Penticton is a First Nations word for ‘a place to stay forever’. Indeed, many locals moved there permanently after they’d visited, so enamoured they were by the town and its surrounding area. Located at the southern end of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley – and with a population of only 33,000 – this tiny place packs in a lot for fleeting visits, too: heritage buildings, a stunning waterfront along the Okanagan and Skaha Lakes, picturesque cycling routes and wineries galore. Here are eight things to do in Penticton BC beginning with P.
1-Peaches, beaches and paddle steamers
A giant peach stands at the gateway to the Okanagan Lake and serves as a small kiosk in the high season.
This reflects Penticton’s orchard heritage – cherries, apples, plums, pear and grapes (and more) are still grown here. Since 1947, the town has held an annual Peach festival.
To get your waterside bearings, stroll or cycle along the kilometre of sandy beach from the marina and Japanese gardens on the eastern end, to the floating SS Sicamous, a former paddle-steamer, now museum, on the lakeshore’s western end.
The cargo deck features a scale model of the Kettle Valley Railway. Or, for water-based views, head out on the lake in a ski-boat, paddle-board or kayaks.
Oh, and keep an eye out for Ogopogo, the local Loch Ness Monster.
Not quirky enough? Then float in a rubber tube down the Okanagan River Channel that connects Okanagan Lake with Skaha Lake.
2-Pick-Your-Own (U-pick) in Penticton BC
Of all the things to do in Penticton BC, don’t miss taking a tour around Covert Farms in a vintage 1952 Mercury truck.
The attractive 243-hectare (600-acre) organic farm is located on a high plateau (here, a glacial ice dam burst 10,000 years ago) and overlooks First Nations fishing grounds.
You jolt your way through lush biodynamic fields full of grapes (plus it grows tomatoes, peaches, cucumbers, peppers and more). You can even pick your own (‘U-pick’) strawberries.
3-Pedal along the Kettle Valley Railway
You can cycle (or stroll) along the Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) trail that runs through Penticton BC.
Previously a railway corridor, it’s now part of the Trans Canada Trail; the now-abandoned railway was opened in 1915 to transport fruit from the surrounding orchards, as well as passengers.
The prettiest ride is northeast along the Naramata Bench (and beyond), a beautiful area with views of the Okanagan Lake and dotted with orchards and vineyards.
Head out as far as you can and, on your return, admire the lakeside view over a gourmet lunch and a few glasses of vino in the attractive bistro at Hillside Winery & Bistro (see 4).
If you continue past Naramata along the trail (it’s a 2.2% uphill gradient), Ponderosa and Douglas firs line the trail; here signs warn of rattlesnakes and even bears!
4-Pace yourself through the Okanagan wineries
More than 70 vineyards and boutique wineries are located in Penticton, most within a 20-minute drive. And visiting a vineyard is one of the more pleasurable things to do in Penticton BC
You can tour the entire valley (grab a map from the tourist information office, appropriately named the “Wine Country Visitor Centre”).
Having said that, Penticton’s Naramata Bench alone, the hillside behind Penticton BC, will keep you busy for a couple of days.
Hillside Winery & Bistro celebrates Penticton’s terroir: its award winning wines are grown on the Bench alone (their flagship wine is the Mosaic, a blend of varietals).
Hillside’s fabulous bistro with outdoor terrace is the perfect place to head for a loooong lunch after cycling the Kettle Valley Railway (it has direct access to the trail).
5-Peruse the Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday from May to October, visiting the weekend Farmer’s Market (the largest in the Okanagan) is one of the most popular things to do in Penticton BC.
The market is the place to stock up on picnic fare: handmade goodies include farm produce – fruits, vegetables, breads and baked goods. Plus there’s local clothing, Canadian collectables and antiques. In winter, it moves indoors to the Shatford Centre.
6-Pig out at Tickleberry’s
Take a sweets pilgrimage to Tickleberry’s in Okanagan Falls, 21km south of Penticton BC.
It’s the closest thing to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of the ice-cream version.
Think cow-to-cow, hand-crafted, ice-cream cones of a zillion flavours.
The owners boast they’ve been to ‘ice-cream university’ so you know you’re onto something serious.
Flavours include ‘peanut butter overdose’, ‘caramel macchiato’ and ‘lime in da coconut’.
7-Pound the pavements of historic Main Street
Attractive heritage buildings line Penticton’s Main Street and around. Elite Restaurant is a classic diner that’s caught in a time warp – think vintage tables and chairs, a turn-table and vinyl albums aplenty.
If nothing else, it’s the place to meet locals over Canadian-comfort food.
Housed in a converted school (typical of the fifties and sixties), the Shatford Centre now houses creative pursuits: check out the schedule of activities – from culinary to art classes.
Also in Main St, a former gas station has been cleverly converted to a contemporary eatery, Brodo, whose superb cuisine comprises fresh, local and seasonal produce.
8-Pick a dish (or three) at Penticton’s restaurants
Penticton’s ‘don’t-go-past eatery’ is Bench Café, a small deli-cum-café that attracts everyone from joggers and cyclists returning from their Kettle Valley highway sojourn, to trendy locals and visitors who appreciate wholesome gourmet delights.
For breakfast stock up on a ‘Bench Benny’ (sock-eye salmon on a muffin with a creamy mustard).
Another great option is The Hooded Maganser where the chef whips up contemporary cuisine for brunch, lunch and dinner plus a good selection of local wines.
Situated overlooking the lake, this is the place to enjoy the sun and view, and a leisurely meal.
Kate Armstrong was a guest of Canadian Tourism Commission
Penticton is in British Columbia near Vancouver. For more things to see in British Columbia go to www.visitpenticton.com.
While visiting British Columbia, meet some artisan chocolate makers who are making waves.
Canada is famous for its sugar shacks and visiting a sugar shack is a fun experience. For more things to do in Canada see Best of Canada.
The Okanagan Valley is rich in First Nations history and culture.
If you’re wondering where to stay while in BC, consider staying at one of these two amazing historic places.
Visiting the USA? Why not head across the border to Canada as well?