Oliver and Osoyoos

South of Penticton, between the southern tip of Lake Okanagan and the U.S. border, Highway 97 passes through the country's only desert and runs along a chain of lakes: Skaha, Vaseaux, and Osoyoos. With a hot, dry climate, the lakeshore beaches can be crowded with families in summer; this is also a popular winter destination for snowbirds from the Canadian prairies. The climate makes this a prime wine-producing area, and the roads on both sides of Osoyoos Lake between the towns of Oliver and Osoyoos are lined with vineyards.

Oliver bills itself as the "Wine Capital of Canada" and this sleepy town of about 4,700 does have an ever-growing number of wineries. The community hopes to construct a "wine village" that will include an upscale inn and spa, although the plan has been on the table for the past several years.

The southernmost town in the Okanagan region, Osoyoos, has a significant First Nations population among its roughly 5,000 residents. The Osoyoos Indian Band operates North America's first aboriginal-owned winery and also runs an informative desert cultural center that's well worth a visit.

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