“Ice cold cherries, get your ice cold cherries!”
I look up from my book and see a lanky man in his 50s lugging a tote bag onto Kelowna’s Gyro Beach. It’s almost 6 p.m. on a summer day and the sand is still scorching, the gravel parking lot still packed. Behind me, a twentysomething man in baggy blue swimming trunks is untying a yellow hammock he had slung between two trees. Farther away, a playground stretches from land to water, its zipline periodically carrying swimmers into the lake.
“I’ll have some cherries,” shouts a woman nearby, digging into her bag for a toonie.
A family of four arrives and starts inflating a yellow kayak, the whir of the motor followed by the squeak of a foot pump. “No, only for two,” says the father, in a British accent, in response to an elderly man seated nearby who asks if it’ll fit all four of them. The two kids strap on PFDs, the older girl bending over to test the kayak’s firmness.
The scene is a perfect microcosm of life in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley: a little bit of work, a little bit of play, the country’s best fruit and plenty of time spent outdoors. And when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Kelowna, the region’s biggest city, on Tuesday afternoon, they’ll be taking in some of the highlights. Ready to follow in their footsteps? Here are some ideas for your visit.
What they’re doing: Participating in a dedication of a new indigenous art installation at UBC Okanagan
What you can do: Explore local First Nations history and culture
For the best introduction to the local Syilx people, book a tour at the Sncewips Heritage Museum in Westbank. Begin by getting acquainted with the sounds of the Nsyilxcen language and learn about efforts under way to boost its use among youth. Then explore the artifacts on display, such as a dugout canoe made from a cottonwood tree, and hear about their significance to the community.
Nearby, Kekuli Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and sweets with a focus on indigenous foods and ingredients. Choose from multiple renditions of bannock – a breakfast “bannock-wich,” a bannock burger, bannock coated in cinnamon and sugar – or try a Saskatoon berry smoothie. Also in the area, newly opened Indigenous World Winery is the second Okanagan winery with aboriginal ownership and sells First Nations arts and crafts alongside its award-winning vintages.
About a two-hour drive south, near the U.S. border, the town of Osoyoos is home to the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, part of a complex that includes Spirit Ridge Resort and winery Nk’Mip Cellars. Set in Canada’s only desert, the cultural centre spans both indoor and outdoor space. Watch traditional dance performances, explore the history of local peoples and join interpretive walks through the dusty, sun-baked hillside trails to learn about desert ecology and wildlife.
What they’re doing: Watching a volleyball game at UBC Okanagan
What you can do: Get active in Canada’s fittest city
A giant lake, an arid climate, steep hillsides leading into snowy mountain ranges: Kelowna is blessed when it comes to its natural surroundings. In summer, beach time is de rigueur, whether your style is lounging on the sand or paddling out on the lake to explore the shoreline. In winter, the city tends to stay relatively dry, while powder dumps down on Big White, the local ski hill.
While you can drive to Knox Mountain, on the edge of downtown, and up to its summit to take in the views, the honest way to earn them is by hiking or biking to the top, 300 metres above the lake. For a different angle on the city, make your way to Myra Canyon Ranch, which adjoins Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park. Try out the ropes and aerial courses or sign up for a beginner-friendly trail ride through the hills, where the aftermath of the devastating 2003 forest fire is still visible – and has left clear sight lines to Lake Okanagan below.
What they’re doing:
Sampling local food and wine at Mission Hill Winery
What you can do: Eat and drink the best the valley has to offer
Mission Hill is a good place to start, but it’s only a sampling of the richness of ingredients and products in this agricultural region. Wine lovers should sign up for a customized tour that meets their interests: focus on the organic wines of producers such as Kalala, Summerhill and Off the Grid, or sample local bubbly at spots like Fitzpatrick, Tantalus and the Hatch. Every autumn, the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival features events like tastings, awards and pairing menus.
But it isn’t all about the wine. Beer, cider and spirits are taking over the valley, too, including offerings from Okanagan Spirits and the BC Tree Fruits Cider Co. Will and Kate are sure to be tasting fresh local fruit – it’s apple season, after all – and cheese from local producers, such as Carmelis Goat Cheese. To sample all these and more, drop in at restaurants like Salted Brick, RauDZ and BNA Brewing Co., where you can partake in a game of indoor bocce while sipping regional microbrews. Then visit Okanagan Grocery for edible souvenirs, such as preserves or vinegars made with Okanagan fruit. They’re probably the next-best thing to cherries on the beach.