Cranbrook bills itself as the basecamp of the Kootenays as it offers easy access to…
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 and a handful of towns make up the Okanagan – including Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon.
While the Okanagan is a wonderful area in Canada to visit at any time of the year, the region really shines in the summer when lake and vineyards are at their prime.
Updated May 2020. This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Things to do in the Okanagan – 27 that are perfect in warm weather
1. 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.
2. Float the Okanagan River Channel. You can rent inner tubes and rafts and take up to 2 hours to float the 7 km. Contact Coyote Cruises. For $18 they offer a tube and a return bus ride beginning the third week in June.
3. Rent a boat from the Skaha Lake marina or launch a kayak, windsurfer or kitesurfer from Sudbury Beach.
4. Walk the Sunset Strip promenade at the south end of Lake Okanagan in Penticton, after eating at one of the beachfront restaurants. I highly recommend Elma!
5. Hike or mountain bike The Three Blind Mice Trail, located at the top of Arawana Road, north of Penticton. Challenging climbs will be rewarded with quick descents and amazing views.
6. Explore the Naramata Heritage Museum at Robinson and Second in Naramata. They have historical photo displays and artifacts from the region.
7. Visit the Vaseux Lake Bird Sanctuary. The north end of the lake draws birders from all over the continent. You may hear canyon wrens or 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.
8. 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.
9. 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. Rates for adults are $12 per person.
10. Visit the Osoyoos Desert Center and take a self-guided tour along their 1.5 kilometre boardwalk through the desert ecosystem.
11. Try some horseback riding with one of the following outfitters: Okanagan Stables or Kelowna Stables at Myra Canyon Ranch.
12. Go for a swim. Nothing beats cooling off in a freshwater lake on a hot summer day.
Take a hike
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.
13. Check out the north end of Lake Osoyoos. It’s an excellent bird watching area.
14. 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
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. A 4 km hike will take you up to the summit of Oliver Mountain. The trailhead is located at the base of the water tower on the west side of Oliver. Take 350th Avenue and turn right onto 107th Street
19. Pick up maps at the visitor center in town and then try either of these hikes outside of Oliver. Choose the 4 km hike to Burnell (Sawmill lake) or a 7 km hike on the McIntyre Bluffs though you need permission for the bluffs hike.
20. 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.
21. 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.
Go wine tasting
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.
22. Join a wine tour – either self-guided or with a tour company. There’s also the annual Okanagan Summer Wine Festival held every August at the Silver Star Resort.
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.
23. 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.
24. 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.
26. Go bowling in Kelowna at BNA Brewing – one of the top microbreweries in the Okanagan. The space is also used for shuffleboard and bocce.
27. Check out the vibrant restaurant scene – definitely one of the top things to do in the Okanagan. Some suggestions in Penticton include, Bad Tattoo Brewing for pizza, The Bench Market for coffee, breakfast and lunch and Wayne and Freda for coffee and baked goods.
In Kelowna try the CedarCreek Estate Winery for a decadent meal with a view. Mission Hill is also incredible. 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.
28. Visit Naramata – a small community near Penticton. Check out the Visit Naramata website for everything you need to know to plan your visit. I personally love this part of the Okanagan.
Places to stay in the Okanagan
In Penticton the Penticton Lakeside Resort offers what is probably the best location in town. Their waterfront setting, well-appointed rooms and decks with a view are ideal.
Further reading on things to do in British Columbia in the summer
- 11 Things to do in Revelstoke in Summer
- 3 Nakusp Hot Springs in BC That Are Worth a Visit
- Island Lake Lodge: A Base for Hiking Adventures
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