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72 Hours in the South Okanagan

Hard at play with boutique wineries, guided eco-tours, and the hottest lake in the country
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Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
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Hard at play with boutique wineries, guided eco-tours, and the hottest lake in the country

Astride the 49th parallel runs the unique pocket desert of Osoyoos. (That it's the northernmost extension of the Sonora Desert is a common misconception.) Visit once and its distinctive scrubby benchlands and ubiquitous fields and orchards will grab your imagination. In winter, 5,000 people call the town home; in summer that swells tenfold. Our recommendation: hot July lake-and-bake vacations are all very well, but for the right mix of pampering and adventure skip the crowds and wait for off-season to explore this strip of the South Okanagan.




Campsites and RV parks, once area staples, are thin on the ground these days, muscled aside by a new generation of desirable resorts welcoming couples and families through the summer, corporate groups and snowbirds off-season. Go all-in at Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa (1200 Rancher Creek Rd., 877-313-9463), a partnership between Calgary-owned Bellstar Resorts and the Osoyoos Indian Band. The main building offers one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites from a rental pool (Spirit Ridge is a fractional-ownership property), but you're there for one of the whimsically named villas (from $931 a week) featuring four-posters, full kitchens, and gas fireplaces. The biggest deal is out the window: wake up to vineyards rolling down to the lake and town beyond. When it's time to get outside, roll into town yourself or just stay put: this is an almost overwhelming complex. On-site amenities include a working winery, two outdoor pools (one for kids, one for canoodlers), small spa, restaurant, conference centre, golf course, and-under construction-a year-round residential development.

Closer to town sits Walnut Beach Resort (4200 Lakeshore Dr., Osoyoos, 250-495-5400), a more traditional hotel-style destination with appealing family-oriented rooms (read: a happy mix of beachy pastels and smart tallboys and trunks you'd happily take home) and suites (from $329 a night) looking across the courtyard pool to the star attraction: Walnut Beach's private stretch of sand, the only licensed beachfront in Western Canada. Dabble your toes in the country's warmest lake while servers trot by with umbrella drinks and local wines. The region's third resort, Watermark Beach Resort (15 Park Pl., Osoyoos, 250-495-5500), sits at the foot of Main Street with a mix of cityscape rooms and (infinitely preferable) lake-facing townhouses. The best of them sprawl smartly along the top floor (from $1,554 in summer) with killer views from private decks begging for late-morning starts with just-picked fruit kicking off a day of strenuous wine touring and lake paddling.


Next Up: Where to Drink


Field Notes

Getting there - 5 hrs on Hwys 1 & 3 (pause in Princeton)

Number of wineries - 29 association members

Smart money - Head to Hester Creek with picnic fixings (or pick up meats and cheeses there) for free Saturday concerts on the patio. Add a bottle of the new rosé and aaah.

Avg air/lake temp (July) - 21.7º C / 20.7º C

What to pack - DVDs (Oliver has a single-screen cinema)

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