The Definitive South Okanagan Autumn Checklist

The Definitive South Okanagan Autumn Checklist
Aug 10, 2021

Fall is special in the South Okanagan. Days are crisp and bright, the lake water glimmers, and western larch trees turn from green to gold. When the rest of the country has gone grey, the South Okanagan glows. 

That’s why we look to this region, extending from Peachland to Osoyoos, when we’re not quite ready to say goodbye to summer. Plus, it’s easy to reach: It's just a four-hour drive from the Lower Mainland, and flights to Penticton are only 50-75 minutes from Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton. 

We put together our ultimate checklist for a fall getaway in the region to inspire your next trip — how many have you already done? We’re betting that at least one or two of these will be a surprise. 

✔️ While away an afternoon at Canada’s first true wine village 

The South Okanagan is home to over 120 wineries. Why not try a bunch in one spot? District Wine Village is a brand-new collection of wineries, breweries and restaurants that opened this summer just off Highway 97 in Oliver.

District Wine Village

You can sample vintages from different vineyards in one gorgeous, mountain-framed locale. We recommend pairing your drinks with the local Okanagan cheeses, charcuterie boards or truffle fries on offer.  

Travelzoo Tip: Check out the events page before you go — the Village often hosts live music, artisan markets or pop-up food trucks. 

✔️ Ride the historic 3716 past orchards dusted with fall colours 

In the 1910s, chief engineer Andrew McCullough designed the Kettle Valley Railway, winding around mountain ranges and threading through tunnels, to transport newly found silver and ore to the B.C. coast. Today only one stretch remains preserved for rail travel, and you can grab a piece of that history for yourself aboard locomotive No. 3716.

The historic steam locomotive passes vineyards and orchards before crossing Okanagan Lake on Trout Creek Bridge

This sleek black steam engine was originally built in 1912. Hear its whistle as it chugs past vineyards and orchards for a scenic 90-minute ride. It departs from the Summerland station on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays in September and October. 

Travelzoo Tip: Recount your ride over wine and pizza on the vine-draped patio at Dirty Laundry Vineyard, just a 12-minute drive away. 

✔️ Gaze up at a 26-metre-wide telescope 

Who knew that the community of Kaleden, with a population of about 1,500, is home to the largest radio astronomy observatory in Canada. The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory on White Lake Road boasts a 26-metre-wide telescope, plus a seven-component radio telescope that looks like something Matt Damon might build on Mars. Visitors can explore the observatory grounds and take photos with the otherworldly equipment. Tours given by volunteers are occasionally available on weekends. 

✔️ Sip your way through what Lonely Planet called ‘Canada’s craft beer capital’ 

Penticton has one brewery for about every 5,000 people. To put that in perspective, that’s three times as many per capita as beer-happy Calgary. Let’s just say Penticton takes craft beer seriously.  

In fact, Lonely Planet called it “one of Canada’s best-kept secrets when it comes to great craft brews,” and the town hosts a special Penticton Beer Week each October. 

Cannery Brewing has been brewing up ales and lagers for 20 years

See where it all began at Tin Whistle Brewery. It opened 25 years ago as the first craft brewery in the South Okanagan. Today you can still sip a few of the originals, like the Killer Bee, made with wildflower-caramelized honey. 

Or, for a breezy fall Saturday, start your day snacking on picked-that-morning apples or fresh-baked sourdough at the Penticton Farmers Market on Main Street, then spend your afternoon sipping the award-winning Thornless Blackberry Porter or Naramata Nut Brown at Cannery Brewing, just a block east.  

Travelzoo Tip: Walk 15 minutes west of the market to snap a photo with the great S.S. Sicamous, a beached stern wheeler that first cruised around the Okanagan in 1914. It’s the largest surviving ship of its kind in B.C. 

✔️ Bike between wineries along the Kettle Valley Rail Trail 

Meandering from Hope to Midway, the Kettle Valley Rail Trail is a 492-kilometre expanse of biking and hiking paths transformed from the train tracks that once lined the area. Biking the entire trail is a weeklong affair for advanced cyclists. For those of us who like our cycling with a side of cabernet franc, we turn to the easy-riding Naramata Bench portion that winds between wineries in the community of Naramata. This 20-kilometre stretch passes through the photogenic Little Tunnel archway and curves around several vineyards, with good signage along the way so you know where to stop and sip. To see the area like a local, we recommend taking a guided tour or e-bike wine safari. 

✔️ Get a sweet treat at Tickleberry’s 

No trip to the South Okanagan is complete without a scoop at Tickleberry’s — it’s an institution. The original Okanagan Falls location of the ice cream parlour has been loading up cones since 1990. Pick from up to 80 different flavours: Go for Birthday Cake or Bubble Gum to bring out the kid in you or opt for Vegan Mango Pineapple or 50 Shades of Earl Grey for a grown-up dessert. Chocoholics can grab some homemade fudge from the in-house Fudge Factory, too. 

✔️ Look a western rattlesnake in the eyes 

Stay with us here — the snake is coiled behind a pane of glass. As a threatened local species, it’s part of the exhibit at Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre (pronounced “in-ka-meep") in Canada’s desert town, Osoyoos.

The Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre teaches visitors about desert ecology and local Indigenous culture

At the centre, you can learn about desert ecology, hear local Indigenous legends, tour a replica Indigenous village and walk among antelope-brush and sage along the centre’s 1.5 kilometres of desert trails. After your visit, head 11 minutes’ west to the Osoyoos Desert Centre for even more to explore. 

Travelzoo Tip: Feeling adventurous? Why not try rappelling down a 65-foot cliff face? 

✔️ Savour a farm-to-table dinner in harvest season 

You can’t go to the South Okanagan in fall and not indulge in a terroir-to-table experience. Many South Okanagan wineries have on-site restaurants serving up tasty gourmet fare, and practically every meal comes with a side of spectacular views. 

A meal at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards' restaurant, Miradoro, near Oliver

One of our favourites is The Bistro at Hillside Winery in Naramata. It offers two different outdoor patios, where diners can dig a fork into hand-rolled gnocchi or Road 17 char while gazing out at a lake crowned by mountains. The menu even labels each dish with its optimal wine pairing to take the guesswork out of your order. 

✔️ Take a selfie with the Canadian flag atop Pincushion Mountain 

Strap on your hiking boots for this one. The 40- to 60-minute ascent to the Pincushion Mountain peak has steep sections and loose gravel to challenge avid hikers. Some locals in Peachland consider summiting it to be a rite of passage. And wow, are the views worth it.  Bring lunch to enjoy at the peak's picnic table. You’ll dine looking out over the blue waters of Okanagan Lake and surrounding rolling hills. Before you start the descent, grab a photo with the mountaintop’s Canadian flag billowing behind you. 

Travelzoo Tip: Drive 12 minutes south to Hardy Falls after your hike. It's a great spot to see the hundreds of Kokanee salmon that come to the creek to spawn in September and early October. 

Feeling Inspired? Visit South Okanagan to start planning your trip, browse our Only in Canada collection or check out our member sourced tips on things to do in British Columbia.

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