Experience an unforgettable family getaway at B.C.’s ultimate summer playground
If you’re looking for a holiday destination to please multiple generations, put Osoyoos at the top of your list. Just a five-hour drive from Vancouver, the Okanagan town offers up a desert climate, the warmest fresh-water lake in the country and plenty of world-class vineyards.
My husband, six-year-old daughter and I have been visiting Osoyoos every summer for the past few years and decided it was time to share the experience with my parents, brother and sister-in-law. So this year we packed up three generations (aged six to 76) and headed southeast for a trip we will never forget.
Here are some highlights of what to see and do in Osoyoos—that anyone at any age can enjoy…
1. Where to stay
Located on the west shore of Osoyoos Lake, there is no better place than the Watermark Beach Resort to soak in all Osoyoos has to offer. You’ll wake up to stunning sunrises behind the mountains to the east, relax to spectacular sunsets over the lake, and—if you’re lucky—observe thunderstorms and subsequent rainbows in the skies above.
On top of the gorgeous natural setting, the hotel is located in the heart of the town with every amenity you could need within walking distance—grocery store, drugstore, liquor store—but the location is only part of the resort’s appeal. The suites are luxuriously comfortable, fully equipped with every modern convenience (dishwasher, washer and dryer, and much more), and large enough to accommodate family get-togethers and meals.
After arriving and unpacking in our spacious two-bedroom lakeview suites, my parents were already calling us over for wine and snacks (being of Ukrainian heritage, I don’t think they’ve ever taken a road trip without packing a cooler full of garlic sausage). We sat on the large deck overlooking the lake and pool area, nibbling on kobasa and fresh cherries and apricots (collected in Keremeos on the drive up) as we settled into our home for the next three days.
We ended up being so comfortable that we decided to stay in for dinner, so we walked the block over to the grocery store to pick up a family-style meal. With top-of-the-line Weber barbecues in the pool area of the resort, my husband was in his element grilling steaks, drinking beer and chatting with my brother. While the boys cooked, my mom, sister-in-law, daughter and I enjoyed an evening stroll by the lake. We circled back to check on dinner while my dad watched from the deck above. Even when we were doing our own thing, it always felt like everyone was together when we were around the resort property. Finally, we feasted on rib-eyes, baked potatoes and fresh corn—not to mention a selection of wine from the region—at the large dining table in our suite.
2. What to do
Book a tee time
The next morning, my brother was willing to wake up at the crack of dawn to head out golfing in neighbouring Oliver (the rest of us were just as content to sleep in). A 20-minute drive north of Osoyoos, Fairview Mountain Golf Club was ranked as one of the top 50 public golf courses in Canada by SCOREGolf magazine. It features 200 feet of elevation, a dramatic natural setting and is playable for golfers of all levels.
My dad’s favourite winery—Fairview Cellars—happens to be located just a one-minute drive north of the golf course, so it worked out that a post-golf pickup turned into a convenient family winery visit in the afternoon, where my dad stocked up on Cabernet Franc for the year.
Go jump in the lake
Whether you want to sit on the shore or get in the water, Osoyoos Lake is the perfect place to enjoy a relaxing beach day. Our daughter loved digging in the sand and building castles at Gyro Beach, then jumping onto an oversized doughnut inflatable with my husband to float on the lake.
The Watermark also rents kayaks and paddleboards for a reasonable fee. My husband took a double kayak out so my daughter could enjoy a boat ride, while my dad paddled alongside them in a single. My brother and sister-in-law picked out stand-up paddleboards (SUP), which are easy to maneuver on the calm lake, especially in the morning when there aren’t many motorboats and Jet Skis out yet. My mom was happy to sit on a nearby park bench in the shade to watch all the fun, while I had the important task of Instagramming the action.
Hit the pool
The pool area at the Watermark is an activity within itself. There are plenty of lounge chairs for tanning, reading and enjoying a poolside cocktail—even during peak times, you’ll find a spot. The pool is large enough to accommodate numerous families, but the real highlight is the corkscrew waterslide. Both my six-year-old daughter and 76-year-old father (and everyone in between) took turns sliding and splashing into the pool. Let’s just say that getting everyone to sleep at night wasn’t a challenge after all that physical fun. Plus, winding down in the evening at one of the resort’s hot tubs (one is adults-only, one welcomes children) makes for a perfectly relaxing way to end the day.
Do some shopping
Yes, believe it or not, the small town of Osoyoos has at least two places you need to check out for some shopping during your stay. One is the Home Hardware at 8501 Main Street (no, I’m not kidding). With at least four split-levels and a huge selection of everything from pool toys and board games to gardening supplies and home decor, this eclectic general store is a must-visit for the whole family. We left with floaties, LOL dolls, Beanie Boos, colouring books, then went back the next day for more.
The other spot is a great little swimwear shop located just down the street from the hotel at 8120 Main. California Day Clothing features top brands like Quicksilver, Roxy and Rip Curl as well as their own hand-made bikinis. If you need a new swimsuit (it’s pretty much all you’ll be wearing during the day while you’re in Osoyoos), this is where you need to go.
3. Where to eat and what to drink
While you could venture out to many of the world-class restaurants in the region (Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek has always been a favourite of ours), you don’t have to go far to experience the best of what Osoyoos has to offer. In fact, you just need to take the elevator down to the lobby. The Restaurant at Watermark offers up some of the freshest, most delicious local fare, and we had the honour of experiencing a special “Farm to Vine” signature dinner, hosted by Ingrid Jarrett, the general manager of the resort. Ingrid told us the story of each menu item, showcasing her vast knowledge of the region. Whether it was explaining that the potted Sockeye salmon we noshed on (pictured) is a species that is being reintroduced to Osoyoos Lake or that the oyster mushrooms in the ravioli were foraged by local company What the Fungus, Ingrid was able to tie in each course to the locale.
We also had the privilege of having wine educator and sommelier, Ron Rocher talk us through each pairing he selected. As we enjoyed a variety of award-winning bottles from Oliver/Osoyoos (Stoneboat Vineyards and Maverick Estate Winery, just to name a few), we learned a ton about the wineries and about the process of how each wine was made. Incidentally, my dad’s favourite—the Fairview Cellars Cabernet Franc—was paired with the smoked pork rack served alongside a scrumptious local cherry mustard (we suggested that it should be bottled and sold).
While the wineries in the Okanagan are definitely a highlight of any visit there, the sheer number of them can be overwhelming. Having Ron curate the dinner selection was a real treat and if you’re interested in having an expert guide you, Ron’s company Vine to Wine Tours provides educational wine experiences that showcase the beauty of the Okanagan and its incredible wines.
4. The road home
The Similkameen ValleyWe’ve always found that on the way to Osoyoos, we’re in a hurry to start our vacation and only stop in places like Manning Park to stretch out our legs; but on the way home, we enjoy stretching out the vacation by planning some more activities.
If you’ve got any room left in the car, stop in Cawston and Keremeos in the Similkameen Valley to take home more wine from vineyards like Orofino, Corcelettes and Clos du Soleil. And don’t miss out on the many fruit stands to pick up some fresh, in-season produce.
While we didn’t have time to stop this trip, Ingrid from the Watermark highly recommended visiting the Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos, a historic site where you can explore a working 1877 waterwheel-powered flour mill (pictured above), eat a homemade lunch in the Tea Room, check out evening concerts and much more... sounds like the perfect excuse to return to Osoyoos again next summer.
For more information and to plan your trip to Osoyoos, visit Destination Osoyoos.