Crossing the international border between the United States and British Columbia brings you into one of the most exciting wine producing areas in Canada. The Okanagan wineries are situated in a semi-desert region, this area is well known for its abundant vineyards, world renowned wineries and fruit laden orchards as well as beautiful sparkling lakes and dazzling scenery.
The line-ups at the border near Oroville, Wash., are rarely very long and not difficult giving visitor’s a chance to relax in anticipation of what adventures they will experience while visiting Canada’s Okanagan and its memorable first class wineries.
Whether you take two hours, two days or two weeks to meander your way north over the 80 miles between Osoyoos and Kelowna there will be many opportunities to explore and experience everything that this enchanting region has to offer its welcomed guests. The hot, dry summers and low rainfall make this an area that is perfect for growing a large variety of grapes for producing world class award-winning wines.
With over 100 wineries to choose from, there will be plenty of opportunities to swirl, savor and sample the wines from any of the estate wineries or small family operated artisan boutique wineries.
Osoyoos (pronounced “oh-sue-use” by the locals) is in Canada’s only true desert and is the point of entry after crossing into Canada and should be considered as the first stop on your journey. A favorite destination by many it offers a treasure of attractions and opportunities for experiencing a stunning First Nations Cultural Centre, outstanding restaurants, and a variety of water sports as well as providing an opportunity to enjoy a one-of-a-kind desert-links style golf course.
The tourist information center, located at the first traffic light, is the best place to gather material on things to see and do not only in Osoyoos but for the whole Okanagan. Traveling north from the border turn left at the light and an immediate right into the parking lot for the info center.
A place that has it all is the NK`MIP Resort (pronounced in-ka-meep) where you can experience rattle snake programs in the cultural center, visit NK`MIP Cellars, the first North American Aboriginal owned and operated winery and stay at NK`MIP RV Park situated on the banks of Osoyoos Lake.
Indulge yourself and let an experienced local guide show you the delights of the valley where you can savor and indulge yourself in the best that the local wineries have to offer.
As you leave Osoyoos and travel along the highway a few miles, look to your far right and you will see one of the most notable wineries. Overlooking the valley is the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. It offers wine tasting, has a beautiful restaurant for both lunch and dinner and also a guest house for those who wish to treat themselves to something special.
Meandering your way over the next 18 miles the highway is lined with rolling hills covered with vineyards, fruit producing orchards and quaint little fruit stands where you can purchase seasonal fresh local produce and enjoy seeing the sites along the Golden Mile Bench.
Considered to be Canada’s Wine Capital, Oliver is your next stop with more than 40 wineries within 10 minutes of the center of town and all are easily accessible by car. The majority are open daily for wine sampling, fine dining and a chance for their visitors to gain an educational experience while learning more about the local wine industry.
Definitely take advantage of one of the available wine tour companies who will take you behind the scenes where you will visit some of the region’s best wineries and sample some of the most remarkable wines in the world. For a very special experience, there is a helicopter touring service available to show you the breathtaking views of the thousands of acres of outstanding vineyards.
This unique little town of 5,000 offers a mixture of inviting parks, golf courses, and paths for cycling or walking. A charming museum that once was the British Columbia police station, a cultural center for the whole family and an arts center all await their visitors in this sun filled desert community.
A short 10-minute drive north brings you to Okanagan Falls, situated at the southern tip of Skaha Lake and is considered by many to be the beginning of the heart of wine country. The many small wineries that dot the hills around the area are very special and their wines are exceptional, providing a fantastic reason for visitor’s to spend a day touring the back roads looking for the wineries signage and sampling some of these fine wines.
You are now in the heart of wine country – situated between Skaha Lake to the south and Okanagan Lake to the north, Penticton’s local sunny beaches are the place to be on a hot summer’s day. Take time away from the wineries and spend a day floating down the Okanagan River Channel, a popular Penticton summer activity. There are plenty of things to do if anyone is seeking outdoor adventures whether it is rock climbing, kayaking or cycling or walking the Kettle Valley Railway Trail.
The Wine Country Visitor Center has knowledgeable staff that will help you create a plan for exploring wine country. If you really want to experience what the locals enjoy then you must attend the Farmers Market every Saturday morning, where the vendors line Main Street, selling vegetables, fruit, and herbs as well as scrumptious baked goods.
Summerland, Peachland, West Kelowna
Traveling north on Highway 97 alongside Okanagan Lake, the three communities of Summerland, Peachland and West Kelowna offer many attractions including an antique car museum, beaches, golf courses, distinctive dining establishments, and an opportunity to ride on the historic Kettle Valley Steam Railway. The many distinctive wineries along the way are worth visiting and should not be missed.
Your final destination after crossing the bridge that spans across Lake Okanagan is the largest and most vibrant city in British Columbia’s Okanagan, Kelowna. This is a perfect location to stay in a comfortable RV park while visiting its many wineries, hit a ball at one of the executive golf courses or challenge a friend to a game at one of the championship courses, or maybe spend an afternoon sauntering along the walkway by the lake.
Not to be missed on this tour of extraordinary wineries is the large number within the city as well as the surrounding area. Many have large parking areas that will accommodate a bus but it is best to park your rig elsewhere and either take a guided tour or use your own vehicle for a self-guided tour.
This 80-mile journey is all about wine tours and tastings of the award-winning wines that this beautiful region offers to the world and you will definitely want to take some of your favorites with you. Verify with the U.S. Customs what amount you are entitled to bring home with you, but the general rule is you can return home with enough for your own personal use as long as you are willing to pay the duty.
Take the time to savor the wines, appreciate the opportunities for adventure and applaud the welcoming atmosphere since you will want to return again to enjoy the wineries you missed on this trip.
There are several campgrounds scattered around the Okanagan wineries region. To ensure a site that will accommodate your RV, it is suggested that you make reservations well in advance.
1. NK`MIP Resort in Osoyoos, B.C., 250.495.7279, www.NKMIP.com
- 320-site lakeside facility
- 50-amp services, full hook-up RV stalls and cable TV
- Indoor pool and hot tub, BBQ Patio
2. Desert GEM RV Resort, 34037 Hwy. 97 in Oliver, B.C., 888.925.9966, www.desertgemrv.com
- Large and pull-through sites – able to manage “any size”
- 50-amp service, full hook-ups
3. Oxbow RV Resort, 198 Skaha Place in Penticton, B.C., 250.770.8147, www.oxbowrvresort.com
- 68 fully serviced sites – some pull thru
- 30-amp service
- Have some sites that will handle a 45-foot coach
4. Wright’s Beach Camp RV Park, 4200 Skaha Lake Road in Penticton, B.C., 250.492.7120, www.wrightsbeachcamp.com
- Have some sites that will fit a 45-foot coach
- Only have 30-amp services
- Situated on a private beach
- Full hook-ups
5. Apple Valley RV, 1980 Union Road in Kelowna, B.C., 250.763.9840, www.applevallyrv.com
- Caters to large rigs
- 30- and 50-amp power, large and pull-through sites
6. Holiday Park Resort, 1-415 Commonwealth Road in Kelowna, B.C., 800.752.9678, www.sweetlife.com/home.htm
- 500-plus sites
- 50-amp services
- Full hook-ups
- Large sites for all sizes
Sampling of Okanagan Wineries
- NK`MIP Cellars has received more than 40 national and international awards. This is North America’s first Aboriginal owned and operated winery and it has some of the most spectacular views in the Okanagan. It is located at 1400 Rancher Creek Road in Osoyoos, B.C. For more information, call 250.4952985 or visit www.nkmipcellars.com.
- Burrowing Owl Estate Winery offers premium world renowned wines, offers guided and self guided tours and a beautiful view overlooking the valley. It is located on Black Sage Road in Oliver, B.C. For more information, call 877.498.0620 or visit http://www.bovwine.ca.
- Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery offers exceptional wines and is best known for its Rieslings. The winery also offers dry, medium and private label wines as well as ice wines. It is located at Highway 97 at Road 8 between Oliver and Osoyoos. For more information, call 800.784.6304 or visit www.gehringerwines.ca.
- Hester Creek Estate Winery offers a wine for every palate. Part of the Golden Mile Bench, you can relax while visiting this Mediterranean-influenced winery that produces fresh wines. They offer cooking classes and a patio for a completely relaxing atmosphere while you gaze around at their 95 acres of vineyards. It is located at 13163 – 326th Avenue in Oliver B.C. (Road 8). Skype for free by calling 250.498.4435 or visit http://www.hestercreek.com.
- Stoneboat Vineyards is a family owned and operated artisan wine producer that specializes in small lots of premium Pinot varietals. It is located at 7148 Orchard Grove Lane in Oliver, B.C. For more information, call 888.598.2226 or visit http://www.stoneboatvineyards.com.
- See Ya Later Ranch has a quirky history and is located on Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards on what used to be a working ranch. The winery produces premium varietals that include Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Meritage, Semillon, Ice Wine, and a classical method Brut. It can be found on Green Lake Road in Okanagan Falls, B.C. For more information, call 250.497.8267 or visit http://sylranch.com.
- Stonehill Estate Winery was established by the Holman family and is well known for its Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and they produced British Columbia’s first Zweigelt. It is located at 170 Upper Bench Road South in Penticton, B.C. For more information, call 250.770.1733 or visit www.stonehillwines.com.
- Volcanic Hills Estate Winery is a recently built winery that has a 4,000-square-foot wine shop and large patio where you can sip their red, white or ice wine. Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Gamay, Chardonnay (ice wine) and Syrah wines are all offered by the very friendly and experienced staff. It is located at 2845 Boucherie Road in Kelowna, B.C. For more information, call 778.755.5550 or visit www.volcanichillswinery.com.
- Quails Gate Estate Winery is a family owned and operated winery that is internationally recognized and said to have one of the best tours in the Okanagan. I can attest to the friendly and welcoming staff that is recognized as being the most professional and friendly in the country. The Stewart Family Reserve wines are only available in vintages where the quality is exceptional. It is located at 3303 Boucherie Road in Kelowna, B.C. For more information, call 800.420.9463 or visit http://quailsgate.com.
- Mission Hill Family Estate Winery — Not only is this winery well respected and their grapes are first class they offer outstanding winery events, culinary workshops, seminars and anyone who wishes to gain an appreciation for all types of wines and gain confidence in what wines to select can attend the International Sommelier Guild Courses at Mission Hill. It is located at 170 Mission Hill Road in West Kelowna, B.C. For more information, call 250.768.7611 or visit http://www.missionhillwinery.com.