A beginner's guide to Kelowna
Breathe in the fresh air as you survey the landscape from an alpine meadow on Big White Mountain. Stroll through a sunny orchard gently swinging a basket heavy with ripe cherries you picked along the way. Watch the sun slowly sinking below the foothills and a kayaker gliding across the mirror-calm lake water as you sip a glass of locally grown wine.
When you visit Kelowna, British Columbia in the heart of the Okanagan Valley - moments like these happen every day.
Kelowna ranks very highly on liveability scores and it is easy to see why. With sunny weather, gorgeous scenery and an abundance of juicy summer fruit it’s a pleasure to explore. The downtown comes to life with great restaurants, cool bars, museums, art galleries, unique shops and much more. Okanagan Lake offers plenty of opportunities for fun - such as fishing, boating or swimming. Everyone, young or old, will find something they love here.
Kelowna is a great place to visit as part of a self-drive, so that you will have the freedom to explore at your own pace. Within a short drive from the downtown core you’ll find a great selection of stunning vistas, award-winning wineries, championship golf courses and fruit orchards.
What to do
Whether your holiday style is “Energetic Explorer” or “Laid Back Lounger” there’s something that will capture your interest in Kelowna. For those who are looking for an outdoor thrill there are plenty of great hiking trails and water sports activities. If are you seeking fine wine, good food and a relaxed atmosphere you can savour the region’s collection of superb wineries and restaurants. Here are a few ideas of what to do in this BC destination.
Get out on the water
Kelowna is perfectly positioned on the shores of shimmering Okanagan Lake. If you are feeling adventurous you can do almost every type of water sports here, from parasailing to jet boating to stand up paddle boarding. You can rent kayaks, motorboats and other equipment from the main marina in town. The equipment rentals will include life jackets and a safety instruction and there are options for hourly or daily rentals.
There are several beaches to choose from around the lake, each with its own unique vibe and personality. Hot Sands Beach is a popular spot for soaking up the sunshine and Gyro Beach is a favourite with families due to its playground, volleyball courts, washrooms and snack shop. If you are travelling with your canine companion head to Cedar Creek Park, the only dog friendly beach in Kelowna. The picnic tables along the pebble beach are a lovely place to stop for a bite to eat while your dog frolics in the water.
It’s even possible to surf in Kelowna! The H2O Adventure and Fitness Centre has a wave pool surf simulator that will allow you to ride the waves.
Put on your hiking shoes
If your idea of a great day involves a granola bar, a bottle of water, a pair of boots and several miles of trail ahead of you - then you’ll have a blast in Kelowna. There are a range of trails, from a simple morning hike to a full day adventure that will test your fitness.
Try the four-kilometre journey to Angel Springs, where you can see some fascinating mineral deposits and geological formations. Dilworth Mountain is an easy three-kilometre hike that will reward you with some great views of the city. The hike from Cedar Mountain Park to Kelowna Crags is a stunning 7km journey that will lead you to a cliff top with a breath-taking vista.
A more challenging hike for serious climbers is Big White Mountain with an elevation of 7,158 feet. The best time of year to make the climb is August, as the alpine flowers will be in bloom.
Taste the local wines
What would a trip to the Okanagan Valley be without sampling some delicious wines at a local winery? There are so many fantastic wineries in Kelowna to choose from, but Mission Hill is a great place to start. The impressive architecture of the winery itself looks as good as the award-winning wines taste. Another great winery to check out is Summerhill Pyramid Winery, known for producing wine that is 100% organic.
Then, head to Quail’s Gate Estate on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna - one of the best locations in the valley for growing premium grapes. On this historic property you can take a tour of the buildings and learn about the wine production (regarded as one of the best tours in the region). Take a sensory tasting and enjoy sampling wines paired with delectable bites.
Pick your own fruit
The ample sunshine, fertile soil and long growing season in the Okanagan Valley make the perfect conditions for juicy and delicious fruit. If you want to experience the best selection of fruit in Kelowna, you should plan your trip for the mid to late summer from July to September.
You’ll see orchards everywhere bursting at the seams with ripe cherries, plums, peaches, nectarines and apples. Many of the local orchards allow you to pick your own fruit by the pound - which is a great family activity. You’ll have so much fresh fruit to snack on, a wonderfully healthy treat.
Play a round of golf
With over 2,000 hours of sunshine every year there are a lot of excellent opportunities to golf in Kelowna. There are several well designed courses laid out over the orchards, rolling hills and lakes that make playing a round of golf a pleasure.
The Harvest Golf Club has been open since 1994 and is one of the best known golf clubs in Kelowna. It has received a Certificate of Excellence for 2015 from TripAdvisor, a prestigious award that is based on positive feedback from guests.
Another excellent golf facility is the Okanagan Golf Club which offers a scenic 18-hole championship course and hosts many tournaments throughout the year. Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club is another great course with a driving range, a junior golf club and spectacular views from the course.
Where to eat
You will have built up quite an appetite after all of this adventure. Fortunately, Kelowna has a superb culinary scene.
Bai Tong Restaurant is considered the best Thai restaurant in the Central Okanagan and is a great choice if you love fragrant, spicy and exotic Asian flavours. Bellissimo Pizza is another local favourite, serving up pizza made from seasonal ingredients sourced from local Kelowna farms.
If you are looking for somewhere a little upscale and romantic for a special meal you can check out Bouchon Bistro, serving elegant French cuisine. The chef is trained in Paris and the climate controlled wine cellar has 800 bottles to choose from.
Kelowna also boasts its share of excellent brewpubs, such as Tree Brewing Co. They are passionate about brewing and their award winning beers are known for their crisp, fresh and simple flavours. Try the Grapefruit Radler, a refreshing citrus beer that won the Gold Medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards in 2015.
The Curious Cafe in downtown Kelowna’s cultural district is another great stop for beer lovers. It offers 16 craft beers on tap, as well as fresh and tasty wood-oven baked pizzas.
Where to stay
Kelowna offers a range of accommodation, whether you are looking for a simple and comfortable budget room or you want to treat yourself to a more luxurious stay.
The Sandman Hotel is a great affordable option, with 220 air conditioned rooms equipped with coffee and tea makers, hair dryers and large flat screen televisions. You can relax and recharge with a soak in the spa tub or a few laps in the indoor pool. It also boasts a Denny’s 24 Hour restaurant if you are hungry for late night munchies or an early breakfast.
For a romantic splurge, Hotel Eldorado is an elegant 1920s heritage building with a picturesque lakeside location and a legendary brunch. It is a popular choice for weddings and couple’s getaways in Kelowna.
Another option is Manteo Resort Waterfront Hotel & Villas, in a great location close to both downtown Kelowna and the wineries. The pool with waterslide and playground also make it a great family resort.
Are You Ready for Your Kelowna adventure?
Sun-soaked, laid back and packed with great things to do, Kelowna is just begging to be explored. Why not start planning your trip today?