South Okanagan — Sweet Surprises
Canada’s warmest freshwater lake, a pocket desert, the Wine Capital of Canada, a professional rock climbing school, four gorgeous lakes and great mountain skiing are a few of the surprises the South Okanagan has in store for you. Decide which road trip is right for you and then go! The Okanagan Corridor is a filled with lakes, orchards, mountains and vineyards. Osoyoos, the southern most town in the south Okanagan, is where you can venture west into the valley on the Similkameen Loop or east into the mountains on the Boundary Monashee Loop. Coming or going to the USA? Just across the USA border, you can connect with the Historic Highlands and Many Lakes Loops as well as the Three County Corridor.
This Way to the USA
Meander along scenic Route 97 south and you’ll see landscapes of lush green orchards and vineyards surrounded by desert-like grasslands of antelope brush. Summerland, Penticton, Naramata, Okanagan Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos are the towns and cities that make up this distinct region. Just past Osoyoos is the Oroville/Osoyoos border crossing. Roll down your windows and take it all in… the clean mountain air, the wide-open skies and the promise of the adventures to come in the South Okanagan.
Evidence of BC’s volcanic age dominates Summerland’s skyline with Giant’s Head, a now dormant volcano. You’ll find many things vintage in Summerland. If your idea of vintage is best found in a bottle then make tracks to Bottleneck Drive, Summerland’s distinctive wine route where the stunning views complement what’s in your glass. For something a bit older vintage, heed the conductor’s call all aboard the vintage Kettle Valley Steam Train. Experience the Okanagan the way travellers once did in a not-too-long-ago era.
Slow Down in Penticton and Naramata
Slow down and take in the laid-back vibe of Penticton, stretched out between the beaches of Skaha and Okanagan Lake. Nearby is Naramata, a bedroom community dotted with wineries, cheese-makers, and restaurants. From April to October, stroll the main street of Penticton on Saturday mornings where you can meet the farmers and growers, and even taste a wine or two. Walk a few blocks further and you’re at one of the many Penticton beaches. There are plenty of sandy spots to unfold your towel and unwind in the Peach City. At night, grab a bite at one of their several restaurants, put on your dancing shoes, take in some live theatre or check out who’s playing at their events centre.
Okanagan Falls Wine and Ice Cream
Journey south to the southern tip of Skaha Lake and the narrowest part of the Okanagan Valley and you’re in Okanagan Falls, home of the Corkscrew Drive wine route. Take in a wine tasting or try some of their famous ice cream just off Hwy 97 on the way to Oliver.
Follow the Fruit Stands to Canada’s Wine Capital
Continue south on Hwy 97 past Vaseux Lake and in harvest season you’ll see fruit stands open and ready for business. There are over 400 farms in the area that grow fresh produce. Oliver is known as the Wine Capital of Canada. There are 132 wineries in the Okanagan, over half of BC’s total of 248. The South Okanagan has 94 boutique wineries and estate vineyards from the Naramata Bench to Osoyoos, with 39 of them in Oliver and the Golden Mile Bench. Several of the area wineries have restaurants and accommodation. You could find yourself waking up to breakfast on a patio overlooking a vineyard!
Osoyoos — Where the Desert Comes Alive
You’ll know you’re near Osoyoos when it starts to look like you’re in a desert…and you are! Spend the day at the Osoyoos Desert Centre, meandering through the antelope brush on a self-guided interpretive tour. Take a cultural diversion and explore the unique desert ecosystem and Okanagan First Nation’s heritage at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre. Bring your binoculars when you come.
Osoyoos Lake is reputed to be the warmest lake in Canada with an average temperature of 24°C (70°F). Locals and visitors alike come here to water-ski and boat, swim and fish. Find your own quiet spot to bury your toes in the sand and get in on the South Okanagan lifestyle. A few minutes from Osoyoos is the border crossing into Oroville WA, where the people and sights throughout Route 97 continue to entertain and amaze those who travel it.
Take it Outside
Keep your eyes peeled for turtle crossings and sightings of Bighorn sheep. Route 97 winds through several wildlife habitats including the last of BC’s wild horses. There is a lot to explore in the South Okanagan. Discover the sport of rock climbing and sign up for a clinic to scale the Skaha Bluffs between Okanagan Falls and Penticton. The mountain slopes of Apex near Penticton and Mount Baldy near Oliver were made for hiking. In the winter you can enjoy family-friendly skiing. Bike or hike the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR), part of the The Great Trail or Three Blind Mice trails above the Naramata Bench. Explore the region’s wetlands, grasslands or alpine meadows for migrating bird life.
Bring your binoculars! With 20 birding sites in and around the South Okanagan and some of the darkest night skies in British Columbia, you can bird-watch by day and stargaze by night. If your idea of a great day outdoors involves water then look no further than Osoyoos, Skaha and Okanagan Lakes. Try floating down the Penticton Channel where families create warm summer memories floating and bobbing with the slow running current.
Detour Along the Crowsnest Highway
Soak up the scenery of the South Okanagan — take a detour along the Crowsnest Highway (BC Hwy 3). Point your GPS toward Grand Forks or Christina Lake and you’ll find adventure unlimited in Boundary Country, or further on in Alberta. Follow the sun as it travels west and you’ll find yourself in the rugged, rustic and real Similkameen Valley, BC’s newest emerging wine region, and a three-hour drive to BC’s Lower Mainland and Vancouver.
Need to Know:
|Route 97 Distance — Osoyoos to Summerland:||79km/49mi|
|Duration to drive:||Minimum one to two hours|
|Best time to drive:||Year round|