It’s a sunny day in Kelowna, British Columbia, and the glass of rosé in your hand is the exact dusky pink hue of the city’s blossoming cherry trees. You started the day with a hike overlooking Okanagan Lake, and the reward is a taste of this newly released vintage at a local winery, complete with a view of the verdant grape vines in the vineyard below. Tomorrow you’ll be cycling a valley trail past towering pine and poplar trees, or golfing with friends on an emerald-green fairway.
Spring arrives on time in this small city located in British Columbia’s famous wine-growing valley. Flowers bloom on cue in April, and daytime highs range between 15 and 24 Celsius, perfect for outdoor activities that revitalize body and soul after a winter cooped up indoors. What’s more, you’ll have the pathways, golf courses, and tasting rooms mostly to yourself — spring isn’t nearly as busy as summer in this lakeside destination.
The longer days promise adventure, so here are six rejuvenating ways to greet the new season.
1. Indulge in a wine tour without the wait
Fewer crowds mean you can often walk right in for a tasting at most of Kelowna’s 40-plus wineries. However, reservations are encouraged if you’re interested in the more in-depth, educational tastings that became popular during the pandemic. These seated experiences invite you to take your time while you learn about the valley’s wide range of grape varieties, from auxerrois to zinfandel.
CedarCreek Estate Winery’s Farmed and Foraged experience walks wine lovers through five award-winning wines while they hear about the winery’s organic farming and winemaking. Across the lake at Frind Estate Winery, Kelowna’s only lakefront winery, an elevated tasting pairs a selection of wines with charcuterie and a view of sailboats slicing through Okanagan Lake’s placid water. After trying those new spring releases of rosé or riesling, you can buy them in the wine shop before they sell out.
2. Take a hike for expansive valley views
By late March, hiking trails are free of snow in most spots around Kelowna. You can take it easy on a lakeside stroll along the city’s waterfront boardwalk, or challenge yourself by hoofing it up an extinct volcano.
But to really get a sense of Kelowna’s unique landscape and geology, head to the Johns Family Nature Conservancy. Perched above the Kettle Valley neighbourhood, this regional park features 5km of maintained trails that offer city and lake views as you stroll past rocky escarpments and stands of ponderosa pine.
Look up and you’ll see turkey vultures circling overhead or mountain bluebirds sparring over a mate; look ahead and you might spy mule deer hopping away in the distance. You may even catch a glimpse of human rock climbers defying gravity as they scale the gneiss cliffs adjacent to The Crags trail — the park is popular with the local climbing community.
3. Take to the water with a kayak or SUP
Spring may not deliver beach weather, but its calm days are perfect for paddling along the shore of Okanagan Lake. Bring your own watercraft or pick one up from Okanagan Beach Rentals, which operates out of three popular city beaches starting in mid-May.
Kelowna even has a paddle trail that stretches 27km from McKinley Beach in the north to Bertram Creek Regional Park in the south. It passes 20 beaches, two bird sanctuaries, and numerous parks — as well as downtown Kelowna, which is located right on the water. Along the way, buoys mark distances and beach accesses to help paddlers navigate and find convenient rest stops.
4. Ride the Okanagan Rail Trail
The city’s most ambitious two-wheel pathway follows a mostly flat, decommissioned railway line that alternates between pavement and flat-packed gravel as it runs for 50km between downtown Kelowna and Vernon to the north. It passes numerous breweries and a cidery on the way out of the city, skirts three lakes, and winds past beaches and orchards. Note: There’s a short, incomplete section of the trail north of Kelowna International Airport that’s slated to be finished this summer.
Cyclists can look for birdlife at spots like Carney Pond and Kekuli Bay Provincial Park, or savour local flavours at fruit stands and cafés along the route. Be sure to pause and read the interpretive signs that tell the region’s cultural history, including how the trail was once part of an Indigenous trade route.
5. Breathe in the blossoms
Vancouver gets all the buzz for its cherry blossoms, but Kelowna’s fruit trees wow visitors annually between late April and mid-May. When you add in the competing pink and white petals on apricot, peach, apple, and pear trees in area orchards, it’s an anthophile’s delight. Take in the views at Mike & Lizzy’s Cherry U-Pick along Lakeshore Drive or in West Kelowna at Paynter’s Fruit Market.
Additionally, hillsides around town burst into a blazing carpet of yellow arrowleaf balsamroot, also called Okanagan sunflowers. These happy blooms grow like weeds on southfacing slopes and are visible on hikes in Knox Mountain Park downtown. For more flowers and fragrances, stop by one of the city’s public gardens. Purple lilacs and a rainbow of tulips show off at Guisachan Heritage Park in April and May, while white crabapple blossoms and pink rhododendrons come alive at Kasugai Japanese Gardens.
6. Hit the links
With 19 golf courses, 2,000 hours of annual sunshine, and a season that stretches from late March through October, Kelowna is one of the best places in Canada to golf. For lake views and the thrill of driving your ball past more than 800 fruit trees that dot the fairway, book a tee time at The Harvest Golf Club in southeast Kelowna. After playing 18 holes on this championship-length course, you’ll love the selection of local wines at Masa’s Grill located in the clubhouse. Sip a chilled glass of chardonnay on the patio, which overlooks the beautifully landscaped grounds.
These are just six ideas for embracing spring in Kelowna, but there are many other rewarding ways to emerge from hibernation in BC’s best valley. Now is the time to explore Canada’s favourite outdoor playground.