Picture yourself next to a vineyard sipping chilled chardonnay while the winemaker’s dogs laze under an autumn sun. After this tasting, you’ll hop on an e-bike and cruise to a winery bistro just down the road, or maybe hit a nearby farm for some fresh honey and preserves. With the summer crowds long gone, it’s easy to be spontaneous on a fall trip to Kelowna.
Everyone knows BC’s lakeside city shines in summer, with sandy beaches and roadside fruit stands. But locals love the Okanagan Valley when the heat dissipates and the aspen and larch trees begin to turn a golden hue. Autumn brings perfect hiking and cycling weather, with ample opportunities to fuel up thanks to the fall harvest. You can drink, eat, explore, and repeat the next day without missing a beat. Here’s how.
Taste all the wines
Wine grapes were first planted in Kelowna over 150 years ago. They’ve thrived here thanks to the valley’s unique terroir — that interplay between soil, climate, and vineyard that gives wines their unique taste and sense of place. There are now more than 40 wineries in the city, with tasting rooms pouring everything from pinot gris to zinfandel.
To learn about terroir-driven wines, reserve a seated tasting experience at Tantalus Vineyards. You’ll sample chardonnay, riesling, and pinot noir, all nurtured on the surrounding 75 acres. From your spot on the balcony, you can see exactly where the fermented grapes you’re drinking were grown. And at nearby Nagging Doubt Winery, a true garagiste (small-scale) operation, winemaker and owner Rob Westbury will walk you through a tasting inside the cellar room. You can try cold-climate whites such as siegerrebe and learn why this aromatic wine does so well in Kelowna.
For a more in-depth look at Kelowna’s wine scene, book a guided wine tour, where you’ll get plenty of insider intel on the best varietals and learn more about the industry. Most tour companies visit four wineries, with time built in to enjoy the views and visit the wine shop so you can take your favorite bottles home with you.
Bonus: Oenophiles should plan a visit during the Okanagan Fall Wine Festival, an annual celebration of wine held this year from Oct. 27 to Nov. 5, 2023. It’s a chance to attend grand tasting events and winemaker dinners, or explore one of Kelowna’s five scenic wine routes independently — the new “taste passport” lets you reserve tastings at six different wineries over a two-day period.
Sample the harvest
Pairing the valley’s wines with farm-to-fork fare is easy in a city where chefs source their ingredients from local growers and foragers. Come fall, farmers are pulling plums and pears from their orchards, harvesting squash and root vegetables, or foraging for wild foods such as watercress. Some restaurants, such as Terrace at Mission Hill Family Estate, even have their own gardens, orchards, and beehives to supply fresh, seasonal foods. You’ll see this bounty reflected on the restaurant’s menu.
RauDZ Regional Table supports independent growers, and Chef Rod Butters is adept at incorporating from-the-valley ingredients in inventive ways. His menu includes a “fresh sheet” that highlights dishes made with seasonal foods, such as a grilled squash starter paired with the sauvignon blanc from Mission Hill. For a light lunch while wine touring, stop by the bistro at Meadow Vista Honey Wines. Enjoy the homemade soup and a panini sandwich with a flight of their honey wines courtesy of the beehives out back. Afterwards, learn more about these important pollinators on a self-guided bee tour that winds through the garden.
A walking food tour with A Taste of Kelowna is a great way to learn about the city’s dining scene while sampling. You’ll hit hip downtown spots such as The Curious for its popular wood-fired pizzas and the iconic BNA Brewing Co & Eatery — a craft brewery located in an historic tobacco warehouse that serves up favourites like zucchini fries and mushrooms on toast.
Another option is to indulge independently using the new Local Flavours Pass, a mobile pass that lets you collect points to redeem for prizes. It’s a great showcase of Kelowna’s growing agritourism sector, with many craftmakers, farms, and winery restaurants included.
Explore the valley’s wellness opportunities
If all of the above sounds like a lot of calories in, fear not. It’s easy to earn your wine and food rewards in Kelowna. Sunny fall days will inspire you to get outside to hike or mountain bike on the trails that wind up the surrounding mountains or paddle on Okanagan Lake.
Cyclists usually head for Myra Canyon to ride the Kettle Valley Railway. This decommissioned rail line is now a flat, packed-gravel pathway that crosses 18 train trestles and passes through two tunnels as it curves around a vertiginous canyon over a distance of 12 kilometres. The showstopper in October isn’t the lake view, but the forests of larch trees that cover the surrounding mountains in a carpet of gold. Closer to town, Mission Creek Greenway hugs the creek as it flows through the city. Pause your pedalling to look for orange kokanee salmon swimming in the shallows during September, or stop in at the Robert Hobson Environmental Education Centre for the Okanagan in Mission Creek Regional Park to learn about this local lake fish’s life cycle.
To really get your heart rate up, gain some elevation and see the fall colours on one of the city’s steeper hikes. The Lebanon Creek trail ascends from Okanagan Lake all the way to the Johns Family Nature Conservancy, which was just named Canada’s third nocturnal preserve (an area with minimal light pollution). After this quad burner, relax your muscles with a glass of wine and some goat yoga at Off the Grid Organic Winery (Sundays through September), or with a massage inside the salt cave at the Room + Pillar spa.
You can also walk it off downtown and take in the public art along the Waterfront Boardwalk. And since art appreciation is good for the soul, be sure to venture into the eclectic neighbourhood of Rutland, where over 20 murals painted by Canadian and international artists are on display.
Repeat it all the next day
Plan to stay awhile to properly explore the city. If you base yourself at one of the lakeside resorts, you’ll score easy access to paddle sports, trails, and restaurants. Many hotels, including the historic Hotel Eldorado, also have spas onsite for extra wellness options.
If you’re ready to slow down, breathe deep, and dive into the bounty of the Okanagan Valley this fall, Kelowna is ready for you. Find a great deal on a fall package at Tourism Kelowna.
You are welcome in Kelowna and the Central Okanagan, and we ask that you please travel safely. Local businesses are open and ready to serve you. We recommend you check current conditions and call ahead to any businesses you plan to visit if you have questions.