Destination: Kelowna, British Columbia

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 the BC 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 and Mcculloch Reservoir are worth a visit.

If you require electrical hook-ups or additional facilities, Bear Creek Provincial Park and Fintry 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 in Knox 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 to Boyce-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 the Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Quails’ Gate Estate Winery, and the Indigenous World Winery. Enjoy a flight by donation at Scenic 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 like Bright Jenny. Their almond croissants are worth the visit alone.

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Ashley Giordano completed a 48,800-kilometer overland journey from Canada to Argentina with her husband, Richard, in their well-loved but antiquated Toyota pickup. On the zig-zag route south, she hiked craggy peaks in the Andes, discovered diverse cultures in 15 different countries, and filled her tummy with spicy ceviche, Baja fish tacos, and Argentinian Malbec. You can usually find Ashley buried in a pile of travel books, poring over maps, or researching wild medicinal plants. Ashley is a co-founder of Women Overlanding the World and crew member of Expedition Overland. You’ll find this Canadian-born couple exploring a different continent in 2021, and sharing their trip every step of the way at Desk to Glory.