British Columbia's Thompson Okanagan, a sun-drenched haven for winemakers, is also the province's lake district and, for generations, a favoured family holiday spot for western Canadians.
The region extends from the sagebrush and ranching country near the Fraser River in the west to the Monashee Mountains in the east, and from Mount Robson in the north to the US border in the south.
At its heart is a long, fertile valley running north-south along Okanagan, Skaha, Vaseux, and Osoyoos lakes, where vineyards, orchards, golf courses, and forests of ponderosa pine blanket the hills above a string of warm, beach-fringed lakes.
Okanagan Lake, the longest of the three at 135 kilometres (84 miles), is also said to host Ogopogo, a shy but harmless creature, rarely seen but possibly related to Nessie of Loch Ness.
The region is home to over 170 licensed wineries and more than fifty 18-hole golf courses, as well as four major ski resorts. World-class destinations and travel experiences in the Thompson Okanagan—such as Sparkling Hill Resort and the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train trip—are recognized internationally as must-dos. The region is easily accessible by road and air, with Kamloops, Penticton, and Kelowna welcoming direct flights from Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George, Cranbrook, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Whitehorse, Seattle, and Toronto.
Lesser known are the Thompson Okanagan's other landscapes: the hundreds of trout-stocked fishing lakes in the rolling ranch country around Kamloops; the vast boreal forests of the north; the many reaches of Shuswap Lake, where vacationers can explore 620 miles of shoreline by houseboat; and Osoyoos, located in Canada's only desert where 2,000 hours of sunshine annually help support species found nowhere else in the country.
Some of BC's biggest, most dramatic wilderness parks are found in the Thompson Okanagan. One such draw is Wells Gray Provincial Park, home to the stunning 463-foot Helmcken Falls, one of Canada's highest waterfalls, as well as plenty of outdoor adventure options. Here you can cast a line, hike, paddle in Murtle Lake—North America's largest canoe-only lake—and possibly catch sight of moose, bears, and mule deer. The area surrounding Blue River features one of the highest concentrations of bears in North America. Another must-see is Mount Robson Provincial Park. East of Wells Gray, this UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounds the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Still more come to golf at the Thompson Okanagan's many championship courses, enjoy spa treatments, savour local cuisine in lakeside winery bistros, pick sun-drenched peaches and cherries at organic orchards, and bask on lakeside beaches.
In winter, savvy skiers head to the Thompson Okanagan's well-equipped, family-friendly resorts to enjoy the famous champagne powder snow; it’s extra fluffy.
Those with enough time and energy do it all.
For tailor made holidays to Canada contact the experts at Bon Voyage.
Where you stay is the heart of your holiday. Location reigns supreme but do you prefer resort facilities or unique and boutique? Historic and old world or modern and shiny?
We aim to present choices across the spectrum but there are many hundreds of places to stay and not room to feature them all. Do speak to your Bon Voyage travel consultant and click the video for our take on this important topic.
We would rate the Bellagio as one of the best hotels we have ever stayed in. Fabulous, glitzy, exciting. We loved having breakfast at the poolside café... one of our best experiences ever. If it hadn't been for you we wouldn't have had the suite or cabana and we loved them. We both agreed that the hotel was the best for us and you had suggested that so well done!Leonore & Mike Rumford