has leagues from November to March. For a winter walk you can easily access the Kettle Valley Rail Trail or rent a fat bike from Freedom Bike Shop to cruise along it, or perhaps a snowshoe tour with Hoodoo Adventures is more your thing.

Brand-new to Penticton is its much-anticipated outdoor skating rink. This fully refrigerated centrally located rink can operate in temperatures up to 10°C and will offer free rentals.

Nickel Plate Nordic Centre has 56km of groomed trails and 22km of snowshoe trails | Travel Penticton

Just over 30 minutes southwest is Apex Mountain Resort for downhill skiing and snowboarding; there’s also a 1-km ice skating loop, ice rink and tubing area for the kid in you. Apex organizes evening snowshoe outings followed by dinner and wine at its Gunbarrel Saloon, which has many times been named best après-ski bar in Canada!

For epic cross-country skiing and snowshoeing head to the Nickel Plate Nordic Centre, just west of Apex. Shuttle bus services are available. Golf in late winter in Penticton is possible, depending on the weather of course. Contact Penticton Golf & Country Club for more information.

For information when in the area go to:
Kelowna Visitor Centre: 238 Queensway Avenue, Kelowna
Summerland Visitor Centre: 15600 Highway BC 97, Summerland
Penticton Visitor Centre: 888 Westminster Ave W #120, Penticton

Want to read more on Winter Activities check out https://www.campingrvbc.com/category/activities/winter-activities/

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Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #CampInBC, #ExploreBC, #BCNice

For places to camp in BC in the winter go to https://www.campingrvbc.com/winter/

Published: January 20th, 2022

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