OKANAGAN VALLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Winding along Route 97 and the roughly 200 km stretch of Okanagan Valley in beautiful British Columbia, is a veritable feast for the senses. The taste of fresh picked peaches, apricots and cherries lingers on your tongue, while the sweet, soothing scents of sage and lavender hang in the air. A palette of vibrant greens, faded browns and deep blues share the landscape as an arid desert folds into a rolling field of heavily draped vines and carefully tended orchards, before tumbling into the depths of the shimmering water below. While winter is the time to embrace the slopes of the surrounding Columbia and Cascade Mountain ranges, summer is all about scorching temperatures, flights that fade from deep bodied reds to sparkling whites, baskets of vibrant fresh produce and lifelong memories constructed from a blend of sand, wet bathing suits, sunkissed skin and the sounds of a boat engine. This is Okanagan life and our experience staying at Walnut Beach Resort in Osoyoos.
The energy of the Okanagan is as fluid as the famous, oblong shaped waters it houses. It is lazy days on the beach, soaking up the sunshine as the kids build sandcastles and float along the shoreline atop giant inflated flamingos. Yet just as quickly, the moment shifts to the higher frequency of a jet ski racing across the horizon or the powerful wake of a surf boat. Kids hands clutch the edge of the tube, screams of exhilaration as they careen around the bend, both excited and terrified by the possibility of losing their grip, becoming airborne and plunging into the water before resurfacing, begging for just one more loop before dinner. It’s fishing in the silence of the morning or marveling at a vibrantly reflected spectrum of the setting sun. It’s pushing your comfort zone as you ride a SUP for the first time, or experiencing the connection that comes with sharing a houseboat with your closest people. But lake life is not just about waterfront cabins, ice cream, river floats and wakeboards. Lake life is a state of mind.
HIGHLIGHT OKANAGAN VALLEY LAKES:
- Shuswap: Houseboat capital of Canada.
- Mabel Lake: A hidden gem located off the beaten path in a more mountainous area of the Okanagan. Nearly 42 km in length, this lake offers the award winning Mabel Lake Golf Course, full resort amenities, rustic cabins, RV sites, luxury condos, a marina and even an Airpark and Airstrip.
- Okanagan Lake: Home to the mythical “Ogopogo” lake monster, this massive lake stretches 135 km from Vernon thru Kelowna to Penticton, and is among the most popular in the area for water sports, as well as drawing travelers to one of 30 beaches in the region.
- Skaha Lake: Running between Penticton and Okanagan Falls, Skaha is much smaller than Okanagan Lake at just 12 km in length, but the expansive stretch of pristine sandy beach has been named as one of the top in Canada, making it a popular haunt for beach goers.
- Kalamalka: Famous for it’s glacial turquoise hue, and boasting 42 km of shoreline and 10 beaches, this gorgeous lake is a scene you won’t soon forget. Popular spots include both Kal & Cosens Bay beaches.
- Osoyoos Lake: The warmest freshwater lake in Canada!
OSOYOOS, BC: Canada’s Desert
Steeped in history, culture and a spectacular natural landscape, this southermost tip of the Okanagan Valley is Osoyoos, British Columbia. Known for warm waters and blazing summer temperatures as well as eclectic cafes, golf, art galleries, spas, live music, wineries, orchards and streets lined with boutique hidden gems, Osoyoos isa major tourism hot spot. Just minutes from the United States border with Washington, this resort town enjoys some of the hottest, driest weather in the country, and sees a population that surges from just over 5,000 to 25,000 in the high season.
Not to Miss: Wind your way around the twists and turns of Hwy 3 towards Cranbrook and park at the Anarchist Mountain Lookout for a spectacular, panoramic valley view overlooking Osoyoos and the lake below!
Kids Will Love: Rattlesnake Canyon! This adventure park is a perfect way to spend time after a day at the beach. Families can enjoy 18 holes of mini golf, ride go carts and bumper boats, and finish the evening with ice cream from the parlor inside the windmill.
Nearest Int’l Airports: Vancouver (YVR): 409 km . Kelowna (YLW): 136 km.
WALNUT BEACH RESORT
With just 100 rooms and suites, and boasting a private pool and beach for guest use only, Walnut Beach Resort is an intimate, exclusive getaway that is perfect for couples, families and extended travel groups alike. Located on the edge of Osoyoos, this property is close enough to easily access everything yet far enough away that it feels private and secure, quietly removed from the chaos of peak Okanagan tourist season.
Property Amenity Highlights:
- Complimentary High Speed Wi-Fi
- Complimentary, heated underground parking
- Private outdoor pool (heated) with umbrellas and patio tables with chairs
- Poolside food and beverage service
- Pointe 49 Kitchen and Bar with outdoor patio seating near pool
- Private beach with palapas
- High end barbeques for guest use
- A/C in the suite
- In-suite laundry. (Guest laundry room available for suites without)
- Onsite boat dock/slip
- Wakepilot Charters and Rentals onsite (SUP’s, kayaks, jet skis, boats)
A ‘SUITE’ LIFE
Suites at Walnut Beach Resort range from Studio (447 sqft), One Bedroom (625-786 sqft), Two Bedroom (889-1085 sqft) to Penthouse (1351 sqft), with views of either Lake Osoyoos and the pool, or the mountains behind.
Our third floor, one bedroom, lakeview suite was beyond impressive. Walking in the door we were greeted by a huge amount of natural light coming from the expansive windows. The suite had a full bath, fully equipped, designer kitchen (stocked with coffee maker, dishes, cutlery, pots, utensils and even a wine opener and 2 dishwasher tabs), dining table and large living room with a flat screen tv, lounge chairs and a lovely Queen sleeper sofa for the girls. The main bedroom had a luxurious King sized bed, another flat screen tv and tons of closet space (with a room safe), as well as a door thru to the bathroom. The suite was extremely well maintained and spotlessly clean, and even had an in-suite washer and dryer, a definite travel luxury!
A ‘SUITE’ VIEW
The highlight of the suite was the balcony overlooking the resort and valley beyond. Mornings were spent sipping coffee, taking in sweeping views of the pool and lake in the peaceful hours before the world woke up. Evenings allowed for a bottle of wine, glasses clinking to the tune of a spectacular sunset, toasting yet another memorable day in the valley. We also had the privilege of hearing the sweet songs of the “Swallows of Capistrano”. These cliff swallows are on the endangered species list in Canada, and since 2015 it has been illegal to interfere with the birds or their nests. While they do create a bit of a mess, knowing Walnut Beach Resort does everything they can to protect and respect these birds is something we admire.
A POOL WITH SERVICE
There is something about this pool that sets it apart. It could be the way the clear blues blend into that of the lake beyond. It could be the year round heated water that still instantly refreshes on a 40 degree day. Or it could be viewing a dramatic sunset from the expansive deck, cocktail in hand. Next to this pool, there is a complete lack of schedule, of time, of agenda. With a depth that ranges from 3 to 5 feet, the pool area is an oasis in the middle of the surrounding desert landscape.
**Covid Restrictions: Hot tubs were closed. Peak visiting days (long weekend, full capacity at 75%) saw a maximum capacity of 46 guests. A 2 hour increment sign up (10 am to 8 pm) was enforced, but guests could remain for longer if the next time slot had the availability to do so.
One of the highlights of the pool is the poolside bar and menu service from Pointe 49. This allows guests the ability to fully enjoy time relaxing with the flexibility for all family members to indulge in a wide variety of dishes and beverages, catering to those inevitably different schedules of hunger.
A PRIVATE BEACH
As the Okanagan is prime beach territory, those picturesque stretches of sand can get incredibly crowded as travelers and locals flock to the shores to stretch out towels, blankets and sunscreen lathered bodies. Being on a property that has a private beach allows for a less congested and more relaxing beach experience. It also allows for stronger restrictions and capacity control as required during the Covid pandemic.
Perfect for families, Walnut Beach Resort offers plenty of space to stretch out while the kids play in a safely roped off section of the lake. Days here are for floaties, sand castles and lounging in the sun, with the convenience of your suite being just a short walk away. The evenings are incredibly serene, and the sunsets across the lake are definitely worth heading down and grabbing a lounge chair to witness.
- Bring your floaties! There is an onsite air compressor to fill them and guests are able to store them onsite for the duration of their visit rather than hauling them back and forth to the room
- Plenty of lounge chairs and several palapas for shade
- Along the ropes there are several party islands for guests to lounge on
- Foot/Sand washing stations
- Wakepilot rentals onsite
- Note that the lake bottom here is quite rocky, so I suggest water shoes for those with sensitive feet.
A WINE LOVERS DREAM
Whether it is your first sip, or you fancy yourself a connoisseur, Okanagan wine country has something for everyone. From the micro climate of the Golden Mile to the sunbathed Black Sage Bench, vineyards here are all about award winning wines, expansive views and toasting to the beauty of the moment.
With an average of 2200 annual hours of sunlight, and summer temperatures averaging between 30 and 40 degrees Celsius, the Okanagan Valley is not only warmer, but receives an additional 2 hours of sunlight during the growing season than Napa Valley in California. There are more than 40 wineries within a 20 minute drive of Osoyoos, and nearly 200 dotting the valley beyond, meaning an exceptional variety of opportunities to tour and taste.
TIP: BC wineries are on top of their Covid game, and are all taking public health and safety, as well as that of their staff, very seriously. Ensure you reserve a spot for a tasting or tour in advance to avoid disappointment.
A FEW AREA FAVORITES:
- Oliver Twist Winery: A low key stop that embraces nostalgia and family, with stunning views thrown in for good measure.
- Phantom Creek Estates: Known to produce some of the best red wines in Canada. Atmosphere is high end, with a jaw dropping panorama.
- Nk’Mip Cellars: North America’s first Indigenous winery. Welcoming, award winning and offering incredible food and views. The Syrah is SO worth it.
- LaStella Winery: A “vision of la dolce vita: fine food, wonderful wine, great music, and the good things in life.” This is where I personally got hooked on Moscato.
- Moon Curser Vineyards: Boutique, family owned winery that pays homage to the gold smuggling history of Osoyoos. The most incredible, friendly service comes from the spot voted as Canada’s #1 Best Performing Small Winery in 2019.
- Burrowing Owl Estate: The location on the northernmost tip of the antelope brush ecosystem makes it one of the highest rated grape growing locations in the country. And that luxurious guest house and pool are what travel dreams are made of.
- Silver Sage Winery: Years after the first bottle we still discuss the “Flame” dessert wine. The hot and spicy, late-harvest Gewurztraminer is that good.
Nothing about the Covid-19 pandemic has been easy, and many of us have had travel plans canceled or put on hold. We have missed visits to dreamy destinations, and been separated from much loved family and friends As a travel family, we make a conscious effort to adhere to the guidelines and take the health and safety of our family, and of others, seriously. However, we also understand the important role that travel and tourism plays in our economy, and choose to support and promote businesses and the industry where we can. We chose Walnut Beach Resort based on the fact that we could be quite self contained in a full amenity suite, and that they have implemented protocols such as monitored pool and beach capacities, staff wearing masks and closing hottubs and steam rooms to adhere to BC health regulations.
We would like to thank the incredibly hard working and dedicated staff of the resort, where we were given an upgraded lakeview suite for the duration of our stay. Jamie; Your smiling, attentive poolside service was a new level of standard. Kristian; You manage an incredible property with flair and class, and your gracious, patient support as we nervously booked our first adventure in what seems like forever, is so very much appreciated.
The above opinions and words are as always, my own. Stay safe and healthy.
We are not all in the same boat, but we will endure the storm together.