10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Kelowna and the Okanagan
The Okanagan is a lush, sunny valley in southern British Columbia, with sandy beaches, ski resorts, and wide-reaching lakes suited to houseboating. Thanks to its exceptionally mild climate, with dry, hot, and sunny summers, the Okanagan is Canada's orchard. In season, visitors 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 city with an ever-expanding population. The lakeside community has developed into a popular resort, thanks to its sandy beaches and more than 2000 hours of sunshine a year. In winter, the region attracts skiers to a number of large resorts.
See also: Where to Stay in Kelowna
1 Lake Okanagan
The largest in a chain of lakes, Lake Okanagan touches the shorelines of most major Okanagan communities including Vernon in the north, Kelowna in the center, and Penticton to the south. It is the main recreation playground for locals and visitors alike, offering boating, swimming, and beaches, plus many scenic drives along its shorelines.
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 in winter. Situated at 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 very difficult for skiing.
3 Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park
Though the Kettle Valley Railway is no longer running, there still remains a series of historic trestles and tunnels that have become a popular trail with cyclists and hikers. The section through Myra Canyon crosses over 18 trestles with far-up views and heads through two tunnels. There are bikes for rent at the Myra Station parking lot.
4 SS Sicamous Okanagan Heritage Museum
Situated on the Penticton waterfront, the S.S. Sicamous has been restored to her full 1914 glory and operates as a climb-aboard museum. There are other historic vessels in the park too, including the 1914 S.S. Naramata Tugboat and a 1907 steamship, the S.S. Okanagan sternwheeler. Penticton sits on the scenic shores of Lakes Skaha and Okanagan, boasting miles of sandy beaches and marinas. Today, fruit and tourism are the town's two main industries.
Address: 1099 Lakeshore Dr W, Penticton
5 Silver Star Mountain Resort
Near Vernon, Silver Star Mountain Resort offers a vertical drop of 760 meters and ski-in, ski-out access. In summer, a chairlift climbs the mountain for views, trails, and mountain biking. The unusual, pedestrian-only resort village has a pretty Victorian architectural style. There is a full complement of restaurants, hotels, condominiums, and shops.
Down the mountain, Vernon is set between three lakes and is a center for fruit and vegetable farming and processing. The Greater Vernon Museum and Archives tells of the Canadian Pacific sternwheelers, which used to ply the lake, and the First Nations peoples who have lived in the area for centuries.
Address: 123 Shortt Street, Silver Star Mountain
6 BC Orchard Industry Museum
The BC Orchard Industry Museum in Kelowna tells the story of the Okanagan Valley's transformation from cattle range to the beautifully manicured orchards that exist today. Exhibits include artifacts and information on packing, processing, home preserving, and fruit picking. The museum is housed in the historic Laurel Packinghouse, which was built from local bricks in 1917/1918.
Address: 1304 Ellis St, Kelowna
Most of the township of Summerland is on terracing above Lake Okanagan, 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. There is a wonderful view of Okanagan Lake from Giant's Head Park, atop Giant's Head Mountain. A road leads through the park with lookouts along the way. There are also a number of walking trails, benches, and picnic sites.
8 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. Care is necessary.
Surrounded by orchards, the little township 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 sits on the shores of Lake Okanagan, between Kelowna and Penticton. The community lives from its thriving orchards and status as a popular tourist retreat. Though now closed, the Brenda Mine also extracted copper-molybdenum from a nearby site. The walk to Hardy Falls is a favorite local excursion and is wheelchair accessible. There is plenty for visitors to do in this area with golfing, boating, hiking, horseback riding, restaurants, and shopping.
Where to Stay in Kelowna for Sightseeing
We recommend these highly-rated hotels in Kelowna, near town and sparkling Lake Okanagan:
- The Royal Private Residence Club: luxury lakefront resort, villas with gourmet kitchens, traditional decor, rooftop infinity pool and hot tub.
- Hotel Eldorado: mid-range lakeside hotel, wonderful staff, rooftop patio, lovely indoor pool, steam room.
- Best Western Plus Kelowna Hotel & Suites: 3-star hotel, comfortable rooms, indoor pool and hot tub, free shuttle.
- Comfort Suites Kelowna: budget-friendly rates, contemporary decor, pool and water slide, well-equipped gym.