Vernon Weekend Getaway Guide: Where to Swim, Sip and Spa in the North Okanagan

Vernon may be known for its ski hills, but its lakes, golf courses and a sparkling new spa provide equally good reasons for a BC weekend getaway

Credit: Curt Woodhall

The emerald green waters of Kalamalka Lake are one of Vernon’s star attractions

With its emerald lakes, sandy beaches, and sparkling new spas and golf courses, Vernon has turned up the juice on its summer destination appeal

Vernon may not be the top Okanagan destination for weekend sun-seekers, but this sleepy town’s natural and man-made treasures provide the perfect platform for a warm-weather escape. 

What to Do in Vernon

Visit the Okanagan’s Best Beaches, Lakes and Parks

Nestled between Okanagan and Kalamalka Lakes, Vernon offers a plethora of beach and water activities.  

Within minutes of the downtown core there are five sandy beaches offering access to the warm waters of Okanagan Lake, while a scenic 20-minute drive takes you to the trails and sheltered bays of Ellison Provincial Park for hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking and fresh-water scuba diving.

On the south end of Vernon lies Kalamalka Lake, which National Geographic has named one of the world’s 10 most beautiful lakes. As Kalamalka Lake warms over the summer, limestone crystals form and reflect the sunlight, turning the water a spectacular blue and green.

Wakeboarding is a phenomenal way to experience this magical lake, and Turtle Bay Marina offers an early-morning special rate of $160 for a boat rental with two water toys.  

Vernon’s warm weather also creates an optimal environment for golf, and with 10 courses within a half-hour drive, there are greens for every level of player. The master-plan resort community of Predator Ridge recently opened its second 18-hole golf course The Ridge, which offers stunning views of Okanagan Lake and dramatic elevation changes.

Sip Some BC Wine

Perhaps the hardest decision to make while in Vernon is choosing water or wine. Fortunately with MJO Tours’ Wine, Water and Wonder, you don’t have to. This full-day excursion starts with a relaxing pontoon boat ride on Okanagan Lake, followed by a cellar tour and al fresco lunch at Gray Monk Estate Winery.

After a scrumptious meal paired with award-winning wine, you’ll head to Ex Nihilo, Vernon’s newest winery and the most avant-garde in the Okanagan. Latin for “out of nothing,” Ex Nihilo’s impressive collection of wine includes the intense yet elegant Night, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc; and Symphony for the Devil, the signature Pinot Noir Ice Wine produced under the infamous Rolling Stones label.  

The tour finishes at Okanagan Spirits, a fabulous artisan producer of distilled fruit brandies, liqueurs, absinthe and specialty spirits. Its raspberry liqueur is a sure favourite, and earned this craft distillery a silver medal at the World Spirit Awards.

Where to Eat in Vernon

When it comes to restaurants, Vernon offers a plethora of hidden culinary gems, and one of the best finds is Ora restaurant in the Prestige Inn. The decor is contemporary and the food, prepared by executive chef Dennis Loewen, is unbelievable.  

Since joining Ora, Loewen has partnered with local producers to introduce farm-fresh ingredients to the menu, and has created a cooking program, featuring local ingredients, at the Vernon Farmers’ Market. Ora’s delicious dishes include seared scallops and prawns in a mint-lime cream reduction and sirloin steak topped with goat cheese and served with garlic mashed potatoes and merlot reduction.  

Another fabulous local dining spot is Friesen’s Farms Countrytyme Cafe in Coldstream. This family-run farm puts on an amazing weekend brunch buffet with free run eggs and homemade breads, perogies, baked goods and jams in a quaint countryside setting.

Where to Stay in Vernon

Vernon offers first-class accommodations including family-oriented resorts such as The Outback and Strand Lakeside Resort, and the suites, cottages and villas at Predator Ridge, which ensure a short commute to an early morning tee-time.  

Of course, the opening of the Sparkling Hill Resort, the new Swarovski crystal resort at Predator Ridge, is a compelling reason to visit Vernon. This five-star resort features astounding panoramic lake views, a full-service restaurant and wine-bar, and beautiful guest rooms with crystal tubs-for-two, Swarovski crystal fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass windows.

The European influenced KurSpa with infinity pool and seven aromatherapy sauna and steam rooms, including a cold sauna of -110 degrees Celsius, adds to the luxury and allure of this resort.   

And if the crystal palace with its million dollar views doesn’t bring you to Vernon, surely the world-class golf, critically acclaimed wineries, budding culinary scene and spectacular lakes will entice you for a weekend getaway.

For more photos of Vernon’s treasures, check out our Weekend Getaways photo gallery.

Mhairri Cuthbert is a travel writer at Arrivals. Visit their blog for additional links, information and photos on this destination.