Smoking-hot days and cool, scenic lakes make B.C.’s Okanagan Valley a top summer holiday spot for families. Kelowna and Penticton are known for their lakefront resorts and fruit festivals, but picturesque Vernon, wedged between Kalamalka Lake and Okanagan Lake in the North Okanagan, has better beaches than its southern cousins—and an equally awesome orchard bounty—but without the crowds.
Vernon’s compact size makes it easy to paddle the lakes, explore the trails and zip through the forest canopy in three active days. And the region’s farm-to-finger fruit and orchard-to-bottle juice (or wine) will ensure every family member is rewarded and refuelled after all that fun in the sun.
Morning: After a breakfast of yogurt and fresh berries picked from the raspberry bush outside your craftsman cottage at Predator Ridge, hop in your rental car and drive north to Historic O’Keefe Ranch. The original 1867 homestead of Western settler Cornelius O’Keefe grew into a small townsite and is now a family attraction where kids can pet four-horned Jacob sheep and the whole family can enjoy old-time candy—like chicken bones and cherry sours—from the General Store.
Afternoon: Head to beautiful Kalamalka Lake and give your abdominal muscles a workout atop a standup paddle board. Kalavida Surf Shop rents out the popular boards by the hour or by the day, and it’s an easy paddle along the shore to check out the gorgeous lakefront estates while the kids hitch a ride. When you overheat, just jump into the calm, Caribbean-green water.
Evening: Walk down the beach to Alexander’s Beach Pub and grab a table on the lakeside patio. Dig into a turkey and brie flatbread sandwich and wash it down with a cold Okanagan Spring Pale Ale while dusk turns the lake an inky blue.
Morning: Grab fresh-roasted coffee-to-go and a selection of baked goodies to share (the almond butterhorns are to die for) from Bean to Cup and then drive south on Highway 97 to the hamlet of Oyama. There, set on a steep mountain overlooking Kal Lake, is Oyama Zipline, a series of seven zips that whiz kids as young as five, and their young-at-heart parents, through the forested hillside at breakneck speeds toward the beach. (There’s no shame in screaming.)
Afternoon: Pull in to the OKF Grill in Oyama, located across from Oyama Beach at Wood Lake, for an alfresco lunch of juicy burgers and fresh-cut fries. Satiated, head back to the cottage (be sure to stop off for fresh cherries at a fruit stand along the way) and let the morning adrenaline wear off poolside. Read a book while the kiddos splash around, or, sans kids, head off for a tee time at Predator Ridge, one of Canada’s best—and most scenic—golf courses.
Evening: Stroll the resort’s manicured grounds after a home-cooked dinner eaten on the cottage veranda. Once the kids are in bed, enjoy a nightcap of Aquavitus, a Scandinavian-style aperitif from Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery.
Morning: Pack a picnic lunch and get an early start for Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park so you can hit the trails before the sun reaches peak intensity. It’s an easy two-kilometre hike to Turtles Head Point, which affords an eagle’s-eye view of the lake’s secret coves. Kids will love climbing on the gneiss rock outcrops, while parents appreciate the stunning views and summer fragrance of pine needles baking in the sun. Circle around to Jade Bay (so named for the colour of its water) and stop for lunch at one of the picnic tables.
Afternoon: It’s a short drive back to Kal Beach and beachside kayak outfitter Innerspace Watersports. Rent single or double kayaks and glide atop the lake’s glassy surface toward one of the hidden beaches spotted on your hike.
Evening: Nothing toasts an active day in the sun quite like a margarita, and Little Tex in downtown Vernon shakes up several versions of this refreshing cocktail. Order the Thai Pulled Pork Nachos for yourself and the Sloppy Tex Burrito for the kids. Now you’re refuelled and relaxed, just like you’re supposed to be on an Okanagan holiday.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Kelowna 16 times a day from six Canadian cities.
British Columbia’s Best Wine Regions (and Where to Sip)
The Okanagan Valley is emerging as one of the world’s most exciting wine regions, thanks to its range of climates and terroirs. Meanwhile, the Thompson Valley’s Kamloops area is on the rise. Sip aromatic whites at the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival (Sept. 28 to Oct. 8) or Pinot Noir at Privato Vineyard & Winery in Kamloops.
Five Family Vacation Ideas
Where you choose to spend your holiday depends, in large part, on the wants and needs of each member of your travelling circus. Here are travel suggestions to suit families with young children, teenagers, single-parent families, multi-generational families and multiple families travelling together.