Yrene lives in the Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover who prefers off-the-beaten-track places. I write about things I love. Mostely.
Top 12 Things to do in the Okanagan Valley this Summer
Who hasn’t heard about a lush valley in British Columbia, known for its mild climate, its fruit orchards, and vineyards, known for the wine trail with its superb wineries?
It’s the Okanagan Valley, of course, well featured in Tourist brochures. But guess what? Wine tasting and playing golf are not the only things to do in the Okanagan Valley, there are many places to explore.
Much has changed in recent years and the Okanagan seems to attract mainly upper-class tourists, the ones with lots of money to spend. Do not despair if you are a Budget Traveller, and you are not interested in expensive wine tasting tours. I have lots of ideas to share with you.
We used to have barn dances and Sunday jams in the area, but most of the Old West type events have disappeared. If you’re lucky to be in the Okanagan Valley at the right time, you might get to experience some small-town Rodeo fun.
What we always will have are our beautiful lakes and wild provincial parks to get away from it all.
1. Visit Historic O’Keefe Ranch
Step back in time and learn about the old west and the history of this region. Founded in 1867, Historic O’Keefe Ranch tells the story of ranching in British Columbia. The Ranch is a must see with small and large historic buildings; some of them you are able to explore. Make sure to sign up for the tour of the O’Keefe family home, stop in at the General Store for a cold drink and some old fashion candies and visit St. Ann’s Church, which is a popular wedding location.
Special events are offed during summer, as well as dinner shows that require prior booking. The Ranch used to be famous for the annual Cowboy Festival with ranch horse competitions between BC working ranches. Whether this amazing event will come back to the Okanagan Valley one day is unknown.
There is a gift shop on site and roping lessons are offered and a stagecoach ride are offered to visitors. The superb Cattlemen’s Club Restaurant is open daily.
Location: 9380 Hwy 97N, 12 km north of Vernon, BC in the North Okanagan
2. Spend a Movie Night at the Starlight Drive-in Theatre
Don’t miss the Ultimate Movie-Going Experience and North America’s largest Drive-In Movies under the stars when you come to the North Okanagan. A movie night at the Starlight will take you down memory lane, that is, if you belong to the older generation of moviegoers.
The Movie season at the Starlight is from early May to September, depending on attendance and weather. Starting time is when it’s dark enough. Have cash ready for the admission fee to avoid lineups. Make use of the concession (snack bar) to support the theatre. No movies without pop and popcorn!
Location: 5341 Highway 97A, 20 minutes from Salmon Arm and Vernon, just South of Enderby
3. Visit Davidson Orchards Country Village
Davidson Orchards is the place to go for farm food and family fun. Here you can see the crops grow and fruit being picked and made into delicious country food. Take a ride through the farm on “Johnny Popper Train” to see the orchards and get educational information along the way.
This is a kids heaven with the Crazy Cow Kids Corral and lots of space to play. At the Critter Corral you can check on the chickens, Sheep, Goats and other farm animals, as well as the climbing coats.
When you walk through the Country Village Store, the smell of freshly baked goods will tempt you to do some shopping. Souvenirs and goodies are of high quality. This is a place I have been going to for years and I enjoy it thoroughly each time.
Location: 3111 Davison Road, Vernon, BC, above historical Bella Vista Road, just a few minutes from downtown Vernon.
4. Tube the Shuswap River
What better way to spend a blazing hot day than tubing the Shuswap. Enjoy the cool water, splash around, relax in your raft, or go for a swim. Tubing down the Shuswap is a favourite summer activity in the Okanagan. All you need to have fun is an inflatable raft, a life jacket, lots of sunscreen lotion and an adventurous spirit.
Check in with the River Ambassadors before launching your raft. They’ll give you information on the conditions and direct you to the safe put-in and pull-out points along the way.
Educate yourself about safe practices and how to spot potential hazards before heading out. Check for more information about tubing.
Please Note: Tubing is not recommended when water levels are high and there is a danger of swift currents, cold water and log jams (like at the time of writing).
The Shuswap River is of ecological and cultural importance to the area; treat the river with respect.
There is no shuttle or tube rental available.
Location: Enderby, via BC Highway 97A
5. Watch an Outdoor Play at the Caravan Farm Theatre
I have been going to the Caravan Farm Theatre for years, a one of a kind live outdoor theatre experience under the stars. You definitely want to include this event in your Okanagan visit. There is something magical about the outdoor plays.
Caravan Farm Theatre is a professional outdoor theatre company. The theatre is based on an 80-acre farm, 11 kilometres northwest of Armstrong, British Columbia and is popular for the performance of various plays during the year. During summer you get to enjoy a full-length action-packed musical, including horses, trucks, dogs, and kids, and whatever else it takes to perform an amazing outdoor play.
Location: 4886 Salmon River Rd, Armstrong, BC
6. Casting a line at Mabel Lake
Off the beaten track, the lake is easy to get to and is famous for beautiful sandy beaches and excellent fishing. Because of the provincial campground at the southern part of the lake, it gets busy during summer, but there is a good chance to be by yourself during the off-season.
Spend some time exploring the hidden treasures close by. Mabel Road, a gravel road along the east side of the Lake takes you to Three Valley Gap and Revelstoke but is often closed because of washouts. Check on the conditions before heading out.
Location: Mabel Lake Vally, access from Lumby BC
7. Visit Silver Star Mountain Resort
Silver Star Mountain Resort is not only a winter playground, it also offers many outdoor opportunities during the summer months. Located high up in British Columbia’s Monashee range, it is only a 20-minute drive from Vernon and easy to get to. Once the snow melts, the picturesque resort changes into a hiking and mountain biking heaven.
Don’t miss a drive up to Silver Star Mountain Resort. Stroll around the village, look at the colourful buildings, take pictures and stop in at one of the cozy coffee shops or friendly pubs. You won’t need much effort to experience sweeping views from high above. The scenic lifts take you up to the summit in a matter of minutes, offering spectacular vistas of the Monashee range and Okanagan Valley.
Are you interested in a Mountain biking experience? Silver Star’s world-class bike park and cross-country network of trails have something for every level of riders. A Rental Shop offers a great selection of demo and rental bikes, as well as protective gear for all ages. Why not have a go at it while you’re up there?
Location: 20-minute drive from Vernon BC
8. Paddling Echo Lake
Surrounded by trees and wilderness, Echo Lake is still one of the hidden secrets, located southeast of Lumby, in the North Okanagan Valley. Listen to the echo while you’re there, it’s what gives the lake its name.
Echo Lake is known for its clear turquoise coloured water and excellent fishing and is a popular regional recreation destination. Here you find excellent paddling, canoeing and kayaking opportunities. Echo Lake Resort, located inside Echo Lake Provincial Park offers boat and canoe rentals. No license is needed and lifejackets are supplied.
Location: Drive 1 km east of Lumby, turn right onto Creighton Valley Road, continue for 22 km (dirt road for last half). You will pass Barb Lake and Cozy Cabins Wilderness Retreat before you get to Echo Lake.
9. Rent a Jetski on a hot day
As much as we try to associate Canada with the idyllic pictures of canoes, horses, and nature, the fact is, Canada is a country of powerful engines, big trucks, luxury boats, ATVs and Gators, which most of us love.
So, why not get a taste of the power of engines while you’re here and try something you won’t do at home?
Experience the thrill of driving your own Jet Ski from the Kelowna harbour. Jet skis, or Sea Doos, can be rented at the Kelowna waterfront. They are noisy and fast, and lots of fun.
Location: Kelowna BC
10. Hike or Cycle Myra Canyon Mountain Park
Plan a trip along the scenic Kettle Valley Rail Trail, starting at Myra Canyon. You can hike, bike or take a guided tour of the area.
Myra Canyon Mountain Park is 40 minutes southeast of Kelowna and definitely worth the trip. There are two public entrances to the Park, Myra Canyon, and Ruth Station. Myra Canyon is the more popular one, especially for hikers.
Myra FS road is a gravel road that takes you to Myra Parking lot. The 12 km portion of the KVR trail is flat and easy to cycle or walk. You will be rewarded with stunning views from the 18 rebuilt trestles on the way. you will pass through two tunnels to cool off and have fun.
Bike rental is available at the Myra Canyon Trailhead and in Kelowna.
Location: Myra FS Road, Kelowna BC
11. Stop at Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery
Okanagan Spirits is Western Canada’s oldest craft distillery and is internationally acclaimed as North America’s only designated World Class Distillery (World Spirits Awards).
They offer visitors an opportunity to learn about the production with an education on the art of craft distilling. After the tour, you are invited to the tasting bar where you get to taste their spirits.
Two Locations: 267 Bernard Ave, Kelowna, BC, Phone: 1-778-484-5174 and 5204 24th Street, Vernon, BC Phone: 1-250-549-3124
12. Go on a self-guided Okanagan Valley Wine Tasting Jaunt
Of course, no trip to the Okanagan Valley is complete without a visit to at least a couple of wineries. If you’re thinking of taking part in a tour, you can choose between many transportation options; helicopter, classic car or luxury SUV, boat, bike and much more.
As a budget traveller, you probably opt for a self-guided tour. Get a list of the wineries and see which ones you can visit by foot. This is possible if you stay in an urban area like Kelowna, Penticton or Osoyoos. Wine touring by bicycle is another good option and you get to enjoy the scenery along the way. Bicycle rental is possible in most larger towns. Or of course, you might just drive your own vehicle or a rental car.
Whatever way you choose, be sure to plan for a safe ride home if you do any wine tasting.
Location: Okanagan Valley
- Vernon Itinerary – Five Days in Vernon, British Columbia
- Kelowna Itinerary – Six Days in Kelowna, British Columbia
- 7 Spectacular North Okanagan Hikes
- Book a Tour in Kelowna and the Okanagan