Intro To The Okanagan

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[li]Wineries: 120+[/li]
[li]Vineyards: 200+[/li]
[li]Established: 1989[/li]
[li]Voted #2 Best Wine Region by USA Today[/li]

Where is the Okanagan Wine Region?

Located along the serpentine Okanagan Lake extending down to the Washington State / British Columbia boarder sits the Okanagan Wine Region.  In order to simplify this complex wine region there are 3 approximate areas of the Okanagan to explore: North, Central and South. Within each of these there are unofficial sub appellations that allow for different varieties to be grown but we’ll get into that further down.

  1. Northern Okanagan includes Vernon, Lake Country and Oyama. In the North, due to slightly cooler temperatures, more white wines are grown with wineries offering their version of Pinot Noir (unless they own vineyards further down the valley). When booking a wine tour you’ll find the North referred to as Lake Country or the North Bench. A typical tour will depart from Kelowna or Sparkling Hill Resort.
  2. Central Okanagan includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland and Penticton. Within the Central Okanagan there are many more benches to explore such as: East Side Bench, Westside Bench, Summerland Bench and, for longer day trips from Kelowna, the Naramata Bench (located in Penticton). Depending on your tour operator Penticton might be considered a Southern excursion which isn’t necessarily untrue and a reason I have it included in both Central and South bubbles (see image above).
  3. South Okanagan includes Penticton/Naramata Wine Bench, OK Falls, Oliver and Osoyoos. Osoyoos is the Southern most city and boarders the Washington State/BC border. The more South you venture the more bold reds you’ll find. The Southern Okanagan boarders Canada’s only desert. Once you’re in Osoyoos you’ll notice the severe change in landscape.

Where Should I Start?

The answer to this question largely depends on the amount of time you want to devote to exploring the Okanagan. Do you prefer an urban setting or do you want to stay in smaller towns or perhaps even camp? 

Kelowna is the popular choice for families, couples and groups of friends. It offers all the comforts of a city with big city prices at the hotels. During tourist season, hotels, hostels and AirBnBs are often fully booked so plan ahead. There are wineries and breweries within walking distance of the downtown core and plenty of restaurants. 
From Kelowna you can easily day trip to the North Bench, Westside and visit all the wineries within Kelowna either on your own at your own pace or with a tour company. Tours typically depart from The Delta Grand Hotel or The Eldorado Hotel.

West Kelowna, Peachland and Summerland are more affordable places to stay but be sure to book in advance as well. There no shortage of wineries, fruit stands and beaches to explore, although shopping can be more difficult to come by.

Penticton and the Naramata Bench area is one of my favourite places to stay. You can stay at a winery, resort, historic inn or a classic hotel/motel but again be sure to book in advance. Naramata is popular with cyclists and hikers with the Kettle Valley Railway and bike paths lining vineyards.

Oliver and Osoyoos have limited accommodations. Most of the hotels and resorts are in Osoyoos along with many campsites location on either Skaha Lake or Lake Osoyoos.

Want to read more about the Okanagan? See these posts below…

Eat, Sip, Swim, Repeat: A Brief Guide To The Okanagan

A DIY Walking Food Tour of Downtown Kelowna

4 Hipster Wineries to Visit in The Okanagan

24 Hours on the Naramata Wine Bench