Kelowna, situated in the Okanagan Valley, is a lively city and year-round destination in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. And why is this getaway so popular with Canadians and international travelers alike? Sparkling, 83-mile-long Okanagan Lake combined with sunny, hot leisurely days create the perfect summertime vibe in the city of Kelowna. Some might say that Kelowna’s popularity is all about its world-class wineries and bountiful orchards, while others might attribute it to Kelowna’s great access to the outdoors, including the surrounding mountains and the lake.
Whatever the reason, Kelowna appeals to all ages. At certain times of the year, one can ski in the morning and hit the golf courses in the afternoon. This is a popular lifestyle with retirees!
Kelowna has a small, bustling airport (Kelowna International Airport, or YLW), and its location, a 5-hour drive east of Vancouver, makes it the perfect stop on a Western Canadian road trip.
Here’s just a smattering of things to do in Kelowna, British Columbia.
Note: This article focuses on Kelowna. West Kelowna, also known as Westside, is a city situated on the western shore of Okanagan Lake. It is also a beautiful outdoorsy city to visit.
1. Okanagan Lake
Lake Okanagan is a huge part of the Kelowna culture. You don’t need to go far in Kelowna before finding a sandy beach for dipping your toes or launching your paddle board. Here are a few Okanangan Lake beaches to investigate:
City Park In Kelowna
Grab an ice cream at my favorite ice cream shop, Moo-Lix, and stroll along the lakefront pathway. City Park, with its stunning mountain views, has a long sandy beach for swimming, a children’s waterpark, a picnic area, and lawn bowling. Bring a beach umbrella, sit back, and relax on the shores of Okanagan Lake.
Waterfront Park, located at 1200 Water Street, has a lagoon, a sandy swim beach, landscaped gardens, and a boardwalk. This beach on Okanagan Lake is quieter than City Park’s.
Boyce-Gyro Beach, 3400 Lakeshore Road, has the city of Kelowna’s longest sandy beach. The large park is popular and has paddle board rentals and beach volleyball courts. Bring a picnic and spend the day by glistening Okanagan Lake.
On the way to Boyce-Gyro Beach, stop in the cute shopping district, full of boutiques and cafes along Pandosy Street.
Strathcona Park Beach
Live like Kelowna locals and head to this small sandy beach at 2290 Abbott Street. Strathcona Park Beach has a large grassy area to lay out a picnic blanket. It’s the perfect place to spend a few hours relaxing, swimming, and soaking up the summer sun.
Pro Tip: How about getting on the water? Boating is a highlight of a summer vacation in Kelowna. In between City Park and Waterfront Park, you’ll find Lakefront Sports Centre. Boats, jet skis, and kayaks are available for rent.
2. Knox Mountain Park
Just a short jaunt from downtown Kelowna is Knox Mountain Park, a favorite hiking spot for locals and visitors alike. Park at the base of Knox Mountain in the free parking lot and head up the hill for the 1-hour return hike. Follow the trail through the pine forest to the first lookout. The views over the lake and Kelowna are magnificent.
Continue along the trail called Paul’s Tomb. This very well-maintained trail offers spectacular views of the Okanagan Valley. The blue glow of the mountains and lake is breathtaking. Be sure to hike right to the end of this trail, as you’ll find a lovely quiet beach. Although this trail is popular, it is rarely crowded at this particular beach. It’s never a bad idea to take a refreshing dip in the clear waters of Okanagan Lake!
Pro Tip: If you love hiking, continue past the beach to Lochview Trail, which follows the shore of Okanagan Lake. This trail is much steeper than Paul’s Tomb and has sets of stairs to climb. Let’s just call it a good workout!
3. Myra Canyon Trail
The Myra Canyon Trail is part of the historical Kettle Valley Railway and consists of 18 relatively flat train trestles to cycle over, and two tunnels. The breathtaking ride through the narrow canyon follows the route where once upon a time, trains made their solitary journey along the tracks.
The Myra Canyon Trestle bridges make the perfect half-day bike ride. If you’re not up for biking, it is also a beautiful walk. The well-marked trail between Myra Station and Ruth Station is 7.5 miles in one direction.
When riding along the trestles, you’ll pass a lot of burnt trees and a forest that is in the process of regenerating. Forest fires are a natural threat in the Okanagan Valley, and in August 2003, lightning struck a tree and started a devastating forest fire known as the Okanagan Mountain Park fire. Many homes were also destroyed along with 12 of the Myra Canyon Trestles. It took 5 years before all the Myra Canyon bridges were completely rebuilt, restored, and open to the public.
Pro Tips: Rent a bike and/or take a cycling tour right from the parking lot. Make sure to book in advance.
The Myra Canyon Trestles trail is a 40-minute drive from Kelowna. Follow McCulloch Road out of Kelowna to the Myra Forest Service Road. Passing vineyards and orchards, the final climb to the Myra Station Parking lot is on a gravel service road. Outhouses are the only facility available.
4. Biking In And Around Kelowna
Wander to the shores of the lake in Kelowna, and right away you’ll notice all the bike paths and cyclists. It really is cycling heaven around Kelowna! There are approximately 186 miles of on-street bike lanes in Kelowna and 25 miles of separate multi-use paths.
Mission Creek Greenway Regional Park has 10 miles of shady pathways that follow Mission Creek to explore. Bring a picnic and relax on the rocks by the creek.
For the keen cyclists, there is a new 31-mile-long trail, the Okanagan Rail Trail, that connects Kelowna to another town in the Okanagan Valley, Vernon.
Rent a bike at Kelowna Bike Rentals, located at the base of Knox Mountain. This rental kiosk has a wide range of bikes, including e-bikes. You can also rent bikes at Lakefront Sports Centre and Kelowna E-Kruise.
5. Fresh Produce In Kelowna
In the Okanagan Valley, with its perfect temperatures and growing conditions, there are orchards galore! I love driving through Kelowna past fruit stands and row upon row of trees. I’m always curious: Are those trees laden with apples, pears, or cherries? The season starts early in Kelowna with apricots and strawberries. Kelowna is known for its juicy local peaches.
Follow one of many U-Pick signs and fill your baskets to your heart’s content. It’s so rewarding to munch on juicy fruit or make cherry pies when you have picked the fruit yourself.
6. Kelowna Farmers’ And Crafters’ Market
The Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market is a wonderful place to get a sense of the community and to purchase fresh local produce and handcrafted gifts. Organic produce, handmade jewelry, original pottery, and delicious French crepes are all part of the fun in the city of Kelowna’s market.
The Kelowna Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the corner of Dilworth Drive and Springfield Road.
7. Kelowna Coffee Shops
There is nothing I like better than supporting local coffee shops. I am a coffee fan and also have a sweet tooth, so I have been known to taste my fair share of cookies!
Sprout is a fabulous coffee shop that happens to bake and sell plenty of divine loaves of bread. Stop by for a coffee and one of their famous sandwiches.
Bean Scene serves its own roasted coffee and provides a great selection of sweets. I adore their signature cookie and have been known to make a side trip for the sole purpose of picking one up!
There are several Bean Scene locations in Kelowna; my top pick is the location on Bernard Avenue.
8. Wine Country In The Okanagan Valley
You really can’t come to the Okanagan Valley without visiting wine country. Vineyards stretch down the slopes towards Okanagan Lake or are found on hilltops overlooking the lake. There are magnificent vistas from many of the wineries, and plenty of sampling to do. Pinot gris, cabernet sauvignon, riesling, and chardonnay are just a few of the wines to savor the Kelowna area wine country.
Each winery is unique and has its own story to tell. Two of my favorites are Mission Hill Family Estate and Cedar Creek Estate Winery, which won Winery of the Year in the 2022 WineAlign National Wine Awards. This article by Vanessa Chiasson describes some of the best wineries in the Okanagan Valley.
9. Big White Ski Resort
Located in the Okanagan Valley overlooking the Monashee Mountains, Big White Ski Resort is only an hour from the Kelowna International Airport. Big White Ski Resort (referred to as Big White) is an adventurer’s playground year round. In the winter, Big White is known for its snowfall, and in particular its fluffy powder. Hit the slopes for a wide range of skiing and riding challenges from beginner to expert.
Alternately, enjoy a Canadian winter wonderland and snowshoe or dog sled past snow-caked trees. Finish up the day with an après-ski hot chocolate or drink in the Village.
The summer season at Big White runs from July 1 through September 6. Up for a hike? Take the scenic lift up the mountain and follow the marked walking trails. I
f you are a fan of mountain biking, Big White is the place to go. There are rentals on-site (pre-book in advance) and a multitude of forest trails for a challenging and fun descent.
Spending a day riding the trails at Big White, winter or summer, will be an unforgettable experience.
Pro Tip: Big White is Canada’s largest ski-in, ski-out village. Ski right to your door after a day on the slopes! Plan your stay at Big White on its website.