Trip Ideas

South Okanagan / Similkameen Wine Region

The South Okanagan, home to Canada’s only desert, produces some of BC’s tastiest wine. Enjoy rich merlots and cabernets, beachside wine bars, European guesthouses and a unique desert landscape in this sun-drenched region. Pamper your palate by exploring the neighbouring Similkameen Valley, a hidden gem of country roads, fruit stands and farm gate wineries.


49.183835,-119.55092|49.345285,-119.570911|49.032607,-119.468297|49.25705,-119.828339

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10 49.183835,-119.55092|49.345285,-119.570911|49.032607,-119.468297|49.25705,-119.828339
MAP LEGEND
  1. Oliver
  2. Okanagan Falls
  3. Osoyoos
  4. Similkameen Valley

Okanagan Falls Wineries

Vaseux Lake. Photo Credit: Gunter Marx

OK Falls, as locals call it, is surrounded by lakes, hiking and biking trails, and, of course, wineries. Learn how Blasted Church Vineyards got its unusual name, sample the award-winning aromatic whites at Wild Goose Winery and raise a glass to the memory of the eccentric Major Hugh Fraser and his beloved dogs at See Ya Later Ranch, one of the highest altitude wineries in British Columbia.

Be sure to stop at Tickleberry’s – and stack as many flavours of ice cream you want all on a single cone. Don’t forget to bring binoculars for birdwatching at Vaseux Lake Provincial Park.

Oliver Wineries

Oliver, dubbed the Wine Capital of Canada, has the highest concentration of grape production in British Columbia. Some of the province’s biggest wineries – including Jackson Triggs and Inniskillin – are here.

Several top wineries cluster in an area known as the Golden Mile on the west side of the valley. Try the luscious blends at Road 13 Vineyards and enjoy the chocolaty Merlot and summertime concerts at Tinhorn Creek, the area’s first carbon-neutral winery. Visit Hester Creek for its rare, delicate Trebbiano, and stay at its Tuscan-style villa. Refuel at the casual Firehall Bistro in Oliver; it serves burgers, poutine and other hearty fare.

Got a bike? Discover a new route in wine country along the 18-km/11-mi Bike & Hike Trail. This gentle, car-free path follows the Okanagan River from just north of Oliver to Osoyoos Lake, passing several Golden Mile wineries en route.

On the Black Sage bench, on the eastern side of the valley, stop in at Le Vieux Pin for the elegant Syrah and Black Hills for rich Bordeaux-style blends, including cult favourite Nota Bene. Try the elegant Chardonnay at Burrowing Owl, then stick around for a lunch of crisp duck confit at the winery’s Sonora Room restaurant.

Osoyoos Wineries

The Osoyoos area is known for its summer beach culture and its growing number of wineries. Some notables include First-Nations-owned Nk’Mip Cellars (the Qwam Qwmt series is exceptional), the Italian-inspired LaStella, and Moon Curser Vineyards, which is breaking new ground with varietals like Tempranillo.

For the ultimate in wine country comfort food, visit the restaurant at Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa. Spirit Ridge is part of the bigger Nk’Mip Resort, which also includes luxurious accommodations, the Sonora Dunes Golf Course and Nk’Mip Cellars winery.

If you are looking for a resort that’s family friendly, check out The Watermark Beach Resort. This oasis is on Osoyoos Lake, and is situated amongst some of the Okanagan’s best wineries. It also features a terrific wine bar specializing in local vintages.

Osoyoos Desert

Nk'Mip Desert & Heritage Centre. Photo Credit: Tom Ryan

The area around Osoyoos, Canada’s only desert, is home to hundreds of rare and endangered plants and animals. Two very different interpretive centres offer insight into this fascinating landscape. At the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre located at the Nk’Mip Resort, hear the desert’s story, where hands-on and multi-media displays explore the culture of the local Okanagan people. Or stroll along the boardwalk and learn about the delicate desert ecosystem at the Osoyoos Desert Centre, just north of town.

Similkameen Valley Wineries

The Similkameen Valley, just west of the south Okanagan, is best known for its orchards (the town of Keremeos is known as “the fruit stand capital of Canada”) but is also now producing some interesting and complex wines.

Two to check out: Seven Stones Winery has earned raves for its peppery Syrah and rich Meritage, and Orofino, Canada’s only winery with eco-friendly strawbale construction, makes a stunning Old Vines Pinot Noir.

Where to stay? Expect cosy little B&Bs and guesthouses like the luxurious Argos Guesthouse in Kaleden. Check out the simple, German-style “Landgasthof” (country inn) at Crowsnest Vineyards, where the restaurant and bakery also feature such German specialties as schnitzel meat platters with sauerkraut and fresh baked bread.

In Keremeos, spend a day uncovering the history of the Similkameen Valley through a flour mill. The town’s historic Grist Mill and Gardens dates to 1877 and still produces flour; stop in for a tour and a Miller’s Lunch of cheese, salad, ham and bread.

South Okanagan Transportation

From either Vancouver or Calgary, it’s a hour-long flight to Kelowna plus a  two-hour drive down Highway 97 to Osoyoos, or about 90 minutes to Oliver. From Penticton Regional Airport it’s 45 minutes to Oliver and another 20 minutes to Osoyoos.

Prefer to drive the whole way? The trip to Osoyoos is about 5.5 hours from Vancouver, travelling along the Crowsnest Highway through Manning Provincial Park. It takes 5 hours to drive from Seattle or 10 from Calgary. From Osoyoos, it’s only a 20-minute drive north along Highway 97 to Oliver, or 45 minutes west on Highway 3 to reach Keremeos.