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How to turn a wine destination into the perfect family vacation
We’ve all heard of the staycation, but this summer my little family and I went on a not-too-far-awaycation to Osoyoos and got to experience all the comforts of home combined with the luxuries of a vacation.
Click through to learn how to keep the adults and kids happy on your trip to Osoyoos.
My wife, toddler and I set out from Vancouver, aiming for the Watermark Beach Resort, which is just over four hours away if you do it non-stop. While toddlers themselves go non-stop unless they’re sleeping, they’re not big on non-stop travel for longer than, say, the length of the Lion King soundtrack, so we planned on stopping along the way to get out of the packed-nearly-to-the-gills car and partake of our surroundings.
First up was a stop in Hope for some lunch, running around some parks, and goofing with the tintamarresques (those painted foreground scenes with cutout holes for you to put your face in for photos) that stake Hope’s claim to fame as the location for the filming of Rambo.
Less than an hour down the road we pulled into Manning Park, where Mom and Dad enjoyed the serene topography and our daughter squealed with delight at the dozens of ground squirrels who comically popped up all around us like we were standing on some enormous, grassy, whack-a-mole game surface. We explored about 15 minutes of the path winding along the shores of the halcyon Twenty Minute Lake before heading back to the car, rested and ready for more.
50 minutes of vertical verdant views later, we and our daughter—who’d been lulled to sleep by the road as it wound back and forth through the mountains next to the Similkameen River—pulled into Princeton. The grown-ups quietly ate drive-thru fast food (in the hopes of extending the kiddo’s slumber) before devouring the last quarter of our travels.
You really feel as though you’re further than a few hours from Vancouver and the Pacific rainforest as you travel into the South Okanagan’s dry, shrubby, desert habitat. We followed the Crowsnest Highway until it nestled up against Osoyoos Lake and checked into the Watermark Beach Resort Hotel (with the view pictured above). The staff was warm and efficient and our lakeview room was spacious, modern-yet-comfortable, and opened to a large balcony overlooking the lake. We really felt welcomed by the area when a vibrant double rainbow emerged over the water moments after we settled in. Imagine our surprise when the feat was repeated the next evening!
For the first couple days of our stay, we didn’t venture too far from the resort’s beautiful salt-water pool area with its comfy loungers and super-smooth waterslide. We—as well, certainly as the non-breeders at the resort—appreciated the fact that there are two warm-water pools: one for all ages, one for adults only.
The room has everything a famiy could need. Besides two bedrooms with luxury hotel standard beds, the suite included a dishwasher and full laundry—perfect for travelling with a toddler.
The Restaurant at Watermark truly offered a taste of our surroundings, thanks to chef Adair Scott’s Farm to Vine menu. Almost everything that can be is sourced locally: the fish fresh out of the lake, the veggies, meats and cheeses from nearby farms, and the herbs that were snipped from the garden next to our table.
Our personal favourites included the “potted” salmon, served in a Mason jar with pea puree, pickled fennel and garlic crostini, and the Pork Sausages, made in-house with local meat, served with bacon and beer baked beans. But every bite of everything we tried—and we tried nearly everything—was bursting with flavour. There’s also a great kid’s menu, featuring some of the most delicious mac and cheese we grown-ups have ever tasted. We sat on the patio under our second double rainbow in as many days, our daughter playing on the lawn that looked out onto the lake, and felt simultaneously at home and a world away from it.
A rainy morning forced us to venture further than the pool, and we were curious to check out the Osoyoss Desert Model Railroad attraction.
Imagine being a giant, time travelling through a train-obsessed Europe full of multiple railroads winding through towns populated by more than three times the average number of people who live year-round in Osoyoos. Our daughter liked the buttons you push to make the scenery move. I marveled at the near-maniacal dedication it must take to present these worlds so painstakingly.
We balanced our kid-centric rainy morning with an afternoon trip through wine country. We barely scratched the surface of the 36 wineries in the region, but we steadily filled a box with bottles of regional delights before settling into Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek. The combination of their excellent food (including a toddler-friendly pizza) and stunning panoramic views, along with the thoughtfulness to have little tables with colouring books within easy sight of their wine-tasting area, made it a stop our whole family enjoyed.
When it was finally time to leave—and I mean finally, as we kept extending our stay because we couldn’t stand the thought of leaving—the one upside was knowing we’d stop to enjoy the bounty on display at the many roadside stands dotting our homeward trek like lampposts. Farm-fresh fruit and vegetables were lucky to get out of their respective regions, let alone survive the drive home.
There are all kinds of other things we could have done in the area: golf if you’re so inclined, hikes, the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre with its representations of Osoyoos Indian culture… I’m sure we’ll get to some of those next time—because there will definitely be a next time—but sometimes you opt for lazy pool time over adventures, and when I close my eyes and allow my mind to time travel back to that blissful week, that’s where it takes me: Lounging poolside next to a lake in the desert.