In southern beautiful British Columbia lies a western Canadian banana belt called the Okanagan Valley. Twenty years ago it was considered the best kept secret until the Coquihalla highway lead a easy path from Vancouver to Kelowna, through to Kamloops, B.C.
Since then, the summer oasis has been recognized world-wide boasting visits from Hollywood Stars, such as Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban.
(@JRobbMontana: Rare photo #NicoleKidman and #KeithUrban #vernonbc B.C./ junior hockey game. Probably stayed @Sparkling Hill Resort http://t.co/1Ws7Aztai2)
But to me, the Okanagan Valley has always been my home, growing up in the small town of Vernon, with the kids from O’keefe ranch or Davison Orchards. My parents use to own the Spudnut Shop on Main Street where everyone would come for the elusive SPUDNUT (a sweet potato doughnut that melted in your mouth) and a $ 0.10 coffee. It was even said my mom made the best burgers in town!
Raised in the Okanagan I became very familiar with great tourist spots, such as Silver Star Resort, Big White (just outside of Kelowna), the turquoise bluish waters of Kalamaka Lake and the once glacier feed Okanagan Lake.
If you’re not familiar with the Okanagan Valley, it’s best to break it down to the great tourist sights, resorts and activities in each category.
In today’s Travel Okanagan I will concentrate around the surrounding areas of Vernon and Kelowna, B.C.
Sparkling Hill Resort – a 5 star hotel resort a few kilometres south of Vernon or a short drive from Kelowna International Airport. Nestled in the valleys mountainous ridge overlooking the majestic Okanagan Lake and only feet away from the famous Predator Ridge Golf Course. Featuring an oasis of Spa Treatments along with tantalizing gourmet meals at their PeakFine restaurant. You’re assured to be pampered by the best fine dining experience of your life, hosted by their European Chef.
Manteo Resort – a waterfront gem located in the heart of Kelowna, featuring it’s very own private beach along Okanagan Lake. A beautiful class resort with three swimming pools, optional lake-view rooms and Restaurant called Smack Dab offering a great selection of entrees to satisfy anyone’s appetite. Be sure to try your evening dinner on the best patio in town.
The Delta Grand Okanagan Resort & Conference Center – located right in the center of the WaterPark of Kelowna, steps away from the original Kelowna Yacht Club. Delta Grand Okanagan Resort overlooks Okanagan Lake featuring the luxury of private pools, restaurants, shops, conferences center and pubs. If you like to gamble, the Casino is easy access from the hotel.
Four Points by Sheraton – newly opened in 2013, this Starwood chain hotel is a featured little gem easy access to the Kelowna International Airport. Great for the whole family or the business executive. The best kept secret soon to become well know throughout the Okanagan.
Silver Star Resort – a long time favourite of mine with fond memories of my very first skiing lessons at age ten. Since then, Silver Star has grown into a world class resort owned and operated by the Australian family, the Schumann. Silver Star was purchased by the Schumann in 2001by previous owner Judd Buchanan. They also own Big White Ski Resort outside of Kelowna. An obvious spot for winter activities from skiing, tubing, skating or just enjoying the après skiing at the many restaurants throughout the village. Summer activities are certainly a plus, featuring mountain-biking park & excursions along the mountain, hiking and sightseeing with the SkyChair.
Predator Ridge Resort – a golfing oasis for the beginner, the novelist or expert. My experience, I found the course challenging and the most pleasing experience.
Gray Monk Winery – heading south from Vernon, you come into Winfield. There’s a couple of signs that will lead you west along camp road. Head over the hill you’ll see Okanagan Lake. The road travels around with another sign directing you to Gray Monk Winery, nestled on the hillside with a spectacular view of Okanagan Lake and the vineyard itself. What I love about Gray Monk is the personal touch added to the wine tasting in their visitor center. Just to your left is the entrance to a gourmet restaurant with a scenic balcony overlooking Okanagan Lake. Leading Chefs, Executive Winery Chef Willi Franz and Executive Restaurant Chef Rene Haudenschild prepare excellent gourmet dishes within their establishment, Grapevine Restaurant. It’s a must to try out the gourmet experience and be sure to pick up your favourite wine surely to suit your palette.
Kelowna Dinner Cruises – offers a scenic cruise along Okanagan Lake featuring your choice of Dinner, Lunch or Breakfast. A 5 star luxury cruiser accommodating up to 87 guests. It’s defiantly a great way to spend your evening.
Lake Front Sports, also known as rent-a-boat.ca is located at the Grand Okanagan Resort. You haven’t experienced the Okanagan without trying a sea-doo, a cruiser or kayaking Okanagan Lake. They even have paddle & wake boards to try out. Water a little cold for you? No problem! You can even rent a wet-suit. Waterskiing and tubing is recommended.
Families outings you must try Kalamaka Beach, a real treat for everyone. Alexander’s Pub is close by if you’re looking to wet your whistle. I just love having their burgers and great selection of beers!
If you love to camp out close to a beach, then Ellison Provincial Park is a must on your list. Great for the whole family in the Vernon area at Okanagan Lake. Even locals head to this secluded beach to catch some sun rays and swimming here is fantastic! Want to explore? No problem. Nestled throughout the park are fun hiking trails for everyone. It’s easy to reserve on-line to be assured a camping spot.
Hiking is highly suggested, from the Kettle Valley to Knox Mtn within the city of Kelowna. Or try out Kalamaka Lake Provincial Park offering a secluded beach at Cosens Bay. You can even take a boat cruise for an afternoon.
Davison Orchards – last but not all least, is Davison Orchards. When I was a kid the Pollocks and I would hang out with the Davison on their Orchard. Fast forward 25 years and Davison Orchards is a bustling tourist attraction featuring tractor-train rides for kids of all ages, complimented by their homemade fresh fruit pies grown by the selection of fruit on their orchard. We always make it a point to stop by for pie and coffee. It’s a must to pick up a jar of homemade preserves before you leave. I highly recommend Davison Orchards, hands-down!
The above Hotels and activities are a small example of the fun you can experience while in the Okanagan Valley. I have experienced all the above and had a blast doing so. Gray Monk is my favourite winery, but the Okanagan is listed with over 200 wineries throughout. A wine tour is suggested. The beaches line Okanagan Lake, so it’s pretty easy to find a beach that suits you and your family.
The best part of the Okanagan Valley ? It’s my home!
Check out more travel blogs by Bari Demers