After basking in the glorious sunshine, and tranquil space in the Kootenays, we pushed further West into one of the most popular holiday destinations in British Columbia – the Okanagan.
The drive from the Kootenays was pretty spectacular and remote, as we chose to take one of the lesser travelled routes, which was pretty twisty around the mountains, and even involved a short ferry hop across one lake. However, taking the road less travelled sometimes pays off, and as we rounded one bend, with no other cars in sight, we saw a black bear by the side of the road. He scampered off pretty quickly once he saw us, but just for a moment we had that magical glimpse of Canadian wildlife.
As we rolled into the Okanagan, the landscape changed dramatically. The area is known for being a bit of an anomaly in the province; instead of the large evergreen trees, the Okanagan is dry and aired, and looks like something you might see in the Mediterranean. Most of the summer will see temperatures of 30+ degrees with very little rainfall, and this makes the area extremely fertile for growing crops that you wouldn’t normally associate with Canada. Every summer, the fruit and vegetable crops come into harvest, and peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, apples, blueberries and corn (to name a few) are in abundance. The quality of the fruit is also outstanding, I never ate any fruit in England (even the imported stuff) that compares to the fruit of the Okanagan. Every where you go, there are fruit stands by the side of the road where you can stock up for almost no money.
The other massive crop is grapes, used for making wines. Just like the fruit stands, there are wineries everywhere you look, offering tours and tastings, and of course selling their bottles to the public. BC wines are widely available in liquor stores, but it was very cool to drive past the vineyards and see the rows of grapes ripening in the intense sun.
The Okanagan has many towns, stretched out beside the lakes of the area, with Kelowna being the largest, but we stayed in a town called Vernon, which is at the very North of the region, and is a really nice place to settle into for a few days. It has a small town centre, and a lakeside beach which was far less crowded than some of the other areas. One day, we drove down to Pentiction which is one of the most popular places to holiday, but the beaches were very crowded and the temperature had soared at that point, so it was off to a lakeside restaurant to indulge in a luncheon indoors with some air con.
After enjoying the fruits of the Okanagan, (quite literally) we moved on a little further North to a town called Kamloops, which turned out to be a bit of surprise. I’d always thought of Kamloops as just being a stopping point on the road to Vancouver, but it’s a great little place to spend a few days. The town is full of nice restaurants and pubs, and there’s a riverside park that is beautiful to take a stroll in. The hot dry climate and parched landscape really made it feel like we were on holiday in Spain, not British Columbia!
Kamloops was our final stop in the interior of BC…..my home town of Vancouver on the Pacific Ocean waited for us next.