Updated: July 31st, 2021
Located along beautiful Okanagan Lake, surrounded by desert and wineries, Kelowna is easily one of British Columbia’s tourism jewels. It’s the third-largest metropolitan area in British Columbia, behind only Vancouver and Victoria, and is one of the most popular summer destinations in the province. It’s also one of the warmest destinations in Canada, so whether you’re looking to get some sun, go boating, hit up a golf course, visit wineries, or even come here in the winter for some awesome skiing, Kelowna is a great place to explore.
However, another great feature of Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley is that it’s home to many other great communities, such as Vernon, Peachland, Summerland, and Penticton. Plus, it’s right in the middle between the Calgary to Vancouver drive, making it a great place to visit during an epic Canada road trip.
Fun Facts: The name Kelowna comes from the Indigenous Okanagan language for “Grizzly Bear”.
Getting to Kelowna
If you’re a visitor looking for different ways of getting to Kelowna, here’s some practical advice on how to get here.
Getting to Kelowna by Car
Kelowna is a great place to explore on a road trip. Located almost exactly in the middle between Vancouver and Calgary, it’s surrounded by some of the best landscapes in Canada, including jaw-dropping lakes, mountain vistas, and dry desert. For those on a road trip from Calgary to Vancouver, it makes for a great mid-way stop and can easily provide weeks of endless fun.
Getting to Kelowna by Plane
Despite being a relatively small city, Kelowna is home to the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) and is one of the busiest airports in Canada with more than 70 commercial flights each day. The airport is very central and is only a 20-minute drive to downtown Kelowna.
Getting to Kelowna by Bus
Although Greyhound stopped serving the area, there are still ways to get to Kelowna by bus. However, there is no bus from Alberta. Instead, Ebus offers routes from Vancouver and other locations in BC. We recommend using Budbud.com to see what routes are offered.
Getting around Kelowna
Kelowna is not a major city centre and thus, has no metro. It does, however, have a public bus system as well as taxis, Uber, Lyft, and so forth. For public buses, you can go online and use their online trip planner, which will help you get around. There are also a variety of bus tours you can sign up for. If you like to go biking, it’s also a great place for that.
Weather in Kelowna (Best Time to Visit)
Kelowna is a very hot place during the summer months and fairly chilly in the winter, although milder than most of Canada. Still, most of Kelowna’s tourism happens from spring to fall as people come to enjoy the lakes, go golfing and visit the wineries. However, Kelowna is also home to Big White Ski Resort, which is a very popular ski resort in BC. You can expect highs of -1°C in January, highs of 28°C in July, and highs of 21°C in September. Rainfall is pretty steady at only 5-7 days per month.
Holidays: Canada’s important public holidays are New Year’s Day (Jan 1); Good Friday and Easter Monday (Mar or Apr); Victoria Day (the Mon preceding May 25); St-Jean-Baptiste Day, Québec’s own “national” day (June 24); Canada Day (July 1); Labour Day (first Mon in Sept); Canadian Thanksgiving Day (second Mon in Oct); and Christmas (Dec 25).
What to Do in Kelowna
Okay, now that we’ve talked about getting to Kelowna and how to get around, now let’s talk about the most important part – all the things to do in Kelowna!
Go on a Kelowna Winery Tour
Whether you sign up for an actual tour or just go on your own, Kelowna is a great place for trying a variety of delicious Canadian wines. In fact, the Okanagan Valley is one of the top three wine regions in Canada and a trip here would not be complete without enjoying some grape alcohol. There are dozens of Okanagan wineries scattered in and around Kelowna as well as many more in Lake Country and Vernon. Some of these are massive estates that rival those in California whereas others are small family-run wineries.
We’ve only been to one so far and it was Summerhill Pyramid Winery. What was super cool about this winery is that they’re biodynamic. They gave us the complete tour of how they grow the grapes right up until they age them in an actual on-site pyramid, which they believe gives a unique energy to the wine!
If you don’t want to drive yourself, there’s also a variety of Kelowna wine tours that include lunch and a number of winery visits. If you really want to go all out, you can even indulge in a wine tour by chauffeured vintage car or even a helicopter tour if you want to look like you own the place.
Go Boating on Okanagan Lake
Another activity you shouldn’t miss when visiting Kelowna in the warmer months is hopping on some sort of water vessel and heading out onto beautiful and massive Okanagan Lake. This lake is 135 km in length, about 5 km wide, and up to 230 metres deep. It’s actually considered a fjord lake as it has been carved out by repeated glaciations. You spend time on beaches, admire it from shore, or fly over it in a helicopter, but the best way to enjoy the lake is to be out on the water.
There are many different boat tours available and we can definitely recommend Kelowna Water Taxi and Services, a friendly Irish-Canadian guy who can cater to what you’re looking for.
Rent Maeg’s BBQ Boat
While we’re on the topic of boating on Okanagan Lake, why not rent a BBQ Boat from Maeg’s? Talk about unique! You and up to nine friends can rent one of these eco-friendly, electric-powered bright orange donut-shaped vessels for a day out under the sun, including an awesome BBQ on the water! Guests charter their own boat, bring their own friends, bring their own food, and bring their own drinks. Can summer days get any better?
Don’t think you can handle the boat? There’s also an option for hiring someone at Maeg’s to help captain the boat as well.
Another fun activity to try on Okanagan Lake is flyboarding. This was one of our highlights during our 150-day road trip through Kelowna and we’d love to go again. Basically, you get strapped to a board that projectiles you into the air via water pressure, which is controlled by a SeaDoo! If you’re up for a bit of a thrill and don’t might getting plunged into the lake, this is a really fun activity to try.
Go Hiking and Biking on the Kettle Valley Railway
We only saw this place by helicopter but it looked like an epic place to go for a bike ride or a long hike. With incredible scenery and views, the Myra Canyon trestles are a great place to get outdoors near the city. It’s about a 30-40 minute drive from downtown Kelowna and is part of the Kettle Valey Railway, which happens to be the longest rail-trail network in BC, stretching all the way to Hope!
Don’t worry though. The trains have long stopped and it’s now been converted into a recreational trail for hikers and cyclists. Steep canyons, tunnels, and 18 trestle bridges await you.
Fly Above Kelowna in a Helicopter
If you think Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley are beautiful on land, imagine what it looks like from the sky! We had an incredible tour with Valhalla Helicopter Tours who took us over Kelowna, the lake, and over wineries. They even brought us out to the kettle trail area to see the train tracks and the beautiful nature surrounding the city.
Go Full Zen at Kasugai Japanese Garden
If you’re looking for a peaceful spot to unwind within downtown Kelowna, look no further than the Kasugai Japanese Garden. This garden was created in 1987 to demonstrate the friendship between Kelowna and its sister city in Kasugai, Japan. You’ll find stone lanterns, pine trees, waterfalls, and a koi-stocked pond. It’s typically open as late as 8 p.m. in the summer months and is free of charge.
Chill Out on a Beach
Thanks to massive Lake Okanagan and the hot weather, Kelowna and the surrounding area are home to a number of beautiful beaches. One of the most popular is Boyce-Gyro Beach Park, which is equipped with snack venues, a rope swing, volleyball courts, a playground, an inflatable waterpark, watersport rentals, washroom facilities, and many picnic areas. Located in South Kelowna, it’s close to many hotels and motels, which makes it very convenient.
Play Mini Golf at Scandia Golf and Games
I must admit. When I was a kid, I adored Scandia. It’s one of the only things I remember as a child. Playing games for tokens. Enjoying one of the most elaborate games of mini golf I’ve ever seen. Trading tokens for cheap toys. When we re-visited for our Road-to-150 Canada Road Trip, I made sure we all went and had fun.
Okay, maybe it’s not as awesome as I imagined as a kid but it’s still home to the best mini golf I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been all across Canada and to 42 countries). Now, I’m not a mini-gold connoisseur but it’s a great place to stop if you love hitting golf balls through castles and such. They also offer a go-kart track, batting cage, and arcade.
Relax at the Okanagan Lavender and Herb Farm
Looking for a place to just sit back and smell nature at its finest? This 8-acre eco-friendly farm is found not too far from downtown Kelowna and allows you to walk around in splendor, surrounded by plants and herbs, such as purple lavender and sage. All of these beautiful things are then harvested into botanical products, such as essential oils and body butter. You can buy them on-site or just go online and order them as well.
Experience one of the MANY Beautiful Parks
Like much of Canada, Kelowna has no shortage of places to experience beautiful nature both inside and outside the city. Knox Mountain Park is one of the most popular and is located not too far from the city. Another favourite is Waterfront Park and City Park, which are both right in the city. Mission Creek Regional Park is another one.
Enjoy a Wine-Themed Spa Treatment
You know you’re in wine country when wine-themed spas start opening up. Beyond Wrapture Day Spa takes all the byproducts from wineries, such as pips, skins, and stems, and then turns them into lotions and scrubs. The antioxidants found in the grapes are supposed to promote enzyme activity in skin cells and reduce the damage caused by free radicals. So, now you really can drink your wine and be massaged with it too.
Go Cruising on a Dropbike
Bored of walking? Well, now you can jump on a bike. Kelowna has a great Dropbike program, which consists of very noticeable bright-orange bicycles that can be found all over town and rented for just $1 per hour. Even better, the bikes self-lock, allowing you to leave them anywhere you want. Even the tires are made from foam, which means no flat tires!
Don-O-Ray Farm Adventure
Home to almost all 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor, Don-O-Ray is certainly a family favourite around Kelowna. Whether you want to grab some extremely fresh vegetables (picked fresh daily) or bring the kids for a chance to see farm animals, this is a great spot to visit. Depending on the time of year you go, you’ll find a hedge maze, a petting zoo, goat feeding, and much more. Plus, they offer other premium products as well, including salad dressings, honey, unique drinks, and more!
Go Skiing at Big White Ski Resort
If you happen to be visiting Kelowna in the winter months, then why not going skiing or snowboarding at Big White Mountain Resort. This is one of the most popular ski resorts in the province and also the third largest. Its mountain summit is 2,319 metres with a vertical drop of 777 metres. Home to more than 2,700 acres of skiable terrain and 16 lifts, it’s an awesome way to enjoy the mountains around Kelowna.
Where to Stay in Kelowna
Do you know where we stayed during our first visit to Kelowna many years ago? We couch-surfed! That was way back in 2010 and it was a great way to meet locals and not pay for accommodation. But since then, we prefer our comfort and stick to hotels and guesthouses for the most part.
Wild Nature B&B: Located on 10 acres of private forest, this is a great place to go to be in nature. With views of the Okanagan Lake, this bed & breakfast offers free WiFi, private bathrooms, and hiking opportunities. It’s about 30-minutes from downtown Kelowna.
Prestige Beach House: This Best Western Premier Collection hotel is conveniently located right across from Hot Sands Beach in the heart of the city. It features granite bathrooms, enclosed balconies, free WiFi, and is pet-friendly. There’s also a hot tub, gym, and the West Coast Grill & Oyster Bar.
Kelowna International Hostel: If you’re on a budget, consider the Kelowna International Hostel. It’s just a 5-minute walk from Okanagan Lake and Strathcona Park Beach. They offer free WiFi, access to a shared kitchen, luggage storage, laundry facilities, free parking, and much more.
Things to Do around Kelowna
If Kelowna is your only destination during this trip, this guide should be all you need. But if you have some time to spare and wish to venture further, there are SO MANY THINGS TO DO outside of Kelowna, including nearby stops like Penticton and further-away stops like Vancouver and Calgary.
For more things to do in Canada, check out these articles below: