Okanagan Wine Country Feature
Okanagan Travel Tips
Okanagan Wineries: Large or Small?
Is it better to visit large wineries or small ones? It depends. Starting your trip at a larger winery can be a useful orientation. The big ones generally have organized tours, where you can learn about the types of wine they make and the winemaking process, and you can pick up general information about the region as well. They usually have restaurants, too, where you can refuel.
On the other hand, at the smaller producers you may get to talk with the owners or winemakers themselves and get a more personal feel for their wines and the wine-making business. Our recommendation is to include a mix of larger and smaller wineries in your itinerary.
Okanagan: North or South?
The Okanagan is a large region, with many winding, stop-and-go roads. If your time is limited, consider concentrating on one area:
Go to Osoyoos/Oliver if you prefer smaller wineries, a more rural setting, and a dry, desertlike climate.
Visit Penticton/Naramata for smaller wineries and if you prefer cycling or other outdoor adventures; there are several biking and hiking options nearby.
Head for Kelowna if you're arriving by plane (it has the region's only significant airport), if you prefer a more urban setting, or if you want to check out the largest wineries. Kelowna isn't appealing, though, so if you're envisioning idyllic wine country, go farther south.
What to Do Besides Wineries?
Before becoming such a hip wine-and-food destination, the Okanagan was a family holiday spot, best known for its "beaches and peaches"—the lakes with their sandy shores, boating and waterskiing opportunities, and waterfront lodges and campgrounds, as well as the countless farm stands offering fresh produce. The beaches and peaches are still there, and the Okanagan still welcomes families. With its mild, dry climate, the region is also popular with golfers, and there are gardens to visit as well as trails for hiking and biking.
The restaurant scene in the Okanagan is evolving, too, and a growing number of high-end eateries emphasize food-and-wine pairings. Some of the best are at the wineries, especially the Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl in Oliver and the Terrace at Mission Hill in the Kelowna area. Surprisingly, outside of Kelowna, it can be hard to find good-quality, cheap eats: your best bet, particularly in the summer and fall, is to stop at one of the many roadside farm stands to pick up fruits, veggies, and picnic fare. Some wineries have "picnic licenses," which means that they're allowed to sell you a glass (or a bottle) of wine that you can enjoy on the grounds, paired with your own picnic supplies or with picnic fare that the winery sells.
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