From adrenaline-pumping watersports to wine touring and scenic cycling, this British Columbia region is a hot spot every summer.
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Start with a 135-km (84-mi) lake edged with sandy beaches. Add a wild-west landscape of canyons, mountains and Canada’s only true desert. Throw in acclaimed wineries turning out palate-popping reds and whites and you get British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.
Here are 10 can’t-miss summer activities in the Okanagan, whether your idea of adventure is climbing mountains or quaffing cabernet sauvignon in the sun.
1) Beat the heat at the beach: The Okanagan is legendary for its dry, hot summers, when temperatures can reach 35 C (95 F) or higher. Sandy beaches along the area’s ancient glacial lakes draw big crowds for swimming and sports or just to soak up the rays. To see and be seen, check out Okanagan Beach in Penticton, a one-km (half-mile) long stretch of sand favoured by locals and visitors alike.
2) Indulge in some creative wine touring: The Okanagan is called “Napa North” for a reason: hundreds of wineries offer oenophiles endless options. Creative tours provide ways to work up a sweat between sips: kayak your way from tasting to tasting or cycle to some of the region’s best wineries with trained guides.
3) Pedal into the past: The historic Kettle Valley Rail Trail—an early 1900s railway turned into a scenic cycling route—slices through the Okanagan Valley. A gentle grade and spectacular views make for awesome rides. Don’t miss the Myra Canyon section, where you can cycle across 18 soaring wooden rail trestles and through two tunnels.
4) Get your adrenaline pumping on the water: Okanagan Lake and nearby Osoyoos Lake are liquid playgrounds for lovers of watersports. Options range from traditional waterskiing and wakeboarding to heart-pounding parasailing and even wakesurfing, where riders literally surf behind special wake boats, with no tow rope required. Prefer a quieter adventure? Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard.
5) Sleep in the great outdoors: The Okanagan has long been a favourite for family camping, with options to suit hardy outdoorsy types and glampers alike. Rent a deluxe RV and enjoy the plush digs at NK’MIP RV Park by Osoyoos Lake, complete with its own bistro, bar and marina. Or pack a tent for some old-fashioned car camping at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park—hundreds of campsites overlook the water.
6) Hike from glacier-carved peaks to desert: Wildly diverse topography—from mountains to lakes to desert—makes for excellent day hiking. Enjoy a pleasant stroll along the 2-km (1-mi) desert interpretive trail in Osoyoos, or tackle a more ambitious trek at a four provincial parks in the region. Hard-core types can even learn to rappel down the world-renowned Skaha Bluffs near Penticton.
7) Take the plunge at an adventure park: Does hurtling through the air at 85 km/h (53 mph) sound like your idea of fun? A trio of adventure parks in the Okanagan offer high-speed ziplines, bungee jumping and aerial obstacle courses for thrill-seekers. For water lovers, there’s the unique Whiplash Cable Wake Park, where a system of pulleys whizzes boarders and water skiers around a course.
8) Search for sea monsters on a scuba adventure: Okanagan Lake plunges from sandy shallows to a bone-chilling depth of 232 m (760 ft), with lots of unique formations and aquatic life for scuba divers to explore. Beginners can poke around the barge at Fintry Provincial Park, a sunken Canadian Pacific Railway barge, while advanced divers can peak into the caves at Squally Point, legendary home of Ogopogo, the Loch Ness Monster of Okanagan Lake.
9) Birders, break out your binoculars: With varied biomes ranging from wetlands to desert, the Okanagan is home to some 300 different species of birds, making it one of BC’s birding hotspots. Guided tours take birders through a network of marshes, pastures and rivers, where it’s possible to spot everything from waterfowl such as mergansers and loons to bald eagles and even rare songbirds.
10) Take a lazy river ride: Worn out from all that adventure? Plop down into a tube for a 7-km (4-mi) lazy river ride down the Okanagan River Channel. Dug in the 1950s, the slow-flowing channel connects Okanagan Lake to Skaha Lake and is a local favourite in the dog days of summer. Rent a tube or bring your own and wind down with a morning or afternoon float through the heart of Okanagan wine country.
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