When planning a trip to Canada most first time visitors naturally focus their research on major urban centers such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, or world-renowned natural wonders such as Niagara Falls, Banff National Park or the Bay of Fundy. All of those places are truly some of Canada’s most precious national jewels and are certainly worthy of a visit, but they are but a small fraction of the plethora of beautiful places to be found within the borders of this vast country.
Though it might not get the international recognition that the aforementioned destinations do, the Okanagan Valley and more specifically its largest city, Kelowna is a stop every traveler visiting Canada should put on the to-visit list. Whether you are a wine lover, a golf fanatic, a beach bum or an adrenaline junkie you will find no shortage of things to do in and around Kelowna. Here are our picks for the best tourist activities in Kelowna.
Take a Wine Tour
While it might not get the international attention that Banff or Vancouver enjoy, when it comes to wine the Okanagan Valley soundly beats those or any other region in Canada by a country mile. Known as Napa of the north, the Okanagan has been on the radar of wine lovers worldwide for years now. The Okanagan Valley boasts well over 100 wineries, including many in the Kelowna and West Kelowna boundaries. Wine enthusiasts will be in their glory sampling vintages from throughout the region. There is an abundance of tour companies operating in the region and visitors can indulge in several different options including region specific tours like The Fab Five Tour in Southeast Kelowna or the Westside Wine Trail across the bridge.
If wine is the number one tourist attraction in Kelowna then golf is certainly a close second. You can hardly throw a stone in Kelowna without hitting a golf course, and there are some truly awe-inspiring options for golf fanatics to test their skills on in and around this sun-soaked city. For those looking for high-end options Kelowna itself boasts the Kelowna Golf and Country Club, Gallagher’s Canyon and The Harvest, while just 30 minutes up the road is the world-renowned Predator Ridge Golf Course. Those with a more modest budget can get their golf fix at spots like Two Eagles, Sunset Ranch, Kelowna Springs or Black Mountain Golf Club.
Cycle the Myra Canyon Trestles on the Kettle Valley Railway
If you want outdoor adventure combined with spectacular views then a trip up to Myra Canyon is a must. Located roughly 1,000 meters above the valley floor the now inactive historic Kettle Valley Railway offers visitors a unique cycling or walking experience not soon to be forgotten. You can rent a bike in town or there are companies that rent cycles up at the rail trail for a reasonable amount. If you do rent a bike in town then be sure to get either a mountain bike or hybrid as the trail is a blend of sand, gravel and wooden trestles.
Speaking of wooden trestles, these restored engineering marvels of a bygone era are the highlight of the area. You can walk or cycle across the decking of multiple trestles, looking down hundreds of feet into deep gorges. The views are absolutely spectacular, and the high rails provide plenty of peace of mind even for those with a fear of heights.
For those looking for a full day adventure the railway can be ridden southwest to Naramata and on Penticton, or southeast to Rock Creek and beyond to Midway. Just be sure to arrange vehicle transport at the far end.
Hit the Beach
Kelowna and the surrounding area is blessed with numerous beautiful beaches and if you are craving some time relaxing in the sun and splashing around in the water then you have a multitude of options at your disposal.
City Park’s beach is the most centrally located beach and can be found at the west end of Bernard Avenue. This is a great place to come if you have kids as it includes both a water spray park and an inflatable adventure park a few meters offshore. The park also features beach volleyball courts, a basketball court, soccer fields and a beautiful boardwalk for walking, cycling or rollerblading.
Heading south into the Mission area of Kelowna there are beaches every few blocks. Some are tiny stretches of sand with room for just a few, while others like Rotary and Gyro beach are large popular public venues featuring refreshment stands and water sports rentals.
Those looking for a quieter venue can head north to Paul’s Tomb. At the base of Knox Mountain the beach requires a fairly long hike to access. It doesn’t have much in the way of amenities beyond a few picnic tables and a couple of port-o-potties, but it is much quieter than City or Gyro beaches and the water is crystal clear.
Visit the Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market
Located at the corner of Springfield Road and Dilworth Drive, the Kelowna Famers’ and Crafters’ Market takes place every Wednesday and Saturday from April through October. Once a modest gathering of local artisans and farmers the market has exploded in popularity in recent years, and there are now probably more than 100 stalls featuring an amazing variety of delicious foodstuffs and some truly unique art from local craftspeople. It is definitely a great way for couples or families to sample some of the region’s local wares. Be sure to get there as early as possible, as it gets pretty crowded as the morning wears on.
Go Boating or Paddling on Okanagan Lake
Kelowna has an embarrassment of natural riches, and the centerpiece of the region is certainly the 135 km long lake that stretches between Penticton and Vernon, splitting Kelowna and West Kelowna along its north-south route. If you have the means then definitely avail yourself of one of the several types of watercraft rentals available. Power boats, jet skis, kayaks and paddleboards are all great ways to explore the lake, and there are many quiet coves to discover if you want to get away from Kelowna’s summer crowds.
Ski Big White
Though most tourists that make a visit to Kelowna will arrive in the summer to enjoy the golf, wineries and beaches those who prefer winter sports are covered as well. Big White is less than an hour’s travel from downtown Kelowna and is one of the best ski venues to be found anywhere in Canada.
Not only does Big White feature more than 100 designated trails for skiers and snowboarders it also offers numerous other amenities for visitors, including an ice climbing wall, dog sled tours, snowshoeing, a tube park, a skating rink and much, much more.
Hike or Bike Knox Mountain
Want to get some exercise and enjoy the best city view to be found anywhere in Kelowna? Head to the north end of the downtown core and start climbing. Knox Mountain has a variety of trails for hikers and mountain bikers to burn off a few of those holiday calories. Though it is a bit of a grunt to the top, it isn’t beyond the reach of most people, young or old. When you finally reach the top of the Apex Trail you will be rewarded of spectacular views down the lake to both the north and south and a commanding view of the beautiful city and its surrounding vineyards.
Take a Farm to Table Tour
Chefs and farmers in the region take great pride in the delicious local food we produce here in Kelowna. If you enjoy Agri-tourism and want to get a closer look at how Kelowna’s farm to table program works then you can craft a self-guided circuit of many of the area’s local farms and restaurants. Some popular spots include Arlo’s Honey Farm, Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan, Hillcrest Farm Market, Old Vines Restaurant and the aforementioned Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market.
Walk or Cycle the Mission Park Greenway
If you want to be outside but the Kelowna summer heat is getting to you then a relaxing creekside trip down Kelowna’s Mission Park Greenway is just what the doctor ordered. Traversing more than 20 km from Okanagan Lake to deep canyons way out into Southeast Kelowna, the Greenway is must-do for the active crowd looking to get away from the noise and the concrete of the city center. Winding its way along the banks of Mission Creek the Greenway shaded by giant deciduous trees and features numerous points of interest along the way.