The Royal Experience: Visiting Okanagan Valley in the Summer
By Kilee LeBlanc
Visiting Okanagan Valley in the summer and while in an Escape campervan will lead you to cities that are extremely popular destinations for those looking to enjoy sandy beaches, watersports, camping, biking, and hiking. Fruit stands can be found around every corner offering fresh local peaches, nectarines, apples, plums, and more – thanks to an abundance of sunlight and arable land. More than two hundred vineyards exist in the Okanagan Valley – giving it the nickname of the ‘Napa of the North’ – a true wine aficionado’s dream.
Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is a unique region – one of fertile soil, hot summers, deep lakes, and outdoor adventures galore – and known as the “Royal Experience.” Its area is defined by the basin of Okanagan Lake which spans 135 kilometers and borders the cities of Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, Lake Country, Peachland, Summerland, and Naramata, and known for its world-class food and drinks, particularly wine.
Visiting the Okanagan Valley in the summer from an Escape Campervan depot
The Okanagan Valley is conveniently located between two Escape Campervan depots – the Vancouver depot and the Calgary depot. Instead of renting roundtrip from the same depot, why not drive across the beautiful province of British Columbia to experience all that it has to offer?
From Calgary, you can drive directly to the Okanagan Valley in about seven hours. But, luckily you’d be driving past beautiful locations such as Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Yoho, and Glacier National Park. Take the time to explore these infamous Canadian locations and landmarks while on your way to visiting the Okanagan Valley. Once you reach Okanagan Valley, it will be a complete change of scenery – from the towering snowy mountains of the Rockies to the desert oasis of Penticton and the valley.
From Vancouver, you can drive directly to the Okanagan Valley in about five hours through the city and suburbs, with options to stop at the Ladner Creek Trestle Bridge, Manning Park, and Bromley Rock for a swim.
Wineries to experience while visiting Okanagan Valley in the summer
Okanagan Valley is a premier grape-growing region, spread over 250 kilometers and across sub-regions that produce a range of varieties from hearty reds to crisp whites. From Vernon to Osoyoos there are so many wineries that it would take weeks to hit them all – challenge accepted!
On the Naramata Bench north of Penticton, Red Rooster Winery’s tasting room is open year-round for samples of their delicious rosé, pinot noir, and other varieties that highlight the best features Okanagan Valley has to offer.
In Kelowna, the area’s most visited and largest organic winery Summerhill Pyramid Winery features stunning views, a tasting room, tours, restaurant, and picnic area. As per the name, they also have a pyramid on site! It has won gold medals for their icewine, rose, brut, and sparkling wine.
Dirty Laundry Vineyard in Summerland boasts an interesting history – one of a brothel sitting on top of a laundromat – but today, it makes the most incredible wines. With a gorgeous outdoor patio, restaurant, and tasting room, you can sample wines that are recognized all over Canada and throughout the world.
Mission Hill Family Estate Winery in West Kelowna features stunning architecture which includes an amphitheater, bell tower, and terrace restaurant. They are best known for their Oculus, a Bordeaux-style wine. Along with tasting the wine and touring the grounds they also host outdoor concerts and culinary classes.
Drinking copious amounts of wine and driving is not recommended in Canada, so park your campervan in a designated parking spot and choose to take a winery tour or grab a bottle (or two) to go and enjoy at your campsite.
Other attractions of interest during summer in Okanagan Valley
If wine isn’t your beverage of choice, Okanagan Valley has a thriving craft beer and cider scene as well. To visit the most breweries in a single afternoon or evening, check out Brewer’s Row in Kelowna’s old industrial area not far from the downtown core. Rent bikes or walk to the breweries – check out BNA Brewing for beers with a side of bowling, Red Bird for live music and board games, and BC Tree Fruits for some tart and tasty ciders straight from the source.
You can work off all the wine-ing and dining with a walk or bike ride to the top of Knox Mountain in Kelowna. Take in the epic views of the massive Okanagan Lake, partake in a game of disc golf, shred a few lines on your mountain bike, or pack a picnic. Plan to stay for a couple of hours, especially if the weather is nice, it usually is!
One of the top activities while visiting the Okanagan Valley in the summer is to float down Penticton’s seven-kilometer long channel that connects Okanagan Lake to Skaha Lake. The entire journey takes about three hours and you can either bring your own floatation device or rent one from Coyote Cruises, who also offer a shuttle back to your car once you reach the end of the channel. It’s a leisurely drift down the river, so slap on the sunscreen, pack a couple of beverages and enjoy.
Kangaroos and wallabies… in Canada? Kangaroo Creek Farm in Lake Country is a family-owned hobby farm where you can hang out with kangaroos, wallabies, capybaras, sugar gliders, pigs, parrots, and more. Guides on-site will provide treats for you to feed the animals, educate visitors, and help you get close to a joey for a photo. It’s the ultimate spot for animal lovers or to get the perfect Instagram-worthy photo of a kangaroo without the trip to Australia!
Where to camp while visiting the Okanagan Valley in the summer
Okanagan Valley might just be the capital of campgrounds and RV Parks. While we don’t know that for sure, it definitely seems like it and there are plenty of options to park your campervan while you explore the area.
A number of provincial campgrounds line the shores of Okanagan Lake and are guaranteed to have large sites, good rates, and facilities such as showers, toilets, and running water. Starting at the north end of the lake, Ellison and Fintry Provincial Park offer lakefront access and are close to nearby hiking trails, while Bear Creek Provincial Park is close to Kelowna but far enough away from the hustle and bustle.
Campgrounds fill up incredibly fast in the Okanagan Valley especially on long weekends, so you may not get the coveted lakefront spot if you show up last minute. Search online for BC Parks Campsites, rustic Rec Sites, or on Camping & RV BC.
When one thinks of Canada, the thought of snow-covered peaks, rugged landscapes, and wild animals may come to mind but that completely changes when you visit the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. You can sip wines on a sun-drenched patio, paddleboard on clear lakes, shop for fresh produce at roadside farms and expect the unexpected. Whether it’s a stop along the way or your final destination, make visiting Okanagan Valley in the summer a priority during your next Escape campervan road trip. Go ahead, reserve time off work, start planning your trip and book your Escape Campervan today!