Lakes, desert, orchards and vineyards? Visit Osoyoos
Osoyoos is a small town located in the South Okanagan Valley. It is blessed with more than 240 days of sunshine by year with mild temperatures all year long.
We drove from Vancouver along the scenic Hwy 3 crossing mountains and orchards along the way.
What to see:
The lake: The Osoyoos lake shares its waters between British Columbia and Washington State. The water is amazingly warm making sunset swimming a delight after a day sightseeing the beautiful Okanagan Valley.
The orchards: They are everywhere you look. At the time we were there (third week of August) apples and peaches were almost ready to be picked up. The grapes were also almost ready but we learned that the ideal time to pick them will by the end of September. If you plan to stay in Osoyoos I recommend you drive (or bike) along Hwy 87: it goes closer to the lake, running parallel to Hwy 97. There’s less traffic and you will have many photo opportunities without the risk of being bumped by a car or a truck.
The desert: Osoyoos has a “real desert” and you will learn a lot about preservation and wild animals visiting the well appointed Osoyoos Desert Centre (14580 146th Avenue, Osoyoos ). We found our visit very interesting and learned a lot during the guided tour. There’s a boardwalk constructed over the vegetation making it possible to see native plants without damaging them. It also represents a protection for the visitors, as the chance of a “close encounter” with a rattlesnake is harder this way. Entrance includes self or guided tour ($ 7 each).
Children learning during the guided tour, Osoyoos Desert Centre
Learning about rattlesnakes, Osoyoos Desert Centre
In addition to the Okanagan Desert Centre I recommend you visit the Nk’ Mip Band. There you will find also a trail along the desert, this time without a wooded platform. You can go on a self-guided tour or you may have a First Nation member as your guide. We went on the guided tour and had a lot of fun while learning about the NK’ Mip band, their land, the wild life at the desert and the band traditions. While at Nk’ Mip don’t miss the snake show and the short movie about a teenage girl. Nk’ Mip is a program that can take the whole day as there’s a lot to see there. We visited the desert trail in the morning and had lunch at their restaurant (delicious). After lunch we visited the vineyards and the winery.
The vineyards: It’s amazing to see vineyards and desert all together. Irrigation operates miracles! Grapes are healthy and give excellent wines. You can walk along the vineyards in most of the wineries.
The wineries: There are dozens of wineries to choose from. It’s easy to go by yourself and in my opinion you don’t need a “hop on – hop off” excursion. You can get a map at the Osoyoos Visitor Centre 9912 Hwy 3 (Junction Hwy 3 & 97). All wineries are located along the main roads and there’s plenty of signs. No way you will get lost. If you have the Visa Infinite Card show it as soon as you get to a winery: you will have free tasting and many times free tours as well! Even the “top top” wineries are on this program. Make sure to carry your Visa Infinite or visit Visa Infinite website before traveling in order to learn all benefits you can apply.
Day trip: We stayed in Osoyoos during three nights and went to Kelowna on a day trip. The road is very scenic and the travel is already part of the show. While in Kelowna we had lunch at Quail’s Gate State Winery (so so…) and visited Mission Hill Winery on an exclusive free tour (thanks to Visa Infinite). After the free tour we also received a 10$ coupon to be spent at their beautiful wine shop.
What to do:
Biking: If it’s possible to carry your bikes with you, do so. Most of the terrain in Osoyoos is flat and you will enjoy the fresh breeze from the lake while you bike along well marked trails.
In Osoyoos we visited:
- Borrowing Owl Winery – Beautiful and big with excellent wines. There’s a self guided tour that only shows the landscape. You will not see the wine making process there.
- Church and State Winery – Modern and beautiful architecture with very friendly service.
- NK’ Mip Cellars Winery – Very good tour along the vineyard and the winery. The cellars and the wine bottling is not done there. You will only see the fermentation tanks.
- Sage Winery – The owner is a sweetheart and the winery is beautiful with a beautiful rose garden. We found their wines too sweet for our personal taste.
- Jackson Triggs Winery– They don’t offer tours but they offer a good wine selection at their winery store
- We missed Black Hill as it was already after 6pm when we got there. Next time!
In Kelowna we visited:
- Quail’s Gate Estate Winery – Beautiful landscape with lake views
- Mission Hill Family Estate Winery – Contemporary Architecture with a very good tour along the cellars.
Where to eat… sometimes it’s “where not to eat”:
- Sage Pub (6403 Cottonwood Dr, Osoyoos) – Excellent. Friendly service, very good food and drinks.
- Ella Restaurant (6511 Cottonwood Dr Osoyoos) – Not a good choice. They have Greek specialties and is a family run place. Although the food was fresh we did not like it there: Food comes to the table in less than two minutes from being ordered, giving the impression it was already done. We also found it pricey for what is offered (no towels on the tables, only paper napkinks wrapping cutlery, etc)
- Campo Marina (5907 Main St Osoyoos) – We loved it! Excellent food and super friendly service. Very crowded place but it’s big. Even if there’s a line you should wait because it goes fast and the place deserves the waiting.
- Burrowing Owl Winery Restaurant (100 Burrowing Owl Pl, Oliver, BC) – Excellent food, great wines. Beautiful place, gorgeous views to the vineyards if you choose a table at the veranda. Very good service.
- Quail’s Gate Winery Restaurant (3303 Boucherie Rd, West Kelowna) – Beautiful restaurant with great views of the vineyards and the Okanagan lake. Service was friendly but the food was disappointing. Trout was the first item on te menu and they said the “we are out of trout as it was not delivered”. The only other fish was tuna and we don’t like tuna. So…. I had to eat chicken and pasta and my husband ate duck in a place overlooking a trout lake. 😦
- Nk’ Mip (400 Rancher Creek Rd, Osoyoos) – Excellent food. Creative, beautiful presentation and tasteful. Excellent views of the vineyards, Osoyoos lake and nearby mountains.
Where to stay
From B&B to 4 stars hotels there are plenty of accommodation and I guess it’s hard to miss a good place there. Osoyoos is amazing and everywhere you stay you will have a great time!
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