You may have heard of it: Canada’s desert, the South Okanagan, characterized by its sage-scrub and rattlesnakes and burgeoning status as one of the country’s most popular luxury playgrounds. And why not—with its alluring waterfront, lush agriculture, and celebrated vineyards, the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country has been compared to the Mediterranean (no passport required). In fact, word has it that increasingly warm temperatures will not only improve the Okanagan’s viniculture, but will encourage farmers to add almonds, figs, and olives to their repertoires as well. The resemblance truly will be uncanny then, but for now, there is still much to enjoy in the region. Here, our suggestions as to how to make the most of your time in the South Okanagan.
Stay: Comfort is ensured at Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip Resort, which boasts lovely views of surrounding vineyards. Or, one can book a room on the other side of Canada’s warmest lake at the Watermark Beach Resort along the shoreline. Their on-site restaurant serves delicious tacos with sustainable Okanagan sockeye salmon—a species once driven to near-extinction now again flourishing in large part due to the efforts of the Okanagan Nation Alliance. Book an appointment at the Levia Wellness Spa, where locally-grown herbs make their way into fragrant body treatments.
Wine and Dine: Embark on a wine tour that begins at Intersection Winery, a 10-acre vineyard that produces some phenomenal merlots, thanks to a complex mix of growing soils, and an unmissable cabernet franc. Continue on to Gehringer Brothers, one of the oldest winemakers in the region, who specialize in whites and has won numerous awards for their rieslings and pinot gris. Their riesling icewine, with notes of honeyed apple and peach, is decadent. Finish at Burrowing Owl Estate, perhaps the most gorgeous property of all, for a glass of their superior cabernet, and an exquisitely prepared meal (the osso buco is recommended). Do plan for a meal at Miradoro, as well. The restaurant at Tinhorn Creek Vineyards serves Neapolitan-style pizzas and plenty else in a cozy-contemporary atmosphere.
Do: A good plan is to reserve your dinner at Miradoro while Tinhorn Creek’s annual concert series unfolds on the vineyard’s grassy lawn beside you. The event, which sees The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer in August and 54-40 in September, is intimate, family friendly, very fun, and the furthest thing from a mega music festival you can possibly imagine (think picnic blankets, rosé in cups, and polite barefoot dancing on plush green grass as the stars come out). The region also hosts the annual Half Corked Marathon, where one may jog through the grapevines while stopping for alcoholic refreshments, and awards are doled out to those with the best costumes (shout out to the fellow dressed as Indiana Jones, and the four friends who rolled a giant boulder behind him for 18 kilometres).
It turns out, Canada’s desert is in fact an oasis.