Penticton: Heart of Okanagan Wine Country

Rolling vineyards, sparkling lakes, golden beaches, vast mountain ranges, and one the best year-round climates in Canada are just a few of the things that entices people to Penticton and Okanagan Wine Country.

Penticton is ideally situated in the Okanagan Valley in the beautiful Southern interior of British Columbia. The area enjoys a mild climate with little precipitation. Warm summers and mild winters makes it an ideal place to be.

Travel the meandering country roads on the Naramata Bench. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travel the meandering country roads on the Naramata Bench. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Penticton is a year-round destination city close by sandy beaches, two lakes, ski hills, orchards, wineries, and golf courses—and enjoys more than 2,000 hours of sunshine a year thanks to its semi-arid climate. The community is known for its long-running Peach Festival (70th annual; August 9-13, 2017), the Elvis Festival (July 22-25, in 2017), world-class rock climbing on Skaha Bluffs, recreational opportunities, and surrounding wineries.

Penticton is nestled between two scenic lakes with sandy beaches. Okanagan Lake to the north and Skaha Lake to the south offer a myriad of summertime activities to cool you down while you relax.

The S.S. Sicamous, the most famous stern-wheeler to grace Okanagan Lake, is permanently moored in Penticton. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The S.S. Sicamous, the most famous stern-wheeler to grace Okanagan Lake, is permanently moored in Penticton. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before becoming a wine destination, the Okanagan was a family holiday spot, best known for its “beaches and peaches”—the lakes with their sandy shores, boating, and waterskiing as well as the countless farm stands offering fresh produce and fruit. The beaches and peaches—and cherries, apricots, apples, and pears—are still there, and the Okanagan still welcomes families.

With over 60 wineries within a 20 minutes’ drive, local farmers markets, over three miles of golden sandy beaches, and many wonderful festivals and events throughout the year, the area has something for everyone.

Stress simply melts away as you leisurely travel the meandering country roads to scenic and award-winning wineries. Relax on a vine-covered patio and soak in the views with a glass of your favorite red or white, or dine under the stars, estate winery style.

Penticton and Okanagan Lake from the Naramata Bench. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Penticton and Okanagan Lake from the Naramata Bench. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Penticton, as translated by the local Salish Native Americans, means “a place to live forever” (the commonly accepted translation) or “a place to live year-round”.

Tom Ellis, the first non-native settler in the area took the meaning to heart when he landed here in 1865. Ellis, originally from England, planned the formulation of the new town. In 1892, a site was laid out around the Smith Street area (now Front Street).

The early days were difficult for road travel, but with the introduction of the automobile and the constant increase in population, road-building was in full-force by the 1920s. Prior to this, travel was done primarily by water, up and down Okanagan Lake, which runs from Vernon in the north, to Penticton at its southern tip.

Much of this water travel was aboard the S.S. Sicamous. Although not the first, the S.S. Sicamous was the most famous stern-wheeler to grace Okanagan Lake, and was known as the Queen of the Lake. She was built in Port Harbor in Ontario and assembled in Okanagan Landing for her maiden voyage on July 1st, also Canada’s birthday, in 1914.

Beautiful Okanagan Lake near Penticton. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Beautiful Okanagan Lake near Penticton. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many of the servicemen heading for WWI began their journey aboard the S.S. Sicamous. Demoted to carrying freight in 1935, was then retired two fruit seasons later. Penticton purchased her from Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1949 for $1.

If you are interested in outdoor activities, the Okanagan is the place to be, from swimming or boating in one of the lakes to skiing on Apex Mountain. You can bike along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail or float lazily down the Channel. Penticton is host to the Challenge Triathlon (July 23, in 2017), ULTRA 520K (August 5-7, in 2017), and Granfondo (July 9, in 2017) every summer. If that is not your speed, the city’s large outdoor community market is the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning.

After that, you can take in the view while enjoying a glass of wine on one of the patios at one of the numerous wineries.

Penticton is nestled between two scenic lakes with sandy beaches. Okanagan Lake to the north and Skaha Lake to the south offer a myriad of summertime activities to cool you down while you relax. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Penticton is nestled between two scenic lakes with sandy beaches. Okanagan Lake to the north and Skaha Lake to the south offer a myriad of summertime activities to cool you down while you relax. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The summer beach experience and tree-ripened fruit is still part of the Okanagan’s unique charm. But now the RV also comes back loaded with cases of wine.

Worth Pondering…

This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden

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