Dry arid heat, unreal scenery, world-class wines and right-from-the-garden-fresh food. And it's all less than an hour by plane or five hours by car from Vancouver
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Dry arid heat, unreal scenery, world-class wines and right-from-the-garden-fresh food. And it's all less than an hour by plane or five hours by car from Vancouver

What more could you ask for from a little summer getaway? We’ve got a few more ideas up our sleeve. Click through to see the tastiness, richness, biodiversity and adventure that awaits you in the south Okanagan.

Watermark Beach Resort
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Watermark Beach Resort

Located in Osoyoos along the town’s prime beachfront, the Watermark Beach Resort is a luxury retreat designed for relaxing, dining and exploring the array of nearby wineries, restaurants, ecological areas and outdoor adventures.

Stay

The pet-friendly resort has 123 suites (studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom penthouse suites) and 30 spacious beachfront villas, all with air conditioning, private balconies and fully equipped kitchenettes.

Dine

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Led by executive chef Adair Scott, The Watermark’s Wine and Tapas Bar has an 80-seat patio covered by garden trellises hung with baskets of overflowing flowers. The menu features light and delicious share plates like the colourful soba noodle and squid salad (pictured above) with pan-seared squid, local organic greens, olives, cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic and lemon aioli. Be sure to try the exclusive house label wines, made in partnership with winemakers John and Virginia Weber of Orofino Vineyards in the Similkameen Valley, the Orofino Watermark Chardonnay and the Orofino Watermark Syrah/Cab/Merlot.

Move

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Visit the Watermark’s fitness centre for a quick workout or Breathe Studio for yoga (pictured above), pilates or a spin class. If solo is your style, head out for a run along the fabulous lakeside trail, or take your mat to the beach in the quiet of morning for a little sunrise yoga.

Relax

Dozens of lounge chairs surround the outdoor hot tubs, salt water pool and waterslide, so grab a good book or pull your sun hat over your eyes and settle in for a few hours of relaxing bliss.

Rejuvenate

The Watermark’s Illumination Spa is a lovely little sanctuary offering body, hair, nail and facial treatments. Their spa menu includes the sublime 60-minute Chakra Balancing Massage, where certified massage therapist and Reiki Master Kimberly Cameron combines aromatic oils, chakra energy work and a simultaneously invigorating and relaxing massage.

LaStella Winery
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

LaStella Winery

Stunning LaStella Winery, located just steps away from the western shore of Osoyoos Lake, was created to capture la dolce vita through their Tuscan-style winery and award-winning Italian style wines, crafted by winemaker Severine Pinte, who holds a Masters in viticulture and oenology from her native France.

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Intricate handblown glass lights made in Italy hang from LaStella's central staircase (left), and Maestoso, their Super Tuscan inspired wine, is ready to be poured in the winery's cellar.

For the ultimate wine-tasting experience, opt for A Symphony For The Senses, an in-depth tour of LaStella’s sustainable vineyard and guided tasting in the winery’s cellar. Don’t miss their 2013 LaStellina, an off-dry rose perfect for summer sipping.

Heatstroke Cycle
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Heatstroke Cycle

Heatstroke Cycle was founded by Richard Cooper, an avid cyclist and adventurer born and raised in Osoyoos, to offer year round bike sales, rentals and servicing as well as unique guided tours to showcase the southernmost part of the picturesque Okanagan Valley.

The Golden Mile Wine Country Tour is a four-hour, 14-kilometre tour that visits seven Osoyoos-area wineries on an electric bicycle. This gives wine country adventurers the chance to have a nice little workout but not exhaust themselves on the hills. Very civilized!

One highlight of the cycling tour is Rustico Farm and Cellars, where guests are greeted by two miniature donkeys in a pen out front, and treated to owner Bruce Fuller’s animated guided tasting (pictured above, right) – and a good selection of delicious wines – in the saloon-style tasting room. See to it that your tumbler gets a splash of the 2010 Bonanza, an estate-grown old vine zinfandel.

Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen at Black Hills Estate Winery
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Joy Road Vineyard Kitchen at Black Hills Estate Winery

Starting this June, two of the Okanagan’s most esteemed caterers and winemakers will join forces when Joy Road Catering opens their Vineyard Kitchen at Black Hills Estate Winery.

Joy Road owners Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith are stalwart champions of local cuisine and the slow food movement, and widely acclaimed for their inspired menus featuring "cuisine du terroir" – the best of what grows in their Okanagan backyard, including their own drove of lovingly-raised pigs that become Smith’s exceptional charcuterie (pictured above).

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Black Hills’ gorgeous winery (pictured above) is located on the Black Sage Bench, prized for its ideal grape-growing conditions and the birthplace of their coveted and hard-to-get Carmenere and Nota Bene wines. The dynamic Joy Road-Black Hills duo is sure to have tongues wagging – and mouths watering – this summer.

Backyard Farm Chef’s Table Dinner
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Backyard Farm Chef’s Table Dinner

Continuing along the uber local and proudly sustainable theme, celebrated chef Chris Van Hooydonk has just launched his latest venture, the Backyard Farm chef’s table dinners, just in time for summer’s bounty of fresh, regional food. Van Hooydonk, formerly executive chef at The Sonora Room at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery, struck out on his own last year as a mobile gourmet with Artisan Culinary Concepts, offering catering, consulting and cooking classes up and down the valley.

Van Hooydonk and his wife and business partner Mikkel Day turned a house they acquired last year, nearby their own home, into a fabulous open-concept teaching kitchen and dining room for 20, surrounded by edible gardens and an orchard with over 50 fruits trees (Mikkel’s passion is horticulture).

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The author in the kitchen (left), and the finished product over local asparagus, topped with rhubarb aoli and crispy bacon. 

Guests can participate as much (learning to master a poached egg) or as little (standing in the kitchen drinking wine) in the cooking preparation as they’d like, but everyone will want to stick around to absorb some of Van Hooydonk’s infectious passion for cooking great food with ingredients from his own backyard.

For the multi-course wine-paired dinners that result, Backyard Farm partners with local winemakers creating wonderful wines, like Maverick Estate Winery’s Bertus Albertyn (look out for the newly-released, lightly-oaked chardonnay and the 2011 Rubicon, a classic old world style red).

Osoyoos Desert Centre
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Osoyoos Desert Centre

Before the lush vineyards rolled into the Okanagan Valley, the Osoyoos area was largely a desert environment – called an antelope brush ecosystem – home to desert-adapted plants and animals, like the antelope brush, pocket mouse, American badger, burrowing owl and brittle prickly pear cactus. These species still exist but their habitat has been drastically reduced due to agriculture and land development.

The Osoyoos Desert Centre, a 67-acre nature preserve and interpretive centre, educates the public and works with local stakeholders to raise awareness and restore some of this vital and fragile environment. Guests can take a guided or self-guided tour along the 1.5-kilometre boardwalk, built to protect the delicate ecosystem from thousands of inquisitive feet.

More desert fun facts:

  • There are 14 different species of bats in the area, some of which can eat in excess of 1,000 mosquitos per hour!
  • Desert Centre executive director Denise Eastlick says burrowing owls are more like “borrowing owls” as they take over abandoned badger dens for their homes.

Covert Farms Canadian Signature Experience
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Covert Farms Canadian Signature Experience

Covert Farms, a 650-acre organic farm, vineyard and winery north of Oliver near the foot of McIntyre Bluff, was founded in 1959 by California transplant George Covert, and is still run by the following three generations of his family.

In partnership with the Watermark Beach Resort, Cover Farms has developed a Canadian Signature Experience called “A Culinary Journey through Canada’s Desert.” Guests climb aboard the farm’s vintage 1952 Mercury Truck for a guided tour, often led by farm chef Derek Uhlemann (pictured above), exploring the vineyards, orchards and u-pick fields, and stopping to say hello to the utterly (or should we say udder-ly) adorable herd of shaggy highland cows (also pictured above).

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The grand finale, of course, is a private wine tasting (we loved the 2012 Rosé), served with a delectable selection of small bites from the Covert Farms kitchen (pictured above).

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek

Miradoro Restaurant, a joint venture between Tinhorn Creek Vineyards and restauranteur Manuel Ferreira (former owner of Vancouver’s famed Le Gavroche), has a serious trifecta of awesome going on: unbelievable panoramic views from their perch on the Golden Mile Bench (pictured above), a fantastic wine list showcasing Tinhorn Creek’s award-winning wines, and a seasonally-driven menu developed by renowned executive chef Jeff Van Geest. 

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Once the growing season is in full swing, everything on the menu (save for olive oil and salt) will be sourced within view from your seat on the patio, like the Arctic char (pictured above) sustainably farmed nearby – paired with Tinhorn’s wonderful 2011 Pinot Noir.

Stand Up Paddle Board on Osoyoos Lake
Credit: Bodhi's Beach Hut

Stand Up Paddle Board on Osoyoos Lake

Get an entirely different perspective of Osoyoos from out on the lake. Set off for a serene paddle while you take in the spectacular views of deep green vineyards, sage-coloured grasslands and the tree-lined hills above. Challenge your core strength and balance without any fear of falling because the inviting water is one of Canada’s warmest lakes.

Rentals are available from Bodhi’s Beach Hut (250-485-2809) and rentals, tours and classes are available at 3 Phase Adventures.

Talon’s Restaurant at Spirit Ridge Resort
Credit: Catherine Roscoe Barr

Talon’s Restaurant at Spirit Ridge Resort

Under the management of Spirit Ridge Resort, the new Talon Restaurant recruited Top Chef Canada contestant Jamie Hertz as executive chef.

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Grab a seat on the sprawling patio with its magnificent views (pictured at top) and start with the smoked steelhead salmon roulade (pictured above) with Indian spiced pickled onions, caper berries, candied lemon and fried crostini, or the tempura chicken satay with Hertz’s to-die-for house made hot sauce (word to the wise: ask for extra hot sauce).

Next try the halibut with wild B.C. mushroom ragout, asparagus and roasted red pepper coulis, and a glass of wine from the adjacent Nk'Mip Cellars Winery, like the 2012 Pinot Blanc or the 2012 Pinot Noir.

Great Horned Owl Eco Tours

Great Horned Owl Eco Tours

Great Horned Owl Eco Tours offers so much more than your average bird watching experience. The local company, owned and operated by passionate and knowledgeable naturalist Greg Byron, offers more than half a dozen tours, ranging from the “Birdwatching and Nature Adventure” and the “Spectacular Mount Kobau Tour” to the “The Complete Okanagan Experience.”

Byron is heartily involved in Osoyoos’ environmental community and is active with a number of organizations including the BC Burrowing Owl Conservation Society, where he’s recently helped release burrowing owls, bred in captivity, into the wild.

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The “Ecosystem Experience” offers a fascinating and in-depth look at the desert, grassland and forest ecosystems, and gets you well off the beaten path and into some pristine ecological areas and provincial parks that you might not otherwise see.

The brand new “Wine and Culinary Tour” takes you to three of the region’s best wineries, with Byron’s insightful narrative on local agriculture, ecology, flora and fauna, and ends at Chris Van Hooydonk’s Backyard Farm for an unforgettable chef’s table dinner.