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Okanagan Wine Country Travel Guide

  • Photo: Christopher Gardiner / Shutterstock

Plan Your Okanagan Wine Country Vacation

If you think that "wine country" and "British Columbia" have as much in common as "beaches" and "the Arctic," think again. The Okanagan region, roughly five hours east of Vancouver by car or one hour by air, has earned another moniker: "Napa of the North," for its award-winning blends. Admittedly, wine production is a literal drop in the bucket compared to that of the Napa Valley; but still, the

Okanagan is a magnet for wine enthusiasts—novice and expert alike.

Its lakeside and scenic vineyards aren't the Okanagan's only draw. Add to that the region’s arid summer climate, water activities, numerous golf courses, mountain trails, and abundant snow in winter, and you have a perfect short getaway from Vancouver and the British Columbia coast as well as a perfect setting for a longer stay.

The Okanagan's wineries are concentrated in three general areas: around the city of Kelowna and north toward Vernon, along the Naramata Bench outside the town of Penticton, and in the area between Oliver and Osoyoos, just north of the U.S. border. If you're planning a short trip, you might want to stick to just one of these areas, especially since each one has developed its own wine trail to accommodate visitors with time constraints. That said, with approximately 200 wineries throughout the Okanagan, each area also offers enough to occupy several days of tasting.

As more urbanites, celebrity chefs, and city escapees discover the Okanagan's year-round appeal, the region's restaurants, amenities, and services are growing in sophistication, with wineries taking the lead. Many of them have created unique places to stay as well as spectacular destination dining on patios, in-house, and even safari-style, in the middle of the vineyards themselves.

It may only be about 125 km (75 miles) between Kelowna and Osoyoos, but wine touring, when coupled with unexpected digressions such as visiting a garden in spectacular bloom, an art studio, or a historic site along the way, can turn a two-hour sojourn into a full day of meandering adventure. Just be sure to stop by one of the roadside stalls to pick up a pint of cherries, a box of apricots, apple chutney, peach jam, and honey.

The Okanagan's sandy lake beaches and hot dry climate have long made it a family-holiday destination for Vancouverites and Albertans, and the region is still the fruit-growing capital of Canada.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Okanagan Wines The little-known wineries of the Okanagan Valley are producing some highly acclaimed wines and earning top honors in international circles, though they don't often make their way to U.S. stores.
  2. Explore diverse landscapes The region's diverse geography creates an Eden for outdoor activities and agriculture cattle ranches, golf courses, orchards, lakeside vineyards, marble canyons, trestle train tracks, and Canada's only desert.
  3. Skiing The Okanagan's arid microclimate translates into bountiful powder snows. Ski resorts may not have the same caché as Whistler, but for value, quality snow, and family appeal, these mountains are hidden treasures.
  4. The Kettle Valley Railway While a steam locomotive still travels along a preserved section of this historic railway, most of the railbed caters to cyclists and hikers. The scenery, views, waterfalls, and trestle bridges are stunningly beautiful.

When To Go

When to Go

The Okanagan hosts a wine festival in May, to open the season, and in early October, to close the season; both weekends are fun and busy times...

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