The allure of the southern Okanagan as Canada’s little piece of desert with a spectacular lake oasis is undeniable. With August temperatures averaging mid-thirties, it’s perfect for doing nothing and going to the beach. If you can’t do it at home, you are vacationally obligated to do it a lot; it’s kind of my holiday creed.
You would do well to to start your trip with a visit to the Penticton and Wine Country Visitor’s Centre at 553 Vees Drive. The friendly folks there can help you make the most of your time in the area with suggestions for activities and information about what’s going on. Before you hit the road, here is a quick and dirty list of what you shouldn’t miss!
Beach Life: I know you don’t need a travel guide to tell you to go to the beach, but I would be simply remiss if I didn’t put this as number one on a list of things not to miss in Penticton. We were lucky enough to have rented a house within walking distance of Lake Okanagan, and went almost every day of the holiday. We were instructed that Skaha Lake is a little more geared to families, with beach side play structures and more of a low key vibe. I cannot vouch for this as Penticton is also wine country and driving was not high on my list of priorities. We were far from disappointed staying close to our temporary home.
River rafting: A river connects the two lakes Penticton straddles: Lake Okanagan and Skaha Lake. With a very gentle current and a depth suitable for swimming, it is the perfect channel for rafting. We rented an inflatable boat from Coyote Cruises at 215 Riverside Drive for $60, which included bus transportation back to the departure point. The whole trip took us just over 3 hours, a perfectly relaxing way to spend a morning! You can also rent tubes ($6 each) or pay for the bus ($6 per person). Or you can bring your own inflatables and arrange transportation, which seems to be what the locals often do.
Loco Landing: While the adults in our group probably could have happily dozed on the beach for days on end, two active boys necessitate, you know, activity. So we were very happy to find Loco Landing Adventure Park, 75 Riverside Drive. The summertime park houses a mini-golf course, go-kart track, Sky-Ropes Trek, and six other activities: Monkey Motion-where riders are harnessed over launchpads and jump “moon-high” as my youngest put it; Aeroball (basically trampoline basketball;) Bumper Boats; Cannonball—air powered cannons shoot soft balls at opposing teams; a rock climbing wall; and Spider Mountain: the tallest inflatable slide I have ever seen. A $35 pass gains you entry to each activity once, although you can pick and choose how you want to use your six turns on the smaller attractions. My guys forwent the giant slide and rock climbing in order to do the BumperBoats and Monkey Motion twice. We spent about four hours there and didn’t even make it to the mini-golf (or “smash your brother with a club” as it’s known in our house).
Kettle Valley Rail Trail: Kitted out with two mountain bikes, a Chariot trailer and a Trail-a-bike from Freedom Bike Rentals 533 Main Street, our sporty [looking] family set out for the Kettle Valley Rail Trail; an easy few blocks’ ride from the shop. The guys at the shop were very helpful and friendly in suggesting a route we might take to make a day of it. A late start, a daytime temperature of one million degrees and a mom who hasn’t been on a bike since the days of Strawberry Shortcake streamers on the handle bars added up to a curtailed bike ride, but the few hours we spent were really beautiful and have convinced me I should get back on a bicycle before I am old enough for the old lady three wheeler with basket. If you decide to do this, I would advise you bring a map of the KVR Trail with you instead of insisting you know the way (ahem) as the route isn’t clearly marked at every junction. Bike rentals are generally $60 per adult bike and include a lock and helmet.
I Scream: Yes, ice cream merits its own category. It is a very important part of my summer, and as I mentioned, I may use holidays as an excuse to over-do things. The servings at Ogos’s (166 Main Street) were generous to a fault, and the selection was probably close to what ice cream parlours in heaven offer. The other place to visit for icy treats is Burger 55 at 52 Front Street (which also has yummy non-ice cream items). Their thick old fashioned milkshakes were indulgence in a cup, and if you are in the mood for decadence, you can request a shot of Kahlua or Bailey’s to put the extravagance meter off the charts.
Our week in Penticton was almost perfect, but were I to do it again, I would probably try a different time of the summer. Who knew that the week bordered by a long weekend and the Okanagan’s biggest festival, Peachfest, would be such a busy one? Erm. Accommodations were scarce and expensive, particularly if you hadn’t booked months —maybe years— in advance, and pretty much everywhere we went was prohibitively busy. Live and learn I guess. And there’s always next year to [over] do it again!
A special thank you to Loco Landing and Freedom Bike Rentals for hosting our activities with them, and to the Penticton and Wine Country Visitors Centre for suggestions and guidance. Prices listed are current for the 2014 season.