Kelowna was a totally unexpected gem on our road trip across British Columbia. We debated long and hard about the best route to get us from Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies, but nothing screamed at us “do not miss Kelowna”. As we wound through the valley, we’d clearly made the right choice to stay here the night. Lush, rolling vineyards, architecturally-beautiful hillside houses and a dazzling blue lake await you.
Clear blue skies, glorious sunshine and warm weather definitely increased the appeal of the place! Were we just lucky or is the weather really this nice all year round? From speaking to locals and looking up a few climate statistics, it seems the best weather in British Columbia can be found here. From May to September, daytime highs can climb into the 30°C’s. Even in May, we caught a tan!
Kelowna itself is the largest city in the Okanagan Valley region and sits on the sand-bordered shores of the vast Okanagan Lake. The location is stunning and is a big factor in the beauty in the place with rolling, grassy hillsides and perfectly planted vineyards providing the backdrop to the sparkling blue waters of the lake. At its widest its just 5km, but it spans 135km (84 miles) from north to south.
Calm, warm waters make it watersport heaven. Later in the summer months, the water temperature heats up to over 20°C, so even if you fall off your paddleboard, its not too bad! As well as stand-up paddleboards, you can hire, kayaks, canoes and jet-skis as well as a whole range of boats, including a BBQ boat. You can also go parasailing, fishing or just go for a swim.
As well as activities in and on the water, there’s also cycling and hiking in the area. Myra Canyon is a popular spot and is a path along the old railway journeying through tunnels, old bridges and spectacular views. It’s around a 20km (12 mile) round trip, but it’s mostly flat so is a relatively easy ½ day walk or bike ride.
If you’d prefer to relax a little more then stroll along the boardwalk eating an ice cream, chill on the patio with a drink or or cross the street to mooch the shops in downtown. Or you could go and explore one of over 40 wineries in the area. With the sun-drenched climate, the wine industry has flourished here over the last few decades.
Many of the vineyards offer tours and wine tastings, but simply just walking around is also a great way to spend the afternoon. As we entered the Mission Hill winery, it felt like life had slowed down. Strolling into the courtyard, there are amazing views everywhere you turn such as the grand bell tower and breathtaking outdoor amphitheater framing the view of the lake. Once you’ve looked around, you can buy a bottle of wine from the shop and feel very sophisticated as you enjoy it out on the terrace. Quails Gate is another charming vineyard in West Kelowna. As well as the many award-winning wineries, the dining scene is also strong. With quality farms just a few miles out of town, lots of local restaurants are serving fresh, locally grown food with farm-to-table dining experiences in abundance!
Just in case you arrive and start thinking its not as quite as pretty as you expected – be patient! As you drive into town, there are retail parks for miles as well as several billboards that line the road, but don’t let these eyesores put you off. Just keep on driving until you hit the lake.
Kelowna can definitely command its own, but I can see why its compared to a piece of California in Canada what with the wineries, weather and outdoor lifestyle. Take a slight detour from wherever you’re heading and make sure you stop here for at least a day or two!