Photography by Richard Giordano
Kelowna, British Columbia, lies in the heart of the Okanagan Valley and is known for its dry, sunny climate, wineries, fruit orchards, and lakes. Located in the south-central region of the province, the Okanagan Valley’s Highway 97 provides a scenic alternate route for those heading north or south along the Pan-American Highway.
Sandwiched between the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Coast Mountains, the region is characterized by semi-arid shrubland. Not quite the desert, but hot and sun-baked enough to warm the lakes and grow grapes for riesling, pinot gris, chardonnay, and pinot noir. Peaches, cherries, and apples do well here too.
There are many camping opportunities, both paid and free, and some decent hikes amongst towering ponderosa pines and yellow Okanagan sunflowers that are worth checking out. Both pebble and sandy beaches help take the edge off a scorching summer’s day.
Where to Camp
BC Recreation Sites are free or low-cost minimalist campsites located throughout the province, often just off a forestry service road. Many rec sites allow campers to stay up to two weeks, but best practice is to check out theBC Recreation Sites website to confirm.
Postill Lake Rec Site is one of the closest free camp spots to the city center. There are plenty of offshoots to explore on the incoming forestry service road, while the site itself offers good fly fishing and nearby hiking trails. Across town,Hydraulic Lake andMcculloch Reservoir are worth a visit.
If you require electrical hook-ups or additional facilities,Bear Creek Provincial Park andFintry Provincial Park are two notable lakeside campsites in the area. Bear Creek is arguably the most conveniently located if you wish to spend some time in the city, but the sites book quickly in the summertime. Be sure to make a reservation.
What to Do
Paul’s Tomb is a three-kilometer out and back trail inKnox Mountain Park, which provides hikers with expansive views of Okanagan Lake. The trail winds down into a warm, protected bay that is perfect for swimming. If you’re looking for a sandy beach, head toBoyce-Gyro Beach Park on Lakeshore Road. A weekday evening is the best time to beat the crowds.
If potent potables are your thing, Kelowna boasts a variety of wineries and cideries that offer free tastings and beautiful views. For wine, check out theSummerhill Pyramid Winery,Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, and theIndigenous World Winery. Enjoy a flight by donation atScenic Road Cider. The tasting is a rapid-fire pun-filled experience, but you’re free to relax afterward at a picnic table amongst the apple trees.
Finally, if you’re looking for a caffeine fix, wifi, an open-aired courtyard, and a quirky alternative to the ubiquitous Tim Hortons coffee shop, you might likeBright Jenny. Their almond croissants are worth the visit alone.
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