Penticton and Wine Country

July 7, 2009

Penticton is a city in the Okanagan Valley of the Southern Interior of British Columbia between Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake.

Munson Mountain Park is home to the large 'Penticton' sign (a la 'Hollywood') that greets travelers coming in to town from the north. The sign was created with thousands of small white stones. The original stones have since been replaced with letters made of concrete

Munson Mountain Park

Penticton offers two soft sand beaches, Skaha Beach and Okanagan Beach to indulge in water activities such as waterskiing, parasailing, jet skiing, canoeing and kayaking. Boat rentals are also available from several beaches.

Top: Beach at Okanagan Lake
Bottom: The S.S. Sicamous

On Okanagan Inland Marine Heritage Park you can visit the Sicamous Steamboat. This paddlewheeler was the last commercial ship to operate on Okanagan Lake. Built in 1914 and retired in 1936, the large ship now spends its days drydocked on the edge of Okanagan Lake. The ship is open daily for tours in the summer.

At the begginning of the last century, the steamboats were used to transport people, food, supplies, tools, clothes, and mail. They also carried horses, cattle, and machinery. They were a very important means of transportation in the Okanagan Valley.

The Penticton Rose Garden is besides Okanagan Inland Marine Heritage Park. Hundreds of roses decorate this park that is next to Lakeshore Drive which blossoms with hotels, motels and restaurants.

A very popular activity is floating down the Penticton River Channel that connects Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. 

Riverside Park

Every Summer, water bugs and sun worshippers can spend several hours paddling, spinning or slowly hovering from Riverside Park to where Skaha Lake begins. There are tube rental shops, but creative water lovers may use anything that floats to ride the gentle channel current.

Floating on Penticton River Channel

The name Penticton is derived from a word in the Okanagan language, a reference to the year-round flow of the Okanagan River when it enters Skaha Lake.

For a small fee, shuttle buses will transport floaters and their devices back to the top of the channel at the end of their lazy adventure.

It is possible to see classic car enthusiasts sharing their passion along the shoreline. If you want to see more of these cars you can make a pit stop and fill up on nostalgia at the Nixdorf Classic Cars showroom located just outside of Penticton. With over 80 fully-restored vintage automobiles is like a time capsule for a bygone era.

After floating on the Penticton River Channel a good way to recharge energies is with a good barbecue. Many motels around the area offer free barbecue grills.

You can complement your afternoon with a walk or bycicle ride along Lakeshore drive.

One of the most photographed spots in town is the Peach. It is a concession stand shaped and painted as a giant peach. Film buffs may recognize it from the movie My American Cousin which was filmed in the Penticton Area. This is actually the second Peach, as the first was pushed into the lake during the 1990 Peachfest riot.

Top Left: The Peach

There are more things to see and do, but this should give you a good idea how to spend your time if you are visiting for only one day.

The immediate Penticton area has many wineries, and indeed more seem to spring up everyday. With limited time and driving north towards Summerland, we visited Sumac Ridge Winery, a winery easy to reach from the highway.

Sumac Ridge Estate Winery won the Best Varietal award from the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival for their 2005 Pinnacle red, a vintage that also won a gold medal in the fall wine festival.

Many wineries offer free tastings and tours, and will almost certainly sell their products directly. Sumac Ridge is one of the exceptions to the rule, it is a paid tasting tour.

Tour and tasting

On your way back, you can drive on Highway 3 and do a quick stop in Keremeos. If you are travelling with kids, you can spend some time at Farmer John's Petting Zoo and interact with goats, llamas, alpacas, pigs, rabbits, ponies and more.

Top: Farmer John's Petting Zoo
Bottom: Cherry Trees

Late June to late July is the harvest time for cherries. The Keremeos area is world renowned for its soft fruit production.

There are some wineries on the area but the main industry in the valley is fruit growing. Cattle and hay ranching, market gardening, organic fruit growing and gardening, wineries, tourism and light industry make up the remainder.

Fruit stands are also a major component of the local economy, making it the self-titled "fruit stand capital of Canada."

Keremeos is fast becoming a popular retirement community as well, due to the area's mild winters, dry climate and the picturesque and peaceful countryside.

Keremeos also has one of the few remaining working grist mills in North America. Barrington Price opened this water-powered mill on August 21, 1877. The mill was significant because Keremeos residents would no longer have to travel the 170 miles to Colville to get flour. Barrington Price had to give up the mill before the end of the century, because of financial difficulty.

Keremeos Grist Mill

Today, the Keremeos Grist Mill has been converted to an informative historical site. The mill was reconstructed to its original form. Photographs and other architectural clues aided the restoration process of the mill.

The restoration process started with the stabilization of the of the mill's support structure in 1981. In 1985, the waterwheel became operational. In 1989, restoration of the machinery was completed.

Roundtrip Driving Distance from Vancouver: 809 km (503 mi)
About 10 hours