BEST Things to Do in the Okanagan Valley, BC

Okanagan landscape
Okanagan landscape

The Okanagan Valley, a long north-south valley located in the south central portion of British Columbia, just north of the US border is known for its sunny, dry climate with hot summers and cold winters. Three main cities, Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon and a handful of towns make up the Okanagan Valley.

While the Okanagan is a wonderful area in Canada to visit at any time of the year, the region really shines in the summer and fall when the lakes and vineyards are at their prime.

I think you’ll find there is plenty to do in the Okanagan Valley no matter what the season.

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you very much for your support.

Scarecrow in a field of grape vines near Oliver in the Okanagan
Scarecrow in a field of grape vines near Oliver

Best things to do in the Okanagan near Summerland

1. Ride the Kettle Valley Steam Railway

Take a 2-hour trip on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. You’ll see orchards, vineyards and an incredible view from the top of the Trout Creek Trestle Bridge. Call 877-494-8424 to make a reservation.

Kettle Valley Steam Railway
The Kettle Valley Steam Railway – Photo credit: Nils Oberg on Wikimedia Commons

2. Bike a section of the Kettle Valley Railway out of Summerland

The Kettle Valley Railway out of Summerland feels wilder than the section heading to the First Tunnel lookout from Penticton. The trail twists and climbs past viewpoints in the South Okanagan, the Kettle Valley Steam Train, and several interpretive panels.

You might meet horses as the Summerland section of the KVR is a shared use trail
You might meet horses as the Summerland section of the KVR is a shared use trail

Best things to do in the Okanagan near Penticton

1. Float the Okanagan River Channel

You can rent inner tubes and rafts and take up to 2 hours to float the 7 km down the Okanagan River Channel. Contact Coyote Cruises. For $18 they offer a tube and a return bus ride beginning the third week in June.

Ducks float with you down the channel
Ducks float with you down the channel

2. Walk the Sunset Strip promenade in Penticton

Located at the south end of Lake Okanagan, the Sunset Strip Promenade in Penticton, is the perfect place to walk off the calories after eating at one of the beachfront restaurants. I highly recommend Elma!

The promenade is a lovely place to walk in Penticton
lovely place to walk in Penticton

3. Have dinner at Eat Elma

I think the food at Elma in the Okanagan is some of the best you’ll find in Canada. It’s inventive, authentic and beautifully presented. Don’t miss an opportunity to eat here.

Unforgettable eggplant, labne and hummous with Turkish bread
Unforgettable eggplant, labne and hummous with Turkish bread at Elma

4. Go for a swim in Okanagan Lake (or any of the Okanagan Valley lakes)

The Okanagan Valley can get stinking hot in the summer – so what better way to enjoy the area than to go for a refreshing swim. There’s a lovely big beach at the south end of Okanagan Lake in Penticton that is perfect.

Enjoy a swim in Okanagan Lake in the summer
Enjoy a swim in Okanagan Lake in the summer

5. Wander through Penticton’s downtown 

Check out the locally owned shops and look for artwork as you explore downtown Penticton on two feet.

Look for local artwork as you wander through Penticton's downtown
Look for local artwork as you wander through Penticton’s downtown

Things to do in the South Okanagan Valley

1. Kayak on Vaseux Lake

Vaseux Lake, located between Oliver and Okanagan Falls, is ideal for kayaking and bird-watching. The non-motorized lake is a bird sanctuary, drawing people people from all over during the spring migration. Hoodoos Adventures leads kayaking tours here, but if you have your own there’s a place to launch near the south end of the lake.

Easy, beautiful kayaking on Vaseux Lake
Easy, beautiful kayaking on Vaseux Lake

2. Visit the Vaseux Lake Bird Sanctuary

The north end of Vaseux Lake is where you’ll find the Vaseux Lake bird sanctuary. Walk the boardwalks, listening for shore birds, canyon wrens and chukar partridges. Look up occasionally so you don’t miss the soaring golden eagles. The area is home to a herd of bighorn sheep too.

There are loads of ducks in the Vaseux Bird Sanctuary
There are loads of ducks in the Vaseux Bird Sanctuary

3. Check out the District Wine Village

The District Wine Village, called the first true wine village in Canada is close to Oliver. New wineries  producing less than 2,000 cases of wine per year have a chance to present their wines. 

In this Okanagan wine village there are 12 wineries, one craft brewery and a distillery. Each winery has state of the art equipment on site – and the ability to press the grapes with portable group equipment.

Enjoy wine, beer, or spirit tastings, sometimes paired with food at any one of the wineries. There is a twice a day shuttle from Penticton and Osoyoos, so you don’t even need a car to visit.

Walk through the District Wine Village
Walk through the District Wine Village

4. Visit Covert Farms Family Estate

There are several reasons to visit Covert Farms Family Estate. There one hour farm tour with a beautiful backdrop is a must. They offer one of the most  visually appealing charcuterie boards along that I’ve ever seen accompanied with delicious wine. That alone is reason enough to visit.

They seem to be one of the view wineries that also caters to kids with slides, water activities and a bouncy structure. Everyone will leave happy.

The most beautiful charcuterie board I've ever seen - and delicious too
The most beautiful charcuterie board I’ve ever seen – and delicious too
There are all sorts of water themed activities available to kids at Covert Farms in the south Okanagan
There are all sorts of water themed activities available to kids at Covert Farms

Cultural activities to enjoy in the Okanagan

  1. Explore the Naramata Heritage Museum at Robinson and Second in Naramata. They have historical photo displays and artifacts from the region.
  2. Check out the Okanagan Observatory. It offers free public viewing nights every Friday in July and August but phone ahead to make sure it’s on.
  3. Take a trip to the Nk’Mp Desert Cultural Center at 1000 Rancher Creek Road in Osoyoos. Take a self-guided tour and learn about the land and the Okanagan Native people. Of note is their rattlesnake research program. 
  4. Visit the Osoyoos Desert Center  and take a self-guided tour along their 1.5 kilometre boardwalk through the desert ecosystem.
Enjoy a meal with a view at an Osoyoos winery
Enjoy a meal with a view at an Osoyoos winery

Take a hike in the Okanagan

Although it can get very hot in the Okanagan in the summer, there are loads of hiking opportunities. Start early and takes lots of water with you. 

Places to hike in the Okanagan

  1. Check out the north end of Lake Osoyoos. It’s an excellent bird watching area.
  2. Explore the Mount Kobau trail network. Don’t miss out on the 5 km Testalinden Trail with superb views of both the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys. Access is via Highway 3, 11 km west of Osoyoos and then 17 km along a dirt access road which is NOT suitable for low clearance vehicles
  3. Try the 10 km hike through the Tinhorn Creek vineyard. This is known as the Golden Mile Trail as it takes you past the Tinhorn Creek gold mine ruins. Access is via the winery.
  4. The Ripley and Madden Lake Trails offer 5 km of hiking along the Madden Lake shoreline.  Turn north on 350th Road out of Oliver and then right at the Rippley/Madden Lake junction. Stay on that road for 5 km to reach Madden Lake.
  5. Hike 4 km on Sandy Hill which is the backside of Oliver Mountain. You’ll get excellent views of the town of Oliver as you hike across grasslands and along old mining roads.
  6. Do the 2.6 km Bear Creek Falls loop in Bear Creek Provincial Park near Kelowna. In summer there’s a waterfall that you can hike to and in theory swim under. 
  7. Explore the trails in Kelowna’s Knox Mountain Park. If you hike to the end of the Paul Tomb’s Trail there’s a lovely spot for a beach and a picnic.
Benches for taking in the Okanagan Lake views on the Paul's Tomb trail
Benches for taking in the Okanagan Lake views on the Paul’s Tomb trail – in winter
Skaha Bluffs in Penticton
Skaha Bluffs in Penticton – Photo credit: Offtrack Travel

Go wine tasting in the Okanagan region

The arid Okanagan landscape is punctuated with lakes and patches of green. It has become one of Canada’s premier grape growing and wine producing areas.

There are over 100 wineries, along the bluffs bordering the lakes, running the length of the valley from Vernon to Osoyoos.

Wineries run the gamut from small, family oriented ones run from the back of a trailer to large estates with commanding views like Mission Hill, Burrowing Owl, Summerhill Pyramid and CedarCreek Estate Winery.

I personally like to visit wineries on my own so I can taste and visit at my own pace. The problem is deciding which of the 100 plus wineries to visit – but that’s a happy problem if there ever was one.

Some of the Okanagan wineries offer memorable meals – cue CedarCreek Estate, Mission Hill and Burrowing Owl.

The beautiful tasting room at CedarCreek Estate Winery in the Okanagan
The beautiful tasting room at CedarCreek Estate Winery
One of the vineyard views you get near Naramata from the Kettle Valley Railway in the Okanagan
One of the vineyard views you get near Naramata from the Kettle Valley Railway

Go biking in the Okanagan

1. Myra Canyon to Penticton

If you’re a cyclist don’t miss the bike ride from Myra Canyon to Penticton – one of the best off road routes in Canada in my opinion. It’s 80 km in total but all downhill on a gentle grade.

Gorgeous bike riding through pine forest above Naramata
Gorgeous bike riding through pine forest above Naramata on the Kettle Valley Railway

2. Bike along Skaha Lake

Another great bike ride is along the shores of Skaha Lake. You can continue down to Oliver and even further for a full day out on the bike.

Lovely biking along Skaha Lake
Lovely biking along Skaha Lake

Check out the micro-brewery scene in both Penticton and Kelowna

There are eight craft breweries in Penticton – enough for Lonely Planet to call it the Craft Beer Capital of Canada – and more per capita than any other city in Canada!

I would suggest if you like beer that you check out The Penticton Ale Trail and decide where you want to go. Cannery Brewing is a great place with a fun vibe and 13 beers on tap.

The beers served on the Cannery Brewing outdoor patio
The beers served on the Cannery Brewing outdoor patio

In Kelowna BNA Brewing – with it’s very hip tasting room offers beers with names like Canary in the Coal Mine – Porter (my fave with chocolate notes), and Lost Ones IPA.

Upstairs in their historic building is a beautiful renovated space where you can hang out beginning at 4 PM and bowl, play bocce or shuffleboard. It’s also one of the must see places when you visit Kelowna

Bowling, bocce and shuffleboard in a great space on the 2nd floor
Bowling, bocce and shuffleboard in a great space on the 2nd floor of BNA Brewing

Eat well in the Okanagan Valley

Check out the vibrant restaurant scene – definitely one of the top things to do in the Okanagan. 

Penticton

Some suggestions in Penticton include The Bench Market for coffee, breakfast and lunch and Wayne and Freda for coffee and baked goods. In nearby Naramata don’t miss The Restaurant at the Naramata Inn.

Kelowna

Try the CedarCreek Estate Winery for a decadent meal with a view. 

Sunny’s – A Modern Diner is perfect for breakfast. Krafty Kitchen & Bar is ideal for lunch and dinner.

For the vegans, Frankie We Salute You! is the place to go.

Caramel choux a la creme - save room for this dessert!!
Caramel choux a la creme – save room for this dessert at the Naramata Inn
Memorable food and views from Home Block at CedarCreek Estate Winery
Memorable food and views from Home Block at CedarCreek Estate Winery

Places to stay in the Okanagan

In Kelowna try to get a room at theHotel Eldoradoor their family-friendly sister property – theManteo Resort. Both have great locations on Okanagan Lake. 

In Penticton thePenticton Lakeside Resortoffers what is probably the best location in town. Their waterfront setting, well-appointed rooms and decks with a view are ideal.

A living room with a view along with a small kitchen in the Okanagan
My suite in the Hotel Eldorado came with a living room with a view along with a small kitchen and work area

Further reading on things to do in British Columbia in the summer

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Best things to do in BC's Okanagan Valley

My Cart Close (×)

Your cart is empty
Browse Shop