Thursday, September 08, 2016

The BEST of the Okanagan from Kelowna to Penticton, British Columbia - updated 2023

Our favourite place to visit on our summer vacation is the Okanagan region of sunny British Columbia. We usually camp or find a place to stay near Penticton and then do day trips all around the valley from Kelowna down to Okanagan Falls or Oliver.

The Okanagan region offers up consistent sunny hot weather and we have enough fun things to keep us coming back every year.

My son will remember summer moments like this (photo: Swim Bay, Peachland)

Our Top Favourite Things to do in the Okanagan



Biking from Penticton to Okanagan Falls on the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) Trail 

An annual summer favourite, we love biking from Penticton to Okanagan Falls on the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) Trail. This section of rail-grade trail is relatively flat and travels right beside Okanagan Lake for scenic views much of the time. The trail is not paved but would hardly be considered "mountain biking" either. The only challenge you'll face is the odd sandy bit that can be walked across if need be.

Biking from Penticton to Okanagan Falls 

The distance of this ride is 13 km one way and we usually just ride it from Penticton to Okanagan Falls. Then an adult rides back for the vehicle while we are hanging out in Okanagan Falls at the beach or at Tickleberry's having ice-cream.

For a shorter ride, you can also start at the town of Kaleden and ride round trip to Okanagan Falls and back. The Kaleden to OK Falls section is the easiest part of the trail and is wider than the section from Penticton. It is better maintained over all (less overgrown) and generally better for novice riders.

For more on biking the KVR, read my previous story: Biking the Kettle Valley Railway from Kelowna to Osoyoos.

One of our first rides on the KVR from Penticton to Okanagan Falls

Highlights of this ride for our family:

- Jumping off of the trestle bridge just outside of Okanagan Falls. There is a gate on the bridge with ladders to climb back up.

- Hanging out at the Kenyon Park Beach in OK Falls (which also has a playground and spray park)

- Riding to Tickleberry's in OK Falls for Ice-cream (72 flavours!!)

Bridge jumping along the KVR outside Okanagan Falls

Biking the KVR from Naramata to Penticton 

The Little Tunnel on the KVR
The next section of the KVR that we love to ride each year is from Naramata to Penticton. This section of the trail is almost entirely all downhill and at a rail grade, makes for easy coasting. There are different places to start your ride from but I recommend doing it in the Naramata to Penticton direction with a shuttle set up or a family member willing to pick you up at the end. Alternately, an adult could ride back up for the car while you hang out in Penticton below.

The two most popular starts are from either Arawana Road or Smethurst Road near Naramata. The ride is approximately 10 km in length if you choose to stop as soon as you reach Penticton, conveniently finishing near the Bench Market. (Our usual ending spot for fabulous coffee and baked goods.)

The ride can also be extended into a 22 km distance (one way) by starting above the Little Tunnel (which I highly recommend!!) We LOVE riding through the Little Tunnel because how often do you get to ride through a real train tunnel on a bike?? The scenery from the tunnel is also some of the best on any stretch of the KVR. (I'd go as far as to say it is the best!)

Riding through the Little Tunnel above Naramata

For more on biking the KVR from Naramata to Penticton (or from the Little Tunnel to either Naramata or Penticton,) check out my previous story: Biking the Kettle Valley Railway from Kelowna to Osoyoos.

Highlights of this ride and the Naramata area for our family:

- Riding through the Little Tunnel if you start above Naramata

- Stopping at Hillside Estate Winery below Naramata to sample local wines and grab a snack or lunch on the patio. There is even a path leading down to the winery from the KVR so don't worry about missing the exact spot you should leave the trail. (the path down to the winery is well signed!)

Wine for me, kids' mac and cheese for him at Hillside Estate Winery

- Playing at the  Poplar Grove concrete bike park right across from the Hillside Estate Winery.

Concrete pump track by Hillside Estate Winery along the KVR

- Riding through orchards and vineyards below Hillside Estate Winery

- Finishing our ride at the Bench Market, mentioned above. It seriously has the best coffee in Penticton.

Riding through vineyards and orchards on the KVR

Narmata Beach Day

We always head to Naramata near Penticton for some beach time at Manitou ParkThis beach is much less busy than the Penticton or Kelowna beaches, has grass, shade, two playgrounds (one directly beside the beach,) and picnic tables. There is also a great jumping dock  to swim out to.

Manitou Beach is one of the best beaches near Penticton

We also like visiting the wharf in town that you can jump off. Super fun!! And you can paddle between the wharf and Manitou Park if it's a calm day and not too windy.

Jumping off the wharf in Naramata - a vacation highlight!

After our time at the beach, we like touring local wineries on the Naramata Bench. And there are a LOT to choose from. 

Manitou Beach has a great dock to swim out to (and jump off!)

Paddling or Floating the Penticton Channel and Beach Fun at Skaha Lake

An annual tradition! You can pick up your own floatie, raft, or inflatable water vessel at Canadian Tire in Penticton and then head down to the channel for a couple hours of peaceful floating while you say hi to the local duck population.

Floating the Penticton Channel

The only challenge for this outing is finding a way to get back to your vehicle at the end of your float. We've found a few options for this one.

A. Have an adult bike back (stash a bike at Skaha Beach ahead of time) while the rest of the family hangs out at Skaha Beach.
B. Pay for the shuttle for at least one adult from Coyote Cruises and rent tubes as well if you need. 

Or, if you're lucky, perhaps you have a family member in your group who doesn't want to do the float and is quite happy to just pick you up at the end. Or you have two vehicles in your group and you can set up a shuttle. (We've done both of the above before.)

Peaceful floating down the Penticton Channel 

Tip for floating the channel: Go early! We always go in the morning before the crowds descend on this tiny channel. Otherwise you'll be playing bumper boats with the masses. 

The channel is also great on stand up paddleboards if you go in the morning or evening.

Paddling the channel is fun on a stand up paddleboard

Highlights of Beach Time at Skaha Lake

Skaha Lake Beach and Sudbury Beach are both nicely situated at the end of the channel and have fabulous sandy beaches. They also have docks for jumping off of (a priority for my family when searching for a beach) and slides for little tots along the water's edge. Stand up paddleboards can be rented at Sudbury Beach as well which is a nice bonus.

Beach Fun at Sudbury Beach, Skaha Lake

Other highlights would include walking, scooting, or biking along the paved pedestrian pathway along Skaha Lake over to the big playground and splash park at the far end of Skaha Lake Beach. En route you'll pass a Tickleberry's Ice-cream kiosk and a smaller "nature playground." 

No trip to the Okanagan is complete without at least one Tickleberry's visit!

Skaha Lake Park Playground


Beach Time on Okanagan Lake in Penticton 

Now that you've spent time at Skaha Lake, it's time to head to Okanagan Lake on the other side of Penticton.

Highlights of this area for our family:

- Beach time beside the lake (great sand and docks for jumping off of)

WIBIT Aqua Park!!  This one starts out fairly affordable if you have young children because kids 7 and under get a free parent supervisor. After that the price goes up when you have to pay for adults to go play with the kids, but it's always a huge highlight for my son and one of the things he most looks forward to doing in the Okanagan.

Also, know that when you purchase a day pass, it's good for ALL wibit aqua parks in the Okanagan, so you could visit both Penticton and Peachland's parks in the same day. Kelowna and Osoyoos also have parks, if you're doing a longer day trip. 

You could drive to Kelowna in the morning, spend the day there, and then still visit the Penticton park late afternoon into the evening. 

Wibit aqua park on Okanagan Lake

- Mini Golf and other fun attractions at Loco Landing. While not entirely "cheap" it's pretty hard to say no to a couple of adventures at this theme park when the kids see it and immediately start begging to go check it out. What I love best about this place is that you can buy a value pass and let the kids try everything. The pass covers every activity in the park including Mini-Golf, Go-Karts, the High-level Ropes Course and any 7 Fun Zone activities!

Mini golf at Loco Landing is a great family activity!

Playing on the High Ropes Course at Loco Landing

- Finally, we always end our Okanagan Lake day by heading across the street to Salty's Beach House. This restaurant/pub takes children on the main floor and has a fabulous patio! It's also a great place to watch the family on the Wibit if you have members not out playing.

Hints for Salty's Beach House: Go early because it gets very busy here! If you want a patio table, go an hour before lunch or dinner would begin. Think 11am for lunch or 5pm for dinner.

For more on Penticton and the surrounding area, check out Visit Penticton.

Climbing the giant slide on the Penticton WIBIT

Enjoying an Adventure Day in Peachland

An epic day at the ZipZone

Searching for an epic zipline adventure in the Okanagan, brought us to the ZipZone in Peachland: Canada's highest freestyle zipline at 381 feet high.

The ZipZone promises (and delivers:) 

"Six of the highest, longest , fastest, epic-est zip lines in Canada, criss-crossing the breathtaking Deep Creek Gorge. Breathtaking views, maximum exhilaration!"

We did all 6 lines and had a BLAST. After, we headed downtown Peachland to Swim Bay and spent some time cooling off in the lake.

Read about our adventure here: Vacation Fun in the Okanagan at the ZipZone, Peachland. 

Epic Ziplining in Peachland at the ZipZone

Visiting the Swim Bay Outdoor Aquatic Centre

Swim Bay is seriously one of the best destinations in the Okanagan for those who like jumping into lakes rather than spending their day building sand castles. Swim Bay doesn't have much for sand but more than makes up for it in cool stuff to do as a family!

The Swim Bay zipline is a LOT of fun!

Jump off of two diving boards! (there is a low board and a super high diving board)
Jump into Okanagan Lake off of a zipline or rope swing
Jump into the lake off of one of the several docks

Note the low diving board is only open when the lake is high (late June to early July.) Most of the time, the high diving board is the only one open.

Repeat. Many times. (And send somebody to grab coffee from the Bliss Bakery if you're going to be hanging out here for a while.)

The high diving board is fairly terrifying!

The low diving board is fun when the lake is high enough

Visiting the Wibit Aqua Park in Peachland

We usually visit both the Penticton and Peachland wibits in the same day for an action packed water day. Both parks are included in the same price. 

The Peachland park is smaller than the Penticton park, but it's fun for an hour in the afternoon.

Peachland Wibit Aqua Park

For more on the area around Peachland, visit Destination Peachland and make sure you stop to visit a winery or two on your way home from the beach.

Playing on the rope swing at Swim Bay

Biking the Myra Canyon section of the KVR

Of all the sections of the Kettle Valley Railway, this is by far the most popular (and busiest) for good reason. In a short 8.5 km distance, you'll ride over 18 trestle bridges and through 2 tunnels. It's a great ride for children and very well maintained (though certainly not paved.)

Our first ride on the KVR back in 2013 (Myra Canyon)

Tips for this ride: Arrive very early to avoid the crowds. Also, make sure your children are ok with basic bike skills which would include being able to pass pedestrians safely as this section of trail sees a lot of foot traffic near the beginning. The bridges are also fairly narrow so novice riders should walk them when the trail is busy.

You get to ride across 18 trestle bridges!
For more on biking the KVR from Myra Station to Ruth Station check out my previous story: Biking the Kettle Valley Railway from Kelowna to Osoyoos

Bikes can also be rented at both trailheads for this bike ride.

The best bike ride in the Okanagan!

You get to ride through two train tunnels!

One of the two train tunnels on the Myra Canyon KVR ride

Other area highlights:

We recently discovered the Kelowna Mountain Bike Skills Park off of the Mission Creek Greenway which was a great place to spend an hour or so. There's a pump track, jump park, and a wooden structure with ramps. Check out the map on the site above and plan your return route from Myra Canyon so that you pass by the bike park.

Kelowna Mountain Bike Park

Exploring Downtown Kelowna

We always spend at least half a day downtown Kelowna at the Kelowna City Park.

Highlights of this Visit:

WIBIT Aqua Park 

This inflatable water park is the largest one in the Okanagan.

The Kelowna wibit is the largest one in the Okanagan

- Playing at the spray park with water slide, playground (with zipline,) and skate park - all side by side at City Park

Playground at City Park, downtown Kelowna

- Walking, along the paved waterfront pedestrian pathway between City Park and the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort. (Look out for Ogopogo, the mythical sea creature that lives in Okanagan Lake)

Ogopogo and the annual photo with this fun sculpture downtown Kelowna

- Lunch or dinner at the Earl's rooftop patio. (And as with all popular restaurants, aim to arrive early for lunch or dinner if you want to get on the patio.)

For more on family fun in Kelowna, visit the Tourism Kelowna website.

Views from the roof top patio of Earls downtown Kelowna

Visiting the Gellatly Bay Outdoor Aquatic Centre in West Kelowna

The Gellatly Bay Park is a recent new discovery for us, and it was a great way to cool down on our way back to Penticton after biking Myra Canyon.

Located in West Kelowna, this park has 3 diving platforms of different heights, a zipline over the water, and floating docks you can swim out to. There is also a small beach area. 

Gellatly Bay Wharf with diving platforms

We loved this park and the diving platforms were a lot of fun. My son loved the zipline.

Note there are no lifeguards on duty here so supervision of young children is imperative! The water is very deep and young swimmers should wear a life jacket.

Zipline at Gellatly Bay

Jumping off the highest diving platform

Winery Touring across the Okanagan

We love winery touring while we're out in the Okanagan and we try to fit at least one winery tour in per day. Fortunately there are vineyards spread across the entire valley and there will always be a winery near your chosen activity for the day.

This sign always makes me laugh!

Notes for Winery Visits

  • Some wineries won't allow children inside, so plan accordingly. There are usually picnic areas outside, so we just bring an I-pad and our son happily sits outside with his device (and he loves winery visits for this reason.)

  • Bring something respectable to wear to the winery if you've been at the beach before. Shorts + a T-shirt are fine, but you'll want to cover up the swim suit.

  • The tourism industry is slowly recovering from the pandemic, so you should be able to visit most wineries for a tasting without a reservation. Groups should still make a reservation and it's a good idea to check the winery website before visiting.

  • Do research before you visit! Most wineries will charge a tasting fee and you want to know how much that is before you visit. $5 is fine, but $10 per person really starts to add up quickly!! Also, most wineries will waive tasting fees if you purchase a bottle of wine afterwards (per person,) but we visited one winery that would not do so, and it ended up being a very expensive visit because they still expected us to buy a bottle or two of wine! 

  • I recommend checking out the prices per bottle of wine before visiting a winery. Many wineries have affordable wine, but some are very expensive! If you want your taisting fees waived, you'll be expected to buy a bottle or two of wine (and I like to know if $40 is the starting cost for the cheapest bottle!)

  • We enjoy visiting wineries with restaurants where we can order lunch and get a nice glass of wine alongside. Check the online menu before you visit though. Many of the menus have nothing on them that the average child would eat!

Some of our favourite wineries include: 


One of our favourite wineries that we like to visit is Gray Monk, located north of Kelowna in Lake Country (conveniently close to the Kangaroo Creek Farm so that you can pair wine tastings and kangaroo hugging for your day outing.) Gray Monk also has a gorgeous patio and restaurant so we often visit for lunch. (after visiting the kangaroos.)


Another winery that we love is Summerhill Pyramid Winery.  This Winery also has a bistro with a gorgeous patio overlooking Okanagan Lake so plan your visit around lunch and enjoy a flight of wine with your meal. It is conveniently located in South Kelowna and would be a great place to stop after biking on the KVR in Myra Canyon.


Dirty Laundry is a great family-friendly winery where you can order pizza and even sample beer flights! 

I also like the Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery


Farm Gate Winery is one of our absolute favourite wineries in the Okanagan. They're situated next to a fruit market south of Penticton in Kaleden and I'm pretty sure they don't charge for tastings (though we always leave with a case so wouldn't pay a fee anyway.)

They are predominantly a fruit winery, so if you don't like sweet wines, you probably won't love this one, but they make the most amazing wines for summer patio sipping - at a very affordable price!!

For $129.88 you can mix and match to create a box of 12 bottles of wine. That comes down to less than $11 per bottle of wine! And it's good wine!! Amazing wine in fact. 

They also have a special where you get 12 bottles for $88 but it's a set box, so you don't get to choose the kind of wine included in the box. Currently, you get 3 bottles of peach wine, 3 bottles of dry cherry, 3 bottles of off dry cherry, and 3 bottles of oak cherry.

We LOVE the wine at the Farm Gate Winery

My son is a huge fan of the Covert Farms Family Estate Winery south of Penticton, where you'll find a giant bouncy pillow for the kids, farm games, animals, and a huge field to run around in after tasting the wine.

Covert Farms Family Estate Winery


After our time at the beach, we like touring local wineries on the Naramata Bench. And there are a LOT to choose from. Note that prices tend to be higher in this area for tastings, but the wineries tend to be excellent!

Current favourites include La Frenz, Hillside Estate (with a patio for lunch,) Lake Breeze, and Elephant Island (a great fruit winery.)

Hillside Estate is particularly notable because you can bike right off the KVR down to their patio for lunch and tastings.

Elephant Island is a great fruit winery

Oliver and the South Okanagan:

I have to give a shout out to my personal favourite winery, Silver Sage Winery, south of Oliver. We visit this winery every year, and come home with a box of wine each time. We love that there is no tasting fee, and you get to sample 10+ different wines (including dessert wine.) The ladies who work here are also extremely entertaining! This is not your average "stuffy" winery. Everybody has a good laugh and a fabulous time at their tastings.

Note the wine is definitely on the sweet side, which I love, but it won't appeal to all wine drinkers out there. If you like sweet wine, it is the best you'll find in the Okanagan for a very affordable price.

There's also a beautiful patio area for children to read books or play while you taste the wine.

Our fav. winery in the Okanagan

Other favourites include Nostalgia (Oliver,) Stag's Hollow (Okanagan Falls,) Hester Creek (Oliver,) Maverick Winery (Oliver,) Quinta Ferreira (Oliver,) and Lakeside Cellars (Osoyoos.)

We stock up on their wine every time we visit the Okanagan!

Winery visits allow you to sample so many different wines!

Note this guide was not sponsored and I wasn't paid to promote any of the businesses featured. I try to update this guide regularly, but individual websites should be visited before planning your trip to the Okanagan.

Enjoy your next trip to the Okanagan and let me know if I've missed something my family should check out next year when we travel west again for our annual summer vacation. I'm already counting down the months...


  1. What are your favorite spots to camp in the area?

    1. Hi. We usually camp at Wrights Beach Camp in Penticton so that we're right on Skaha Lake. It's not a great campground for tents (unless you can get one of the tenting sites down by the water) but it's great with trailers. For tenting, there's a lack of good campgrounds in the Okanagan unless you choose one of the provincial campgrounds. You can go to the BC Prov. Parks website to see them.