Okanagan-Shuswap Visitor and Vacation Tips
Things YOU GOTTA SEE when visiting Okanagan and Shuswap!
Sightseeing SuggestionsDay One: Kelowna & Westbank | Day Two: South Okanagan (Penticton & Osoyoos) | Day Three: North Okanagan & Shuswap
One Day Stay: Kelowna Area
To capture the essence of this city, here are suggestions for your first day (especially if its your only day) in the Okanagan. Starting at the northern end, here are the things you should make an effort to see:
Knox Mountain Park, north of downtown on Ellis Street, offers great views up and down the Lake, from various lookouts on the winding road.
Kelowna's City Park, downtown just east of the Floating Bridge offers great waterfront views and a pretty downtown shopping district on Bernard Street. Close-by is the city's marina, the Ogopogo statue, and many shops and restaurants.
Take the William R Bennett floating bridge (rebuilt before 2010 to expand it from 2 lanes to 3) over the Westsyde. As the road climbs the hill, watch for winery signs (Rollingdale, Grizzli, Little Straw, and Mount Boucherie are the established ones, and architecturally interesting Mission Hills winery makes its wines from up & down the valley)
Westbank is an interesting community on the top of the hill, with views in all directctions,and the road splits into two one way streets in the business district. West of town, the "Okanagan Connector" is a high-speed shortcut the Coquihalla, the Lower Mainland, and Vancouver
Head back to Kelowna, and after crossing the floating bridge, head south along Lakeshore Rd to pass thorugh the beatuful Mission neighbourhood, several beaches (which get GREAT afternoon sun!), a marina, and a winery.
Second Day Southern OkanaganHighway 97 continues south on the west side of the lake, past the community of Peachland, which has pretty parks, beaches, and a marina on the lake.
Giant's Head Mountain, just above the town of Summerland, looks like a Giant's Head and rises to 1042m (over 700 metres / 2100 ft above the lake), and has a road and then a short hiking trail to the top. You can also access the Kettle Valley Railway Trail from here.
In Penticton, check out the tree-shaded beach at the southern end of Okanagan Lake. along the shore is a Convention Centre, and resort, a dog-friendly beach, the Penticton Art Gallery, a Japanese garden, a marina, From Eckhardt Ave (a major east-west cross-town street) you can connect to Haven Hill Rd and then Johnson Rd which connects to a half-dozen wineries in Naramata.
Head back to town, and south on Main Street shopping district to the Skaha Beach on the south of town, the beach is underneath the Penticton Airport runway... it not as dangerous as a similarly situated airport/beach in St Maarten's because the planes landing here are much smaller. You can take a raft ride down the channel from Okanagan Lake to Skaha Lake (you can rent the tube/raft and get a bus ride from a local operator).
From here, head south around Skaha Lake, on the west shore, past Okanagan Falls, where the highway switches to the east side of Vasseux Lake. The lake has an interesting marsh on the north end snuggled below a tall cliff. Further south you pass a provincial park and a bird sanctuary on the shores of the lake.
South of Vasseux Lake you hit hot & dry but very well-irrigated wine country. There are 50 wineries between here and the US border.
The first town you hit is Oliver. In the town, the highway becomes "Main Street", which is home to a movie theatre, a small airport, and a number of shops and services, and then suddenly you are back into wine country!
Soon you pass Osoyoos Lake on the left side of the Highway (with a pocket desert on its eastern slopes), and shortly you hit Highway 3, the Crowsnest Route of the Trans-Canada Highway, either heading east through the Crowsnest Pass into Alberta or west through Manning Park into the Lower Mainland.
On the Northwest corner of the junction is a stunning looking Osooyoos Tourist Information Centre, and to the east side is the town of Osoyoos, with its Main Street (which is also Highway #3) crossing the lake with hotels and shops on both sides.
On the east side of the lake is the Nk'Mip Cellars winer and Nk'Mip Museum... both VERY worthwhile. to the north is the Osoyoos Pocket Desert the most northerly desert in North America, and with its own micro-climate and a banana tree orchard!
If you have time (and passport ID), you can head down to Oroville, just across the USA border, for some cheap gas and trip to a grocery store for some items not available in Canada.
Third Day: Northern Okanagan & Shuswap
Heading north from Kelowna, you pass the UBC Okanagan campus and the Kelowna International Airport, and a few miles further the exit for the esteemed Grey Monk Winery (its a few km off the highway, but has a great restaurant and deck overlooking the lake.
Head north to Vernon, as you pass Lake Country with several smaller lakes on the east side of the highway, lined with cottages. The first lake is Wood Lake, and then Kalamalka Lake, and the highway climbs a hills with the with a turnoff for a lookout over Kalamalka Lake.
Vernon is a pretty town and he highway forms its main street, and the commercial center is a block to the west. To the east is Polson Park and the Okanagan Science Centre, and a bit further off the highway a multi-screen movie theatre. As you pass north of Vernon, past Swan Lake, you pass the Atlantis Waterslide Park on the east side.
Along the way is the O’Keefe Ranch with a number of historical structure and exhibits, near Armstrong (watch for signs). After passing through Armstrong and Enderby the highway splits 987A goes northeast to Sicamous, and 97B goes northwest to Salmon Arm. Head towards Sicamous, which you reach after the highway meanders past Mara lake.
Sicamous, the narrows that join Shuswap and Mara Lake, is home to hundreds of houseboats. It's in fact the birthplace of the Canadian houseboat industry. There is a park on the north side of the Trans-Canada where you can watch houseboats and Trans-Canada trains pass by. South of the hihgway is the town's commercial centre and overlooking the houseboat marinas in Moose McGuires Pub on the waerfront.
From here, head west (about an hour) to Salmon Arm. you'll pass a saw mill at Canoe just east of town, and at the 97B junction is the RH Haney Historical Museum. As you descend the hill into town, you can see the boardwalk on the waterfront, with impressive views of the Cliffs on the opposite shore (they rise to 1336m, over a kilometre above the lake) , and a protected marshland to the west of the boardwalk
From Salmon Arm, you can head west and check out other Shuswap communities along the highway, including Tappen, Blind Bay, and Sorrento. At Squilax, you can take a bridge over the channel to the north shore and Scotch Creek. In Salmon season, the Rodderick Haig-Brown Provincial Park (on the north side) lies on a prime salmon spawning stream.
Head West along the Thomson River to Monte Creek, where you can take 97C back to Vernon and Kelowna. Alternatively, you can head west a little further to Kamloops.
Kamloops has several interesting attractions, including a Steam Train Ride that takes you north of town (and gets robbed by a gang on horseback!), an on the north bank, the Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park featuring the area's First Nations history. The downtown has a museum and and art gallery, and there is great panoramic view when heading up the hill (where the Kamloops Tourism Information Centre is located)
A Longer Stay
If you are able to spend more time in the area, there are many things to see and do, depending on your interests. Check out all the Okanagan Area Attractions, organized by category or each of the communities.