3 days in Kelowna: where to go, what to eat & drink
3 days in Kelowna: where to go, what to eat & drink
We left Vancouver in the late afternoon and began the scenic drive to Kelowna. Our first stop was the city of Merritt, nicknamed the Country Music Capital of Canada. I spotted a sign for the Merritt Viewpoint and declared we had to find it. Twenty minutes later, we had seen all of Merritt, but no viewpoint. Hidden among residential streets, we finally found the entrance to the viewpoint and followed the short, winding and steep road to reach the top. It was definitely a highlight of our stop in Merritt.
Apparently, the tourism information centre in Merritt is fantastic and they serve delicious samosas! It was closed by the time we arrived, but it may be worth a stop, as I have heard this from multiple people. After a brief stop at a relatively sketchy 7-11, we continued on the Coquihalla Highway to Kelowna. Our drive was timed perfectly with the sunset. We pulled over on the side of the highway, ran across the road, and took pictures.
We arrived in downtown Kelowna late that evening and were starving! I had done some research prior to the trip, and heard RauDZ Regional Table was very good. It turned out to be one of the best meals I have had in a long time! Described as a “brick-lined bistro with a long communal table serving locally sourced Pacific Northwest dishes“, the atmosphere is warm, the food fresh, and the owners committed to supporting their local community. My boss and I shared the beautifully plated and delicious seared albacore tuna to start, served with spring vegetable crudite, chive yogurt, and black sesame seed cracker. While difficult to choose my main course, I had the Codfathers Selection, the day’s best from their fishmongers: pan-seared halibut, local asparagus and beets, and carrot puree.
The next morning, one of our Directors organized a private winery tour for our Board to attend. Yes, my job is awesome. Our enthusiastic and hilarious driver Liz of Sip Happens Wine tours picked us up at our hotel on Sunday morning, armed with water bottles, wine glasses, and an itinerary.
Arrowleaf Cellars: ranked no. 2 winery in Canada and my favourite stop. We sampled 8 wines, I loved the Gewürztraminer.
Gray Monk Estate Winery: the Okanagan’s oldest family owned and operated winery, perched above Okanagan Lake with panoramic views of the area.
Blind Tiger Vineyards: Lake Country’s newest boutique winery. Their philosophy is to raise quality produce with as little chemical intervention as possible. This includes the noisy flock of organic heritage chickens roaming the rows of grapes performing pest control duties.
50th Parallel Estate: the wine was good, but most memorable was the property itself. 10,000 sf winery and wine caves, 61 acres of land, and a cement modern industrial-style tasting room.
Ex Nihilo Estate: I am still craving the 2012 merlot from this Mediterranean-style winery. The food here is also very good: woodfire pizzas, big fresh salads, and a large selection of charcuterie.
Intrigue Wines: sample I Do, their beautifully packaged sparkling pink wine, and purchase a few bottles to have on hand as wedding gifts.
Ancient Hill Estate: a European-style winery with old world charm. This was the last stop on our tour, so admittedly I don’t remember much!
Located on the waterfront in downtown Kelowna and next to the Yacht Club, their patio and open air dining room is the perfect spot on a nice evening.
Espresso drinks, tea, pulp fiction art, books, and antiques. They offer non-dairy milks and fantastic coffee in a retro atmosphere.
On the hunt for gluten free or vegan food? Naked Cafe is 100% plant-based. The Buddha Bowl with quinoa, vegetables, tofu, and tangy cream sauce was delicious.
Voted the best sandwich in town, The Bread Company was packed with locals when I stopped in for lunch. I had the organic greens salad with a piece of perfectly blackened salmon on top.
Using fresh, locally grown ingredients with an emphasis on real and whole foods, I devoured my spelt muffin and organic fair-trade Americano.
I was in Kelowna the week after my marathon, so my running was minimal. But Kelowna is full of active people and has several popular running routes. I did short runs along the waterfront, in the direction of Knox Mountain or West Kelowna. Next time, I want to run the Mission Park Greenway. Find more running route suggestions here and here. If you are able to get out of the city, Steph McGregor of Any Given Runday recently posted on Instagram her run along Kettle Valley Railway. Miles of railway trestles, tunnels, and trails, this route from Kelowna to Naramata looks amazing.
Since running was a little unpleasant, I opted for a long hike instead! Knox Mountain Park is minutes from downtown Kelowna and has many well-maintained trails to explore. I spent 3-4 hours wandering the park. I hiked from the base of Knox Mountain, following the Apex Trail to the first lookout. I continued onto Paul’s Tomb, a family vault constructed by Rembler Paul in the early 1900s.
After taking in the views of Okanagan Lake, I returned along Paul’s Tomb Trail, climbed the short but steep Ogopogo Trail, ending up on the Pavilion Trail and at the Caretaker’s House.
After a quick bathroom stop, it was off to the Upper Apex Lookout for panoramic views of the city below. I tried to find my way to the summit, but ended up on some residential streets and sketchy trails. Eventually, I made my way back down to the base of Knox Mountain, making some new friends along the way and completing a short loop around Kathleen Lake.
On the drive back to Vancouver, we stopped at Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park in hopes of walking through the Othello Tunnels. In the early 1900s, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided a route was necessary to link the Kootenay Region with the BC coast by rail. The railway was built over three mountain ranges and a straight line of tunnels were built through it which are known now as the Othello Tunnels. Unfortunately, the tunnels were not yet open to visitors, but the park was beautiful. Our final stop was at the Urban Sprout in Chilliwack for a late lunch. After a few days of indulgence, the thai peanut bowl on zucchini noodles hit the spot.