14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Kelowna & the Okanagan
The Okanagan Valley is a scenic area in southern British Columbia that has long been a go-to vacation destination for generations of families. Lakes and surrounding mountains create the perfect setting for outdoor recreation, the area's main attraction. Boating, swimming, sandy beaches, hiking, biking, skiing, and great dining are just some of the things to do in this area of the BC interior.
Thanks to its exceptionally mild climate, with dry, hot, and sunny summers, the Okanagan is Canada's orchard. In season, you can stop at roadside stands to buy the produce of the fruit trees planted all over the valley floor and its terraced slopes.
Located on the eastern shore of Okanagan Lake (the largest in a chain of lakes), Kelowna is a beautiful lakeside community that has developed into a popular resort thanks to its beaches and more than 2,000 hours of sunshine each year. In winter, the region attracts skiers, who come to experience some of Canada's best resorts.
Visitors often base themselves in Kelowna and explore the surrounding towns, like Peachland, Summerland, and Penticton, as well as the nearby resorts of Silver Star and Big White. For ideas on how to spend your time, see our list of top tourist attractions in Kelowna and the Okanagan.
See also: Where to Stay in Kelowna
1. Okanagan Lake
The largest in a chain of ancient fjord lakes, Okanagan Lake, which you'll also hear called Lake Okanagan, touches the shorelines of most major Okanagan communities, including Vernon in the north, Kelowna in the center, and Penticton to the south.
The lake is the main recreation playground for locals and visitors alike, offering sailing, houseboating, power boating, parasailing, swimming, and beaches, plus many scenic drives along its shorelines.
The lake is over 135 kilometers long and plunges to depths of 232 meters at its deepest point. Getting out on the lake is an ideal way to truly appreciate the spectacular surroundings. Tour boats ply the clear waters and offer a variety of cruise options, including afternoon and dinner/sunset trips complete with musical entertainment.
2. Big White Ski Resort
Just 60 kilometers east of Kelowna in the Monashee Mountains, Big White Mountain (2,319 meters) is one of Canada's most spectacular ski resorts. The mountain is known for its snow, an average of about 7.5 meters of the glorious white stuff falling each winter.
Situated at an elevation of 1,511 meters, the family-friendly Big White Ski Resort offers a range of ski runs, winter activities, accommodations, and dining. Big White has also gained the nickname "Big White Out," a reference to the fog and cloud that sometimes blankets the mountain, making conditions challenging at times for skiing.
Big White is just one of three ski resorts within easy reach of Kelowna. Silver Star Mountain Resort is a short drive north, near Vernon, and Apex Mountain Resort is just south, near Penticton. A great family ski vacation can easily be planned with trips to all three ski hills using Kelowna as your main base.
Address: 5315 Big White Road, Kelowna
Official site: http://www.bigwhite.com
Accommodation: Where to Stay near Big White Ski Resort
3. Silver Star Mountain Resort
Near Vernon, Silver Star Mountain Resort offers a vertical drop of 760 meters and ski-in, ski-out access to the various hotels and lodges. This is a family-friendly mountain, with a large number of easy green runs but also a few steep options to get your heart racing.
The pedestrian-only resort village has a pretty Victorian architectural style. Restaurants, a grocery store, and several retail outlets provide everything you need. Condo rentals are also available and a good choice for families.
In summer, a gondola provides access to 22 kilometers of hiking trails. In addition, a high-speed chairlift accesses the bike park. A recently added summer tubing ride is located near the top of the gondola.
Address: 123 Shortt Street, Silver Star Mountain
Official site: http://www.skisilverstar.com
4. Kettle Valley Railway in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park
Although the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) is no longer running, there still remains a series of restored historic trestles and tunnels that have become a popular trail for biking, hiking, and walking. The section through Myra Canyon crosses over 18 trestles and passes through two tunnels carved from the canyon walls.
This is a popular family outing, and the views over the surrounding landscape are quite spectacular. You can access the most scenic part of the KVR by parking at either the Myra Station parking lot or the Ruth Station parking lot. If you want to do the entire distance one way, two cars are required, or you can take a tour or a shuttle from Kelowna.
The park is about 25 kilometers from downtown Kelowna, approximately a 40-minute drive, some of which is on a well-graded gravel road.
5. City Park
Kelowna's City Park is a leafy 32-acre park set on the waterfront. It's a perfect place for a fun family outing in summer. Wide sandy beaches, offshore swim platforms, playgrounds, and a water park are sure to keep youngsters entertained.
Walkers and joggers will enjoy the wide paved trail that winds its way along the waterfront and provides spectacular views over the lake. Just back from the water are large green spaces, ideal for a picnic or impromptu game of tag or Frisbee.
For those looking for a bit of competitive activity, tennis courts, a soccer field, lawn bowling, and sand volleyball courts are available for use.
6. Downtown Kelowna
Just steps from City Park and the waterfront, you'll find downtown Kelowna. This area hums with activity, and the area is full of restaurants and unique retail shops.
You can stroll the wide sidewalks to do a bit of window shopping and then stop in at one of the many outdoor patios for a bite to eat. In the evening, head to this area to enjoy some nightlife.
Every Saturday throughout the summer, a Farmers and Crafters Market takes place from 8am to 1pm.
7. Waterfront Park
This 18-acre park in Kelowna looks small from the street, but once you walk in a ways, you'll find expansive grounds and plenty of space. Waterfront Park is easy to spot—just look for the spectacular water feature of entwined white dolphins called Rhapsody across from the Convention Center.
Wonderful gardens, mature trees, and a variety of public art can be found in the park. For the kids, a sandy beach and concession stand serving quick bites is available.
The boardwalk runs along the water and connects with City Park. Combining a walk along here with a diversion to the shops of downtown is a great way to spend an afternoon.
8. SS Sicamous Okanagan Heritage Museum
Situated on the Penticton waterfront, the SS Sicamous has been restored to her full 1914 glory and operates as a climb-aboard museum. A visit here takes you back over 100 years to the era of luxury steamboat travel.
Highlights of the interior of the ship include the mahogany Grand Staircase, the engine room with its maze of colorful piping and massive boilers, and the Gentleman's Saloon with its plush red carpeting.
Be sure to check out the scale model of the Kettle Valley Railroad, located below deck in the engine room.
There are other historic vessels in the park, including the 1914 SS Naramata Tugboat and a 1907 steamship, the SS Okanagan sternwheeler.
Address: 1099 Lakeshore Drive W., Penticton, British Columbia
Official site: http://sssicamous.ca
- Read More:
- Attractions & Things to Do in Penticton
9. Kasugai Gardens
If you are wandering around downtown Kelowna and need a break from the hustle and bustle, be sure to stop in and take a time out at Kasugai Gardens. This lush garden is an oasis of calm and quiet in the heart of the city.
Beautiful flowers, ornate trees, decorative lanterns, and ponds of slow-swimming koi create the perfect atmosphere for contemplation. This free attraction in Kelowna is located behind City Hall on the eastern side. Note that the park is closed in the winter, beginning in late October or early November.
10. Mission Creek Regional Park
Mission Creek is a fun family attraction in Kelowna and a great place to visit to get a little exercise. Play structures, a shallow stream, and plenty of green space to picnic or play games is on offer.
Extensive walking trails through the trees and along the small stream are well marked and level, perfect for bike riding or pushing a stroller. Mission Creek Regional Park is part of the Mission Creek Greenway, a 16.5-kilometer-long trail that follows the creek into the surrounding mountains.
Depending on the time of year, you may be lucky enough to see fish spawning in the creek.
Summerland is a scenic community on terracing above Okanagan Lake, set amid fruit trees. The orchards provide the main industry in the town, with a history that dates back to the 1890s. Visitors can sample from roadside fruit vendors that line the highways in the summer, or head to Summerland Sweets for tastings.
For a beautiful view of Okanagan Lake, head to Giant's Head Park, atop Giant's Head Mountain. A road leads through the park with lookouts along the way, or you can choose to hike to the top.
Summerland is also the home of the Kettle Valley Railroad Steam Train, where you can ride the rails behind a restored locomotive from 1912 as it puffs and steams its way along a 90-minute route.
12. Vaseux Lake Provincial Park
Just south of Penticton and with a small campground, four-kilometer-long Vaseux Lake is a bird sanctuary, where Canada geese nest, and rare Trumpeter Swans make a stopover during migration.
The lake itself is home to a variety of fish, such as bass, carp, and rainbow trout, making it a popular fishing location. Other wildlife in the park includes beaver, deer, muskrat, rabbit, and more. Bighorn sheep can be found among the rocks, but so can rattlesnakes.
Surrounded by orchards, the scenic little town of Oliver came into being after the First World War, when the Canadian government gifted returning soldiers with irrigated land.
One of the attractions worth visiting in the town is the Oliver and District Heritage Society Museum, which has rotating displays exploring the natural history of the Canadian desert, pioneer days, or the old mining town of Fairview (1887 to 1906). The museum is a good place to begin a tour of the region.
Peachland is a picturesque community set on the shores of Okanagan Lake, between Kelowna and Penticton. It's a popular tourist destination, known for its thriving orchards.
The walk to Hardy Falls is a favorite local excursion and is wheelchair accessible. Other things to do in this area of the Okanagan include golfing, boating, hiking, horseback riding, restaurants, and shopping.
Where to Stay in Kelowna for Sightseeing
- Luxury Hotels: The massive Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort offers guests almost every amenity imaginable including both indoor and outdoor pools. The Royal Private Residence Club is a luxury lakefront resort offering villas with gourmet kitchens, traditional decor, and a rooftop infinity pool and hot tub. The Hotel Eldorado has been in operation since 1926 and has a quaint and comfortable feel. Many rooms have lakefront balconies.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The Best Western Plus Kelowna Hotel & Suites is pet friendly with comfortable rooms, indoor pool and hot tub, and a free airport shuttle. Comfort Suites Kelowna has a contemporary decor, pool and water slide, and a well-equipped gym. Within walking distance of the lake and the attractions of downtown is the Coast Capri Hotel. Breakfast is included in the room rate.
- Budget Hotels: Located in a quiet area of town near Mission Creek Regional Park is the Super8 by Wyndham Kelowna. Family run, friendly and close to Orchard Park Mall is the Dilworth Inn. Also family run and in a great location near good restaurants is the Recreation Inn & Suites
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Exploring BC: British Columbia is a beautiful area to visit any time of year. To start planning your vacation, see our list of top attractions in British Columbia and discover the best places to visit. If you are starting off in Vancouver, be sure to see our guide to this beautiful city, and if you plan on heading over to Vancouver Island, have a read through our list of top attractions in Victoria.