My family believes strongly in the classic summer vacation and every year, we plan a week in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. We like to visit the beaches and water parks, seek out adventure, and spend a lot of time on our bikes exploring new trails. If we can fit in a wine tour or two, we’re doing well and we call it a successful vacation! Here are my family’s five favorite things to do in the Okanagan Valley.
1. Go biking on the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR). The KVR is a restored rail trail with many easy, family-friendly sections. The trail is not paved, but is relatively flat and well maintained with a firm gravel surface. Hills are always gradual with a rail grade that never exceeds 2.2 per cent.
Myra Canyon, Kelowna. Ride over 18 trestle bridges and through 2 train tunnels on this 8.5-kilometre ride from Myra to Ruth Station. Most families will bike this section out and back, skipping the final couple of bridges for approximately a 15-kilometre return. For a shorter ride, turn around at the second tunnel. By then, you’ll have crossed a number of bridges already.
Penticton to Okanagan Falls. The trail starts from Wrights Beach Camp in Penticton and is 13 kilometres one way. We usually stop in Okanagan Falls and send an adult back for the vehicle while the rest of us play at the beach (make sure your swimsuits are packed in a backpack for your ride). And while you’re in Okanagan Falls, make sure you ride over to Tickleberry’s for some of the best ice cream in the valley! Another popular activity to do is bridge jumping off of the trestle bridge that you’ll cross as you bike into Okanagan Falls. There’s a gate to access a good jumping platform and a ladder to climb back up when you’re done.
Naramata to Penticton. This is one of the most beautiful sections of the KVR and is 10 kilometres one way from Arawana Road outside of Naramata. Set up a vehicle shuttle or prepare to have an adult bike back for the vehicle because it’s downhill all the way to Penticton. We like to stop in at the Hillside Estate Winery on our ride for some wine tastings or for lunch on the patio. Below the winery, you’ll enjoy riding through fruit orchards and vineyards as you make your way down to Penticton.
For more information on biking the KVR, visit a Tourist Information Centre in Kelowna or Penticton to receive a full map package. They will be able to guide you to bike rental shops, as well.
2. Float the Penticton Channel. You can’t spend a day in Penticton without taking an hour or two to float the Channel. Tubes and a shuttle bus ride can be purchased from Coyote Cruises at the beginning of the Channel. Alternately, use your own floating devices and just purchase a return bus ticket for one adult in your group. Go early if you want to avoid the crowds!
3. Visit one of the Wibit Aqua Parks in Kelowna or Penticton. Visit one of these fun inflatable water parks at either the downtown City Park Beach in Kelowna or at the Okanagan Lake Beach in Penticton. Free for a parent with a child 7 and under. There are also multi-day passes available along with all-day passes. For more information, visit okanaganwibit.com.
4. Hit the beach! Our absolute favorite beach in the Okanagan is Swim Bay in Peachland. Swim Bay doesn’t have much for sand, but more than makes up for it in cool stuff to do as a family! You can jump off of two diving boards, jump into Okanagan Lake off of a zip line or a rope swing, or jump into the lake off of one of the several docks and jumping platforms.
Other favorite beaches
Skaha Lake Beach or Sudbury Beach, Penticton. These beaches have lots of sand, floating platforms for jumping, baby slides for toddlers, and a large shallow roped-off swimming area in calm water. There is also a paved walking trail along Skaha Lake with a large playground and spray park at one end.
Okanagan Lake Beach, Penticton. This is a favorite of my family’s because of the Wibit Aqua Park, lakeside restaurants, and proximity to the Loco Landing Adventure Park with mini-golf, aerial adventure course, and other attractions.
Manitou Park Beach, Naramata. This beach is always less crowded, has shade, picnic tables, and grass (rare for the Okanagan), has a playground right beside the beach, and has a large jumping platform for older children out in the lake. It’s worth taking a drive to Naramata to play here for an afternoon.
Kenyon Park Beach, Okanagan Falls. This beach has a great playground and spray park. The water is very shallow and great for young kids. It is also the ending point of the Kettle Valley Railway bike ride from Penticton.
5. Spend the day at an Adventure Park. We recently discovered the Kelowna WildPlay Element Park, and it’ll be on our list to visit again this year! The Aerial Adventure Courses were our favorite part and we could challenge ourselves on the Monkido Classic Course as adults while our son was playing on the Monkido Kids’ Course. The kids’ course is a suspended course up to three metres high and features approximately a dozen games and zip lines. Staff supervise from the ground, but the goal on all of the aerial courses is for guests to be able to navigate their way independently and safely through the trees. Check out the website at wildplay.com/kelowna.
Notable places to eat with kids in the Okanagan
Bad Tattoo Brewing Company, Penticton. Family-friendly with a great patio. Pizza is the big menu item here with handcrafted beers brewed on-site.
Salty’s Beach House, Penticton. Located right across the street from the Okanagan Lake Beach, it’s a great spot for lunch or an early dinner while visiting the Penticton Wibit. There is plenty of patio and rooftop seating, making this a great spot to enjoy the action happening at the beach.
Earls On Top, Kelowna. You’ll enjoy dining here with views out over Okanagan Lake and the City Park Beach. The restaurant is located in the heart of all the action in downtown Kelowna.
Notable campgrounds in the Okanagan
There are several provincial park campgrounds spread across the Okanagan Valley. Other options are also available farther north outside of Vernon. All provincial park campsites can be booked 4 months in advance of your intended stay.
RV Campgrounds are extremely plentiful across the Okanagan, but here are a few of my family’s favorites:
Todd’s RV & Camping, Peachland. Located across the street from Okanagan Lake and just a short walk from Swim Bay.
Wright’s Beach Camp, Penticton. This is the starting point of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail from Penticton to Okanagan Falls. Located right on Skaha Lake with a private beach and several beachfront campsites. Family movie nights take place once or twice a week.
Banbury Green RV Park and Campground, Kaleden. Located 15 minutes south of Penticton, the KVR passes right through the campground for easy biking between Penticton and Okanagan Falls. The campground has private beach areas and beachfront camping.
Lakeside Resort, Oliver. Located 40 minutes south of Okanagan Falls, this campground is situated on the quiet Tuc-el-Nuit Lake that does not allow motorboats. There’s a beautiful private beach here, lakeside campsites, and cabanas or hotel suites for those wanting a little more comfort. This resort is great for large family groups wanting a diverse assortment of accommodations.
For more information on camping and other accommodations in the Okanagan, visit the Hello BC Tourism website, hellobc.com/thompson-okanagan.aspx.
Tanya is a freelance writer, and a mom to a spunky nine-year-old. She loves hiking, camping, skiing, and all things mountain-related. She is the author of the blog, Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies, rockiesfamilyadventures.com.
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