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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Click here for a winter dining guide courtesy of Penticton Visitor Centre.
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.
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.
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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For places to camp in BC in the winter go to https://www.campingrvbc.com/winter/
Snowbirds! Spending Your Winter in the Vancouver Area? Check Out This Side Trip – North Vancouver to Whistler
Recently, we wrote a blog about things to see and do if you are a Snowbird staying in the Vancouver area. We suggested a drive from Vancouver to Harrison Hot Springs along Highway 7. Here is another drive that follows the Sea to Sky Highway (Hwy 99) from North Vancouver to Whistler.
The Sea to Sky Highway hugs the coastline as it winds its way north offering up stunning views across Howe Sound and to the mountains beyond. It then heads inland north of Squamish to the year-round destination of world-famous Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort. Mt Seymour, Grouse Mountain, and Cypress Mountain are all popular winter activity destinations, two of which are included in this trip.
- Rent a pair of ice skates and enjoy the exhilarating fresh air atop Grouse Mountain on their 8,000 sq. ft. ice skating pond. The Skyride allows for stunning views across Vancouver, Stanley Park and beyond.
- Take a self-guided snowshoe tour or go cross-country skiing at the top of Cypress Mountain through a forested winter wonderland. Warm up with a hot drink or bowl of soup.
- Back on Highway 99 and a further 18 km (11 mi) is the tiny, picturesque village of Lions Bay which hugs the shoreline. A must stop-off is the Lions Bay General Store and Café, located on the east side of the highway (take Lions Bay Avenue exit) and a favourite of those who have travelled this road for decades. You’ll find local products, great coffee, beer, lunch, souvenirs and great views too.
- Adjacent to the highway is the Britannia Mine Museum, an award-winning national historic site. It was a working copper mine from 1904-1974 and opened in 1975 as the BC Museum of Mining. You’ll be dazzled by the light and sound show as you are transported underground by train.
- Just south of Squamish is the entrance to the Sea to Sky Gondola. Be amazed at the stunning views of snow-capped mountains, old-growth forests and turquoise waters of the Howe Sound stretched out before you. At the top take in the brisk winter air, try snow-shoeing or tubing and then warm up with a hot drink or visit the Sky Pilot Restaurant where you can enjoy delicious West Coast fare.
- Like to try local craft beer? Howe Sound Brewing in Squamish produces an abundance of craft beer, from seasonal to year-round brews. Pair their excellent beer with small bites or big bites, all made in-house. It’s located on Cleveland Avenue left off Highway 99, almost at the end of town; you will see the pub on your right.
- For some eagle spotting, head back to the highway and continue north towards Brackendale and Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park, one of North America’s largest congregations of wintering bald eagles. These majestic birds gather in this area from November to January to feast on salmon. There are plenty of lookouts and shelters to view the eagles (the Eagle Run viewing shelter is at 41015 Government Road) and you can take an organized tour or even an eagle viewing float trip. Visit Squamish Tourism’s web page on eagle viewing for more information.
- Get back on the highway, it’s time to head to Whistler! There is so much to do in this world-renowned resort. In winter the snow is the big attraction with skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more, but if you want to do something different or your ski legs need a rest there are fabulous restaurants, art galleries, spas, winter events, festivals and more. A must-see is the Whistler Village stroll where you will find fun and sporty shops, bistros and cafes, and the Whistler Olympic Plaza, which is transformed into an outdoor skating rink in winter.
- To experience First Nations art, history and culture visit the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. Hear the stories and songs and admire the traditional regalia, carvings and art. This is a beautiful museum with stunning works and exhibits; guided tours are available.
- If you are in Whistler on a Sunday evening from December to March check out the free Fire & Ice Show in Whistler Village. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or warm cider and be prepared to be amazed at the spectacle created as expert skiers jump through hoops of fire!
- Once you have explored Whistler then it’s time to head back, and the views are just as stunning on the return journey! You will pass Furry Creek, known for its golf and country club, and the villages of Lions Bay and Horseshoe Bay, home of the BC Ferries terminal for taking travellers over to Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island. Horseshoe Bay has some shops and eateries and it’s always fun to watch the ferries coming and going.
There is so much more to see in this area, particularly in and around North and West Vancouver. Check out Vancouver’s North Shore Tourism. You could spend a day or two exploring the parks and waterfront walks, Lonsdale Quay Market, with its specialty shops and services, or the historic and growing urban neighbourhood of The Shipyards District.
For other drives from Vancouver check out:
For RV parks and other camping accommodations check out the Winter Camping Map.
Share your camping and BC travel photos using hashtag #CampInBC #ExploreBC #BCNice
9 Steps To Winterizing Your RV
While many RVers in British Columbia have extended their camping into the spring and fall and even through the winter, most put their RV to bed for the winter months. For those new to RVing we offer a few important steps you need to take to ensure your RV will survive the colder winter season.
You have 2 options. You can take your recreational vehicle to an RV dealer or, you can do it yourself.
Following are steps for winterizing your RV yourself provided by GoRVing Canada.
1. Fully winterize your water system
Frozen pipes mean cracked pipes. To avoid freezing, fully winterize your water system. Each unit has specific water system winterization guidelines to follow in your owner’s manual.
All units follow the most basic steps: First, ensure the water heater is off, then drain and flush all pipes. To remove every last drop of water, open all faucets while draining. When filling the system with antifreeze, make sure that the antifreeze reaches all faucets. Even pour antifreeze into all the drains.
2. Remove your batteries and store in a dry place
Winter temperatures are your RV’s worst predator. For all batteries, turn off the RV’s disconnect and breaker switches. Also, when disconnecting batteries, remove the negative cable first.
Single batteries are easy to winterize. Store fully-charged batteries in a warm, dry spot. Do not store batteries on a concrete floor, unless you want a dead battery by the end of winter. Concrete slowly drains the power from batteries.
Larger systems with multiple batteries will have specific instructions in the owner’s manual. It’s usually better to keep these batteries installed. If leaving your batteries in your RV, still disconnect the negative battery cable. Check the battery charge level periodically throughout the winter, and recharge when necessary.
3. Apply a coat of good quality wax or protectant to the RV exterior
Winterizing your RV means protecting it from all elements. To protect the exterior shell of your RV, purchase a good quality wax or protectant formula that is compatible with the composite of your unit. First, completely clean the exterior while checking for cracks or split seams. If you noticed any cracks while cleaning, patch these areas with a sealant specific to the materials of your RV. Then, wax the entire exterior.
4. Clean and dry your awning
While cleaning your RV’s exterior for waxing, clean and dry the awning. It’s important to make sure the awning fabric is completely dry to prevent moulding. The same goes for pop-up or fold-out trailers with fabric or canvas siding. Nothing worse than the smell of mildew.
5. Remove, clean, and replace your AC filters
While cleaning your RV’s exterior and awning, you should also clean the exterior of your air conditioning. Remove, clean, and replace the air conditioner’s filters before tucking your RV away for the winter. The goal is to leave your rig clean and dry so there are no surprises in the spring.
6. Service all locks and hinges
This step is quick and easy, but just as important as the rest if you want a well-working RV in the spring. Take a few minutes to lubricate your locks and hinges before stowing your RV to avoid creaks, jams, and breaks in the spring. A little lubing goes a long way!
7. Tidy and clean the interior
If your RV is going to be stored untouched for the winter months, you want to leave it sparkling clean. Again, you don’t want any surprises in the spring. A clean RV offers fewer hiding spaces for critters and mould. And by clean, we mean sanitize! Aside from general cleaning, remove all clothing and blankets to be stored at home. Lift couch cushions and mattresses and leave them propped against each other or walls for optimal airflow.
8. Use a dehumidifier to avoid mould and mildew build up
There are a few options to minimize moisture damage in your RV. If you plan to store your rig nearby with a power source and can check on it often, running a dehumidifier a few times throughout the winter will do the trick. Another option is to leave moisture absorbing materials inside the RV for the winter. Dry-The-Air is a popular moisture absorber.
9. Cover your RV wheels to protect from the elements
The last step, if you will be storing your RV outside, cover your wheels to protect them from the elements.
The jury is out on whether covering the entire RV with a tarp is a good idea or not. On one hand, it protects the outer shell from snow and debris. On the other side of the debate, a tarp could trap moisture so if you do cover it, be sure to use a breathable shell.
For more on winterizing your RV and other RV maintenance tips go to GoRVing Canada.
If you camp during the winter months check out winter camping opportunities in British Columbia.
Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc.
Five Spots to Ice Fish and Camp this Winter in British Columbia
Ice-fishing is often overlooked as a winter activity, especially if you live in southern B.C. But fishing doesn’t stop when the temperatures drop – it only gets more exciting. Ice-fishing is a very social activity that requires only a limited amount of gear or experience. When solidly frozen, an entire lake becomes accessible without the need of a boat, and you don’t need the often-complicated casting techniques required in other fisheries. It’s as simple as drilling a hole, and dropping a line.
It is important to exercise caution, however. Always make sure the ice is thick enough to ensure a safe trip. Before you walk out onto ice, it needs to be at least 10 centimetres (four inches) thick if you are fishing alone, and at least 38 centimetres (15 inches) thick before you drive your truck onto it. Remember that a freshwater fishing licence is still required for ice-fishing, and that you should check the regulations for any closures or restrictions.
With these points in mind, along with some basic gear, you can be set for some fun times on the ice this winter. And the good news is, with many parks open year ’round that are close to great hardwater lakes, you can make a wintertime camping trip out of it.
Here are our top five spots, with recreational vehicle or camping spots close by, to try ice-fishing this winter:
Alleyne Lake (near Merritt)
Kokanee provide an exciting winter fishery in this lake. The trick is finding schools of fish. Using a fishfinder is your best bet, but if you don’t have one, start at the bottom and work your way up through the water column until you find a school.
Note: The neighbouring lake, Kentucky SE Pothole, located 50 metres east of Kentucky Lake, is closed to ice-fishing.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in the Merritt and surrounding area.
Swan Lake (near Vernon)
This is a great spot to fish in the winter, although you should exercise extreme caution to ensure the lake is entirely frozen before venturing out. Swan Lake is located only moments away from Vernon’s downtown centre. As you can catch rainbow trout weighing up to a kilogram (about two pounds) in size, make sure to bore your holes with an ice auger that is at least 15 centimetres (six inches) in diameter. Since fish are more lethargic in the winter, bites can be fairly light, and using a fishing bobber can help you detect when a trout is softly nibbling your bait.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in the Vernon and surrounding area.
Edith Lake (Kamloops)
Target both brook char and rainbow trout in Edith Lake. For brook char, try fishing with mealworms close to the shoreline. The water is clear in the shallows, and since a brookie’s bite can be very light, by laying down and looking into your hole through the ice, you will be able to see when a brookie has taken your bait and is on your line. Move out to a spot over a little deeper water, and use a big attractor spoon, followed by a hook and worm on a short leader, to try your luck for rainbow trout.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in the Kamloops and surrounding area.
Ness Lake (Prince George)
Ness Lake is currently stocked with both kokanee and rainbow trout. However, brook char are also present in the lake, which presents many different fishing options for the hardwater angler. Ice-fishing gear and an auger can be borrowed for free for up to a week from the Prince George Visitor Centre.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in the Prince George and surrounding area.
Whiteswan Lake (Canal Flats)
If Lussier Hot Springs weren’t reason enough to try ice-fishing at Whiteswan Lake, the quality of the rainbow trout in this lake is. Since the East Kootenays can be very cold, make sure you pack along appropriate warm clothing. You may want to think about getting an ice shelter.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in this area.
Check out winter camping in British Columbia for over 150 provincial parks and private campgrounds that are open year round.
Share your winter BC camping & fishing photos using hashtag #campinbc.
It’s always a great day to #CampinBC
First Time RVing In Winter – What To Know About Renting An RV
My husband’s family lived in the Arctic Circle before he was born, and his formative years were spent in Manitoba. So it should come as no surprise that he wants to go camping … in the winter.
I, on the other hand, don’t really “do winter”. I’m more of a rainforest girl. But I love to camp and miss it all winter long.
Enter the perfect solution, or so we hope … a winter RV trip. All the adventure of camping, all the chill of winter, but with the comforts of home.
In order to feel better prepared for the RV experience, I posed some questions to the representative at CanaDream, who was extremely helpful. Here’s our conversation, which has some good procedural advice for any first-time RVer as well as stuff specific to winter use.
1. Can we leave our car with you when we pick the RV up?
Yes! Our pick-up location is about half an hour outside of Vancouver and we have a gated lot where you can leave your car.
2. What else happens at pick-up?
All Guests are invited to check in online 5 days before pick up. It is mandatory that you complete online check in as this is where you provide CanaDream with all your details, uploading driver’s license, emergency contacts, you’ll read and accept their terms & conditions and insurance policy, you can add on extras and also pay the mandatory security deposit by credit card. You’ll watch their detailed demo videos so you know all about your RV before you get to the station. This is really helpful.
You will also select your pick up time and your drop off time from a range of available time slots. Again this is great to help you plan your departure and the return day of your vacation.
On arrival you will simply present your driver’s license, credit card to confirm they match what is in their system and you’ll perform a short self-guided tour (asking any questions that you need) and then you can head off on your road trip! simple.
3. Your Maxi Motorhome RV is a “winter unit” … what does that mean?
The Maxi Motorhome has been specifically designed and built to enable functioning of the RV in temperatures up to -30 degrees Celsius. With heated and insulated pipes, use of the RV furnace and generator means you can keep the RV warm and frost free, ensuring full use of the bathroom facilities and kitchen water. Giving you the ultimate winter comfort and convenience on the road, the RV comes kitted out with fleece bed linen, insulated curtains and protective floor carpets to enhance the warmth of the unit. Don’t get this confused with some rental companies who “winterize” their RVs which means they drain all of the water out of the pipes and tanks to ensure the pipes don’t freeze and cause damage when they thaw. CanaDream is unique in this respect with their RV having an Arctic pack to assist with the use through harsh Canadian winters.
4. Does the unit come fully stocked?
You can chose to rent a Convenience kit which provides you with all the kitchen equipment, bed linen and towels, or you can bring your own if you want to reduce the cost. Most people take the Convenience kits.
5. What extra items should we bring?
This depends on what you think you will need and of course you are welcome to bring whatever you like to make your trip more comfortable. We recommend that you pack supplies in soft bags so they can be easily stowed in the storage cupboards. I think it’s nice to bring things that make you feel at home. For instance, a favourite pillow. If you have chosen not to take the Convenience kit, you will need to bring everything you require.
6. Is the RV hard to drive? Is there any way to practice?
No. The beauty of these RVs is that they are very easy to drive and as long as you are confident and use a spotter outside to help you reverse and park, you will soon enjoy driving the RV. They are all equipped with mud and snow tires, so you will have a lot of grip in the winter. We are also happy to provide snow chains. With any driving in winter make sure you pay attention to the road conditions and don’t take unnecessary risks.
7. How far can we take the RV? Would we be able to use it to drive someplace for skiing, for instance?
With an RV the requirement is you have to stay on numbered public roads. You can’t take it off-road, or down a logging road, for instance. Not that you would be tempted to in the winter!
Really, though, you should be able to drive the RV as you would with an ordinary vehicle, and so you could take it on a day trip … keeping in mind (as you would with any vehicle) that you need to check road conditions where you are going.
Well, it looks like we’re one step closer to this crazy dream. Thanks to CanaDream for being so patient with all my questions. I’m starting to get excited for the trip!
Want to read about their winter camping trip? Read the blog below.
For places to camp in winter check out the Winter Camping Map
Post your BC winter camping and RVing photos at #CampinBC
Published: December 7th, 2017
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