Located beyond British Columbia’s lower mainland is a peaceful escape from big city life — the Thompson Okanagan region. Known for its range of wineries and fruit orchards, the Thompson Okanagan is also home to breathtaking, diverse landscapes that include mountains, valleys, and even a desert. With its mild and relatively dry climate, the region is a hub for exciting seasonal activities, especially in the spring, when tourists can take advantage of smaller crowds and more comfortable temperatures. 

Whether it be Kamloops, Kelowna, Oliver, Penticton, or somewhere in-between, the Thompson Okanagan has a warm-weather experience with your name on it. However, with so many attractions to choose from, planning an itinerary can get overwhelming. To make things a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the top spring experiences in the Thompson Okanagan region.

Visit Unique Wineries

Thompson Okanagan wine production dates way back to the 1850s. Today, there are more than 200 wineries and vineyards in the region. With roughly 8,619 acres (3,488 hectares) of planted vineyards, the region accounts for more than 80% of all wine produced in British Columbia. Its over 60 grape varieties ensure that options seem endless. Whether you are a wine connoisseur or someone taste-testing for the first time, visitors can enjoy favorites like Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon, to name a few. There is something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. 

Itinerary Tip:

To experience some of the best wineries in the Thompson Okanagan, consider a drive through the Naramata Bench, the so-called birthplace of winemaking in British Columbia.” Bordering Penticton, and located in the South Okanagan Valley, along the eastern side of Okanagan Lake, there are over 40 wineries within a 20-minute drive of here! Cruise a winding stretch of road for 14-kilometers, complemented by lake and mountain views, to experience a variety of vineyards along the way. Notable vineyards include Daydreamer Wines, focused on small-batch, sustainable, organic offerings, and Foxtrot Vineyards, a boutique winery serving up some of the best terroir-driven Pinot Noir and premium Chardonnay.

Iconic Okanagan orchard

Pick Fresh Fruit and Gaze at The Vibrant Colors of a Local Orchard

One of the most relaxing warm-weather activities is visiting one of many Thompson Okanagan orchards. The fruit-picking season usually begins in late spring, running up until October. Spring-time visitors can often pick strawberries and cherries, as these are the first items to be ready. Apricots, peaches, and more follow in the early summer months. The fruit-picking season closes with a couple of fan-favorites — apples and pumpkins in September and October. Besides the delicious fruit, the vibrant colors and scenic backdrops of the orchards make for the perfect photo op, so be sure to keep your smartphone camera on standby. 

Itinerary Tip:

Pick fruit or go for a leisurely walk as you enjoy the sights and smells of the orchard — the choice is yours. There are many orchards throughout the Okanagan, although some of the best are in Kelowna. Paynter’s Fruit Market has been directly serving the West Kelowna community since 1951 — although they were farming well before that. Today, visitors and locals can decide between purchasing fresh fruits from their market or participating in a you-pick experience. The you-pick experience takes part directly behind the market, and guests can pick items like apricots, peaches, golden plums, pears, and apples, depending on the time of year. Paynter’s Fruit Market is also one of the best locations to take orchard photos, thanks to the variety of fruit trees and viewpoints. Capturing the blossoming trees in spring is a sight to behold.

Savor the Tastes of a Farm-to-Table Dining Experience

Foodies rejoice! The Thompson Okanagan region is home to authentic, locally sourced fare that will have you coming back for more. With many farms nearby restaurants, chefs can pick certain ingredients at the perfect time — no international transport or long-term preservation required. 

Itinerary Tip:

Visitors who want an all-encompassing experience can opt to partake in a self-guided farm tour that ends with a meal at an on-site or nearby restaurant. Can’t wait? No problem, there are many locally inspired restaurants, especially in the city of Kelowna, ready to serve you for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Terrace Restaurant, located in West Kelowna, is a must-try for those looking for a farm-to-table experience in the Okanagan. Their menu, ingredients, and practices promote the region, its seasons, and sustainability. The quality of the dishes at this establishment is never in doubt, reinforced by their recent recognition by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of the top five winery restaurants in the world.” It doesn’t stop there. Patrons will enjoy this experience while overlooking the on-site vineyard, which is just as beautiful by day as it is at night.

Traverse the Rail Trails

Part of the Great Trail, the Rail Trails of British Columbia stretch 401-kilometers between the Town of Brookmere and the Village of Midway. The trail is built on an old locomotive route that was used for the transportation of silver ore from mountain to coast. Today, and depending on the conditions and difficulty of the particular stretch of trail, visitors can partake in activities like walking, biking, or horseback riding in the warmer months. 

Itinerary Tip:

If you’re looking for an easy, family-friendly section of the trail, consider the stretch between Penticton and the Okanagan Falls. This roughly 30-kilometer section hugs the shores of Skaha Lake for the entire duration. So, if you get hot, feel free to take a dip along the way. While you traverse the relatively flat landscape, take note of sage bush and cacti as well. Once you arrive at the Okanagan Falls, consider biking across the KVR Trestle Bridge for some incredibly scenic views.

Enjoy Activities on the Water at Okanagan Lake

When you’re looking to beat the heat, spending a day on the water is one of the best things to do in the Thompson Okanagan. Covering 135-kilometers from Vernon in the North to Penticton in the South, Okanagan Lake is a gorgeous stretch of water that provides the best in activity and relaxation thanks to the 30 beaches that dot its perimeter. 

Itinerary Tip:

No matter where you decide to access the lake, you’ll find refreshing waters and scenic views. Ready for some activity? Okanagan Lake is the perfect playground for any water activity you could imagine, including stand-up paddleboarding, sailboating, and canoeing, to name a few. Many areas even offer equipment rentals, so there’s no need to purchase your own.

Experience Breathtaking Views on a Hike

Whether you’re looking for a simple stroll or a multi-day advanced journey, hiking in the Thompson Okanagan can provide an experience for just about anyone. With plenty of open terrain and almost no bushwhacking required, it’s no surprise that the region is a hub for those looking to hike during any one of the four seasons.

Itinerary Tip:

If you’re looking to capture some breathtaking, panoramic views, then be sure to add the Sicamous Lookout to your Thompson Okanagan trip itinerary. The 1‑kilometer hike produces some of the best views in the North Okanagan. Once you arrive at the lookout, make your way to the wooden platform. Previously used as a take-off point for hang gliders, the platform is now used by onlookers to admire Mara and Shuswap lakes and the town of Sicamous below. 

Note: Visitors should access the Sicamous Lookout platform at their own risk.

Fancy a more challenging, multi-day experience? Head on over to Mount Robson. It is the highest in the Canadian Rockies, with a peak of 12,989 feet (3,959m). The challenge and exhilaration will reward hikers with gorgeous unobstructed views and memories to last a lifetime.

Always follow Canada and local health authority COVID-19 guidelines for travelling or visiting attractions. Learn more about current restrictions and travelling within Canada.

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