- Wander the cobbled streets of Vancouver’s historic Gastown
- Buy fresh-picked Okanagan fruit at Keremeos, "the fruit stand capital of Canada"
- Bike one of the most popular sections of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail from Kelowna
- Visit Peachland before taking to the nearby hills to climb Pincushion Mountain
|Day 1||Arrive in Vancouver||Vancouver|
|Day 2||Vancouver to Kelowna (5 h 30 min)||Kelowna|
|Day 3||Explore around Kelowna: Vineyards & Railways||Kelowna|
|Day 4||Kelowna to Osoyoos (2 hours)||Osoyoos|
|Day 5||Osoyoos to Vancouver (4 h 30 min)||Vancouver|
|Day 6||Depart Vancouver|
Day 1: Arrive in Vancouver
Fringed by the Pacific Ocean and backed by the stunning Coastal Range, Vancouver is one of the world's most livable cities with some of North America's best cuisine, rich indigenous heritage, and outdoor venues that beckon the active traveler.
It only takes around 30 minutes to get from the airport to downtown via taxi or Skytrain ride. The city center and surrounding neighborhoods are easily walkable, and all the main attractions are a short distance away. To get your bearings, start with a stroll along the seawall from English Bay to False Creek before wandering the historical, cobbled streets of Gastown and Chinatown.
With over 60 different cultures, there is a slew of international restaurants serving anything from Asian cuisine to seasonal farm-to-table dishes. For dinner, choose from a selection of top-notch eateries—from downtown and the West End to the North Shore and Kitsilano vicinity. Bear in mind, Vancouverites love eating out any day of the week so be sure to make a reservation if it's a popular restaurant.
- Vancouver Art Gallery. See historical and contemporary exhibits by regional, national, and international artists.
- Chinatown. Snap pics of the towering Millennium Gate and mosey through the tranquil Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
- Sam Kee Building. At just 6 feet (1.8 m) wide, marvel at the world's narrowest office building.
- Vancouver Lookout. Ride the high-speed elevator up 40-stories for 360-degree views. Keep the receipt and come back later to watch the sun setting over the Strait of Georgia.
Day 2: Vancouver to Kelowna (5 h 30 min)
Pick up your rental car and hit the road early (keeping in mind Vancouver's rush hour is from 8-9 am). Follow the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) east to pick up the slower Crowsnest Highway (Highway 3). Once you get out of Vancouver, enjoy the scenic drive as you leave the coastal mountains for the drier interior of the Okanagan Valley.
The drive takes you through thickly forested parkland alongside the Similkameen River until you reach the turn off for Highway 3A at Keremeos, "the fruit stand capital of Canada." Stop here for a little sustenance and purchase freshly picked Okanagan fruit, jams, and honey, as well as filling Indian curries and samosas. You can even wash it down with a glass of wine from a nearby winery, like Clos du Soleil.
Connect with Highway 97 for your first sighting of the Okanagan Valley lakes and pull over in Penticton about an hour south of Kelowna to pick up information on the region's wineries and wine tours from the visitor's center. Continue north along Okanagan Lake, stopping to take a dip before reaching today's final destination and unofficial capital of the valley, Kelowna. Pass through the suburban sprawl to Kelowna's heart, a welcome respite of museums, culture, and park-lined lakefront.
Take a late afternoon stroll along Okanagan Lake, following the 1.5-mile (2.4-km) Waterfront Boardwalk. As daylight fades, check out Brower Hatcher's Bear sculpture (illuminated at night) before partaking in a pre-dinner libation at one of the city's great brewpubs, like Red Bird Brewing or Vice & Virtue Brewing. For dinner, consider RauDZ Regional Table, a relaxed, downtown bistro with a hefty list of Okanagan wines.
Recommended stops and activities:
- Penticton. Stroll along the tree-shaded shores of Lake Okanagan and peek inside the S.S. Sicamous, an early 20th-century Canadian Pacific Railway stern-wheeler.
- Summerland. Ride the 1900s Kettle Valley Steam Railway along a historic 6-mile (10-km) track through orchards and vineyards and over a trestle bridge. (Great for kids big and small.)
- Geert Maas Sculpture Gardens and Gallery. Find prolific rotund bronze sculptures, stonework, and paintings from the Dutch-born artist, northeast of Kelowna.
- Museums. Deep dive into Kelowna's past (and present) at the Okanagan Heritage Museum, the Okanagan Wine and Orchard Museum, the Laurel Packing House, and the Okanagan Military Museum, showcasing agricultural heritage and history.
Driving time (Vancouver to Kelowna): 5.5 hours (283 miles / 456 km)
Day 3: Explore around Kelowna: Vineyards & Railways
Set on the eastern shore of the Okanagan Lake, Kelowna is surrounded by provincial parks, pine forest, and mountains, offering travelers a variety of activities, including boating and cycling the reclaimed Kettle Valley Railway. Its long and sunny summers and short, mild winters—as well as its location amid vineyards and orchards in the middle of the Okanagan Valley—has helped create an excellent food and wine scene.
If you're here for the wine, take half a day to hit up a selection of wineries, booking yourself in for a tasting and tour (best to call ahead, no matter the season). Choose to visit a variety of wineries, from the large established estates like Cedar Creek Estate Winery to the family-run House of Rose or Tantalus Vineyards, one of British Columbia's oldest. Then there are those wineries that are newer and overshadowed by the more established ones, like the always-interesting, the hatch.
Take a break from winetasting for some outdoor activities. Rent a bike or join a guided tour of one of the most popular sections of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. Drive the 25 minutes from downtown to the Myra Station parking area to gear up and begin the 7.5-mile (12-km) ride through Myra Canyon, where you'll cross 18 historic wooden trestle bridges high above the canyon as well as pedal through two tunnels in the rock cliffs.
For the evening, we recommend making a reservation at Krafty Kitchen + Bar. Meanwhile, before the sun sets over the Okanagan Valley, find your way up to the summit of the cacti-covered Knox Mountain for views over Kelowna and Okanagan Lake (perhaps with a bottle of local wine).
Recommended stops and activities:
- Mission Creek Greenway. Trek or pedal the 10.5-mile (17-km) wide, meandering wooded path that narrows as it climbs into the hills.
- Cool off with a swim. Try Hot Sands Beach in City Park or lie out on the quieter stretch of beaches in Sun-Oka Beach Provincial Park, farther south.
- Kasugai Gardens. Retreat to this Japanese styled garden, traditionally landscaped according to Japanese techniques and in conjunction with Kelowna's Japanese sister city, Kasugai.
- BC Tree Fruits Market. Buy choice fruit, the Okanagan's best, from the many dozens of displays and then sip cider from an adjoining tasting room.
Day 4: Kelowna to Osoyoos (2 hours)
Save your appetite this morning and head south through the bucolic Okanagan Valley past lakes, orchards, and vine-striped hills where you can take pleasure in several food-and-wine related stops (not to mention a number of outdoor activities). Stick to the western shore of Okanagan Lake and stop to visit Peachland before taking to the nearby hills to climb Pincushion Mountain. Trek the moderately difficult 2.1-mile (3.4-km) Pincushion Mountain Trail to reach the summit for one of the best views over the Okanagan.
Reward yourself with a wine tasting at the historic Hainle Vineyards and pick up a bottle of dessert wine to savor at a later time. From here, make your way around the lake to discover the wineries spread between Penticton and Naramata and stop in at Red Rooster Winery for a farm-to-table lunch. A great way to explore the Naramata Bench is to rent a bike and tour the region, though you might prefer to go on a secondary hike through the Skaha Bluffs. Hidden in the hills behind the eastern side of Skaha Lake, there are a multitude of trails to choose from.
Nearing the arid southern end of the Okanagan Valley, pull over to sip wineries from the Black Sage Bench, renowned for its premium Bordeaux-style grapes. Check out two notable wineries, Stoneboat Vineyards and Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, where you can reserve a table for an exceptional dinner at The Sonora Room. Then resume the drive to reach your hotel close to the Canada-US border in Osoyoos, a small town on a narrow spit of land ringed by the beaches of Osoyoos Lake, as well as the orchards, farms, and vineyards it irrigates. If you're up for it, don your swimsuit and relax in Canada's warmest freshwater lake.
Recommended stops and activities:
- Kettle Valley Rail Trail. Bike or hike across a series of reconstructed wooden trestle bridges high above the Myra Canyon floor.
- Zipzone Adventure Park. Sail high above Deep Creek Canyon from Peachland as you follow six of Canada's highest, longest, and fastest ziplines offering incredible views and exhilarating fun.
- Summerland. Tour the charming lakeside hamlet and sip wines from one of the valley's finest wineries, Sumac Ridge Estate.
- Penticton River Channel. Allow two hours to float peacefully from Lake Okanagan in Penticton to Skaha Lake along the 4-mile (7-km) manmade channel that connects the lakes.
Driving time (Kelowna to Osoyoos): 2 hours (76 miles / 123 km)
Day 5: Osoyoos to Vancouver (4 h 30 min)
Following Highway 3 out of Osoyoos, zigzag your way across southern British Columbia to Vancouver. Stop in the Similkameen Valley to visit a winery or two, like Forbidden Fruit or Orofino wineries in Cawston, or check out the historic grist mill in Keremeos and purchase fresh-picked fruit from any number of roadside stands in between.
For a taste of gold rush history, visit Princeton and District Pioneer Museum to see pioneer artifacts from Granite City, Chinese and Salish artifacts, and a considerable fossil display. Stretch the legs and experience the lakes and alpine meadows of E.C. Manning Provincial Park. If you have three hours to spare, hike Heather Trail (12 miles / 20 km) to Three Brothers Mountain and enjoy the colorful views: a carpet of yellow, orange, and white wildflowers (late July to mid-August).
Approaching Vancouver, the scenery transforms from the bright sunlit rock faces of the Coast Mountains to misty coastal cedars and tall firs as you near the coast. Have dinner in the suburb of Richmond for some of the best Chinese cuisine outside of China.
Recommended stops and activities:
- Canyon scenery. Twenty minutes off the main drag, cross the river at the north end of Princeton's Bridge Street toward whimsical Coalmont.
- Othello-Quintette Tunnels. Five tunnels carved out of solid granite of the Coquihalla Canyon.
- Hell's Gate Airtram. Ride the tram over the Fraser River Canyon, a scenic pit stop (and 50-minute detour north of Hope).
- Harrison Hot Springs. Charming village and spring-fed mineral hot springs, popular with families.
- Fort Langley National Historic Site. Heritage-style antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants with interpreters in period costume.
- Stanley Park's Seawall. Just before sunset, walk (two hours) or bike (one hour) the 6-mile (10-km) loop around a natural West Coast rainforest with views over the city. Time your walk to hit the midpoint at Siwash Rock and Third Beach for the best spot to watch the sun dip below the horizon.
Driving time (Osoyoos to Vancouver): 4.5 hours (247 miles / 398 km)
Day 6: Depart Vancouver
Head to The Naam (open 24/7) for an early morning breakfast before making your way to the airport. If you're feeling indulgent, splurge on a seaplane harbor tour to take in the magnificent scenery of the mountain-and-sea-dominated city from a new perspective. Alternatively, enjoy some more time at Stanley Park, paying a visit to Klahowya Village via the Spirit Catcher miniature train to watch cultural performances. Here you can also purchase souvenirs and gifts of traditional First Nations arts and crafts from the Artisan Marketplace and Métis Trading Post.
It usually takes 30 minutes to travel from downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport but allow extra time in case of traffic. Best to arrive at least two hours prior to your international departure while allowing extra time to drop off your rental car.