We have been to the Okanagan Valley before and last time we stayed in Osoyoos.
This time we opted for a larger town and decided to set our base in Kelowna. Kelowna is an interesting place to stay, as it is close to many wineries (some of the best of the valley are less than 20 minutes away) and also due to its great restaurants. Kelowna is known as home of the Canadian culinary champions of 2011 – 2015.
We stayed at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott due to its good reviews on Tripadvisor, central location and affordable prices. They also offer free internet, free parking and free breakfast (with a good selection of fruits, fruit salad, eggs, pancakes, sausage, etc).
Driving from Vancouver to Kelowna is a breeze. An excellent highway, with perfect asphalt, signs conveniently located and gorgeous views. The 390 km that separates the two cities are covered in approximately four and a half hours.
Tip: I recommend you download the new App from Marriott . Using this App it’s possible to check-in before arriving, and inform your arrival time. I did it when we were getting closer to Kelowna, and it was great as we had a nice room ready for us at 10AM although the oficial check-in time is 4pm. Of course, the hotel will not guarantee a room before the oficial check-in time but if they know you are arriving earlier and they have an empty room, they will make every effort to have that room cleaned and prepared for your arrival.
No one has a lot of patience to read travel journals in a chronological order (neither us!), so I will point out the attractions that, in my opinion, shouldn’t be missed while visiting Kelowna:
Wineries: This time we decided to visit wineries that produce good wines and that we didn’t visit before. The unique exceptions were Quail’s Gate Winery and Summerland. We have been to both before but decided to return after driving in front of their buildings.
Volcanic Hills Estate Winery: Located at 2845 Boucherie Rd, West Kelowna, they have an amazing selection of wines and an excellent restaurant called Blu Saffron. We had lunch there with great views to the vines.
Quail’s Gate Estate Winery: As I said before, we visited it back in 2013 and at that time we had lunch there. This time we visited the shop and went on a tour. Quail’s Gate is located at 3303 Boucherie Rd, West Kelowna.
St Hubertus Estate Winery: With beautiful views to the Okanagan Lake, the store has an interesting selection of reds and whites. Address is 5225 Lakeshore Rd., Kelowna
Near St. Hubertus there’s Cedar Creek Winery, and we didn’t taste or buy anything there. We went there to have lunch, and got disappointed when they told us the restaurant has been closed. Maybe they open just for summer? Our visit was during the first week of October.
Summerhill Pyramid Winery: There’s a great view to the lake and a big store. This is the winery of choice of tour operators, so you may expect a busy tasting room. Make sure to try the Cipes Brut. Summerhill is located at 4870 Chute Lake Rd, Kelowna.
See Ya Later Ranch: What a great surprise! Shame on me, but before this trip I had never heard about this winery! While researching about good “wineries along the Okanagan Valley” I read excellent reviews about See Ya Later and I must confess I loved their Pinot Gris and their Chardonnay. Located in Okanagan Falls, the ranch has beautiful views and a cozy tasting room. Don’t miss this winery. It’s a must. Location: 2575 Green Lake Rd, Okanagan Falls.
Blasted Church Vineyards: Another winery with great wines. The names they choose to their wines are funny, like “Holy Moly”, “Swear to God”, “Bible Thumper” to name a few. The address is 378 Parsons Road, Okanagan Falls.
Poplar Grove Winery: Beautiful views, contemporary architecture and a very good restaurant, called The Vanilla Pod. Address is 425 Middle Bench Road, North Penticton.
Dirty Laundry Vineyard: Another great winery with a cozy taste room and great selection of wines. Very friendly service will tell you the winery was named after a laundry years ago which had a brothel at the back. Address is 7311 Fiske St, Summerland.
Sumac Ridge Estate Winery and Black Sage Vineyard: At this place you will have the best wine tour ever! We have attended wine tours “everywhere” (Napa, France, Germany, Portugal, and also in Canada). None of our previous pairing tours was better than this one.
For only $10.00 we had an excellent and informative one hour tour of the winery, with 6 tastings including their exceptional sparkling wine. The best part of the experience was that the Chef paired food with each of the wines.
Book a tour at this winery and you will love every minute of the experience!
We had a very knowledgeable guide who took us to the underground (the sparkling wine cave), where we tasted their excellent sparkling, made in the “traditional way”, with the bottles being rotated everyday. From there we went outside, where we sampled more wines (always paired with food). The tour ends in their tasting room, where we experienced more delightful pairings. The last wine was their equivalent to the Port Wine, that was also really, really good.
I highly recommend this winery not only if you are interested in a real wine tour experience but also for the quality of their wines, friendly service and reasonable prices. Sumac Ridge is also the oldest winery in the Okanagan and one of my dear favorites. Location: 17403 Highway 97N Summerland
In our opinion, Kelowna is a top destination for those who appreciate good food, friendly service and ambiance.
Here is our top favorites, in no particular order:
Blu Saffron Bistro: Located at Volcanic Hills winery, this restaurant is a little gem on the west side of Kelowna. There’s a pleasant patio with great views of the wineries and also a cozy place indoors. We were lucky with a beautiful sunny day, so we preferred to have lunch outside.
Mabui Sushi: This is a small authentic sushi house. One of the best Japanese restaurants ever! Everything in this place is delicious. Prices are super affordable and the service is super friendly. We loved every second and every bite here! I guess they don’t have a website, so go there and you will not be disappointed! Address: 8-2070 Harvey Ave. Kelowna
Aomi Sushi Japanese Restaurant: We discovered this small restaurant because we were driving close by after exploring the Kettle Valley Railway by bike. It was already 3pm, we tried to have a lunch at a winery but their restaurant was already closed for the season. After searching Yelp I discovered this small place located on a small shopping mall. There were only the two of us at that time but we could see they were already busy preparing dishes to be picked up by customers. Really delicious, affordable prices and attentive service. We loved it! Location is 4600 Lakeshore Drive, Kelowna.
Joey’s: Wow! What a great place! This restaurant is located across the road, very close to the Fairfield Inn. Anyway, we went by car as it was a little bit chilly (by night). This is an excellent place to go. Decor is modern, service is great, food is awesome (large portion!) and affordable. It’s definitely a “must go” restaurant when you are visiting Kelowna! Address: 300-2475 Highway 97, Kelowna, BC
Vanilla Pod Restaurant: Located at the Poplar Winery, this restaurant offers excellent food, beautiful decor, stunning views of Lake Okanagan and the City of Penticton, friendly service and…. last but not least… wonderful wines! What else is missing to a perfect gourmet experience? 😀
Mabui Sushi Izakaya: We have the habit of repeating our favorite restaurant. So… guess which one was chosen? Yeah! We returned on our last night and I must say that, again, everything was absolutely delicious! You can read more about it on the top of this list.
Dragon Lotus Chinese Restaurant, Peachland, B.C.: On our way driving back from Kelowna to Vancouver we went to a Chinese Restaurant which was recommended by one of the staff members at Sumac Ridge Winery. Oh mine! The food was superb! It’s lakefront restaurant, in the small town of Peachland and the food is great, great, great! Don’t miss this small place with excellent food and an amazing service.
Activities in Kelowna, places to visit, where to bike, etc
Kelowna is pretty and besides the wineries, restaurants and shopping there are many parks with unbeatable scenery.
Located downtown Kelowna, Sunset Waterfront Park is a an excellent place to spot birds while walking on a beautiful boardwalk. The views are amazing!
This is the bridge connecting West Kelowna to Kelowna. We crossed it many times while exploring the region.
For an unforgettable adventure: drive to Myra Canyon, park your car and walk or bike along the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR).
Myra Canyon is located approximately 20 km southwest of downtown Kelowna. The best access to the Canyon is set your GPS or GoogleMaps to McCulloch Road and from there follow the signs. After the asphalted road you will drive along a dirty road that is not so bad.
We took our own bikes with us but it’s possible to rent bikes as well.
This section of the Kettle Valley Railway was built between 1912 and 1914. It features 18 trestle bridges and 2 tunnels. The total length is 12 Km and it’s almost flat, so it’s an easy ride, even if you are traveling with kids.
The views are to die for! It’s also incredible to imagine this railway being constructed, as everything was done by hand. This is an absolutely attraction and no one should miss the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) when visiting Kelowna.
Try to go in a beautiful day, in order to really appreciate nature’s majesty and men’s creativity!
We had a fantastic time in the Okanagan Valley and we can’t wait to return! 😀
You can see more pictures from our trip visiting my Flickr Gallery