The vine- and orchard-covered hills and warm-water lakes of the Okanagan, located in south-central BC, are in marked contrast to the rugged beauty of the region’s more mountainous interior, making the region not only one of Canada’s finest fruit-growing areas but also one of its most popular holiday destinations. Unless you want a resort beach holiday, you may want to avoid the crowds and bypass the area in summer. Three main centres – Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton, ranging from north to south along the hundred-kilometre-long Okanagan Lake – together contain the lion’s share of BC’s interior population. All have pretty ordinary downtown cores around which concrete, cars and unbridled construction thrive, along with an array of accommodation and tacky attractions. Things improve immeasurably if you can slip away from the towns and to the hills or quieter stretches of lakeshore.
The almost year-round lushness that makes this “the land of beaches, peaches, sunshine and wine” means that, in the relative peace of off-season, you can begin to experience the region’s considerable charms: fruit trees in blossom, quiet lakeside villages and free wine tastings in local vineyards. You can also expect room rates to halve. Kelowna is the biggest and probably best base at any time of the year, but smaller Penticton arguably has the edge in summer when it has much more of a relaxed beach-resort vibe. Greyhound buses ply Hwy-97 on their way between Osoyoos, the southernmost town of the Okanagan, and Kamloops or Salmon Arm.