Your first visit to the Okanagan Valley will definitely surprise you! Touted as Canada’s only desert, the Okanagan valley has rocky hillsides, sagebrush and pine trees. And running right down the middle of the valley are several very big lakes. The area enjoys all four seasons with hot summers and snowy winters. About 250 miles east of Vancouver and just north of the Washington border, the whole area is called Canada’s playground.
We recently visited with friends who were visiting their resort condo for an owners meeting and the parking lot was filled with cars from all over Canada. They come for the skiing, the hiking, biking, warm weather, very fresh fruit and the wine. They also come for the warm-water lakes with dozens of beaches, world class golf courses, restaurants, shopping and views.
Those who retire in the South Okanagan Valley, Canada will find several charming towns up and down the lakes, ending with our new favorite, Osoyoos (ah-s00-yous) just a mile from the Canadian-US Border. Osoyoos has a strong native culture with several cultural centers and sites. One of their most sacred places is the spotted lake, just west of town with perfectly round sink holes (?) surrounded by sand – only visible when the water table is low. The lake is visible from Hwy. 3 and is for viewing only. Visit the NK’MIP resort Desert Cultural Center to learn more.
The valley is famous for its fruits (cherries, peaches, apples) and millions (seems like) acres of wine grapes. In 2014, there are 235 wineries. On one of our many trips to BC in the summer, we stopped at a fruit stand and the lady asked if I wanted peaches and cherries from the cooler. It was very hot and that was the best bag of fruit I’ve ever had!
The Penticton River Channel is a very popular spot in the summer. Grab (or rent) the innertubes, slather on the sunscreen and hop in the warm water for a leisurely float down the slow moving channel. There are steps at a number of spots so you can exit where you want and hop the shuttle back to the start. Bring an extra tube for the cooler!
Resort condos can be purchased in the $200,000 range for full time ownership or shared with several couples. The one we stayed at had two queen beds, granite countertops in the very complete kitchen, pools, restaurants, and a 9 hole golf course. They also had their own estate vineyard and tasting room.
While you can certainly purchase an estate with home, vineyards and fruit trees in the millions of dollars, you can find homes in the $250,000 range with a view in Oliver, Osoyoos, Penticton, and Summerland. Condos are the best deal as there are hundreds of them available and new units under construction most everywhere.
The four-season weather map shows the Okanagan’s to have cold, but short, winters protected from the artic winds and maritime humidity by the mountains on all sides. This warmer dryer climate has a high in the low 30’s F during December – February. By March, its up to 50 degrees. The hottest months of June, July, and August range in the mid 80’s to 90’s F. We think the September-October fall season is the best at 65-75 degrees when the leaves are changing and the grapes are being harvested.
The whole Okanagan Valley is full of festivals, and a good number of them are concerning wine and fruit. Some of our favorites include the Elvis Festival in June, the Cherry Fiesta and Fireworks on Canada Day July 1st, and catch a concert at the South Okanagan Events center in Penticton. You can learn to curl at the ice rink, go ice skating year round, or catch a hockey match. Don’t miss a ride on the Kettle Valley Railway in Summerland!
We could just go on and on about the Okanagans. This is a perfect place to retire, if just for a season. Bring the RV!