Sitting in a pocket desert in the interior of BC, Lake Osoyoos may be the lowest topographical point in Canada but it’s tops when it comes to recreation. Warm, welcoming and wonderful, the town of Osoyoos, and the whole southern Okanagan valley is a destination on par with any beach town, only a lot closer to home!
So what is there to do in Osoyoos? We were drawn by Festival of the Grape, an excellent and family friendly event, and spending time at the beach is obvious, however we were also delighted to see a number of attractions.
Let’s not beat around the sagebush; wine is king in this valley. With more wineries than you can soberly get to in one day, variety and world class quality, this is a wine region that Canadians embrace.
It is worth mentioning that wine touring starts first and foremost with safety; while I sampled, my husband was our designated driver, and occasionally took advantage of the ubiquitous spit buckets at each location.
Successfully touring the wineries with children depends entirely on their ages and temperament, but it can be done. Our children were kept happy with electronic devices and food. However we were also pleased by how many wineries in the area are more than happy to accommodate children which is not surprising given how many farms and wineries are family businesses.
At Stoneboat Vineyards our children were offered lollipops and told they could run around the beautiful grounds while I sampled their lovely bubbly wines under a canopy of vines.
Hester Creek presented them with a glass of sparkling juice to sample, and encouraged us to let them smell the wines we tasted in order to develop their nose. Our daughter did try to sneak a sip of the prize winning The Judge, because it did certainly smell wonderful!
Garlic Festival was on at Hester Creek that day, a fundraising event for Oliver Elementary School’s Farm to Table lunch program showcasing goods from local farmers and artisans, and illustrating again how important family and children is to the wine producers of the valley.
Nk’Mip Cellars, Canada’s first Aboriginal owned and operated winery, has a beautiful tasting room full of breakables yet they still were welcoming of children, especially during the tour. Our gracious host Moss was able to skillfully distract the children with hands on experiences including literally playing with the dirt (soil, sand and clay) from their property and feeling the difference between the American and French Oak in their casks.
Our children’s personal favorite may be Church and State who generously allowed them to sample the ripe grapes right off the vines, something they had been dying to do since the beginning of the day!
We love to eat. And while our suite at the Walnut Beach Resort had a fully equipped kitchen, we also enjoyed tasting what the cooks of the valley had to offer and came away with a few favorites!
Terafina Restaurant is a beautiful Tuscan inspired restaurant located near the tasting room at Hester Creek. With a casual atmosphere and stunning location, it focuses on using the the freshest local ingredients (including herbs grown in their onsite kitchen garden!) and of course, Hester Creek wines to give you a Italian experience without ever leaving Canada. It was hard to chose from their menu because everything looked good, and it was equally hard to leave afterwards because it was such a comfortable and beautiful spot!
For breakfast, we kept it simple at JoJo’s Cafe. A popular eatery, it was jam packed but we were able to squeeze into a table and enjoy an excellent breakfast sandwich, eggs Benedict, a glorious coconut pineapple muffin and some ridiculously good coffee!
Adventures for Kids
Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre is a beautiful, innovative and environmentally sensitive building showcasing the closeness of native culture and the unique desert landscape in Osoyoos. With indoor and outdoor cultural and nature exhibits, we were torn by how to spend our time; our daughter wanted to look at all the indoor exhibits and our son was eager go run outside on the 2 km interpretive trail. Its remarkable how multifaceted the centre is, with visitors encouraged to touch the exhibits and listen to the sounds of the interpretive movies, yet once you step outside, your experience expands to include the scents of sage, pine, dust. It’s a fully immersive facility.
Train lovers will really enjoy the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad. If you’ve ever encountered a train crazed child, you know that the obsession burns brightly for a while and then frequently fizzles out. Not so for train enthusiast Poul Pedersen. As a child, he dreamed of having a train set, a dream that came true as an adult and eventually took on a life of its own. He, along with his wife Ulla, have put together the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad, a 4000 square foot labour of love with 40 model trains, over 18,000 hand painted figures, 1800 structures and 2 km of track. Kids of all sizes will be entranced by the attention to detail!