This scenic week-long trip splits time in two of British Columbia's popular destinations: Vancouver, with its multi-cultural restaurants, art galleries, museums, and Pacific Coast backdrop, and the smaller, more relaxed city of Kelowna, the unofficial capital of the vine-striped and orchard laden Okanagan Valley. You'll visit a variety of wineries from large established estates to smaller family-run businesses surrounding Kelowna, as well as overnight in the charming village of Harrison Hot Springs—the perfect introduction to southern British Columbia.

Highlights

  • Join a walking food tour in Vancouver of bustling Granville Island Public Market
  • Take an afternoon stroll along Okanagan Lake on Kelowna's Waterfront Boardwalk
  • Discover Okanagan wine country and sip wines from the Black Sage Bench
  • Soothe road-weary muscles in the mineral-rich Harrison Hot Springs
  • Visit Vancouver's Klahowya Village to see First Nations cultural performances

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Vancouver Vancouver
Day 2 Explore Vancouver: Museum of Anthropology, Kits Beach, & Stanley Park Vancouver
Day 3 Vancouver to Kelowna (5 h 30 min) Kelowna
Day 4 Explore around Kelowna: Vineyards & Railways Kelowna
Day 5 Kelowna to Harrison Hot Springs (3 hours) Harrison Hot Springs
Day 6 Harrison Hot Springs to Vancouver (2 hours) Vancouver
Day 7 Depart Vancouver  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Vancouver

Stanley Park, Deadman's Island, and downtown Vancouver
Stanley Park, Deadman's Island, and downtown 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.  

Recommended activities:

  • 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: Explore Vancouver: Museum of Anthropology, Kits Beach, & Stanley Park

The Pacific Ocean meets Stanley Park's Seawall Promenade
The Pacific Ocean meets Stanley Park's Seawall Promenade

In the morning, head southwest of downtown to the University of British Columbia's ("UBC") campus to dedicate a couple of hours to explore the Museum of Anthropology, a great introduction to the history of the Pacific Northwest. Showcasing spectacular First Nations totem poles and impressive carvings, join a free daily tour to get a better understanding of British Columbia's rich indigenous history.

After that, make your way along the coast to Vancouver's trendy beachside suburb of Kitsilano (locally referred to as "Kits") for an afternoon of picnicking on the beach and swimming in the ocean or the outdoor saltwater pool. From Kits' shoreline, you have some of the best views in the city of Vancouver's skyline and nearby Coastal Range. 

Walking distance from Kitsilano, head over to Granville Island, checking out the restaurants, gift shops, fresh food markets, and local boutique shops that reflect the island's maritime heritage. For a deep-dive of the island's culinary offerings, join a walking food tour that takes you through the bustling Granville Island Public Market.

Just before sunset, work up an appetite by walking (two hours) or biking (one hour) around Stanley Park's Seawall, a 6-mile (10-km) loop around a 400-hectare 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. 

Recommended activities:

  • Bard on the Beach. Catch a Shakespeare play in beautiful Vanier Park overlooking the city.
  • Science World. Witness the wonderful world of science with hands-on displays in a 17-story geodesic-shaped dome (great for kids).
  • Vancouver Aquarium. Learn about Pacific Canada's sea life at Canada's largest aquarium in Stanley Park.
  • VanDusen Botanical Garden. Get lost in an Elizabethan hedge maze in this popular botanical garden.

Day 3: Vancouver to Kelowna (5 h 30 min)

Remains of the 1965 Hope Slide along Highway 3
Remains of the 1965 Hope Slide along Highway 3

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 4: Explore around Kelowna: Vineyards & Railways

A historic trestle bridge over the Myra Canyon, part of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail
A historic trestle bridge over the Myra Canyon, part of the Kettle Valley Rail Trail

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 5: Kelowna to Harrison Hot Springs (3 hours)

Othello-Quintette Tunnels in the Coquihalla Canyon near Hope
Othello-Quintette Tunnels in the Coquihalla Canyon near Hope

Opt for an early morning hike today and take to the hills to climb Pincushion Mountain just outside the small community of Peachland. 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 and then follow Highway 97 C west to weave your way across southern British Columbia toward Harrison Hot Springs.

Bypassing Merritt, pull over in Hope to check out the Hope Museum and its exhibits, like the comprehensive collection of pioneer artifacts, local First Nations crafts, as well as artifacts from the original Fort Hope and gold rush days. Though beyond Hope's downtown lies spectacular scenery, wilderness and recreational attractions. Take a walk through the popular Othello-Quintette Tunnels, carved out of solid granite of the Coquihalla Canyon, and admire the views below from the vantage of a wooden bridge on the other side. 

From Hope, choose to take Highway 1 south of the Fraser River to explore Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park just east of Chilliwack. Pick up the easy half-hour trail to a viewing platform of the falls and get a first-hand impression of the park's low valleys and rounded mountains. Another 20-minute drive across the river and you'll reach the charming village of Harrison Hot Springs. Made famous for its geothermal hot springs and known as the "Spa of Canada," Harrison Hot Springs rests at the sandy southern end of Harrison Lake in the Fraser Valley. 

Later in the afternoon, explore the area with a short hike followed by a relaxing spring-fed soak. Try the half-mile (1 km) Spirit Trail past cedars adorned with decorative masks or the three-mile (5-km) Miami Bridges Hike to get close to the hot springs source. While only registered guests of the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and day guests of the Healing Springs Spa have access to the five hot spring pools (located on the property of the resort), there is the Public Hot Springs Pool in the center of town accessible to all visitors.

Recommended stops and activities:

  • Hell's Gate Airtram. Ride the tram over the Fraser River Canyon, a scenic pit stop (and 50-minute detour) north of Hope.
  • Hiking. If you have six hours to spare, complete the Harrison Grind (6 miles / 10 km) up Agassiz Mountain over an old logging road, rock, and boulders. 
  • Paddling. Kayak or canoe down the Harrison River to Harrison Mills following in the strokes of the gold miners from 150 years ago. 
  • Harrison Lake. Rent a boat or join a tour and explore Harrison Lake, the largest in southern British Columbia.

Driving time (Kelowna to Harrison Hot Springs): 3 hours (174 miles / 280 km)

Day 6: Harrison Hot Springs to Vancouver (2 hours)

Harrison Lake at Harrison Hot Springs
Harrison Lake at Harrison Hot Springs

Take advantage of the restorative waters and indulge in a morning soak after completing another hike, this time scrambling along the 2.5-mile (4 km) Sandy Cove trail to reach Whippoorwill Point, a rocky outcrop at the entrance of the Harrison River. Have breakfast at Harrison Corner Cafe and then set out to explore the fertile farmland of Agassiz, stopping to check out a few of the Circle Farm Tour stops, like Cabin Fever Junction—the perfect place to buy homestyle baked goods.

Approaching the Pacific Coast, the scenery continues to transform from the misty coastal cedars and tall firs to the built-up sprawl of Vancouver's outlying suburbs, drawing you in toward the dynamic city where you can choose either the northern or southern bank of the Fraser River for the return. Stick to Highway 7, the more scenic option, and make a point to pull over at Kilby Historic Site to experience a 1920s Fraser Valley living history site.

Next, detour to Cascade Falls, northeast of Mission to climb a set of stairs toward the suspension bridge that offers pretty views of this hidden gem. If the mood should strike, there are a couple of spots where you can take an afternoon dip before carrying on to the suburb of Richmond in time for an early dinner of the best Chinese cuisine outside of China. 

Recommended stops and activities:

  • Clayburn Village Store. Drink Devonshire tea at the general store that has changed little in its appearance since opening in 1912.
  • Fort Langley National Historic Site. Heritage-style antique shops, boutiques, and restaurants and interpreters in period costume.
  • White Rock Pier. Enjoy an ice cream cone as you stroll down the over 1,500-foot (470-m) dock, originally built in 1914 for steamships.
  • 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 (Harrison Hot Springs to Vancouver): 2 hours (81 miles / 131 km)

Day 7: Depart Vancouver

False Creek in Downtown Vancouver
False Creek in Downtown 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.

Map

Map of Okanagan Valley Road Trip: Wine & Outdoors - 7 Days
Map of Okanagan Valley Road Trip: Wine & Outdoors - 7 Days