Find out what to do and where to stay, eat and drink in and around this Okanagan gem
Not just another pretty B.C. interior town, Vernon has always been on the mellower and smaller side of the main Okanagan destinations, which has allowed it to develop at its own pace. Defined largely by glacial activity 10,000 years ago, Vernon has taken advantage of a natural bounty of fertile soil, spectacular outdoor landscapes and granite and opal deposits; it is home to Canada's only precious opal mine. If you haven't visited Vernon recently—it’s a five-hour drive away from Vancouver—you're missing out on a delightfully quirky and authentically charming experience. Despite getting some notable awards and accolades in recent years, Vernon's managed to retain its lovely small-town feel. Click through for my tips on how to enjoy the best of Vernon.
Not just another pretty B.C. interior town, Vernon has always been on the mellower and smaller side of the main Okanagan destinations, which has allowed it to develop at its own pace. Defined largely by glacial activity 10,000 years ago, Vernon has taken advantage of a natural bounty of fertile soil, spectacular outdoor landscapes and granite and opal deposits; it is home to Canada's only precious opal mine.
If you haven't visited Vernon recently—it’s a five-hour drive away from Vancouver—you're missing out on a delightfully quirky and authentically charming experience. Despite getting some notable awards and accolades in recent years, Vernon's managed to retain its lovely small-town feel.
Click through for my tips on how to enjoy the best of Vernon.
Where to Eat
Bamboo Beach Fusion Grille
With an extensive menu of incredibly fresh and flavourful Asian fare—and top-notch service to boot—even skeptics of fusion food won't be disappointed by this local gem. Make sure to try the curry halibut.
3313 30th Avenue
Make a beeline for Station BBQ if smokehouse meats are your weakness. They have everything from candied bacon and frickles (deep fried pickles, of course) to mootine (brisket and poutine) and pork done three ways (pulled, sausage and ribs). The owners are often seen on the floor making the rounds, to ensure every customer is having a great BBQ experience.
3131 29th Street
Tucked inside the Greyhound station, EATology is Vernon's newest downtown bistro, which is quickly becoming a local favourite—think: comfort food, elevated. In addition to all-day breakfast, they make a killer homemade chai. For breakfast, go for the smoked salmon Benny or whipped avocado on toast. At lunch, try their BBQ chicken burger with salt and vinegar chips layered inside. (Chips. Inside.)
3100 30th Street
Ratio Coffee & Pastry
If you're in Vernon on a Friday, get to Ratio and get there early. While they do a great cup of coffee and offer other pastries every day, they're best known for #donutfriday. What started as a humble pop-up coffee cart tent has emerged into a beloved Vernon institution. Many even consider the handmade donuts by Chef Laurie to be the best around.
Vernon Train Station, 3101 29th Street
What To Do in and Around Town
You can't visit Vernon without visiting an orchard. At Davison Orchards, you can take a tour of the farm on a tractor-drawn train and see where the crops grow, watch fruit being picked, and follow apples as they get peeled for Davison's famous apple pies. Davison has been a cornerstone in Vernon since 1933 and has built a fully immersive farming experience for the whole family, especially kids. In addition to picking up farm-fresh produce, preserves, and pies here, the kids can easily spend an entire day playing on the antique tractors, feeding farm animals and generally running amok in the Crazy Cow Kids Corral (the name says it all).
3111 Davison Road, Vernon
Forget foraging, for a true back-to-nature experience, try wildcrafting. Nestled in the Monashee Region is Wildcraft Forest, an eco-museum, interpretive forest and wild tea plantation (the only one in Canada). Call in advance for tours (they’re limited), or drop by and take a self-guided tour through their art studio, forest and sculpture trail. For a more immersive experience, sign up for a workshop at the wildcraft farm school to learn more about forest ecology, art and wild tea harvesting.
1981 Highway 6, Lumby
MACKIE Lake HOUSE
For tea of a different kind, Mackie House offers a traditional afternoon tea service featuring homemade treats and an assortment of freshly brewed teas, complete with charming period-specific costumed tea room assistants. This heritage home from 1910 is beautifully preserved and perched on the edge of Kalamalka Lake. It's a lovely example of typical country living by British expats in the early 20th century.
7804 Kidston Road, Coldstream
Where to Stay
Prestige Hotel Vernon might not be a looker at first glance, but it more than makes up for it on the inside. The rooms are nicely updated and well-appointed with fluffy towels, crisp sheets, plush beds and smart furniture to immediately make you feel comfortable. Service is gracious and attentive, and with a killer location, this is definitely a top option whether you're setting up base camp during ski season or popping through during your vineyard road trip.
4411 32 Street
SPARKLING HILL RESORT
You're going to have to love crystals to truly appreciate Sparkling Hill, which incorporates more than 3.5 million Swarovski crystals throughout its property: there's a galaxy of them greeting you in the lobby, they're embedded in every room and definitely incorporated throughout their 40,000-square-foot spa. The rationale behind the crystals is that they represent the energy that flows through Sparkling Hill, which was built directly into the granite bedrock, harnessing an energy meridian that runs through Predator Ridge.
888 Sparkling Place
Where to Drink In and Around Town
BX Press Cidery
A charming apple-production facility in the middle of wine country, BX Press Cidery produces some incredibly complex and flavourful ciders that typically sell out before the season is over. Their philosophy is simple: press apples only in the fall when select varieties are ripe; then ferment the juice over the winter and release it only when it's had a long, slow maturation to mellow and develop its complex and delicious flavours.
4667 East Vernon Road, Vernon
Grey Monk Estate Winery
Considered one the first pioneers in the winemaking industry in the Okanagan, Grey Monk Estate Winery is largely credited for successfully introducing Pinot Gris into the region. Today they manage over 75 acres of vineyards and produce a variety of award-winning wines. Their tasting room reflects warm, European-style architecture and the entire property overflows with stunning potted flowers throughout the summer. If time permits, definitely stop for lunch at their restaurant, Grapevine, which boasts a massive outdoor patio with spectacular panoramas.
1055 Camp Road, Lake Country
50th Parallel Estate
50th Parallel Estate might be relatively new, but winemaker Grant Stanley has an impressive CV, having honed his skills making fabulous wines from New Zealand to the U.S. and spending 10 years elevating the program at Quails Gate. While best known for killer Pinot Noir, 50th's first release 2013 Chardonnay was officially awarded the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Excellence in B.C. Wines 2015. The architecture is contemporary and the entire facility is modernity at its best, utilizing state-of-the-art design and technology to simply create better wines.
17101 Terrace View Road, Lake Country