Monday, May 11, 2009

The Okanagan-Not just Kelowna anymore

The South Okanagan Canada’s only desert. Located on the northernmost tip of the Sonoran Desert, the south Okanagan has warm lakes, orchards, vineyards, golf courses and the delightful small towns of Osoyoos, Oliver, Okanagan Falls, Naramata, Summerland and Penticton.

Osoyoos is home of the warmest fresh water lake in Canada. (Averaging 24c in July and August). Osoyoos is a summer playground with sandy beaches, welcoming motels and campgrounds. Tourism and agriculture are big here. The surrounding farms provide fresh produce to the numerous roadside fruit stands. The cherries are to die for! Check out the wineries and go on a wine tasting tour. Osoyoos, “Canada’s warmest welcome”.

Oliver is a rich agricultural community. Grapevines are replacing the cherry, apricot, peach, apple and pear orchards. Oliver is now the self-declared, “Wine Capital of Canada”. The wildlife in the hills includes lizards, bats, deer, big horn sheep and rare birds. Oliver is a small town of about 5,000 but offers world class wineries like Burrowing Owl Estate Winery which boasts award winning wines.

The First nations name for “a place to stay forever” is surrounded by mountains to the east and west and lakes to the north and south. Penticton has fabulous sandy beaches on both Skaha Lake and Okanagan Lake. The annual “Peach City beach Cruise” has over 800 antique and classic cars. “Elvis” lives in the peach city as amateur and professional Elvis Impersonators compete for the Elvis Tribute Artist contest in Memphis. If you have not been to Penticton you must go. Who knows, you might “stay forever.”

The perfect place to grow grapes is on the Naramata bench. This quiet agricultural community is much the same as it was 50 years ago with orchards and vineyards and only 2700 residents.

An "Olde English” style town with a town crier. This is a quaint small town with 12,000 residents. Summerland is known for its orchards and vineyards. Fresh fruits are available at the numerous roadside stands. Summerland is home to the Pacific Agri Food Research Station where new varieties of fruit are developed. Enjoy the view from Giant’s Head Park or visit Summerland Ornamental gardens. Stay at the recently completed lakeshore resort. Check out the Nixdorf Classic car museum and rent a muscle car for the rest of your Okanagan Tour.

The Central Okanagan comprises Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna and Lake Country. Keep your eyes on the Lake. Ogopogo lives here! The legendary lake creature sightings date back over 100 years. The Indian’s folklore includes details of sightings. In recent years film, crews with sonar have searched for him. You might just be lucky.

Peachland began 100 years ago as a gold mining town. Now has 5,500 residents. The town is situated on the lakeshore with miles of sandy beach and a small marina. Most of the residents live on the benches above the lake and enjoy panoramic views of Okanagan Lake. Every Year in mid May the “World of Wheels” car show invades the lakeshore along Beach Avenue. About 800 antique and classic cars line the streets. The Gasthaus Medieval Restaurant offers a feast to remember. The Ponderosa Golf Course is a treat to play with its panoramic views of Okanagan Lake.

West Kelowna
The new municipality made up of Westside, Westbank, Lakeview Heights, Shannon Lake and Smith Creek has about 38,000 residents. Take Gellatly Rd from Highway 97 for a great drive or stroll along the lakeshore. The Cove Lakeside Resort offers fine dining, boat dock, a great place to stay. West Kelowna has 5 wineries including the famous Mission Hill and Quail’s Gate. The Gellatly Nut Farm is worth a visit as its over 100 years old and now a National Park with heritage buildings. Lake views from
West Kelowna are spectacular.

Cross over the bridge- the new 5 lane Bennett Bridge honoring former BC Premier W. R. Bennett.
Kelowna has it all! Okanagan Lake, City Park and beaches, the Delta Grand Hotel, the cultural district, 12 fine golf courses, Big White ski resort, UBC Okanagan., Kelowna International Airport and a city of 100,000 friendly people. The Orchard Park Shopping Centre is the largest between Vancouver and Calgary. Prospera Place is a 6000 seat multi-purpose facility that hosts major entertainers and is home to the W.H.A. Kelowna Rockets. Kelowna has a diversified economy including high tech companies, higher education, aeronautics, a state-of-the-art Cancer Treatment Centre with the regional hospital and agriculture.
Walk the Greenway from Lakeshore Road. It follows Mission Creek 7K to Mission Creek Park before it carries on a further 9K along a trail taking you through Gallaghers Canyon and Layercake Mountain.
In August 2003, a devastating forest fire burned for more than a week destroying the forest lands in Okanagan Mountain Park It also burned 239 homes in the Upper Mission area. The tour of the park is very educational as the ecosystem rebuilds itself and life returns to the park. The views from 900 meters above the lake are spectacular. A drive south on Lakeshore Road takes you to Summerhill Pyramid Winery, St. Hubertus Estate Winery, and Cedar Creek Estate Winery. The fire also destroyed 14 of the 18 wooden railway trestles in the Myra Canyon section of the historic Kettle Valley Railway. The trestles have since been rebuilt to look like the originals. This great biking and hiking trail has been enhanced by the fire by opening up the many spectacular views.
Every year in May auto enthusiasts gather for the Knox Mountain Hill Climb. A winding road 2.2 miles long snakes up 800 vertical feet. A true test of cars and drivers. Knox Mountain Park is a walk on the wild side with great hiking trails, amazing lake vistas, and lots of wild life including deer, owls, quail, eagles and coyotes. There is an underwater diving park at the historic Paul’s Tomb. You need all day for this hike.

Lake Country
Incorporated in 1995, it is made up of Carr’s Landing, Okanagan Centre, Oyama and Winfield. The population is a fast growing 11,000. The lakes of Lake Country include Okanagan Lake, some 90 miles in length, and the smaller Wood Lake and the beautiful Kalamalka Lake. Kal.Lake is postcard perfect with blue water that looks like Hawaii.
Agriculture is a prime industry with cherry orchards and apple orchards. The fresh fruit at the roadside stands is outstanding. You will want to stock up.
Vineyards are starting to take a larger part in the industry and Lake Country has some award winning wineries to boast about: Grey Monk and Arrowleaf winery to mention a few.
Wood Lake offers exceptional Kokanee fishing and even ice fishing some winters. Wood Lake warms right up in the summer and is great for swimming and water sports. Okanagan Centre has a free sheltered boat launch and parking on Okanagan Lake. Kalamalka Lake has a boat launch on the north end but is easily accessed by a narrow channel from the north end of Wood Lake to the south part of Kal Lake. New this year is the Field of Dreams car show in August at Swalwell Park. In September, check out the Lake Country “Art Walk” The valley’s largest art show with over 200 Okanagan artists.
The Okanagan, like Penticton is truly “a place to stay forever”.

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