Making Sun-Soaked Memories in Canada’s Hottest Summer Town
Summer’s here and after months of being cooped up at home, the longing to get away has never been stronger. If there ever was a place to find vacation salvation in these times, it’s Osoyoos.
Beaches and lakes, outdoor adventure, cultural experiences, family fun, culinary delights and some of the country’s best wineries — this South Okanagan town has it all, and it’s all basked in perfect weather.
Part sunny bliss, part comforting nostalgia, Osoyoos is one of the original holiday spots in British Columbia, reminiscent of carefree days and whimsical evenings that never seemed to end. For many, those Okanagan memories could easily be plucked from a postcard celebrating the classic vacation of summers past.
It’s telling then that Osoyoos’s motto is “Canada’s warmest welcome” — it’s got a fun-in-the-sun energy and friendly feel that’s easy to love. And now, it’s ready to welcome you back.
Canada’s warmest welcome back
If you’ve always pegged Osoyoos for a summer hot spot, well, you’re not wrong. The sun-drenched area is home to Canada's desert, and it’s regularly the warmest place in the country, with seasonal temperatures well into the 30s.
For those ready to experience that warm embrace, you’ll be welcomed back to Osoyoos with open arms (figuratively, of course), but just know that your visit will look a bit different.
The town has largely reopened, and in a safe and smart way. Local businesses are adhering to the latest B.C. health and safety protocols and the community is doing everything possible to ensure the safety and well-being of visitors this summer.
Many restaurants are providing spacious outdoor patio seating to allow appropriate distance among guests, and most wineries also offer private rooms for more intimate tastings. Tastings are mostly by appointment to allow for frequent sanitization of high-touch surfaces.
The journey to get to Osoyoos is as spectacular as the town itself. Doable within four hours from Vancouver or six to eight from points in Alberta, the backdrop of mountains and glorious lakes whizzing by is a feast for the eyes.
Swim, swing, sip — repeat
While wine is a big draw to the region, the water no doubt keeps visitors coming back. Osoyoos Lake has the warmest freshwater in Canada, making the sandy beaches an ideal place to cool off.
Dip into the glassy water for a relaxing swim or explore the shoreline with kayaks or paddleboards. You can also rent boats, skis and wakeboards. Or, simply stretch out on a blanket and let the sweet Okanagan sun melt away any cares.
Beyond the beach, it’s an ensemble cast of charms that make Osoyoos such an enchanting destination.
More than 40 local wineries are tucked away in the corridor between Osoyoos and neighbouring Oliver, benefiting from the arid climate to produce bolder, sun-loving reds like syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
The first Indigenous-owned winery in North America, Nk’Mip Cellars sets the bar high with its premiere Qwam Qwmt vintages. Moon Curser Vineyards was named best-performing small winery in the country last year by the National Wine Awards of Canada, for its focus on lesser-known varieties, like a crisp and citrusy Arneis.
Get back into the swing of things by teeing off at one of the area’s championship golf courses, including Osoyoos Golf Club. The desert-style club is home to two 18-hole courses with vistas of rolling hills, orchards and the lake from its perch high above town.
Take the family for a stroll along the 1.5-kilometre elevated wooden boardwalk trail at the Osoyoos Desert Centre to learn about local ecology and wildlife in one of the country’s most endangered ecosystems, where sagebrush and prickly pear cactus grow in an arid landscape shared by deer, coyotes and eagles.
Choose your own adventure
With so much to see and do in the region, Osoyoos makes an ideal base from which to shoot off on day trips.
Get off the beaten path in the Similkameen Valley, where ranches and rugged landscapes surround B.C.’s second-largest wine region. Keremeos, known as the “Fruit Stand Capital of Canada,” is a must for summer peaches and other fresh fruit. For the real-deal experience with the family, fill buckets at a U-Pick and nibble from the source.
Head north on Highway 97 — following the picturesque valley corridor — to discover several outdoor farmer’s markets. Take in the airy atmosphere and fill your bag with the bounty of the Okanagan, including fresh-picked produce, artisanal baked goods and handcrafted creations.
Travelling east, prepare your eyes for the ultimate panorama from the lookout atop Anarchist Mountain. On a clear day you can see far and wide into the Okanagan Valley — the whole of Osoyoos, its shimmering lake, tidy rows of grapes in lush vineyards and the scrubby sagebrush dotting the desert hillsides.
It’s a nice visual memory to take with you, until you’re back again.