Sitting on the shores of Okanagan Lake, surrounded by mountains, Kelowna is known for its wineries, its beaches and its superb scenery. It is also great for shopping and fantastic for food, with its restaurant menus packed full of fresh local produce. Blue skies and outdoor adventures make it a great place to visit in summer while its proximity to ski resorts, its museums and culture also make it a great winter base.
With such lovely landscapes you will want to get out and enjoy the sunshine and there are plenty of ways to do that, from hiking and biking, sailing, swimming and many other watersports, to exploring the lush and fertile wineries and orchards. Hiking trails vary from gentle strolls beside the lake to strenuous uphill mountain hikes, with many in between. Biking is equally varied, with pleasant family-friendly routes and thrilling downhill courses. One of the most popular for both biking and walking is the Myra Canyon Trail, which follows the historic Kettle Railway bed through tunnels and over towering trestles, with stunning views.
Downtown Kelowna is a good blend of independent boutiques, mainstream shops and shopping malls with plenty of great restaurants, cafés and bars to refuel at. Stroll down Bernard Avenue and you will reach City Park and its sandy beach, where you can spot the statue of the Ogopogo – the legendary lake monster said to inhabit the waters of Okanagan Lake. A nice area of the city to explore is the Cultural District which is spread over six downtown blocks and is home to many galleries, studios and museums, including the Kelowna Art Gallery and the BC Wine and Orchard Museums. Pick up a brochure and take the heritage walking tour around some of the city’s historic houses and buildings dating back up to one hundred years.
Kelowna enjoys many festivals and events throughout the year: four annual wine festivals, regular live music, craft fairs, art shows and the lively Dragon Boat races which take place at the end of August, complete with traditional Chinese drums and hordes of spectators.
Okanagan Lake is an important feature of the city and being able to walk to its shores from downtown is a great advantage. There are nine beaches along the city’s waterfront, from quiet, leafy parks with sandy swimming areas, to busy beaches with boat rentals and lively music. There are several smaller ‘beach access’ areas for those who like to explore off the beaten track and many waterfront boardwalks to stroll along. If you prefer to get out on the water and explore there is a good deal to keep you busy, from thrilling jetski and powerboat rentals to leisurely dinner cruises and atmospheric sailing trips. For a more intimate experience hire a canoe and set off to discover your own private coves and bays. Okanagan Lake is a huge 68 miles long, so there is plenty of space for everyone!
Kelowna enjoys a relatively mild winter, meaning lakeside strolls in the light snow are enjoyable, many wineries still open their doors to visitors, and the city’s galleries and museums provide entertainment and amusement. The city is just an hours’ drive from two fantastic ski resorts, with Big White being the best known. Immerse yourself in excellent skiing and snowboarding, find beautiful snowshoeing trails and enjoy winter activities such as ice skating, sleigh rides, dog sledding and snowmobile tours, before returning to the comforts and amenities of the city. Kelowna has the best of both worlds!
With lush landscapes and twinkling waters by summer, snowy activities aplenty on hand by winter, delicious fresh foods, excellent shopping and plenty of culture, Kelowna is a great place to visit throughout the year.
Things to do
Top tips for visiting Kelowna
Top Tip 1
• The Okanagan Valley is famous for its fantastic wines and there are many vineyards around the city you can tour, with beautiful rows of vines, great views over the lake, and a variety of wines to taste. Some are open during the winter months while others, such as Calona Vineyard, are just a short walk from downtown.
Top Tip 2
• To find out more about the history of the industry visit the BC Wine Museum in the cultural district. Housed in a historic packinghouse there are some interesting displays and a great selection of wines. The adjoining Orchard Museum is also worth a visit.
Top Tip 3
• If you are touring the countryside, don’t miss a stop in the Okanagan Lavender Farm where you can wander through the relaxing fields of lavender and herbs, or to Carmelis to sample some delicious goat cheeses and gelatos. Drop by one of the many roadside stalls on your way home to pick up some of the plumpest, juiciest peaches, cherries and other fruits you have ever tasted.
Top Tip 4
• There are many beautiful hiking trails in the area but one of the most rewarding is Paul’s Tomb. The route leads to a pretty, secluded cove with crystal clear waters. Popular for divers and snorkelers, there are wrecks and even an Ogopogo sea monster statue submerged under the waters.
Top Tip 5
• If you are travelling with children, there is plenty to amuse them. As well as the many beaches and parks, there is a waterslide park, the Kangaroo Zoo and children’s activities every Sunday afternoon in the Kelowna Art Gallery.
Top Tip 6
• For a step back from the busy city, take a peaceful stroll around the Geert Maas Sculpture Gardens and Gallery or the perfectly manicured flower beds at Elysium Gardens.
Top Tip 7
• For those who enjoy their views with a thrill, Oyama Ziplines is the place to be! They have six different lines - including side-by-side lines - boasting spectacular views over Kalamalka Lake, known as the lake of many colours due to its ever changing green and blue tones.
Top Tip 8
• The valley’s grapes may produce some fantastic wines but they have an altogether more soothing use too. Visit Beyond Wrapture Spa and indulge in some ‘vinotherapy’ treatments, including grape pip scrubs and relaxing grape-seed oil massages.