12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Penticton, B.C.
Author Michael Law was born in Penticton and enjoys visiting in the summer.
The small city of Penticton is ideally situated in the interior of BC, sandwiched between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. Surrounded on two sides by water and on two sides by mountains dotted with orchards, the city has an abundance of land- and water-based things to do. This is an ideal family destination, with many reasonably priced, family-owned hotels.
Off the water, the revitalized downtown area, mostly centered around Main Street and Front Street, has a good collection of retail shops, including the famous Book Store, and a variety of small restaurants serving local and international cuisine. Throughout the summer, the downtown area is especially lively on weekends, when a fantastic farmers market operates.
As is typical of the Okanagan Valley, summers here are long, hot, and sunny, and the winters are mild. The agreeable climate attracts a mix of vacationers and retirees.
Learn about the best places to visit with our list of the top tourist attractions in Penticton.
1. Skaha Lake Park
This wonderful lakefront park is one of Penticton's main attractions. Warm, crystal-clear waters lap up against a wide beach with golden sands backed by a lakefront promenade.
The park is ideal for families, with extensive play structures, calm water, a water park, and green space with picnic tables under large pine trees. A concession serving quick bites is open most days.
Skaha Park is spread out over 21 acres and is an ideal place for getting active; tennis courts, basketball courts, beach volleyball courts, and a softball diamond are all available on a first-come, first-served basis.
A boat launch is available should you wish to get out on the water to do some tubing, wakeboarding, or waterskiing.
2. Kettle Valley Rail Trail
If you've had enough of lazing about on the beach and are looking for a bit of activity, check out the Kettle Valley Rail trail. Hikers, walkers, joggers, and bikers will love the impressive views along this mostly flat and well-graded former railway line. Inclines never exceed 2.2 percent, so most of your effort will be expended on soaking up the amazing scenery and views over Lake Okanagan.
Although the most spectacular section is farther north in the Myra Canyon section, the route along the valley wall near Penticton is worth doing. A popular way to do the trail is to start up at the tunnel and bike downhill, passing orchards, farms, and small restaurants along the way.
Bike rentals are available from the local bike shops. They can outfit you with bikes, all the riding gear, and provide transport to the start and finish locations.
3. SS Sicamous Museum & Heritage Park
Set on the south end of Penticton's waterfront, the SS Sicamous Museum is a perfectly preserved steam sternwheeler from 1914. A visit here is like stepping back in time to the days of luxurious ship travel. You'll be able to see the cabins, the dining room, and the ornate interior spaces.
The SS Sicamous used to travel up and down Okanagan Lake each day, making 14 scheduled stops on its way to the far end of the lake at Vernon.
Some of the highlights include the Gentleman's Saloon, featuring the original décor complete with red carpet and a cane bench, and the Grand Staircase, made from mahogany shipped from Australia. Mechanically inclined folks will be fascinated by the perfectly restored engine room with its colorful pipes and a massive boiler.
Kids will be interested in the scale model of the Kettle Valley Railway located in the engine room.
Address: 1099 Lakeshore Drive W., Penticton, British Columbia
4. Penticton Farmers' Market
The Okanagan Valley is one of Canada's premier agricultural regions, and the Penticton Farmers' Market is the best place to visit to sample some of this wholesome goodness.
Running for over 30 years, the farmers market has a wide assortment of vendors selling fruits and vegetables, preserves, crafts, and homemade baking. Everything at the market is locally grown or produced.
If you are looking for things to do on a Saturday morning, stop by for some shopping and grab a coffee or sweet baked good.
The farmers market is located right downtown in the 100 block of Main Street and runs every Saturday from 8:30 to 1pm from late April to late October. After October, the market moves indoors for November and December.
5. Munson Mountain
Easily spotted from just about anywhere in town, Munson Mountain is where you will see the giant letters spelling out Penticton on the hillside.
The public park, located up Vancouver Hill, provides expansive views out over the Okanagan Valley, the city, and the sparking waters of the lake below.
The park is free to enter and is home to a variety of paved and unpaved walking trails. Some of the trails are steep, especially the one to the top, but benches are located at strategic points along the paths.
One of the more interesting sites within the park is Pen-Henge. Located at the very top, the markers exactly match the sunset and sunrise during the summer and winter equinoxes.
Munson Mountain is reached by driving out towards Naramata. Keep an eye out for the sign on the side of the road and take the left fork in the road.
6. The Book Shop
This iconic store has been a feature of Main Street since 1974. It is the place for books on practically every subject available. Spread out over 5,000 square feet, The Book Shop is worth a visit if you are checking out the shops of Main Street or looking for something to do on a rainy day.
In addition to books, the Book Shop also has over 20,000 videos and DVDs for rent and features one of the top assortments of foreign films in the area.
The store is easy to find, just look up to see the horse and wooden wagons piled high with books on the front of the building.
Address: 242 Main Street, Penticton, British Columbia
7. LocoLanding Adventure Park
LocoLanding is the best place in town to bring the kids to burn off some energy. Spread out over a large area, the park is a popular family attraction.
Activities include bumper boats, a high-level ropes course, a jump and slide, miniature golf, Aeroball (a kind of dodgeball on a trampoline), Monkey Motion (where you can soar 18 feet into the air on a spinning ride), Go Karts, rock climbing, and a Big Baller course (where you try and make it across four giant balls without falling off).
These activities can be purchased individually, or you can buy a day pass for everything. LocoLanding is located just off the beach on the east side of Penticton, near the SS Sicamous.
Address: 75 Riverside Drive, Penticton, British Columbia
8. Float the Penticton River Channel
If you are looking for a free, fun activity on a hot summer day, look no further than the Penticton River Channel.
All you need to do is jump on your inner tube or other floating device and float slowly down the shallow stream. If you get too hot, just roll off into the cool water, and if you've packed a snorkel, look for the small fish darting about.
It's best to make a day of it by packing a lunch for the seven-kilometer float. The entire float takes two to three hours. The first place to get out is at Green Mountain Road, 45 minutes down the channel. This is a good option for families with small children.
Note that you will need two cars, one at either end of the river, or you can take the shuttle back for a modest fee. Coyote Cruises offers a wide variety of floaties, from single to massive group versions, and is located at the starting point, just down from LocoLanding Adventure Park.
9. Skiing at Apex Mountain Resort
Although Penticton is primarily known as a summer destination, the winter activities here should not be overlooked. Skiing at Apex Mountain Resort is a laid-back affair targeted at both families and powder hounds. This unusual combination is a result of the special fluffy light snow that falls here, known as champagne powder. The resort has been one of the best ski resorts in the Okanagan since 1961.
You'll rarely wait longer than two minutes in line at the high-speed detachable quad or triple chair as you eagerly anticipate your next run down one of the more than 120 trails. In addition to regular daytime skiing, the resort offers tubing and night skiing on a limited number of runs.
The resort is an easy 33-kilometer drive along good roads from Penticton, so day-tripping is the norm. If you want to stay up on the mountain, you'll find hotel rooms right through to fully equipped condominiums are available to rent.
A complete ski vacation in BC's Interior is easy to plan. Just up the road are two amazing resorts-Silver Star Mountain and Big White, easily reachable from Penticton.
Apex is part of the INDY PASS program.
10. Ride the Rails on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway
Just 10 minutes up the road at Summerland, you can step back to the very early 1900s and ride a restored steam train on the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. Riding on the original tracks, the train travels along the sides of the valley, providing amazing views out over the lake and the orchards in the foreground.
Passengers ride in restored passenger coaches or the open-air car for the 90-minute return trip. This is a meticulously restored genuine working steam engine, number 3716, built in 1912, that rumbles and belches steam as it makes its way along the track.
One of the highlights of the trip is when the train slowly traverses the 238-foot-high Trout Creek Bridge. The entire trip is narrated by a tour leader, and live music is performed along the way.
The train runs mainly from Saturday to Monday from mid-May to mid-September. In the height of summer, the train also runs on Thursdays. Special Christmas Express trains run in December, and a Halloween Terror Train runs near Halloween.
11. Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park
Penticton's beautiful setting makes getting out into nature an easy task. Just a short drive from town is Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park, the top climbing destination in the Okanagan Valley and one of the best in British Columbia.
The park is home to sheer rock faces that draw climbers like moths to a flame. Three main canyons: Shady Valley, Sun Valley, and The Grand Canyon are home to over 1,200 climbs across all levels of expertise. The climbing season runs from March through to October, although the summer months can be very hot. If you are interested in learning how to climb, take a Skaha Bluffs Five-Hour Intro Course.
In addition to the climbing, hiking and mountain biking trails wind their way throughout the park. The routes pass through bunchgrass and Ponderosa pine trees. Keep an eye out for bighorn sheep, western screech owls, and two types of rattlesnakes: night and western. Some of the trails can be surprisingly difficult, so be careful in selecting your route.
12. Penticton Peach Fest
If you can time it, be sure to be in Penticton for the annual Peach Fest. Every summer during the second week of August, the city comes alive with all manner of free family entertainment. Starting with a parade through the city on Wednesday, the fun continues for five days and wraps up on Sunday night.
Most of the action takes place in Okanagan Lake Park and consists of live music, street performers, softball and beach volleyball tournaments, and all manner of summer fun like sandcastle building and crazy races. One particular highlight is the Canadian Tire Mega Motocross event, where death-defying motorcycle riders perform incredible aerial stunts.
The Peach Festival has been an annual event in Penticton since 1947.
Where to Stay in Penticton for Sightseeing
Penticton does not have a luxury hotel, but it does have an excellent assortment of high-quality mid-range hotels in very good locations that are either near the beaches of Skaha Lake or Okanagan Lake.
- Easily accessible off the highway with expansive grounds and a large outdoor pool is the Ramada by Wyndham Penticton Hotel & Suites. Many rooms have private patios facing an indoor courtyard, and the hotel is pet friendly.
- Also featuring rooms with patios and a great pool area is the Best Western Inn at Penticton. All rooms come with a buffet breakfast, and Skaha Lake Park is nearby.
- Ideally located within walking distance of Skaha Lake Park, the Valley Star Motel has an assortment of rooms, some with kitchenettes. An outdoor pool and barbecues are available for guests' use.
- Just steps from LocoLanding Adventure Park and down the street from the main beach on Okanagan Lake is the Bowmont Hotel. Outdoor picnic tables and loungers along with rooms facing the courtyard and pool make for a small-resort feel.
- Right across the street from Skaha Beach is the Lakeside Villa Inn & Suites. Ideal for families and couples, accommodation options range from suites with kitchens to studios.
- A good option is the friendly Empire Motel, an older but meticulously maintained property. It is located close to the Skaha Beach and has an outdoor pool.
Best Time to Visit Penticton
The best time to visit Penticton is in the summer during the months of July and August. At this time, the sun shines most days and the temperatures are hot but bearable. It's also when the city is at its most lively and fun with markets and festivals. At this time, you'll also be able to enjoy the best of the local fruit harvests, including ripe, red cherries; peaches; apricots; and plums.
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Exploring BC: Penticton is just one of the many attractions in the Okanagan of interest to travelers. If you are planning on seeing more of the province, be sure to see our article on the Top Attractions in British Columbia. While many visitors begin their trip in Vancouver, it's also worth spending some time seeing the sights of Victoria, the provincial capital, on Vancouver Island.