Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Every couple years or so in the summer or early fall, I like to visit the Okanagan Valley city of Kelowna to primarily taste the grapes and dine at the local wineries. Some of my favourite memories surround the wineries and the atmosphere that it provides.In the earlier years that I traveled to Kelowna, I mostly just enjoyed the wine and only gained a peripheral knowledge of the region, spending at most a day in the region. This year,however, during the COVID -19 pandemic, I want to be better able to understand my own background - the diverse history and culture of the Okanagan. The Okanagan region and Kelowna have many hidden stories about the people and history that have made it the bustling city it is today, from the birth of the Canadian Pacific Railway to the development of distinctive lakeside hotels and wineries.
Kelowna is the Okanagan First Nation word for grizzly bear and it became a city in 1905. Originally the location was founded by the Syilx peoples, a self-reliant, hunter-gatherer people. Slowly, European and other settlers arrived and gave Kelowna it’s distinctive international flair infused with a calm down-to -earth friendlessness. Today it is known as the birthplace of BC wine, although it had a short period of bloom with the tobacco business, however that period ended as competing cities and counties on the east coast came into existence.
Must See Attractions
The wineries of Kelowna are a must-see attraction, ranging from a mix of old world and new world styles harnessing flavours of rustic and enchanting beauty. Winemakers and entrepreneurs from diverse regions come to Kelowna with a dream of making this land theirs — and cultivating a wine that reigns true to their passions and tastes.
Dirty Laundry Winery
Dirty Laundry Winery is located in Summerland and fairly close to Kelowna.I have been fascinated by the history of Dirty Laundry winery since I wandered into the winery with lingerie clipped on to a laundry string. Started in the late 1800s by a Chinese worker named Sam Suey working on constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway, the name Dirty Laundry came into recognition as Sam operated a laundry downstairs, but an entertainment venue upstairs to entertain visitors. Today the story lives on, integrated in the design of a pizza restaurant, tasting room, and colourful interior highlighting it’s history and it’s distinctive flair. Classic wines are featured with a modern take on design in this vibrant winery that stays true to it’s roots.
3. Mission Hill Winery
One of the most popular wineries in Kelowna, Mission Hill winery not only hosts a winery, but also an amphitheater and a locavore restaurant in a picturesque mountainside setting. Founded in 1981 when the wine landscape in Kelowna was still relatively young, founder Anthony von Mandl helped to pioneer the making of fine wines in once was an inhospitable environment for wine- making, and incorporated his european style into the design and wine-making. A mixture of old world and new world techniques are featured with this winery through honouring the classic traditions of the past but incorporating new technology to support those traditions. Stroll through the vineyard to the wine-tasting room and you might even catch a deer trying to find some food in the vineyards, like I did.
SummerHill Winery is a popular winery that has been in the works since 1986, and has been renowned as one of Kelowna’s earliest wineries.Priding themselves on organic wine, it is a must visit for first-timers to Kelowna. The owners harbour the importance of biodiversity in terms of cultivating the grapes in their winemaking tactics.
4.Myra Canyon Hike
The history of Myra Canyon goes back to the beginning of the steamship era where trains had not existed.In the 1900s, the construction of trains began to connect throughout Canada, and construction on the Canadian Pacific Railway began. In 1916, the Myra Canyon portion of the railway was constructed with 2 tunnels and 18 trestle bridges, connecting interior BC to the west coast cities of Vancouver and New Westminister. Summer is a great time to explore the Canyon by bike or by foot, as late fall can be quite chilly with snow accumulating.
Kelowna is a relaxed lake cite city by nature, with many people interested in the outdoors and a love for wine. Known for being a popular summer getaway for boating, swimming and fishing,Kelowna is becoming all-season city with the abundance of activities in the winter including skiing and snowboarding. Recently, modern and cosmopolitan restaurants have popped up surrounding the downtown area with an international cuisine.
Insider Tips and Recommendations
Crawford Falls is a moderate short 2km that leads to a waterfall in a residential neighbourhood region of Kelowna. Parking is available on the street side leading up the trail. The descent down to the trail is quite steep; make sure to have proper hiking shoes available, but the view is spectacular on a sunny day and a great short workout.
2. Apex, Paul’s Tomb Trail- The trail is an easy loop 6km with wonderful views of Okanagon Lake and large private lakeside residences. It is mostly flat but does have some steep descents and accelerations. Stools and rest areas lie face the lake so there are plenty of opportunities for photo- ops and Instagram opportunities.
3. 50th Parallel Estate Winery
This winery is a relatively modern winery with a sophisticated feel. Small souvenirs are also available for purchase within the wine tasting room, including olive oils and wine-tasting books.
Where to Stay:
A hidden gem located near Lakeshore Road in Kelowna, Eldorado Resort has been in operation since 1926 as a luxury getaway, founded by the late Countess Bubna, an aristocratic English women, and since then has been a gathering place for locals and international audiences alike. Stroll down the marina like I did, and make sure to book one of the many pools available to soak in the hot tub and swimming room. The resort boasts a variety of housing styles, from the conventional hotel rooms to lower townhouse style houses surrounding the marina, and is great place to come during summer or early fall for a couple of days to relax and take in the break taking scenery.
Chelsea: Stars 4/5
I first came to Kelowna almost 2 decades and today I can see that it has developed into a bustling city that offers world-class facilities in not wineries but also golf recreation, boating,swimming and various activities throughout the seasons. New real estate properties have developed alongside Lakeshore Road and the surrounding neighbourhoods, allowing for a variety of rental options during the various seasons. Whether you like to hike,ski, or simply enjoy fine wine and enjoy the sights of Interior BC, Kelowna is the perfect place to find peace with your inner self during the turbulent times and the calm times.